|Part II: Bukovina and Czernowitz/ Cernauti/ Czernowtsy/ Chernivtsi
5. The Search for Secular Elements of Identity — Language
As the destabilizing effects of the German host culture on their own identity became obvious in the wake of the mutually agreed-upon segregation, secularly acculturated Jews of Bukovina sought a new mainstay on which to base their Jewish nationality. Aside from Zionism, they discovered "Yiddishkeit" as a core element. The language itself did not force them into a retreat to traditional religion, but rather seemed to them an argument in support of their demands for Jewish national autonomy in the Austrian multiethnic state.
In the history of the Yiddish language, the first Yiddish Linguistic Conference which took place in Czernowitz from August 31-September 3, 1908 marked a key turning point. For the first time, the effort was made to acknowledge Yiddish as a language of culture and not to disparagingly discredit it as a "jargon," as a "language of lesser value," as a "corrupt form of German" or as the language of the ghetto77. In the Zionist movement, the conflict took on a new twist, pitting the Yiddishists against the Hebraists78. It is highly characteristic that the co-organizers of the Yiddish Linguistic Conference, Nathan Birnbaum, an early Zionist from Vienna, and Max Diamant, an attorney active in the struggle to achieve recognition for the Jews as a nationality, regarded their efforts as an "ideological" involvement in the Jewish Nationalist cause, since neither had grown up in the Yiddish linguistic culture79. With regard to the political balance of power which then prevailed in Bukovina, it was highly significant that Benno Straucher, the unchallenged dominant force within the Jewish communities of Czernowitz, was forbidden to hold this conference in the "Jüdisches Haus"; the participants met instead in the concert hall of the Music Society and in the Ukrainian National House80. Despite the highly diverse stimulus provided from outside, Yiddish cultural life reached its full bloom only after the end of the Hapsburg Monarchy as Bukovina became the homeland of significant Yiddish writers. An examination of the newspapers and books published by and for the Jews of Bukovina during the final decades of the Hapsburg Monarchy clearly illustrates this trend; in contrast to developments in Galicia, the press in Bukovina turned away from its original Yiddish and toward the German language81.