עוד רחוב ירושלמי
For Zamenhof, the answer to this conundrum lay squarely in the arena of language. Wearing the mantle of Johann Gottfried Herder, who argued that language is the essence of the volk, Zamenhof identified language as the sine qua non of peoplehood. The fragility of Jewish identity, he argued, lay chiefly in the fact that the Jews lacked their own language. He noted that he’d at one time backed the Hebrew revival piloted by his contemporary, Eliezer Ben Yehuda (though I haven’t found evidence for this); he had also spent three years developing a modern, rationalized Yiddish using Latin characters. But by 1901, he had changed his mind on both counts. Hebrew, he felt, was “cadaverous,” and Yiddish, a “jargon.” Only with a neutral, artificial language—an Esperanto that Hillelist Jews would remake, eventually, in their own image—could the Jewish people justify their peoplehood to themselves and the modern world.