Back to this Franzos character, one of the main Pale time-capsules
In the drive to dissociate himself from the Ostjuden, he stressed his father’s aristocratic pre-Inquisition, Sephardic background. This was not unusual; Jews often sought to construct a counter-myth about more respectable origins, and Spanish Jewry was viewed by many as a suitable antidote to a suspected East European background.
The Zionist-in-itself, Herzl, also claimed to be of Spanish extraction, though in his case it was false.
The Sephardis are treated like second-class citizens in Israel these days – did the rabble prevail in Jewry as well?
Talmudists would be bad enough. If they were primarily rabble-talmudists, that would be another level to it. And it’s still a mystery to me at least the true nature of the Sephardim/Ashkenazim conflict.
Clearly a writer like Shmuel Agnon (1888-1970) approached his subject in an entirely different way. What to Agnon represented spirit and culture was to Franzos a symptom of backwardness and degeneration.
Agnon was an Ashkenazi.
Franzos in his day was known as the expert on the Ostjuden by people west of the Pale.
There could be a dynamic similar to Shia/Sunni going on here
For centuries, most of Jerusalem’s population was Sephardi… These proud people inherited a rich cultural heritage, which to a great extent is internalized, and has not been carried over to the next generation.
They’ve been gradually being absorbed into the Ashkenazim. Probably why you never hear about this
Is the centuries-old claim of the Sephardim to be somehow inherently superior to the Central and Eastern European Jew grounded in fact or myth?
We do have one Sephardi at least who documented the old Ashkenazim closely
indigenous writers, however critical, were thoroughly identified with their subject. For Franzos, the “half-Asian” Jews of Barnow—narrow, repressed, dirty—were objects of observation
Martin Buber, one of the most influential Ashkenazis of the 20th century
What to Franzos was nothing but a species of medieval barbarism appeared now in Buber’s hands like the very vanguard of modernism
I link you again to insta-translated books by Franzos to see for yourself how he describes them. There are many parallels between the Pale Jews and today’s American Jews. The ones here have better access to electricity, that’s one difference!
I wonder if some of those remaining Sephardis out there have a sense of humor like Franzos, because he’s pretty hilarious. It’s too bad the language they traditionally speak, Ladino, isn’t available on google translate
Could this be similar to the Normans, i.e. an aristocracy erased from history?
Arguably the two greatest Jewish minds of all time, Maimonides and Spinoza, were Sephardis.
Here is how Franzos understands himself
Long-term stay, numerous journeys have made me familiar with the language, customs and characteristics of that tangle of peoples. But I was able to get to know the life of the western civilized peoples just as closely.
Could it be that the Ashkenazis of the Pale brought the backwardness with them when they fled here?
We know that after the war, the culture of the western civilized people has been steadily eclipsing. As one culture wanes another one waxes- could it be that the culture described by Franzos is the one that’s more and more predominant?
Here’s Franzos again- and I think this is more accurate, to point to the ambiguity
In general, in the east, or at least in that part of the east, of which these pages tell, there is neither bright day nor dark night, but a strange twilight.
Something eerie in Franzos that I’ve touched upon before is that within only a matter of a few miles of travel one sensed that “they weren’t in Europe anymore”, and as they crossed into “Half-Asia” people’s personalities would noticeably change to adjust to the different region.
The tension between the “wer sie war,” [who she was] which the narrator ascertains at first glance, and the inner quality that allowed his interlocutor to transform herself into an Asian woman, betrays an uneasy mutability of the self