The Bund was a phenomenal uprising of people doing the right thing at a critical time when it was needed most. This graphic novel, or history, (call it whatever you like! It’s comics!) runs with its theme right out of the gate with a sense of urgency that embraces the reader all the way through to the very last page. Think of The Bund as a coalition, a movement, people power at its best. It was there to help people in need, people who happened to be Jewish and living by a thread. Let’s focus on the region, as it could not be more relevant. This is what was known as “The Pale,” what is now Poland and Ukraine. Let’s focus on the era. This is circa 1900 to 1940, covering Tsarist Russia into World War II. The Bund was a Jewish labor resistance movement that pushed back on its oppressors, namely Russia and Nazi Germany; and that cultivated and celebrated a Jewish identity, specifically in nurturing the Yiddish language and tradition. This book provides a history and insights into The Bund. And, if it makes you think of Bundt cake, you are on the right track: a metaphor for a strong and sturdy collective.
What is very exciting to me about this graphic novel is how it is put together as a vehicle to educate while also mindful of keeping the reader engaged. The artwork is pared down to the essentials, for the most part, with the added artistic flourish where needed. I can’t stress enough how important it is to include some personality even in the most straightforward graphic storytelling. If an artist is capable of it, well, go to it. Clearly, Michael Kluckner is in command of a compelling and expressive line.
The individuals behind this book are a creative dream team. The goal here is to provide an entry point, a doorway, into further study or a highly accessible overview. That is what this book does with Sharon Rudahl leading the way as the author. Rudahl is a veteran cartoonist, to say the least, who intimately understands what the comics medium can do. Rudahl is many things, including a passionate activist, along with the book’s esteemed editor, Paul Buhle. In fact, Rudahl and Buhle have a long and productive professional history, highlighted by working together on the Yiddish anthology, Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land, published by Abrams in 2011. So, one can see this new book as a continuation of what was achieved with that landmark anthology.
The overriding theme to this book is how The Bund reached out and put itself in the places it needed to be, achieving time and time again the “hereness” that was so desperately called upon. The Bund was HERE! It met the moment, did what it could, and now lives on in spirit. Here we have a book introducing readers to the leaders of The Bund, such as Pati Kremer and Bernard Goldstein. For the first time, we have a concise visual narrative of this highly significant Jewish history. All in all, this visual narrative encapsulates essential history that will inspire new generations. This graphic history meets the moment in its own way, and helps return The Bund to the here and now.