Playbill for a benefit performance by a Yiddish troupe under the direction of M. Kowalski, for Agudas Akhim, a charitable organization, Vilna, ca. 1915. Some of the performers would later go on to act in the Vilner Trupe. (YIVO)

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Agudas Akhim

(Association of Brothers; Pol., Przymierze Braci), cultural and social organization. Founded in Lemberg (Lwów) in 1882, Agudas Akhim aimed to sever the traditional connection of Galician Jewry to German language and culture and to strive for integration within the Galician Polish sphere. Behind Agudas Akhim was a group of youths in their last years of high school as well as university students; its most prominent early leaders were Alfred Nossig, Adolf Lilien, Wilhelm Feldman, and Herman Diamand.

The young men who founded Agudas Akhim were graduates of the Polish educational system in Galicia, which became autonomous after 1867 and strengthened the identification with Polish history and nationalism among its students. In addition to the students, a few of the founders of Agudas Akhim had more experience, including Filip Zucker and Bernard Goldman. The number of members never exceeded 750, about a fifth of whom possessed doctoral degrees. About 10 percent were Polish Christians, among them newspaper editors, writers, and communal leaders.

Upon its establishment, Agudas Akhim turned the newspaper Ojczyzna (Fatherland) into its official organ. This paper, issued twice monthly from 1881, contained a Hebrew supplement called Ha-Mazkir ahavah le-erets moladeto (The Recorder of Love for His Homeland). The paper’s logo was the Polish eagle with a Star of David on its breast. Underneath appeared the biblical verse, in Hebrew and Polish, “Seek the welfare of the city into which I have exiled you and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its prosperity you shall prosper” (Jer. 29:7). The paper had a press run of 500–700 copies.

To spread its ideas, Agudas Akhim established a library in Lwów with books and periodicals in Polish, German, and Hebrew. The society also sponsored evening lectures for the general public, dealing mainly with the historical connection of Jews to their Polish homeland. In addition, Agudas Akhim ran Polish-language evening courses for youth and summer camps for children. Readers from outlying areas were encouraged to establish reading societies and could subscribe to the newspaper and other papers at a reduced rate.

The first editor of the Hebrew supplement of the paper was Rabbi Mosheh Yisakhar Landau; he was followed by Yitsḥak Bernfeld. Both traditional and maskilic Jews wrote for the Hebrew section; among them were Yehudah Leib Landau, Berish Goldenberg, Natan Samueli, and Avigdor Marmelstein. These and other authors wrote patriotic poems in Hebrew, historical articles stressing the positive attitude of Poles to Jews, and historical documents intended to serve as the basis for writing the history of Jews of Poland. The Hebrew section ceased in 1886 after the editor resigned. The Polish section, edited in its first years by Nossig, was aimed at Polish-speaking intelligentsia and published articles of a historical nature, reports on the society’s activities, and essays on local political issues, both Jewish and general. In their own eyes, members of Agudas Akhim were Jews of the Polish nation, whereas in the eyes of Jewish nationalists, Agudas Akhim was an assimilationist organization that sought to sever the bond between Jews and their people and history.

In the late 1880s, antisemitism increased in Polish society and the idea of Jewish nationalism began to infiltrate into Galicia. In 1883, the Mikra Kodesh (Holy Convocation) Society was formed, the first Galician society to promote Jewish nationalism. A few of its founders and members were among the principal writers for the Hebrew supplement of Ojczyzna. Within a few years, Mikra Kodesh had turned into a Zionist-oriented organization and changed its name to Tsiyon. These organizations and the nationalistic spirit that became dominant in the political discourse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire weakened the attractiveness of the pro-Polish Agudas Akhim. Some of its central figures abandoned it in favor of Zionist or socialist options. In 1892, Agudas Akhim was dissolved and Ojczyzna ceased publication.

Suggested Reading

Katarzyna Kopff-Muszyńska, “‘Ob Deutsch oder Polnisch’: Przyczynek do badań nad asymilacją Żydów we Lwowie w latach, 1840–1890,” in The Jews in Poland, ed. Andrzej K. Paluch, vol. 1, pp. 187–203 (Kraków, 1992); Ezra Mendelsohn, “From Assimilation to Zionism in Lvov: The Case of Alfred Nossig,” Slavonic and East European Review 49.117 (1971): 521–534; Ezra Mendelsohn, “Jewish Assimilation in L’viv: The Case of Wilhelm Feldman,” in Nationbuilding and the Politics of Nationalism: Essays on Austrian Galicia, ed. Andrei S. Markovits and Frank E. Sysyn, pp. 94–110 (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), appeared also in Slavic Review 28 (1969): 577–590.



Translated from Hebrew by Barry D. Walfish