Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Aaron Domnitz (Aba Beitani)

b. 1884, Romanovo, Belarus
To US: 1906
Baltimore, Md.

"Why I Left My Old Home and What I Have Accomplished in America"

The autobiography of Aaron Domnitz is perhaps the purest example of the maskil-type autobiography in this collection. A deeply pious and zealous student of Gemara as a child and youth, he was drawn to the study of Hebrew literature and secular subjects as a Yeshiva student. Influenced by the revolutionary fervor surrounding him, Domnitz romanticized workers and industrial labor, but spent only a brief time in the “shop” before becoming a Hebrew teacher after immigrating. Domnitz describes his experiences as a member of the literary and intellectual circle known as “Di Yunge,” the Young Ones, while living in the Bronx in the first decades of the twentieth century. An ideal informant, the writer has a knack for keen observation, evoking his surroundings with a sharp eye and close detail, always placing the phenomena he describes so vividly in their historical contexts.