Zamenhof, Esperanto and the Hillelist Covenant


Granovksy-Gluskin Graduate Collaborative Program Lecture

L. L. Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, claimed that his Judaism strongly motivated him to invent a universal language; he sometimes spoke of "crossing the rubicon" from Jewish particularism to Universalism.  But while Zamenhof often described his universalist language as an end in itself, he also envisioned Esperanto as the working language of a new, ethical community of "Hillelists." In the cult of Hillelism, he hoped to retain the Judaic idea of a covenant, purged of nationalism and ethnocentrism.  Esther Schor examines Zamenhof's evolving concept of Esperanto within the context of his radical proposals for a new religious  community. She also explores how Zamenhof's ethical cult might bear on our understanding of Jewish modernity in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Esther Schor is the author of Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language (2016). Her biography Emma Lazarus received a 2006 National Jewish Book Award. Her scholarship on 19th-century British literature includes Bearing the Dead: The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria and The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley. A poet and essayist, she has published two volumes of poems, Strange Nursery: New and Selected Poems and The Hills of Holland; her memoir, My Last J-Date, appeared in 2016. She has written essays and reviews for the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, Tablet, the Jewish Review of Books, and The Forward, among other publications.  A professor of English at Princeton University, Schor lives in Princeton, NJ.

This event is free and open to the public. No registration required. Limited seating.