Another Tack: Variation On the Bird-Jew Theme

Shalom Aleichem: although realizing he’s about to be put to death anyway, the bird-Jew played along with his executioner

Shalom Aleichem: although realizing he’s about to be put to death anyway, the bird-Jew played along with his executioner

In his autobiography, legendary Yiddish author Shalom Aleichem recounts a harrowing story his grandfather had told him about “the bird-Jew.”

That was how the grandfather called Noah, a pious Jewish innkeeper who lived in constant dread of his Russian landlord, the village squire. Trembling, Noah headed for the manor to renew his lease. His timing was off, because the courtyard was full of festive guests ready to go hunting.

The squire, in a jovial mood, agreed to extend the agreement if Noah would climb the stable roof and pretend to be a bird – so he can shoot him. Fearful of angering the nobleman, Noah obsequiously did his bidding. He clambered up as ordered, bent forward, flung his arms sideways and assumed a birdlike pose. At that instant the squire fired and Noah fell, as any slain bird would.

Although realizing he’s about to be put to death anyway, the bird-Jew played along with his executioner, still absurdly terrified of what might happen if he didn’t. This is the cringing mentality, the fear of giving offense to one’s mortal enemies, which Zionism was established to eradicate.

But not with full success, it seems. Continue reading