Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 30

Jewish Education in Eastern Europe
Edited by Eliyana R. Adler & Antony Polonsky

An emphasis on education has long been a salient feature of the Jewish experience, yet the majority of historians of east European Jewish society treat educational institutions and pursuits as merely a reflection of the surrounding culture. The essays in this volume seek to address this gap by presenting education as an active and potent force for change, highlighting the interrelationship between Jewish educational endeavours, the Jewish community, and external economic, political, and social forces.

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An emphasis on education has long been a salient feature of the Jewish experience. The pervasive presence of schools and teachers, books and libraries, and youth movements, even in an environment as tumultuous as that of nineteenth- and twentieth-century eastern Europe, is clear from the historical records. Historians of the early modern and modern era frequently point to the centrality of educational institutions and pursuits within Jewish society, yet the vast majority treat them as merely a reflection of the surrounding culture. Only a small number note how schools and teachers could contribute in dynamic ways to the shaping of local communities and cultures.

This volume addresses this gap in the portrayal of the Jewish past by presenting education as an active and potent force for change. It moves beyond a narrow definition of Jewish education by treating formal and informal training in academic or practical subjects with equal attention. In so doing, it sheds light not only on schools and students, but also on informal educators, youth groups, textbooks, and numerous other devices through which the mutual relationship between education and Jewish society is played out. It also places male and female education on a par with each other, and considers with equal attention students of all ages, religious backgrounds, and social classes.

The essays in this volume span two centuries of Jewish history, from the Austrian and Russian empires to the Second Republic of Poland and the Polish People’s Republic. The approach is interdisciplinary, with contributors treating their subject from fields as varied as east European cultural history, gender studies, and language politics. Collectively, they highlight the centrality of education in the vision of numerous Jewish individuals, groups, and institutions across eastern Europe, and the degree to which this vision interacted with forces within and external to Jewish society. In this way they highlight the interrelationship between Jewish educational endeavours, the Jewish community, and external economic, political, and social forces.


Eliyana R. Adler, Ido Bassok, Geoffrey Claussen, Levi Cooper, Jordana de Bloeme, Agnieszka, Friedrich, Brian Horowitz, Victoria Khiterer, Kamil Kijek, Andrew Koss, Sean Martin, Joanna Michlic, Katarzyna Person, Antony Polonsky, Szymon Rudnicki, Vassili Schedrin, Naomi Seidman, Adva Selzer, Anna Sommer Schneider, Tomasz Szarota, Giovanna Tomassucci, Daniel Viragh, Paweł Wolski



Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration

Part 1 Education in East European Jewish Society

1 Introduction: Education for Its Own Sake
Eliyana R. Adler

2 Repairing Character Traits and Repairing the Jews: The Talmud Torahs of Kelm and Grobin in the Nineteenth Century
Geoffrey Claussen

3 Legislation for Education: The Munkács Regulations Enacted by Rabbi Tsevi Elimelekh of Dynów
Levi Cooper

4 The Narrative of Acculturation: Hungarian Jewish Children’s Books in the Dualist Era
Daniel Viragh

5 The Reaction of the Polish Press to Baron Maurice de Hirsch’s Foundation for Jewish Education in Galicia
Agnieszka Friedrich

6 Story Within a Story: The First Russian-Language Jewish History Textbooks, 1880s- 1890s
Vassili Schedrin

7 Clothes Makes the Man: A Photo Essay on Russian Jewish School Uniforms
Eliyana R. Adler

8 How Jews Gained Their Education in Kiev, from the 1860s to the February Revolution
Victoria Khiterer

9 The Return of the Heder among Russian Jewish Education Experts, 1840-1917
Brian Horowitz

10 From Theory to Practice: The Fight for Jewish Education in Vilna during the First World War
Andrew Koss

11 Creating a New Jewish Nation: The Vilna Educational Society and Secular Yiddish Education in Interwar Vilna
Jordana de Bloeme

12 Between a Love of Poland, Symbolic Violence, and Antisemitism: On the Idiosyncratic Effect of the State Education System on Young Jews in Interwar Poland
Kamil Kijek

13 Between Church and State: Jewish Religious Instruction in Public Schools in Independent Poland
Sean Martin

14 Vos Vayter? Graduating from Elementary School in Interwar Poland: From Personal Crisis to Cultural Turning Point
Adva Selzer

15 Jewish Youth Movements in Poland between the Two World Wars as Heirs of Jewish Communal Structures
Ido Bassok

16 A Revolution in the Name of Tradition: Orthodoxy and Torah Study for Girls
Naomi Seidman

17 ‘The child ceased to be a child’: Four Reports from the Day-Care Centres at Refugee ‘Points’ in the Warsaw Ghetto
Katarzyna Person

18 The Survival of Yiddishkeit: The Impact of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee on Jewish Education in Poland, 1945–1989
Anna Sommer Schneider

Part 2 New Views

19 Economic Struggle or Antisemitism?
Szymon Rudnicki

20 The History of Rescue in Poland and Gender Perspective: Preliminary Observations
Joanna Michlic

21 Julian Tuwim's Self-Fashioning
Giovanna Tomassucci

22 ‘A Church Report from Poland for June and Half of July 1941’: An Attempt at Document Analysis
Tomasz Szarota

23 ‘I am in no hurry to close the canon’: An Interview with Professor David Roskies
Paweł Wolski


Władysław Bartoszewski
Jerzy Tomaszewski
Ezra Mendelsohn
Feliks Tych
Notes on Contributors