2: Nonfiction excerpt, David Biale’s "Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History," 1986.
In this excerpt, historian David Biale explains the political situation for Jews in the late nineteenth century, at the moment when Peretz wrote and published “Bontshe.”
Suggested activity: First, ask students what they know about what was happening for Jews in the late nineteenth century, when Peretz wrote the story. Some may know about the beginnings of the Zionist movement, about the major wave of immigration from Europe to America, or about socialism and communism. Show them Biale’s excerpt and talk about what the political options were for a Jew in the 1890s, and why Biale would say that “no one could afford to remain indifferent.” Then ask them how they can relate that political situation to Peretz’s story; why would he write about a silent person at a time like that?
Source: David Biale, Power and Powerlessness in Jewish History (New York: Schocken, 1986), 118.