Following tremendous advances in recent years in the study of religious belief, this volume adopts a fresh understanding of Jewish religious life in Poland. Approaches deriving from the anthropology, history, phenomenology, psychology, and sociology of religion have replaced the methodologies of social or political history that were applied in the past, offering fascinating new perspectives.
The well-established interest in hasidism continues, albeit from new angles, but topics that have barely been considered before are well represented here too. Women’s religious practice gains new prominence, and a focus on elites has given way to a consideration of the beliefs and practices of ordinary people. Reappraisals of religious responses to secularization and modernity, both liberal and Orthodox, offer more nuanced insights into this key issue. Other research areas represented here include the material history of Jewish religious life in eastern Europe and the shift of emphasis from theology to praxis in the search for the defining quality of religious experience.
The contemporary reassessments in this volume, with their awareness of emerging techniques that have the potential to extract fresh insights from source materials both old and new, show how our understanding of what it means to be Jewish is continuing to expand.