My great-grandfather Yakov was one among the Jewish anarchists on New York's Lower East Side. Times were hard and the bosses mean, but there was revolutionary faith, and solidarity, and joy, as when everyone gathered for the Yom-Kippur Ball to celebrate with ham-and-cheese sandwiches and wine.
Ich bestimme, wer ein Jude ist. "I decide who's a Jew:" Words of Karl Lueger, the anti-semitic mayor of Vienna; they could have been said by any number of rabbis, or for that matter by the Israeli immigration services. An anarchist (or at any rate a Jewish anarchist) would have answered that since nobody had asked him his advice before making him a Jew it was high time he decide for himself what being Jewish meant on this, the designated day; and if this meant not being the kind of Jew who could afford to take time off to fast and pay and pray for his sins, so be it. They still call Jews like that apikorsim, "Epicurians," an expression used two thousand-and-some years ago to designate the Jewish followers of the Greek philosopher Epicure, those who believe, as Epicure did, that mankind in general, and Jews in particular, must be freed from the fear of the gods, and of God in particular. Most likely the term was revived in the eighteenth century to designate enlightened Jews who, like most Enlightenment thinkers, were conversant with Lucretius, the Roman follower of Epicure. Karl Marx, who was descended from a long line of rabbis, wrote his doctoral dissertation on Epicure: