Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 34

BookPolin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 34

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 34

Jewish Self-Government in Eastern Europe

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, 34


January 18th, 2022



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Few features have shaped east European Jewish history as much as the extent and continuity of Jewish self-rule. Offering a broad perspective, this volume explores the traditions, scope, limitations, and evolution of Jewish self-government in the Polish lands and beyond. Extensive autonomy and complex structures of civil and religious leadership were central features of the Jewish experience in this region, and this volume probes the emergence of such structures from the late medieval period onwards, looking at the legal position of the individual community and its role as a political actor. Chapters discuss the implementation of Jewish law and the role of the regional and national Jewish councils which were a remarkable feature of supra-communal representation in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The volume reflects on the interaction between Jewish legal traditions and state policies, and offers an in-depth analysis of the transformation of Jewish self-government under the impact of the partitions of Poland–Lithuania and the administrative principles of the Enlightenment. Co-operation between representatives of the Jewish and non-Jewish communities at the local level is discussed down to the interwar years, when Jewish self-government was considered both a cherished legacy of pre-partition autonomy and a threat to the modern nation state.


Author Information

François Guesnet is Professor of Modern Jewish History, University College London and chair of the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies. His publications include ‘Chanukah and its Function in the Invention of a Jewish-Heroic Tradition in Early Zionism’ in Nationalism, Zionism and ethnic mobilisation (ed. Michael Berkowitz, 2004) and Sources on Jewish Self-Government in the Polish Lands from Its Inception to the Present, edited with Jerzy Tomaszewski (2022). Antony Polonsky is Emeritus Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University, and Chief Historian of the Global Education Outreach Program at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. His three-volume history the Jews in Poland and Russia (2010–12), also published by the Littman Library, was awarded the Pro Historia Polonorum Prize of the Polish Senate for the best book on the history of Poland in a language other than Polish.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Introduction - François Guesnet and Antony Polonsky
The Transfer of Tradition from West to East: The ‘Takkanot Shum’ between Ashkenaz and Poland in the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period - Rainer Josef Barzen
The Beginnings of Jewish Self-Government in Poland: An Entangled History - Jürgen Heyde
The Emergence of Medinat Mehren: Establishing Jewish Supra-Communal Governance in Early Modern Moravia and Its Central European Contexts - Martin Borysek
The Eastern European Pinkas Kahal: Form and Function - Adam Teller
The Role of Legal Settlements in Developing Christian–Jewish Relations in Polish Towns and Cities - Hanna Węgrzynek
Between the Council and the Town Hall: The Functioning of the Kahal in a New Town in the Seventeenth Century. The Case of Slutsk - Maria Cieśla
Personal Composition of the Council of Four Lands, 1595–1764 - Judith Kalik
The Activity of Jewish Self-Government Representatives at Sejmiki and the Sejm between the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Centuries - Anna Michalowska-Mycielska
Permanent Crisis: The Decline of Territorial Jewish Self-Government in the Crown in the Seventeenth to Eighteenth Centuries - Adam Kaźmierczyk
Burying the Dead, Saving the Community: Jewish Burial Societies as Informal Centres of Jewish Self-Government - Cornelia Aust
Did Jewish Self-Government Exist in the Kingdom of Poland between 1815 and 1915? - Artur Markowski
‘Masters of Their Own Offerings No More’: Jewish Perceptions of the Transformation of Jewish Self-Government in the Kingdom of Poland - François Guesnet
Synagogues in the System of Jewish Self-Government in Tsarist Russia - Vladimir Levin
Stewards of the City? Jews on Kraków City Council in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century - Hannah Kozińska-Witt
Polish–Jewish Relations in the Municipal Council of the City of Lwów during the Period of Galician Autonomy, 1870–1914 - Łukasz Sroka
‘One of Them’ as ‘One of Us’: Jewish Demands of National Autonomy as a Tool to Achieve Civic Equality during the First World War - Marcos Silber
The Struggle in the Polish Parliament for Jewish Autonomy and Jewish Self-Government - Szymon Rudnicki
Jewish Involvement in Local Kehillot, the Sejm, and Municipalities in Interwar Poland - Antony Polonsky
The End of Jewish Self-Governance: ‘Jewish National Councils’ in Soviet Belarus in the Interwar Period - Andrej Zamoiskii
A Disenchanted Elijah: The First World War, Conspiracy Theories, and Allegory in S. An-sky’s Destruction of Galicia - Marc Caplan
The ‘Patriotic Left’ and the ‘Jewish Question’ at the Dawn of the Second Republic - Paul Brykczyński