Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 29

Writing Jewish History in Eastern Europe
Edited by Natalia Aleksiun, Brian Horowitz & Antony Polonsky

A treasure-trove for scholars of modern Jewry trying to understand how east European Jews saw themselves as they struggled with the concept of national identity. This volume examines the relationship between the writing of Jewish history and of non-Jewish history, while also exposing the tension between the study of the Jewish past in a communal setting and in a wider, regional setting.

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Historiography formed an unusually important component of the popular culture and heritage of east European Jewry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This was a period of social, economic, and political upheaval, and for the emerging class of educated Jews the writing and reading of Jewish history provided not only intellectual but also emotional and moral sustenance. Facing an insecure future became easier with an understanding of the past, and of the Jewish place in that past.

This volume is devoted to the development of Jewish historiography in the three east European centres—Congress Poland, the Russian empire, and Galicia—that together contained the majority of world Jewry at that time. Drawing widely on the multilingual body of scholarly and popular literature that emerged in that turbulent environment, the contributors to this volume attempt to go beyond the established paradigms in the study of Jewish historiography, and specifically to examine the relationship between the writing of Jewish history and of non-Jewish history in eastern Europe. In doing so they expose the tension between the study of the Jewish past in a communal setting and in a wider, regional, setting that located Jews firmly in the non-Jewish political, economic, and cultural environment. They also explore the relationship between ‘history’—seen as the popular understanding of the past—and ‘scholarly history’—interpretation of the past through the academic study of the sources, which lays claim to objectivity and authority.

The development of Jewish historical scholarship grew out of the new intellectual climate of the Haskalah, which encouraged novel modes of thinking about self and others and promoted critical enquiry and new approaches to traditional sources. At the same time, however, in response to what the traditionalists perceived as secular research, an Orthodox historiography also emerged, driven not only by scholarly curiosity but also by the need to provide a powerful counterweight in the struggle against modernity. In fact, east European Jewish historiography has undergone many methodological, thematic, and ideological transformations over the last two centuries. Even today, east European Jewish historiography revisits many of the questions of importance to scholars and audiences since its emergence: how Jews lived, both within the narrow Jewish world and in contact with the wider society; the limits of Jewish insularity and integration; expressions of persecution and anti-Jewish violence; and also Jewish contributions to the societies and states of eastern Europe. Many challenges still remain: questions of the purpose of the research, its ideological colouring, and its relevance for contemporary Jewish communities.

The fruit of research in many disciplines and from different methodological points of view, this volume has much to offer scholars of modern Jewry trying to understand how east European Jews saw themselves as they struggled with the concepts of modernity and national identity and how their history continues to be studied and discussed by an international community of scholars.

 

About the editors

Natalia Aleksiun is an associate professor of Jewish History at Touro College, New York. She published Dokąd dalej: Ruch syjonistyczny w Polsce, 1944—1950 (2002) and co­-edited Polin 20: Making Holocaust Memory. Her work has been published in Polish Review Dapim,. East European Jewish Affairs, Studies in Contemporary Jewry, Gal­-ed, East European Societies and Politics, and German History.

Brian Horowitz is Sizeler Family Chair Professor of Jewish Studies at Tulane University. His awards include an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship and a Yad Hanadiv Award. He is author of many books, including Russian Idea—Jewish Presence (2013), Empire Jews: Jewish Nationalism and Acculturation in Nineteenth­ and Early Twentieth­ Century Russia (2009), and Jewish Philanthropy and Enlightenment in Late­Tsarist Russia (2009).

Antony Polonsky is Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and chief historian of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in 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, the author of Politics in Independent Poland, 1921­-1939 (1972), The Little Dictators (1975), The Great Powers and the Polish Question, 1941-­1945 (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 three­ volume Jews in Poland and Russia (2010­-2012), which was also published in an abridged version: The Jews in Poland and Russia: A Short History (2014).

 

About the contributors

Eliyana R. Adler, Associate Professor, Department of History and Jewish Studies Program, Pennsylvania State University
Natalia Aleksiun, Associate Professor of Jewish History, Touro College, New York
Israel Bartal, Professor Emeritus of Jewish History and former Dean, Faculty of Humanities, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Adam Bartosz, anthropologist and musicologist; former Director, Regional Museum, Tarnów
Ela Bauer, Hakibbutzim College, Tel Aviv
Elissa Bemporad, Jerry and William Ungar Professor of Eastern European Jewish History and the Holocaust; Assistant Professor of History, both at Queens College, City University of New York
Havi Dreifuss, Senior Lecturer, Department of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University; Head, Center for Research on the Holocaust, Yad Vashem
Glenn Dynner, Professor of Judaic Studies and Chair of Humanities, Sarah Lawrence College, New York
Stefan Gąsiorski, Professor, Polish Academy of Sciences
Brian Horowitz, Sizeler Family Chair of Jewish Studies, Tulane University
Samuel Kassow, Chafrles Northam Professor of History, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut
Leonid F. Katsis, Professor of Jewish Studies, Russian State University for the Humanities
Hanna Kozińska­-Witt, Research Fellow, Gerda Henkel Stiftung, Martin Luther University, Halle­-Wittenberg
Ireneusz Krzemiński, Professor of Sociology, University of Warsaw
Vladimir Levin, acting director, Center for Jewish Art, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; teaching fellow, Ben­Gurion University of the Negev
Rachel Manekin, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Maryland
Natan Meir, Lorry I. Lokey Associate Professor of Judaic Studies; Academic Director, Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies, Portland State University
Joanna Pisulińska, Professor, University of Rzeszów
Antony Polonsky, Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University; Chief Historian, Polin Museum of the History of the Jews in Poland, Warsaw
Benjamin Ravid, Professor Emeritus of Jewish History, Brandeis University
Sarah Zarrow, former doctoral student, New York University

 

Contents

Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration

Introduction
BRIAN HOROWITZ AND NATALIA ALEKSIUN

PART I: WRITING EAST EUROPEAN JEWISH HISTORY

The Pinkas: From Communal Archive to Total History
ISRAEL BARTAL

‘Constructing the shrine of our people’s history’: Hatsefirah and the Historiography of Polish Jewry
ELA BAUER

‘Building a fragile edifice’: A History of Russian Jewish Historical Institution, 1860–1914
BRIAN HOROWITZ

Constructing Polish Jewry’s ‘Shrine of History’: Galician Beginnings
RACHEL MANEKIN

Charting the Outer Provinces of Jewry: The Study of East European Jewry’s Margins
NATAN MEIR

Dubnov’s Wayward Son: Israel Sosis and the Legacy of Russian Jewish Historiography
ELISSA BEMPORAD

The Historiography of the Bund
SAMUEL KASSOW

Scholars of Jewish Origin in the Community of Historians in Lwów, 1918–1939 JOANNA PISULIŃSKA

Object Lessons: Art Collection and Display as Historical Practice in Interwar Lwów
SARAH ZARROW

Broken Traditions? The Jewish Presence on the City Councils of Kraków, Poznań, and Warsaw, 1919–1939
HANNA KOZIŃSKA-WITT

Female, Jewish, Educated, and Writing Polish Jewish History
NATALIA ALEKSIUN

Jewish Historiography of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe HAVI DREIFUSS

Conversion in the Work of Jakub Goldberg
STEFAN GĄSIORSKI

Denying Tradition: Academic Historiography on Jewish Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe
VLADIMIR LEVIN

Jewish Traditionalism in Eastern Europe: The Historiographical Gadfly
GLENN DYNNER

Out of the Ghetto? Historiography on Jewish Women in Eastern Europe
ELIYANA R. ADLER

Problems in the Study of Russian Jewish Literature
LEONID F. KATSIS

The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw: A New Approach to the History of the Jews in the Polish Lands
ANTONY POLONSKY

PART II: DOCUMENTARY SECTION

In Search of Lost Times and Places: Simon Rawidowicz Reflects on his Formative Years in Grajewo and Białystok
BENJAMIN RAVID

PART III: NEW VIEWS

What Happened to Tarnów's Jews?
ADAM BARTOSZ

Does ‘Polish Antisemitism’ Exist? Research in Poland and Ukraine, 1992 and 2002
IRENEUSZ KRZEMIŃSKI

PART IV: OBITUARIES

Andrzej Garlicki
SZYMON RUDNICKI

Jerzy Kulczycki
JAREK GARLIŃSKI

Israel Gutman
ANTONY POLONSKY

Notes on the Contributors
Index