Golem as Gentile, Golem as Sabra:
An Analysis of the Manipulation of Stereotypes
of Self and Other
in Literary Treatments of a Legendary Jewish Figure

New York Folklore XXIII:1-4 (1997):39-64.

Introduction

            The golem is a Jewish folkloric character. It is a manmade, man-like creature, usually made of soil and approximately life size. There have been many golem stories; this paper will focus on literary treatments by H. Leivick, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Elie Wiesel. All three are reworkings of the plot of a 1909 manuscript popularly attributed to Yudl Rosenberg. In Rosenberg's work an historical figure of sixteenth-century Prague, Rabbi Loew (a.k.a. Liva, Lowi, Leib, Low, Levi), creates a golem to protect Jews from a blood libel. [1]

            Representations of the golem changed over time; this paper argues that these changes reflect dovetailing stereotypes of Jews and Gentiles in Eastern Europe as well as the changing position many Jews came to take in response to attack. "Golem" was a Yiddish expression for "clumsy fool" [2] and was "used affectionately as a synonym for 'dummy.'" [3] Early in the legend's development, golems were little more than human-shaped sculptures of mud. In this century's literary treatments, golems changed from mute to capable of speech, from neuter to sexual, from passive to active, innocuous to dangerous. As the golem story is reworked, authors reveal less anxiety about and more confidence in their hero's violence, immediacy, and divorce from Jewish tradition.

            Authors' struggles with the golem as a new and stereotypically "gentile" Jewish defensive force parallel concerns Jewish thinkers voiced about sabras, or native born Israelis, the sabras' perceived spontaneity, divorce from tradition, and their martial response to attack. This is not the first time this comparison has been made. In A Psychohistory of Zionism, Jay Gonen writes, " ... Zionism. This new political force, this new Golem, if you will, offered similar protection." [4] Gonen does not develop the metaphor; this paper will attempt to do so.

Golems: A Brief History

            It is assumed that the golem legend was influenced by and has influenced other similar manmade, man-like creature stories in folklore and literature. Moshe Idel, an Israeli scholar of Jewish mysticism, theorizes that Jews may have originally been inspired in the development of the golem legend by the ancient Egyptian practice of placing tiny statues in coffins, and the belief that these statues were animated through magical inscriptions placed on their torsos. [5] Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser claims that golem legends may have indirectly inspired Goethe in his work on the Faust legend. [6] Other creative artists whose work may have been influenced by the golem legend include Mary Shelly, author of Frankenstein, and Karel Čapek, Czech author of the play R.U.R. , source of the English word "robot." [7]

            Golem creation is traced back to various sources, both Biblical and not. For example, recipes for creating golems were extracted from the Sefer Yetzirah, or Book of Creation, dated between the third and sixth centuries AD, and traditionally attributed to Abraham, though probably not written by him. In the Bible, Abraham and Sarah are said to take with them "...the souls they made in Haran." Some believe these souls to have been Abraham's golems. [8] The word "golem" appears only once in the Bible, in verse 16 of Psalm 139, traditionally attributed to Adam, though, again, probably not written by him. This psalm is an exquisite evocation of man, not as creator or actor, but as passive creation, contemplating his state as created being, and his relationship to the God who created him. The speaker reports that his maker knows him utterly, that he can never escape from God's omnipresence, nor the searching penetration of God's intimate knowledge of His creation. The psalmist writes: "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed (i.e., golem), and in your book, they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them."

            In Sanhedrin 38b, the tellurian powers Adam had when he was yet a golem -- an unformed substance of clay -- are recorded: "...even in this state, he was accorded a vision of all the generations to come..." Early folkloric golems, however, were more easily defined in terms of what they could not do than what they could. In Sanhedrin 65b, the Babylonian Talmud, we may read, "Rava created a man and sent him to R. Zeva. The latter spoke to him but received no answer. Thereupon, he said to him, 'You are from the companions; [sometimes translated as 'magicians' or 'pietists'] return to your dust.'" [9] Although this early manmade creation, described in the fourth century A.D., could walk, he did not excite R. Zeva. Rather, the golem was recognized as a golem by his inability to speak, and, without any excitement, he was returned to the dust from which he had sprung.

            Idel writes that the speechlessness of the Jewish golem may have differentiated it from the contemporaneous "pagan" practice of animating idols to hear their prognostications. Others attribute this particular golem's muteness to some sin in Rava, its creator. Perhaps Rava's sin prevented him from creating a fully functional creature. Others say that at that time it was believed that, while a knowledgeable mystic could make a golem, only God could make a speaking creature. [10]

            The prototypical golem recipe evolved between the fifth and twelfth centuries. Recipes required clay, dust, and/or soil for formation, and the names of letters, spoken aloud, for animation. There were five variants of the basic recipe, one of which required dancing; in another the golem is buried before being animated: "...only after its burial is it capable of developing into a more elaborate anthropoid." [11] In a Spanish recipe, a vessel was required. In the late fifteenth century, golem recipes were translated into Latin, and thus entered Christian lore. [12]

            Early golems were remarkable for their inactivity. Scholar and Kabbalah authority Gershon Scholem says that mystics may have actually performed rituals around clay figures, which were immediately destroyed. "There is nothing in the instructions that have come down to us to suggest that it was ever more than a mystical experience. In none of the sources does a golem created in this way enter into real life and perform any actions whatsoever." [13]

            Art historian Emily Bilski does see golem creation as serving a function, however. She writes that golem creation among thirteenth century Ashkenazic mystics "probably sought to demonstrate that Jewish masters possessed the highest knowledge." In the Renaissance, Jews felt that "Christian culture was progressing more rapidly than Jewish culture." Creating a golem "as the pinnacle of scientific achievement" could "prove the superiority of Judaism." [14]

            Increasingly practical golems appear in late fifteenth-century sources; these practical golems parallel contemporaneous advances in the sciences. By the sixteenth century, the golem legends of German and Polish Jews feature contemporaries rather than figures from the past. Documents discussing golems become more numerous in the seventeenth century.

            In his 1808 Journal for Hermits, Jakob Grimm reported on golems.

 

After saying certain prayers and observing certain fast days, the Polish Jews make the figure of a man from clay or mud, and when they pronounce the miraculous shemhamphoras over him, he must come to life. He cannot speak, but he understands fairly well what is said or commanded. They call him golem and use him as a servant to do all sorts of housework. But he must never leave the house. On his forehead is written 'emeth.' Everyday he gains weight and becomes somewhat larger and stronger than all the others in the house, regardless of how little he was to begin with. For fear of him, they therefore erase the letter, so that nothing remains but 'meth,' whereupon he collapses and turns to clay again. [15]

"Emet" means truth in Hebrew; "met," death. "Grimm's golem influenced many Romantic writers who began to incorporate golem characters into their works," reports Emily Bilski. [16]

            After the golem of Prague, subject of this paper, the seventeenth-century golem of Chelm is the second most famous. Chelm is a Polish town famous for its fools. There Rabbi Eliahu's golem grew daily, until the rabbi was unable to erase the animating word "emet" on its forehead, which would have killed the golem. The rabbi devised a plan. He asked the golem to kneel down and remove his boots. The golem did so, allowing the rabbi to erase the "e" of "emet." The dying golem fell forward, and, in some versions of this legend, injured or killed the rabbi in his fall. [17]

            Another famous golem legend is associated with the historical figure Solomon ibn Gabirol, an eleventh-century poet and philosopher from M‡laga, Caliphate of C—rdoba. Ibn Gabirol suffered from a repulsive skin disease that drove people away. According to legend, he created a female golem to do his housework. Unlike other golems made of clay, ibn Gabirol's was made of wood and door hinges, the only golem to have been so constructed. Jewish leaders learned of ibn Gabirol's golem, accused him of fornication, and made him destroy her. [18]

            A didactic golem story features the biblical prophet Jeremiah. He animated his golem by writing on it "God is truth," "Elohim emet." The golem erased the aleph from emet, leaving the words, "God is dead." The golem then lectured Jeremiah with a story about the dangers of usurping God's role of creation. [19]

Previous Scholarly Approaches to the Golem

            Scholars and academic writers have focused on varying aspects of the golem legend. Golems have been compared to non-Jewish manmade anthropoids, like Frankenstein and Čapek's robots. [20] Moshe Idel, in his Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid treats golems as significant in the development of Jewish mysticism; Rabbi Gershon Winkler, in The Golem of Prague, treats golems as items of faith. American English professor Carl Schaffer, inter alia, discusses the spiritual purity and excellence required for creation of a golem. [21] This act of creation has been described as a rapture that brings one closer to God. [22] Golem lore has been mined in discussions of technologically altered life forms. [23] A Jungian writer has approached the golem as the Jungian "shadow." [24] Modern adaptations of golem legends have been faulted or praised for their popular treatment of Jewish folkloric sources. [25] According to American film scholar Lester Friedman, the golem legend was appropriated and twisted in the creation of an anti-Semitic German film, Paul Wegener's 1920, "The Golem; How He Came into the World." [26]

            Surprisingly, although the golem legend provides all the details necessary to be considered as an example of anal creation folklore, [27] I found no scholarly works that pursued such an analysis. Like other myths and legends typified as exemplary of anal creation, the golem is created by a male, not a female, from dust, earth, or clay, is animated by words, and, in some versions, grows continuously until it is out of control. As in other anal creation tales, women are devalued and/or erased. In Singer's version, Rabbi Loew informs his golem that he, the golem, has no mother. The golem "lets out a harrowing cry." [28]

            The golem legend might also be analyzed for the insights it offers into attitudes towards women. Earth, from which the golem is made, can be seen as symbolic of feces as in anal creation analyses; earth, too, has frequently symbolized "mother," or the feminine, in world folklore. This convention is not unknown to Judaism. Zion, throughout the Bible, is portrayed as God's bride -- a delightful espoused virgin when she is good; a harlot when she is bad. Scholem reports a more generalized earth-as-goddess belief among Jews. [29] Some recipes for golems specify that "virgin" soil from mountains be used. Women are often said to have intuition, a different kind of knowledge than men's. Leivick, Singer, and Wiesel all gift their golems with intuition. Wiesel's can see souls, and yet, as is the case with women in orthodoxy, Wiesel's golem is excluded from "divine inspiration." [30] Symbols in folklore are protean; this paper will not pursue golem as anal creation or golem as barometer of gender roles, but, rather, as gentile and as sabra.

Rabbi Loew and the Golem of Prague

            Rabbi Loew of Prague was born in 1512, 1520, or 1525, and died in 1609. He was perhaps born, and certainly educated, in Poland. He was called "The Maharal," an acronym for Moreinu ha-rav Rabbi, "our teacher, the master Rabbi Loew." He was an educational reformer who did not believe in miracles and who condemned magic. Loew is seen as a bridge from medieval, mystical thought to modern, rational thought. His biographer, Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser, calls him "a Jewish representative in the movement of transition from medieval to modern times." [31] Czech scholar Vladimir Sadek writes, "...la rŽforme pŽdagogique de Loew y reprŽsente une borne importante entre le moyen-‰ge et l're moderne dans la domaine pŽdagogique, de ses formes et mŽthodes..." [32]

            Stories connecting the creation of a golem with Rabbi Loew did not become common until more than a century after his death. Some date this association to as early as 1730. Sadek refutes this, saying that the association is first recorded by Jewish humorist and revolutionary Ludwig Kalisch (1814-1883) who was born in Poland and who claimed to have heard such legends in his childhood. [33] Literary accounts of the legend begin in the mid-nineteenth century in Sippurim, a collection of Jewish folklore published in Prague. Since then several written versions, films, plays, at least one ballet, and a poem have been based on the legend of Rabbi Loew and the golem of Prague.

            In 1909, a Polish-born, Yiddish-speaking Jew, Yudl Rosenberg, published Nifla'ot Maharal im ha-Golem, The Golem, or the Miraculous Deeds of Rabbi Liva. Rosenberg claimed that he did not write the work, but, rather, bought it. It was, in fact, he said, a true record of events, written by Rabbi Liva's son-in-law. In this work, for the first time, the golem of Prague defends his people against blood libel.

            Rabbi Loew was the chief rabbi of Prague during a difficult time. Apostate Jews persecuted practicing Jews; copies of the Talmud were burned six times; in 1559 all Hebrew books were seized; Jesuits in 1561 ordered Jews to listen to Christian sermons. Historians report, however, a "certain humanitarian attitude among the sovereigns." [34] Rudolf II (reign: 1576-1612), who upheld the 1551 edict that all Jews must wear yellow badges and who expelled Jews from Moravia, was considered benign compared to other Christian monarchs. For example, he repealed restrictions forbidding Jews from making fur-trimmed coats and dresses.

            Writer, teacher, and Prague resident Frederich Thieberger (1888-1958) claims that, however conditions might have been otherwise, there was no evidence of a blood libel in Bohemia at this time. [35] Further, according to Sadek, there is no mention of the golem in Rabbi Loew's writings. [36] How, then, did the golem, and, specifically, a golem who defends Jews against blood libel, get attached to Rabbi Loew?

            Sadek theorizes that Hasids from Poland who came to leave written prayers in Rabbi Loew's tomb were the first to disseminate legends in which Loew created a golem. Why? Perhaps because of a similarity in the names of Rabbi Loew and a Biblical character who had power over the magic of letters. Maybe the connection was made "...gr‰ce ˆ l'influence d'une haggadah du Talmud, ayant rapport au personnage biblique de Bezalel ... il savait ... rŽunir les lettres qui avaient crŽe les cieux et la terre ... les deux noms -- Belazel -- Yehouda Liva ben Bezalel -- [pouvaient] jouer un certain r™le ..." [37]

            Rabbi Loew's famous audience with Rudolf II may have been another factor in his being cast in legends as a savior of Jews. What was said at this audience is unknown; however, Rudolf's relative benignity may have been popularly understood among Jews as the result of Rabbi Loew's influence.

            That Rabbi Loew required a golem to attain legendary hero status, rather than being able to fulfill such a role without the aid of a golem, supports the main idea of this paper. If, as this paper argues, the golem is a blank screen on which to work out the contested and projected urge for a new response to assault, namely, "action without ideology," as Friedman calls the sabra mentality, [38] then Rabbi Loew would be the ideal choice for the creator of the most famous golem. Loew was exemplary for his modernity, learning, and rationality. Such a man would make the perfect bridge between an ancient, mystical, ritual and a frighteningly new and violent expression of the Jewish spirit, between a valued past and an uncertain future. In fact, Rabbi Loew's synagogue was known as the Altneu, the "old new." As Elie Wiesel put it: "The Golem: servant and ally of the Maharal. It is the Maharal who understands and it is the Golem who acts. The intelligence of the former, allied with the occult powers of the latter, never fails to arrive at the truth and therefore cause justice to triumph." [39]

            Blood libel may have become an element in the legend because the 1909 manuscript which provided a foundation for Leivick, Singer, Wiesel, and others was not, as Yudl Rosenberg claimed, an historical record, or actual oral tradition, but rather, fakelore, [40] inspired by contemporaneous events. Rabbi Gershon Winkler argues for the authenticity of Rosenberg's manuscript, and treats the golem as an item of faith. Rosenberg, he says, was a respected rabbi who could never have perpetrated a literary hoax. Goldsmith, however, points out that Rosenberg's manuscript misnames key geographic features of Prague, including the Vltava, its central river. [41] It is widely assumed that Rosenberg wrote the manuscript himself, and introduced the blood libel element in response to the Hilsner case. In 1899 in Polna, Czechoslovakia, Leopold Hilsner was sentenced to death for the alleged sacrifice of a Christian. [42] Further indication that Rosenberg was inspired by the Hilsner case can be seen in the alleged sacrifice in his story. While most blood libels involve young boys as alleged victims, in Prague golem stories the golem rescues a mature Christian girl. The Hilsner case involved a Christian girl of 19.

            The Hilsner case was part of an international trend. Since the late nineteenth century, anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence had been on the increase in Europe and North America. Many Jews reacted to this trend by denouncing what they saw as a passive and hidebound response to violence and statelessness. Land, soil, it was argued, could save Jews. Zionism, a movement begun by Jews in east and central Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century, promoted the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The first Zionist settlement was founded there in 1882. Theodor Herzl, a prominent Zionist and first president of the World Zionist Organization, published Der Judenstaat, The Jewish State, in 1896. Zionism called Jews to "a libidinous link with the soil ... a mystical betrothal between Israel and the promised land," a return to the "womb" of history ... ". [43]

            A man made of earth, the golem, might have temporarily provided a blank screen onto which Jews could project their fantasies of retaliating against violence with violence, and work out the anxieties attendant upon such a path. The real men and women who would defend the state of Israel, and the legendary earth man who would fight for Jews, resorted to tactics that caused Jews worry and pain, as these had heretofore been seen as the tactics of the gentile "other."

Stereotypes of Jews and Gentiles in Eastern Europe

            Stereotypes in the folklore and literature of Eastern Europe portrayed Jews and gentiles as opposite, complementary versions of humanity. Jews were seen as an intellectually active, mercantile, non-violent people. In some cases, Jews were not considered to be as sexually expressive as gentiles. Stereotypes of gentile peasants describe a dumb, violent, fertile, and earthy people who drank alcohol to excess. Disseminated in jokes, legends and other folklore with delight, resignation, viciousness, or some attitude in between, these stereotypes were advanced by both Jews and gentiles alike. As American folklorist Alan Dundes has shown, Jews might tell Jewish jokes with relish; [44] social historian Ewa Morawska describes Eastern European peasants assessing themselves as constitutionally "stupid," unsuited to formal education, and incompetent with money. [45]

            A popular collection of Jewish folklore relies on images of Jews that conform to the stereotype. In his A Treasury of Jewish Folklore, Nathan Ausubel divides his section "Heroes" into four subsections. There are eighty-six tales of wisemen, seventy-four tales of holy men, twenty-eight tales of miracles, and ten tales of fighters and strongmen. There is no section entitled "Lovers." One tale is titled, "Why Scholars Have Homely Wives," another tells how a chaste Jewish girl resisted seduction by giving her pursuer her eyes. [46] There is a tale in which a simple Jewish tailor is able to defeat a trained Catholic theologian in a debate. [47] There are tales describing the chutzpah and craftiness of businessmen. There are twenty-nine tales of schlemiels and schlimazels (sad sacks and born losers). Juxtaposing bright Jews with sad sacks and losers fits the stereotype. In A Pscyhohistory of Zionism, Jay Gonen speaks of Jews feeling, "a Jewish genius at home, with voluminous treasures of mind" who becomes "on the street, a luckless, inept schlemiel, unable to achieve security and equality with his non-Jewish neighbors." [48]

            Isaac Bashevis Singer created a gentile character who was often mistaken for a Jew: "'...he had all the qualities attributed to Jews. He shunned fighting, could not stand liquor ... read serious books, avoided athletic sports, visited museums and art shows.'" [49]

            Both gentile and Jewish literature and lore report a downside to the stereotype: vincibility in combat. As anti-Semitic violence rose in the 1880s, the long-honored traits of wisdom and a faithful, patient waiting for God's deliverance in the form of the Messiah were assessed as inadequate. Even though Jews were a forcibly disempowered minority facing attack from majority gentiles, some Jews began to argue for direct action. For example, poet Hayim Nahman Bialik raged at Jewish men who were unable to protect their women from gang rape and murder during the Kishniev pogrom of 1903. [50] Bialik shamed his audience with reminders of past military heroes like the Maccabees. [51] He scoffed at survivors' prayers [52] and their efforts to exploit their wounds for begging. [53]

            Sabras, native-born Israelis, sometimes expressed contempt for the shtetl Jews' assumed passivity, and for the history of the European Diaspora. In Elie Wiesel's novel, A Beggar in Jerusalem, a young sabra proclaims that all the grand talk about Jews as humanity's conscience was invented as an alibi for not fighting. [54] Though sabras were reported to know Jewish history up to the Roman Exile well, they couldn't be bothered with the history of the last 2,000 years of exile in Europe. [55] In a collection of sabra jokes the following appeared:

 

"Mom, how did I come into this world?"

"The stork brought you."

"So it's true what the neighbors say about daddy's being impotent?" [56]

In the Israeli army, during the 1950s, newcomers of European ancestry were called "sabon," soap, implying that the newcomer's people had been so passive that they had allowed themselves to be made into soap. [57]

            Another perceived downside to the stereotype was relative sexual inadequacy.

 

Jews sometimes felt that the uncircumcised gentiles had a greater ability to satisfy women. This idea preoccupied Jews and in the twelfth century Moses Maimonides discussed it in The Guide of the Perplexed. His major thesis was that circumcision is a means of reducing the strength of the sexual drive ... As an old Jewish saying goes, a woman who has had sexual intercourse with an uncircumcised man finds it difficult to break away from him. [58]

            Singer's male heroes, even while pursued by hordes of women, Jews and gentiles alike, comport themselves more like losers than great lovers, claims scholar of American literature Dinah Pladott in "Casanova or Schlemiel? The Don Juan Archetype in I. B. Singer's Fiction." Even while having sex they can't stop thinking: "They ... continuously liken the microcosmic realm of their lusts and loves to the macrocosmic realm of universal rationality and meaning." [59] Singer has been soundly condemned by many in his Yiddish reading audience for writing about sex at all. The "oddest aspect of Singer's work," is the "'inordinate stress, certainly for a Yiddish writer, which is placed on sex.'" [60]

            The opposite of the cerebral, mercantile, spiritual Jew was the stereotypical gentile. English author and Zionist Israel Zangwill (1864-1926) wrote: "'Beware of the goyim ... drunkards and bullies, swift with the fist or the bludgeon, many in species, but all engendered of God for our sins.'" [61]

            Gonen sees the roots of this attitude in the Bible:

 

Jacob came to symbolize the Jews and Esau the gentiles. Thus, an image of contrasting roles was formed whereby the Jews were supposed to use their heads and the gentiles their muscles ... These role distinctions received expression in a folksong by the poet Bialik. In this song, while Jacob spends his time praising the Lord and devoting himself to his family, Esau spends his time drinking and beating his wife. Thus, the superior Jew uses his head in a variety of worthwhile pursuits, both divine and mundane, while the inferior gentile uses his hands in degrading activities. [62]

Gonen reports that these dovetailing roles were formed in childhood:

 

...it was impossible for Jewish children not to sense early in life the difference between their values and those of the neighboring gentile children playing barefoot in streets and barnyards. To Jewish children, intellectual, scholarly, and spiritual pursuits became identified as Jewish values, whereas sensual, gross, and menial preoccupations became identified as gentile. [63]

            In Eastern Europe, feudal conditions lasted much longer than in Western Europe. Up until the massive industrialization instituted by Stalin after World War II, most Eastern Europeans were peasants, living in conditions more primitive than those found to the west. Jews were often literate, urban, and employed in money-related activities in the service of the nobility. They often expressed a view of the peasantry of Eastern Europe as ignorant, bestial, dirty, fertile, and violent. [64] Tobias Kohn, a Jewish observer of peasant life in Poland wrote in 1707:

 

This country is more fertile than all the other lands of the nations, but it is full of filth and offal ... people's homes stink and their clothes are dirty. They do not comb their hair or beards even once a year...Their diet is bizarre, mainly beans, pickles, and, on an empty stomach, radishes, onions, and garlic. They drink liquor that burns the heart and the soul as well as mead and beer and other unhealthy drinks that unquestionably cause serious diseases ... so there is no wonder that they suffer such illnesses due to their bad habits ... even if demons had never been created they would have had to have been created for the people of this country; for there is no land where they are more occupied with demons, talismans, oath formulas, mystical names and dreams .... [65]

            Jews had a highly profitable monopoly on the sale of alcohol in much of Eastern Europe. [66] In taverns, gentiles often saw Jews as greedy drug pushers who corrupted men and nations, [67] while Jews saw gentiles as grotesque drunks. Bialik described the interface between Jews and Poles in his father's tavern as the border between cleanliness and dirt, civilization and savagery, humanity and bestiality. It was a

 

meeting between the gates of purity and defilement

There, in a human swine cave, in the sacrilege of a tavern

in streams of impious libation...

my father's head appeared, the skull of a tortured martyr

in smoke clouds, his face sick with sorrow,

eyes shedding blood

the faces were monstrous...

the words a filthy stream. [68]

            Singer's works present a parade of bestial, sexual, dirty gentiles who lack tradition and act without impulse control. Here is a typical description from The Slave:

 

The mountaineers no longer bothered him. But this was not true of the girls who slept in the barn and tended the sheep. Night and day they bothered himÉthey sought him out and talked and laughed and behaved little better than beasts. In his presence they relieved themselves, and they were perpetually pulling up their skirts to show him insect bites on their hips and thighs. "Lay me," a girl would shamelessly demand, but Jacob acted as if he were deaf and blind. It was not only because fornication was a mortal sin. These women were unclean, and had vermin in their clothes and elflocks in their hair; often their skins were covered with rashes and boils, they ate field rodents and the flesh of rotting carcasses of fowls. Some of them could scarcely speak Polish, grunted like animals, made signs with their hands, screamed and laughed madly. The village abounded in cripples, boys and girls with goiters, distended heads and disfiguring birthmarks; there were also mutes, epileptics, freaks who had been born with six fingers on their hands, or six toes on their feet. In summer, the parents of these deformed children kept them on the mountains with the cattle, and they ran wild. There, men and women copulated in public; the women became pregnant, but, climbing all day as they did on rocks, bearing heavy packs, they often miscarried. [69]

            There is a positively valued female variant of the sexual, fertile, animal gentile in Singer's fiction. She cannot think, but she is good. Such Polish Catholic women appear in Singer's The Slave, Enemies, a Love Story, Shosha, and The Magician of Lublin. A Jewish man stops to appreciate the gifts of Tekla, a Polish Catholic woman, in Shosha, comparing her to more worldly and complex Jewish women:

 

These are the real people, the ones who keep the world going, I thought. They serve as proof that the cabalists are right ... An indifferent God, a mad God, couldn't have created Tekla. ... Her cheeks were the color of ripe apples. She gave forth a vigor rooted in the earth, in the sun, in the whole universe. She didn't want to better the world as did Dora; she didn't require roles and reviews as did Betty; she didn't seek thrills as did Celia. She wanted to give, not take. If the Polish people had produced even one Tekla, they had surely accomplished their mission. [70]

            Fiction by gentile authors also presents two stereotypes of the peasant, writes Polish scholar Ewa Korulska. There is the positive stereotype of the placid peasant of deep faith and deep love for his family, and, even more, for his livestock; on the other hand there is the "okrutne, ciemne, zabobonne bydle, lubiące upijać do nieprzytomnoscie, znęcac« nad wszytkim;" the peasant as "brutal, ignorant, superstitious beast, who loves to drink to unconsciousness, and who bullies everyone." [71]

            Jews did not encounter only Polish peasants, but also Polish nobility. Tradition and law dictated that Jews handle finance while peasants might touch money but once a year, or not at all. In Jewish folklore and literature, Polish noblemen are often amoral beasts who ruin themselves, their peasants, Jews, and Poland, through greed and irrational spending. [72] In The Golem, Singer describes a stereotypical encounter between a gentile aristocrat who wants money and a Jew who is called upon to provide it.

 

"You cursed Jew! I will get the money one way or another," the count screamed in rage. "And you will pay dearly for your insolence in refusing a loan to the great Count Bratislawski."

Saying these words, the Count spat in to Reb Eliezer's face. Reb Eliezer humbly wiped off the spittle with his kerchief and said, "Forgive me, Count, but there was no sense in gambling for such high stakes and signing notes that cannot be honored." [73]

 

            The gentiles and Jews in Singer's Golem are traditional stereotypes. The main gentile character is the violent, greedy, drunken, and sexually criminal Count Bratislawski, who uses his own daughter to harm Jews. Reb Eliezer is taken away by "a group of soldiers holding their naked swords in their hands." [74] Bratislawski's paid witnesses are "a man who looked like a drunk and a woman whose face was full of warts and who squinted." [75]

            Israeli scholar of Ashkenazic history, Israel Bartal, reports that gentile aristocrats were portrayed as sexual threats in Yiddish literature: "...the Polish nobleman represents the uncleanness, the lust, and the violent nature of the gentile world. The Polish noblewoman is the epitome of sexual attractiveness and lasciviousness, and can be resisted by the Jew only with difficulty." [76] Bartal quotes passages from Peretz in which a young Polish radical expresses a sexual interest, glossed by Peretz as violently disruptive to Jewish life, in a Jewish woman, and a description of a Polish noblewomen driving out in full regalia, Cossacks in tow, in order to search the countryside for "comely" Jewish men who are too overawed to resist their splendor and beauty.

            Gentile stereotypes of Jews often focused on money, perceived craftiness, and the relative non-physicality of Jews. A Czech priest, František Pravda, a contemporary of Yudl Rosenberg, wrote of "Jewish swindlers, greedy, spineless ... opportunists." [77] In general,

 

The Jew depicted in Czech literature is ... not very much different from the Jew portrayed in the literature of most other European nations. He wears the face of Ahasarus, the Wandering Jew, the too complicated introvert contrasting sharply with the simplicity of his environment, or of Shylock, the hated, scheming, rich exploiter, or of the poor, ridiculed rag picker, who must constantly devise new tricks in order to survive. [78]

            Polish literature professor Mieczysław Inglot writes that in Poland, the country in which Rabbi Loew was educated, "The Jew depicted ... in stories in general circulation ..." was a person to whom was attributed "dishonesty in business, cowardice, and strange rituals. There is the folk stereotype of the "'Little Jew,' or 'Żydek,' who is amusing, cunning, cowardly." [79]

Golem as Gentile; Golem as Sabra

            As an anthropoid form and folkloric fantasy, the golem served as a perfect surface onto which the folk could have projected any quality. Jewish folklore could have, and did, produce legends in which characteristics typical of the traditional stereotype were marshaled to rescue Jews. David Gans, a student of Rabbi Loew's, recounts the legend of how the Jews were allowed to build their first synagogue in Prague. The Jews rescued Christians from marauders, not by might, but by "acting cleverly and slyly" and were rewarded by the grateful Christians. [80] As mentioned above, in another tale, intellectual superiority won a debate for a simple Jewish tailor. Chayim Block recounts a legend in which Rabbi Loew, hero of the Prague golem stories, debates and defeats three hundred priests in groups of ten for thirty days. [81] The Jewish folkloric anthropoid, the golem, was endowed with none of these intellectual gifts.

            Earlier golems, as described above, were relatively featureless. They were created for brief periods and then destroyed. They remained within homes. They were often mute. The defensive golems of this century are increasingly violent, sexual, and/or lacking in impulse control. They resort to what had been seen as gentile tactics: violence, crudeness, sexual incontinence, and ignorance of or hostility to ancient Jewish tradition. In oral legends the golem's "gruff appearance permits him to infiltrate the gentile community" as a spy. [82]

            Why did Jewish folklore endow its heroes with the power to create only gentile-like anthropoids? This paper will propose two possible reasons. First of all, it will be argued that the golem served as a method for Jews to test out and struggle with their urges to respond to anti-Semitic violence with violence of their own. That point will be argued below.

            There may be another reason why Jewish mystics could create only gentile-like creatures. Spiritual and intellectual excellence were required for the successful creation of a golem. [83] Such creation brought the creator close to union with God, to a God-like status. [84] Golems were always incomplete, in the way that the stereotype of gentiles are incomplete; they sometimes lack the ability to think, to speak, to control themselves, to participate in Jewish ritual life. Perhaps only God can create a Jew, but an enlightened Jew, in golem legend tradition, can create a gentile-like creature.

            This aspect of golem creation -- that of a man a bit less than God being able, through relative superiority, to create a creature that is that much less than God -- is reflected in a Talmudic text. In this text, it is a female, rather than a gentile, who serves as lesser creature: "Rabbi Samuel ben Unya said in the name of Rab: A woman (before marriage) is a golem, and concludes a covenant only with him who transforms her (into) a (useful) vessel, as it is written, 'For your maker is your husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name' (Isaiah 54:5) (Sanhedrin 22b)." [85] Singer attributes this attitude to Rabbi Loew, the hero of the Prague golem legend. Singer reports that in Rabbi Loew's book Be'er Hagolah, Loew wrote that men, through sexual intercourse, endow women with spirit and physical form. [86]

            As a lesser other, as one who does work that Jews, by tradition, are prevented from doing themselves, the golem can be compared to the shabbes goy, or Sabbath goy. (Because Orthodox Jews are prohibited from performing certain tasks on the Sabbath, such taboo work was performed by gentiles; thus, "shabbes goy.") In one early Polish golem legend, the golem serves as a shabbes goy and is put to work lighting ovens. [87] In the more complex works by Leivick, Singer, and Wiesel treated here, the golem performs other more complex but equally taboo behaviors Jews were prevented, by tradition, from performing themselves.

            The golem is created by Jews, but, as all the authors treated here report, his status as a Jew is doubtful, given his gentile-like behavior. This in-between creature was a perfect medium through which Jews could express and debate anxiety about adopting the tactics of what had been seen as the inferior other, the gentile. These discussions can be compared to the reaction of many Jews when considering the native born Israeli, or sabra. Like golems, sabras were also seen as being more "gentile" than Jewish.

            The golem in Yudl Rosenberg's 1909 version was an innocuous figure. He could not speak. The closest he comes to any significant contact with a woman is his rescue of the living Christian girl who was assumed to have been sacrificed and his delivery of her to the proper authorities. Rosenberg's golem is merely a "domestic android whose programming needs fine tuning." [88] Though the golem is attacked by a group of men who throw him down a well and stone him, Rabbi Liva refuses to permit the golem to avenge himself. The attacker later dies of black mange. God's plan is righteous, it triumphs, and the golem never needs to controvert the religious decree about taking the law into his own hands. Future golems were not so tame.

            Jewish suffering inspired poet and playwright Leivick Halpern, a.k.a. H. Leivick (1886-1962) to adapt the Prague golem material into a 1920 play, The Golem, a Dramatic Poem in Eight Scenes. When Leivick was seven years old, a Polish bully attacked him for not doffing his hat while passing a church. Later that day, in Hebrew school, Leivick was told the story of Abraham and Isaac. This story upset him terribly. What if the rescuing angel arrived too late, and Isaac had been sacrificed? Later Leivick spoke of Holocaust victims as "six million Isaacs." [89] Eventually Leivick was arrested by the czarist government for his communist activities and sent to Siberia. Leivick attributed his writing of The Golem to anti-Semitic violence, including that childhood attack, his own suffering in prison in Siberia, and the suffering of others he witnessed there. [90]

            Leivick's experiences might certainly be seen as justifying his projection of a fantasy who can and does defeat gentiles at what is seen as their own game--brute force. Even so, Leivick's pre-Holocaust play, unlike Singer's or Wiesel's post-Holocaust versions of the Golem legend, never delights in what the golem can do. The play's atmosphere is relentlessly dark and troubled; the set is comprised of caves and towers scattered with cobwebs and ruins. Unlike Singer, who rollicks in his golem's crudity and burlesques his rough sexuality, and unlike Wiesel, who telegraphs a finely honed respect for the fighting machine of his creation, Leivick draws his golem in unrelieved anxiety and an agonized sense of his fantasy as a betrayal of Jewish spirituality and God's plan of a patient wait for the Messiah.

            Creation of a violent golem taints Leivick's Rabbi Levi from the first. He is allowed no honeymoon period in which to enjoy the release of action without ideology. Even before it has taken form, the spirit of Leivick's golem warns against his own creation. [91] Once made, Rabbi Levi assesses his blatantly carnal creation with despair: "Is this he? The man I dreamt into existence? The champion? The hero? He? Such hands, such shoulders, legs. So much body? So much still sorrow?" [92] Rabbi Levi's self debasement offers the arch enemy of the Jews, Father Thaddeus, the chance to accuse Rabbi Levi of the hatred Thaddeus himself has generated: "What causes that strange look within your eyes? ... I have never chanced to see two Jewish eyes that looked upon me with true fury, with murderous rage and hate, as yours do now." This anti-Semite delivers the coup de gr‰ce, telling Rabbi Levi that his eyes seem "the eyes of some golem run wild." [93] Finally, Rabbi Levi commits the apostasy of rejecting God's plan for the Jews, in the form of the Messiah. When the Messiah shows up, complaining of sore feet, the rabbi announces that it is not yet the Messiah's time; it is the time of the golem. [94]

            Rabbi Levi never manages to marshal his golem's energies to advancing the Jewish cause; rather, this golem threatens the spiritual and physical life of the community. This golem's crazed urges cause him to loathe himself and wish to harm himself and the rabbi. [95] His immediate and uncontained sexuality terrorizes Jewish women. Rabbi Levi must constantly rebuke and discipline the golem for being attracted to the rabbi's daughter; in spite of this, the golem corners the girl and describes to her every giddily violent, almost cannibal act he could and would like to perform upon her body. [96] "In everybody's sight," he grabs and kisses her. [97] The golem identifies himself as an outsider and ignorant of tradition; he reasons like a child. [98] What wisdom he does have is the wisdom of earth. [99] He eats in gulps, without first blessing his food. [100] He mirrors the world in its depravity; he is a measure of how lacking in worth are Jews in their current state. [101] In short, "He does not seem a Jew." [102]

            Leivick's golem is never regenerated. He dies after killing Jews and being denounced by the girl he loved. Rabbi Levi declares that the golem never learned to live in peace "as Jews live," and that his crimes against Jews are punishment for the Jews attempting to save themselves by force, a blasphemous alteration of God's plan that Jews must await deliverance in the form of the Messiah. [103]

            Sixty years after the first publication of Leivick's play, and more than three decades after the end of World War II, Noble Prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991) gave the world a much less angst-ridden account of the golem. Singer was born in Poland. He emigrated to America in 1935, thus escaping the Holocaust, in which most of Poland's Jews were murdered by Nazis. Singer devoted his career to writing in Yiddish and recreating the world of Poland's lost Jews. His children's book, The Golem, offers a humorous, affectionate treatment of the golem legend. Singer's Rabbi Loew is warned: "Take care that he should not fall into the follies of flesh and blood." [104] Fall he does, but it is a fortunate fall.

            In a wonderfully subtle and inventive plot device, Singer has a servant search the city for clothing large enough to fit a golem. All the servant can find is a theater troupe's costume for a Goliath figure. Goliath is the infamous Biblical giant, champion of the enemies of the Jews, brought down by naked young David with a simple slingshot. The Jews have long identified with David, and identified their powerful and outnumbering enemies as Goliath. Like Leivick's golem, Singer's is more a stereotypical gentile than Jew.

            Like Singer's Polish Catholic women, his golem is of the earth, earthy, and retains the special powers of earth. Rabbi Loew indulgently instructs the golem in his place in the great chain of being: "You are part of the earth, and the earth knows many things -- how to grow grass, flowers, wheat, rye, fruit." [105]

            This golem is not a typical Singer Jewish male character, engaging in a "Camusian" search for meaning through sex. [106] Of all three golems treated here, Singer's has the most extended and most reciprocated adventures with women.

 

Miriam ... helped with the household chores ... Miriam asked, "Joseph, are you hungry?"

"Hungry," the golem repeated ...

Miriam brought him bread, onions, and radishes. The golem gulped them all down in no time...

"Food," the golem echoed. Suddenly, he said, "Miriam nice girl."

Miriam began to laugh. "Hey, golem, I didn't know that you notice girls."

...He gazed at her with large eyes. Suddenly he did something that startled Miriam. He lifted her up and kissed her. His lips were as scratchy as a horseradish grinder. Miriam screamed and the golem exclaimed, "Miriam golem bride"

[later]... the golem began to clamber up the tower ... when he spotted Miriam in the crowd, he rushed over to her, caught her in his arms, and ran cheerfully with her through the streets, jumping and dancing with joy. [107]

            Though, in some places and times, Jews had to agitate for the honor of fighting in national armies, Joseph is so strong and fearless that the Austrian army wants to recruit him. "But the golem was afraid neither of soldiers nor of fences nor of ditches. He hurdled all the barriers. He caught living soldiers and began to play with them as if they were lead toys. Heavy stones bounced off of him as if he were made of steel." [108]

            Unlike Leivick, Singer explicitly reassures his reader that the anxieties attendant to a release of violence are not necessary. Jews are wise enough as a people to know how to channel violence strategically. Too, resorting to a golem is not an abrogation of God's plan, but part of it. This reassurance offers Singer's reader the vicarious and fantastic opportunity to gloat with the underdogs, suddenly blessed with the upper hand. Singer's emperor says to Rabbi Leib:

 

"With a giant like this, you Jews could conquer the whole world. What guarantee do we have that you will not invade all the countries and make us into slaves?"

To this Rabbi Leib replied, "We Jews have tasted slavery in the land of Egypt, and therefore we don't want to enslave others. The golem is only a temporary help to us in time of exceptional danger. The Messiah will come when the Jews deserve to be redeemed by their virtuous deeds"

It was the first time in the history of the Jews after they were exiled from their land that a rabbi had to promise an emperor that the rabbi would safeguard him and his people from impending mishap. [109]

            Rabbi Leib never puts full faith in his golem, nor does he abandon old hopes: "He knew that our salvation could never come from sheer physical strength." [110] Singer's golem, like Wiesel's, does not repudiate the past, but vindicates it: "A great power was hidden in these people whom God had chosen for his own." [111]

            As Singer's book progresses, the golem's speech improves, he asks to be schooled, and he wants a bar mitzvah. "Golem no want be golem," he says. [112] In these strivings of an incomplete creature towards Judaism, Singer's golem is like his righteous Catholic females. These beautiful, earthy, Polish Catholic women are eager to escape and transcend the debasement of the Polish Catholic culture-world Singer describes for them. Like his golem, their thirst for a better life can only be satisfied by conversion to Judaism; however, like Singer's golem, their conversions are never fully successful. Wanda, in The Slave, must pretend to be mute so as not to betray her ignorance and accent; Jadwiga, in Enemies, a Love Story, is sexually betrayed by her bigamist husband Herman, who cheats on her with two Jewish wives.

            Singer's golem successfully carries out his assignment of protecting Jews from blood libel. His outrageous exploits cause Rabbi Loew to destroy him, but even in this Singer cannot condemn his golem uncategorically. Singer suggests that the golem enjoys an afterlife of love with Miriam.

            Elie Wiesel (b. 1928) shows the most respect and affection for his golem, and the greatest amount of confidence that Jews can, when necessary, successfully negotiate violence as tactic. Of the three authors treated here, his experience of anti-Semitism is the most extreme. As a child, he was taken from his native Romania to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He has become one of the great chroniclers of the Holocaust and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Wiesel's text contains a hint that his own experience may be the cause of his exceptional attitude toward the golem: "I truly liked him ... to us he was a savior ... He was said to be a fool ... I do not agree. He was a saint. May I burn in hell if I am lying ... As a member of the Holy Brotherhood, I know the fragility of life and the power of death." [113] The Holy Brotherhood Wiesel refers to is those who bury the dead.

            Like other golems, Wiesel's golem is possessed of apparently crude qualities, qualities that allow him to pass as a gentile. [114] In Wiesel, however, these golem qualities, when shepherded by Rabbi Loew, are evidence of greater, rather than lesser, humanity. His golem is not verbal; his muteness becomes an intelligent, challenging force of its own. Wiesel treats his golem's violence and divorce from tradition with admiration rather than with Singer's raucous humor, comic book garishness, and parental fretting.

 

Since he never talked, and since he always seemed to surprise you, to shock you, to force you out of the ordinary, to break your habits, some people would get impatient with him. But he, like a sleeping or walking statue, exhibited total indifference. Almost unapproachable, he allowed no one to offend him. If he was ridiculed, he ignored it. If stones were thrown at him, he did not react. There was almost no way of getting him angry. Only the godless enraged him; his brothers could do anything. In spite of what you think, he was not less human than we, but more human. [115]

            Wiesel stresses that his golem is a "fully accomplished being" and refutes that notion that to be physical, one must be crude.

 

In your own mind he looks like a monster. You imagine him excessively strong, tall, heavy, dragging his body like lead -- some kind of human beast that nature put on earth to mock or frighten you. Well, let me tell you, you are mistaken.

I, who have seen him in my childhood, I remember him perfectly ... His bearing was awkward and yet astonishingly agile. Riveted in the ground, but floating in the air. Strange, mysterious, he seemed to plow earth and heaven all at once. Sure of himself, he moved ahead inexorably. Nothing could stand in his way. Without pity for the wicked, fierce towards our enemies, he was charitable and generous with us. I should add that he was blessed with both intuition and intelligence. On the street you would have turned to look at him, not because of his appearance, but because of something else, and I do not know what; he radiated a force which overwhelmed you, moved you, flooded you with emotion. [116]

            Facing the page of this passage is an illustration of Rabbi Loew, wrapped in a prayer shawl, walking a street of sixteenth-century Prague. A full moon overhead castes two shadows, though only Loew's figure is seen. The illustrator and Wiesel thus communicate that, inherent in all the Jews who could not or did not fight back, was today's Jew who could and does, and who has not lost and will not loose the intellectual and spiritual traditions of his ancestors. He can "plow heaven and earth at once."

            Wiesel stresses a theme that receives passing reference in Singer. In Wiesel, especially, the violent golem is a manifestation not of the fated Jews' hubris in taking upon themselves the work of God in saving themselves, but of God's will. "God will hear us, I promise you," [117] the Maharal tells his people, knowing full well that he is going to animate the golem. When doing so, he tells his golem, "You will succeed, my dear little Yossel, because you have never failed before; it is God's will that you thwart the fatal plans of our enemies" [118] This is, of course, the opposite of the theme of Leivick's work, in which Jews are punished for usurping God's timing and the role of the Messiah.

            In the end, Wiesel's golem is not destroyed in a spirit of tragic grief, like Leivick's, nor in exasperation, like Singer's, but merely decommissioned, and perhaps only temporarily. In the final sentences of the novella, we are told: "And he is waiting to be called." [119]

            Wiesel's final sentences inform his readers that Jews are capable of fighting back, and of doing so successfully. The contested choice of some Jews to meet violence with violence is no longer just a theme in legend, but of daily headlines. Like the legendary golem, sabras can be seen as creations of shtetl Jews, and projections of repressed energies. Gonen writes that most sabras are the product of Ashkenazic parents, and the sabras' behavior might be interpreted as "the parents' vicariously living the actions of the children by encouraging them, consciously or unconsciously, to carry out hidden impulses and wishes which reside in them rather than their children." [120]

            As with golems, the sabras' physicality and relative divorce from tradition were often seen as more gentile than Jewish. Sabras were called "Jewish Goys" by Yiddish-speaking Jews. [121]

 

Evidently the parent generation was surprised -- not always pleasantly -- by some of the unexpected results of rearing a first generation of Jews "born free," so to speak ... the surprise was at the sight of masculine, sunburned daredevils ... as perceived by their parents; they seemed like "Hebrew Tarzans." They were not ... knowledgeable about world literature and European history ... In short, they had ceased to be Jews ... this perhaps represented a step backward in terms of culture and sophistication, but certainly a great leap forward in terms of ability to survive and have a proud masculine image. [122]

 

            The sabras are not completely out of touch with their ancestors' story, Gonen reports: after the Six Day War, "'If the six million could see us now!'" was heard in Israel. [123] With time, sabras have been assessed as being more and more like the stereotype of their ancestors. Like the folkloric golem, they are described as wanting to be loved by their creators, wanting to belong, and holding inherent in them their ancestors' most loved qualities.

 

There are growing examples from literature and from conversations with sabras which indicate that the older sabra characteristics of daredevil blatancy is receiving an infusion of the sensitivity, introspection, empathy, and ideological mindedness that typified the mentality of the Galut -- with fruitful results. [124]

 

            All are not so sanguine about new characterizations of Jews. Many sharply condemn Israel when that nation responds to threat with violence. Some see this criticism as evidence of a double standard; Jews, it has been surmised, are expected to be philosophical, not active, to be victims, not soldiers. Such a double standard, it has been argued, is rooted in anti-Semitism. [125]

            Jews themselves, however, have often expressed the desire to see other Jews conform to a standard of non-violence. When Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a fellow Jew in 1995, Jews asked: "Has Israel created a new kind of Jew who can kill?" an Ashkenazic Jew from Hungary said: "When I was growing up in Europe, we knew exactly what it is to be a Jew and what it isn't. Murder was never a part of it." [126]

            One prominent American Jew, Woody Allen, characterized himself as very like the shtetl stereotype in his response to the Palestinian uprising of a decade ago on the op-ed pages of the New York Times. "I'm an uninformed coward," he said. "I prefer to sit around in coffee houses and grouse to loved ones privately about social conditions, invariably muttering imprecations on the heads of politicians. My mind turns to more profound matters: man's lack of a spiritual center ... the empty universe, along with eternal annihilation, aging, terminal illness, the absence of God in a hostile, raging void." [127]

            The golem has no memory of suffering and the rich culture that grew out of persecution. He has no past of spirituality and righteousness to refer to. He gets hurt; he hurts back. The title of Allen's article is, "Am I Reading the Papers Correctly?" The answer is yes, Woody, you are, and if you had read Leivick, Singer, or Wiesel, you would not be so surprised.



[1] Blood libel is an accusation made by gentiles against Jews. It alleges that an individual Jew or several Jews have tortured, perhaps crucified, and/or sacrificed a Christian child as part of a religious ritual. Blood libel is first recorded in England in 1144. The most notorious recent accusation occurred in Kielce, Poland, in 1946. Blood libel has been responsible for the deaths of countless numbers of innocent Jews at the hands of gentile mobs.

[2] Arnold L. Goldsmith, The Golem Remembered, 1909 - 1980 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), p. 11

[3] Alida Allison, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? The Golem as Family Member in Jewish Children's Literature," The Lion and the Unicorn; A Critical Journal of Children's Literature 14:2 (1990): 92-97, p. 92.

[4] Jay Y. Gonen, (A Psychohistory of Zionism New York: Mason Charter, 1975), p. 317.

[5] Moshe Idel, Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990), p. 3-4.

[6] Arnold L. Goldsmith, The Golem Remembered, 1909 - 1980 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), p. 19.

[7] Emily D Bilski, editor. Golem! Danger, Deliverance, and Art (New York: The Jewish Museum, 1988), p. 66; Byron Sherwin, The Golem Legend : Origins and Implications (New York: University Press of America, 1985), p. 43; Gershon Winkler, The Golem of Prague. (New York: The Judaica Press, 1980), p. 19.

[8] Sherwin, 3-5.

[9] Bilski, 10.

[10] Bilski, 20.

[11] Bilski, 22.

[12] Bilski, 13.

[13] Gershon Scholem, On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism (New York: Schocken Books, 1965), 184.

[14] Bilski, 13.

[15] Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism, 159.

[16] Bilski, 14.

[17] Gershon Scholem, Kabbalah (New York: Quadrangle, 1974), 353; Sherwin, 17; Bilski, 13; Winkler, 20; Idel, 207-212.

[18] Idel, 233; Sherwin, 16; Bilski, 6; Scholem, On the Kabbalah, 199.

[19] Gershon Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism, (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), 338.

[20] Norma Comrada, "Golem and Robot: A Search for Connections," Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 7:2-3 (1996): 244-54; Jane Davidson, "Golem - Frankenstein - Golem of Your Own" Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 7:2-3 (1996): 228-43.

[21] Carl Schaffer, "Leivick's The Golem and the Golem Legend," p. 139, in Patrick Murphy, editor,Staging the Impossible: The Fantastic Mode in Modern Drama (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1992).

[22] Scholem, Kabbalah, 352.

[23] Sherwin.

[24] Neil W. Russack, "A Psychological Interpretation of Meyrinks's The Golem, " pp. 157-164 in Gareth Hall, et. al., editors, The Shaman from Elko: Papers in Honor of Joseph L. Henderson on His Seventy Fifth Birthday (San Francisco: Jung Institute, 1978).

[25] Arnold L. Goldsmith, "Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Legend of the Golem of Prague," Yiddish 6:2-3(1985): 39-50, and, Arnold L. Goldsmith, "Elie Wiesel, Rabbi Judah Lowe, and the Golem of Prague" Studies in American Jewish Literature 5 (1986):15-28.

[26] Lester D. Friedman, "The Edge of Knowledge: Jews as Monsters, Jews as Victims" MELUS 11:3 (1984): 49-62.

[27] For a good example of an anal creation analysis of traditional narrative, see: Alan Dundes, "Earth Diver: Creation of the Mythopoeic Male," American Anthropologist 64 (1962):1032-50.

[28] Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Golem (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1982), p. 66.

[29] Gershon Scholem, On the Kabbalah, 163-164.

[30] Elie Wiesel, The Golem: The Story of a Legend (New York: Summit Books, 1983), p. 45.

[31] Goldsmith, Golem Remembered, p. 30.

[32] Vladimir Sadek, "Rabbi Loew; Sa Vie, Heritage Pedagogique, et sa Legende," Judaica Bohemiae XV 1(1979):27-40. Praha: Statni Zidovske Muzeum, p. 33. "Loew's pedagogic reform represents an important boundary between the Middle Ages and the modern era in the realm of pedagogy, its forms and methods."

[33] Sadek, 35.

[34] Goldsmith, Golem Remembered , p. 22.

[35] Goldsmith, Golem Remembered, p. 40.

[36] Sadek, 35.

[37] Sadek, 36. "...through the influence of a Talmud haggadah connected to the Biblical character Bezalel who was able to put together the letters that created the heavens and the earth.... the two names ... Belazel -- Yehouda Liva ben Bezalel -- [the similarity of the two names] may have played a certain role."

[38] Gonen, 109.

[39] Wiesel, The Golem, p. 65-68.

 

[40] "The presentation of spurious and synthetic writings under the claim that they are genuine folklore," Richard Dorson, "Fakelore." in American Folklore and the Historian (Chicago: Univesity of Chicago Press, 1971), 3-14.

[41] Goldsmith, Golem Remembered, p. 40.

[42] František Cervinka, "The Hilsner Affair," pp. 135-161 in Alan Dundes, editor, The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1991).

[43] Gonen, 18.

[44] Alan Dundes, "A Study of Ethnic Slurs: The Jew and the Polack in the United States," Journal of American Folklore 84 (1971): 186-203.

[45] Ewa Morawska, For Bread with Butter ; The Life-Worlds of East Central Europeans in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1890-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 39-49.

[46] Nathan Ausubel, A Treasury of Jewish Folklore (New York: Crown Publishers, 1948), p. 120.

[47] Ausubel, 421-422.

[48] Gonen, 29.

[49] Thomas Gladsky, "The Polish Side of Singer's Fiction," Studies in American Jewish Literature 5 (1986), p. 6.

[50] Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Selected Poems (New York: Bloch, 1948), p. 118.

[51] Bialik, 119.

[52] Bialik, 119.

[53] Bialik, 127-128.

[54] Elie Wiesel, A Beggar in Jerusalem (New York: Random House, 1970).

[55] Gonen, 115.

[56] Gonen, 110.

[57] Gonen, 159.

[58] Gonen, 14.

[59] Dinah Pladott, "Casanova or Schlemiel? The Don Juan Archetype in I.B. Singer's Fiction," in Joseph C. Landis, Aspects of I.B. Singer (New York: Queens College Press, 1986), pp.55-71, p. 60.

[60] Pladott, p. 55.

[61] in Gonen, 131.

[62] Gonen, 135.

[63] Gonen, pp. 136-137.

[64] Israel Bartal, "Non-Jews and Gentile Society in East European Hebrew and Yiddish Literature: 1856-1914" Polin 4 (1989): 53-69.

[65] M. Rosman, "A Minority Views the Majority: Jewish Attitudes towards the Polish Commonwealth and Interaction with Poles" Polin 4(1989):31-42.

[66] Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem: Keter, 1971, pp. 542-546.

[67] Wladyslaw T Bartoszewski,The Convent at Auschwitz (New York: G. Braziller, Inc., 1991), p. 109.

[68] Bialik, in Penueli, S. and A. Ukhmani, eds. Anthology of Modern Hebrew Poetry 1966.

[69] Isaac Bashevis Singer, Three Complete Novels: The Slave, Enemies, a Love Story, Shosha (New York: Avenel Books, 1982), p. 5-6.

[70] Singer, Three Complete Novels, p. 325.

[71] Ewa Korulska, "O Chlopie -- Bez Tytulu" [On Peasants--Untitled]Polska Sztuka Ludowa: Konteksty [Polish Folk Art: Contexts] 48:3-4(1994), 127.

[72] Bartal, 59, 68, 69.

[73] Singer, The Golem, p. 7-8.

[74] Singer, The Golem, 9.

[75] Singer, The Golem, 10.

[76] Bartal, 62.

[77] Avigdor Dagan, "Jewish Themes in Czech Literature" in The Jews of Czechoslovakia: Historical Studies and Surveys volume I: 456-467 (New York: Society for the History of Czechoslovak Jews, 1968), p. 463.

[78] Dagan, 456.

[79] Mieczysl/aw Inglot, "The Image of the Jew in Polish Narrative Prose of the Romantic Period," Polin: A Journal of Polish-Jewish Studies 2(1987):199-220, p. 200, 214.

[80] Jirina Sedinova, "Old Czech Legends in the Work of David Gans" Judaica Bohemiae XIV 2 (1978):89-111. Praha: Statni Zidovske Muzeum, p. 108.

[81] Goldsmith, "I.B. Singer," p. 44.

[82] Sherwin, 17.

[83] Schaffer, 139.

[84] Sherwin, 14.

[85] Sherwin, 10.

[86] Isaac Bashevis Singer "The Golem is a Myth for Our Time" The New York Times 12 August, 1984, 2;1.

[87] Jay Jacoby, "The Golem in Jewish Literature," Judaica Libraianship 1(1984):100-104, p. 101.

[88] Goldsmith, Golem Remembered, p. 41.

[89] Halper Leivick, "The Golem, A Dramatic Poem in Eight Scenes," pp. 217-356 in Joseph C. Landis, editor, The Dybbuk and Other Great Yiddish Plays (New York: Bantam, 1966), p. 217-220.

[90] Goldsmith, Golem Remembered, 75.

[91] Leivick, 226.

[92] Leivick, 244.

[93] Leivick, 229.

[94] Leivick, 288.

[95] Leivick, 237.

[96] Leivick, pp. 303- 304.

[97] Leivick, 240, 260.

[98] Leivick, 238, 249.

[99] Leivick, 260.

[100] Leivick, 242.

[101] Leivick, 288.

[102] Leivick, 239.

[103] Leivick, 347, 350.

[104] Singer, The Golem, p. 23.

[105] Singer, The Golem, p. 36.

[106] Pladott.

[107] Singer, The Golem, p. 72-75.

[108] Singer, The Golem., pp. 68, 71.

[109] Singer, The Golem, p. 52-53.

[110] Singer, The Golem, p. 62

[111] Singer, The Golem, p. 83.

[112] Singer, The Golem, p. 67.

[113] Wiesel, The Golem, p. 12.

[114] Wiesel, The Golem, p. 57.

[115] Wiesel, The Golem, p. 31-34.

[116] Wiesel, The Golem, p. 31-32.

[117] Wiesel, The Golem, p. 22.

[118] Wiesel, The Golem, p. 29.

[119] Wiesel, The Golem, p. 96.

[120] Gonen, 1975, p. 111-112.

[121] Gonen, 120.

[122] Gonen, 119.

[123] Gonen, 167.

[124] Gonen, 120.

[125] e.g.: Sidney Zion, "If Israel Put a Bounty on Arafat" The New York Times 15 January, 1990, A:17; A. M. Rosenthal, "The Double Standard" The New York Times 22 October, 1991, A:23.

[126] Pam Belluck, "Jews Say Their Values Were Torn by a Bullet" The New York Times 6 November, 1995, A9.

[127] Woody Allen, "Am I Reading the Papers Correctly?" The New York Times 28 January, 1988, A 27.

 

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