Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 27

Jews in the Kingdom of Poland, 1815–1918
Edited by Glenn Dynner, Antony Polonsky & Marcin Wodziński

The Kingdom of Poland had the largest concentration Jews in eastern Europe and a liberal policy towards them that engendered cultural and political movements of all sorts. Hasidic courts flourished despite the opportunities of modernization, yet modernizing maskilim similarly established institutions that influenced Jewish society in a completely different direction. Later came integrationism, Zionism, Jewish socialism, and cultural autonomy. The resulting ferment was a critical factor in shaping the modern Jewish experience.

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The Kingdom of Poland, also known as the Congress Kingdom or Russian Poland, was created by a decision of the Congress of Vienna as part of its attempt to set up a post-Napoleonic European order. It incorporated lands that for many decades had been the most important centres of Polish politics, finance, education, and culture, and which also had the largest concentration of Jews in eastern Europe. Because of these factors, and because its semi-autonomous status allowed for the development of a liberal policy towards Jews quite different from that of Russia proper, the Kingdom of Poland became a fertile ground for the growth of Jewish cultural and political movements of all sorts, many of which continue to be influential to this day. This volume brings together a wide range of scholars to present a broad view of the Jewish life of this important area at a critical moment in its history.

In the nineteenth century, tradition vied with modernization for Jews’ hearts and minds. In the Kingdom of Poland, traditional hasidic leaders defied the logic of modernization by creating courts near major urban centres such as Warsaw and Łódź and shtiblekh within them, producing innovative and influential homiletic literature and attracting new followers. Modernizing maskilim, for their part, found employment as government officials and took advantage of the liberal climate to establish educational institutions and periodicals that similarly attracted followers to their own cause and influenced the development of the Jewish community in the Kingdom in a completely different direction. Their immediate successors, the Jewish integrationists, managed to gain considerable power within the Jewish community and to create a vibrant and more secular Polish Jewish culture. Subsequently Zionism, Jewish socialism, and cultural autonomy also became significant forces. The relative strength of each movement on the eve of the rebirth of Poland is extremely difficult to measure, but unquestionably the ferment of so many potent, competing movements was a critical factor in shaping the modern Jewish experience.


About the editors

Glenn Dynner is Professor of Religion and Chair of Humanities at Sarah Lawrence College and was the 2013–14 Senior NEH Scholar at the Center for Jewish History. He is the author of Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society (2006), and Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland (2013). He is also editor of Holy Dissent: Jewish and Christian Mystics in Eastern Europe (2011)

Antony Polonsky is Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Chief Historian of the Permanent Collection of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw. Until 1991, he was Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is chair of the editorial board of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry; author of Politics in Independent Poland, 1921–1939 (1972), The Little Dictators (1975), The Great Powers and the Polish Question, 1941–45 (1976); co-author of The History of Poland since 1863 (1980) and The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (1981); and co-editor of Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland: An Anthology (2001) and The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland (2004). His most recent work is The Jews in Poland and Russia, i: 1350–1881; ii: 1881–1914; iii: 1914–2008 (2009–2012), published by the Littman Library, as is the one-volume abridgement of this work, The Jews in Poland and Russia: A Short History (2013).

Marcin Wodziński is Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Wrocław. His special fields of interest are the social history of the Jews in the nineteenth century, the regional history of the Jews in Silesia, and Jewish sepulchral art. He is the author of several books, including Haskalah and Hasidism in the Kingdom of Poland: A History of Conflict (2005) and Hasidism and Politics: The Kingdom of Poland, 1815–1864(2013), both published by the Littman Library. He is the editor of the Bibliotheca Judaica and Makor/Źródła series. He is vice-president of the Polish Association of Jewish Studies and editor-in-chief of its periodical, Studia Judaica. In 2011 he was awarded the Jan Karski and Pola Nirenska Prize by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.


About the contributors

Richard Butterwick-Pawlikowski, Professor of Polish–Lithuanian History, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London
Kathleen Cioffi, Editor, Princeton University Press
Glenn Dynner, Professor of Religion, Sarah Lawrence College
Gabriel N. Finder, Associate Professor, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Ida and Nathan Kolodiz Director of Jewish Studies, University of Virginia
François Guesnet, Sidney and Elizabeth Corob Reader in Modern Jewish History, University College London
Agnieszka Jagodzińska, Assistant Professor, Department of Jewish Studies, University of Wrocław
Yedida Kanfer
Artur Markowski, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Univrsity of Warsaw
Benjamin Matis
Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, Assistant Professor, Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences
Aleksandra Oniszczuk, University of Wrocław
Jacek Piotrowski, Professor, Faculty of History, University of Wrocław
Szymon Rudnicki, Professor Emeritus of Contemporary Polish History, University of Warsaw
Marcos Silber, Senior Lecturer, Department of Jewish History; Chair, Department of Multidisciplinary Studies, University of Haifa
Antoni Sułek, Professor, Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw
Theodore R. Weeks, Professor of History, Southern Illinois University
Marcin Wodziński, Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Wrocław
Rakefet Zalashik, Israel Studies Scholar, Moses Mendelssohn Centre, University of Potsdam
Joshua D. Zimmerman, Associate Professor of History, Yeshiva University



Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration

PART I: Jews in the Kingdom of Poland, 1815–1918

The Kingdom of Poland and her Jews: Introduction

Jews in the in the Discourses of the Polish Enlightenment

The Jews in the Duchy of Warsaw: The Question of Equal Rights in Administrative Theory and Practice

English Missionaries' Look at Polish Jews: The Value and Limitations of Missionary Reports as Source Material

'Languishing from a Distance': Louis Meyer and the Demise of the German Jewish Ideal.

'Each for his Own': Economic Nationalism in Łódź, 1864--1914

The Attitude of the Jews towards Poland's Independence

Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Kingdom of Poland

Theology in Translation: Progressive Judaism in the Kingdom of Poland

'Who Has Not Wanted Ro Be an Editor: The Yiddish Press in the Kingdom of Poland, 1905–1914

Jews in the Kingdom of Poland, 1861--1914: Changes and Continuities

Feliks Perl on the Jewish Question

Yiddish Language Rights in Congress Poland during the First World War: The Social Implications of Linguistic Recognition

PART II: New Views

The Anti-Favus Campaign in Poland: Jewish Social Medicine

Władysław Raczkiewicz and Jewish Issues

After Złote żniwa: An Attempt to Assess the Social Impact of the Book

Righteousness and Evil: Jedwabne in the Polish Theatre

From Brzeżany to Afula: A Child's Journey from Pre-War Poland to Israel in the 1950s: A Conversation with Shimon Redlich

Jacob Goldberg
Hasidism without Romanticism: Mendel Piekarz’s Path in the Study of Hasidism
Mendel Piekarz
Paula Hyman
Vitka Kempner-Kovner
Roman Totenberg
Zenon Guldon

Notes on Contributors