Haskalah and Hasidism in the Kingdom of Poland

A History of Conflict

Marcin Wodziński

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ISBN: 9781906764029

Publication: August 20, 2009

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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The conflict between Haskalah and hasidism was one of the most important forces in shaping the world of Polish Jewry for almost two centuries, but our understanding of it has long been dominated by theories based on stereotypes rather than detailed analysis of the available sources. In this award-winning study, Marcin Wodziński challenges the long-established theories about the conflict by contextualizing it, principally in the Kingdom of Poland but also with regard to other parts of eastern Europe. Covering the period from the earliest anti-hasidic polemics in the late eighteenth century through to the post-Haskalah movements of the twentieth century, it follows the development of this important conflict in its central arena. Using source materials (including many hitherto unknown documents) in Polish and five other languages, Wodziński has succeeded in reconstructing the way the conflict expressed itself. Identifying the motives, the methods, and the consequences of the conflict as it was played out in five Polish towns (Lódz, Opoczno, Piotrków, Warsaw, and Warta), he shows that it was primarily informed by non-ideological clashes at the level of local communities rather than by high-level ideological debates. Much attention is also devoted to the general characteristics of hasidism and the Haskalah, as well as to the post-Haskalah movements. Here too Wodziński challenges the ideologically charged assumptions of a generation of historians who refused to see the advocates of Jewish modernity in nineteenth-century Poland as an integral part of the Haskalah movement. Extensive consideration is given to the professional, social, institutional, and ideological characteristics of the Polish Haskalah as well as to its geographic extent, and to the changes the movement underwent in the course of the nineteenth century. Similar attention is given to the influence of the specific characteristics of Polish hasidism on the shape of the conflict, especially as regard the size of the movement and the evolution of hasidic communal involvement. In consequence the book presents a synthesis that offers both breadth and depth, contextualizing its subject matter within the broader domains of the European Enlightenment and Polish culture, hasidism and rabbinic culture, tsarist policy and Polish history, not to mention the ins and outs of the Haskalah itself across Europe. An extensive appendix presents translations of nineteen important and hitherto unknown sources of relevance to a nuanced understanding of many aspects of nineteenth-century Jewish history in Poland and eastern Europe more generally.

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, and is 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.

Note on Transliteration and Place Names List of Figures List of Abbreviations Introduction 1 The Beginnings: Anti-Hasidic Criticism in the Last Years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth The Mitnagedim * The First Voices of the Haskalah * From Lithuania to Berlin: Salomon Maimon * From Podolia to Galicia: Mendel Lefin * The Commonwealth's First Maskil: Jacques Calmanson * Conclusions 2 Characteristics of the Haskalah in the Kingdom of Poland, 1815-1860 What was the Kingdom of Poland? * Who were the Maskilim of the Congress Kingdom? * Institutions of the Haskalah: The Maskilim as a Social Group * The Geography of the Polish Haskalah * Ideology and Programme * Does Language Make a Maskil? * Why in Polish? The Polish Haskalah and its Polish Context * Conclusions 3 The Development of Anti-Hasidic Criticism among the Maskilim of the Congress Kingdom, 1815-1830 The Demonization of Hasidism: Friedlander, Radominski, Niemcewicz * The Polish Haskalah in the Debate of 1818-1822: Antoni Eisenbaum * The Kalisz Voivodeship: Preliminary Inquiries and Reports * The Government Inquiries of 1818-1824 and Abraham Stern's Role * Why did the Polish Maskilim Ignore Hasidism? * Conclusions 4 Growing Interest, Growing Conflict, 1831-1860 Growing Interest in Hasidism * The Theatre of the Hasidim of Efraim Fischelsohn * Reform Projects: Eliasz Moszkowski * A New Stage of Hasidic Expansion * Conflict in Daily Life: Anatomy of Dissent * The First Maskilic Defence of Hasidism: Jakub Tugendhold * Conclusions 5 The Twilight of the Haskalah and the Dawning of Integration Maskilim, Integrationists, and Assimilationists * From the Polish Language to a Polish Identity * Polish Patriotism * Nationality or Religion? * Face to Face with Hasidism * Conclusions 6 Hatred or Solidarity? Jewish and Polish-Jewish Fraternity in the 1860s Diagnosis * Solutions * Characteristics of Hasidism * Daniel Neufeld: In Praise of Hasidism * The Anatomy of Conflict: The Sequel * Conclusions 7 Waning Enthusiasm: Izraelita and the Moderate Integration Movement Jutrzenka's Heritage * Peltyn's Credo * The Way to Recognition * Izrael Leon Grosglik: 'Letters from a Young Ex-Hasid' * The Great Disillusionment * Hilary Nussbaum: A Historian's Helplessness * New Threats * Conclusions 8 The Death of an Idea: Political, Historical, and Poetic Visions of Hasidism An Ideological Crisis in the Integration Camp * The Political Aspect of Hasidism: Nachum Sokolow * Beyond the Masklic Historiography of Hasidism * 'Singing and Dancing': The Hasidic Trend in Literature * Conclusions Conclusion: Between Marginalization, Demonization, and Nostalgia Appendices 1 Calmanson on Hasidism (1797) 2 Stern's Report (1818) 3 Radominski on Hasidism (1820) 4 The Lask Kahal's Complaint about the Hasidic Shtibl (1820) 5 Schonfeld's Report on the Shtibl in Lask (1820) 6 Schonfeld's Report on the Baths in Czestochowa (1820) 7 Advisory Chamber of the Jewish Committee on the Hasidic Rabbi in Plock (1829) 8 The Hasidim in Pilica (1830) 9 The Maskilic Prayer House in Suwalki (1833) 10 Tugendhold's Report on Smoking Tobacco in the Beit Midrash (1840) 11 Moszkowski's Memorandum (1845) 12 Rosen's Opinion of Moszkowski's Memorandum (1845) 13 Protocol of the Inquiry into Hasidic Persecutions in Lodz (1848) 14 Report on Tsadik Abraham Twersky of Turisk (1857) 15 Tugendhold on Abraham Twersky of Turisk (1857) 16 Aeolus and Phoebus (A Fable) (1863) 17 Tsadik Brukman and the Doctors in Piotrkow (1870) 18 Segel on Hasidism (1897) 19 Sokolow on Hasidism (1898) Bibliography Index of Persons Subject Index

‘Wodziński bases his work on a broad collection of source materials ranging from administrative documents and Jewish and Polish periodicals to ephemeral texts like leaflets and pamphlets. A selection of these materials is presented in the book, which, considering their usually poor availability, is of special value for the reader. Thanks to the wide range of documents he considers and to a thorough review of the factual information they contain, Wodziński’s work offers intriguing insights into the various facets of Jewish modernizing discourses in nineteenth-century Poland.’
- Heidemarie Petersen, Slavic Review

‘Unquestionably one of the most important, original contributions to an understanding of the various competing trends in the culture of Polish Jewry from the end of the eighteenth century until the early twentieth century . . . of particularly great value to the new research into the Haskalah. . . Wodziński’s fascinating and important book is definitely a challenge to every scholar of the Haskalah and everyone interested in Jewish culture in eastern Europe. From now on, scholars of the Haskalah will have to re-examine themselves in the light of his new insights, and to decide to what extent the book’s questions and conclusions change the general picture.’
- Shmuel Feiner, Shofar

‘Marcin Wodziński’s new book not only contains a vast amount of information but also points the way to tantalizing new areas of research . . . the picture of ideological conflict among the Jews of eastern Europe that emerges totally contradicts the accepted wisdom. . . . Wodziński’s book is important because it extends the geographical and chronological boundaries of the subject, introduces new research methods, and utilizes new sources, particularly Polish archives that were long inaccessible to historians of the Jewish world . . . a thorough study of exemplary depth.’
- Uriel Gelman, Gal-Ed

‘Can rank as one of the finest, most detailed accounts of the various “stages” of attitude concerning Hasidism that were part of the Haskalah movement’s ensemble of aims and ideology. It strives to be as historically accurate as possible without once becoming unreadable, arcane, or dull. His expert use of various primary and secondary sources, including German, English, Polish, Russian, and Yiddish documents, guarantees a profound study that is balanced in approach and well-grounded. The appendix that offers a short but valuable selection of original sources in translation will be a highly useful tool for those teaching or studying the attitude of the Maskilim, the way in which they fought against and dealt with the Hasidim, and the higher bodies they made use of in order to reach their goal . . . All in all, Wodziński has made an important contribution to research on Polish-Jewish social and religious history, and his book will surely be a reference work for many dealing with this key period that shaped European Jewry in ways still visible and perceptible today.’
- Diana Matut, European Journal of Jewish Studies

'One of the most exciting developments in the writing of Polish Jewish history over the past two decades has been the emergence of a major centre of such scholarship within Poland itself . . . [this book] is based on an impressive amount of archival and published documentation, complemented by clear presentation and skilful analysis. A useful and expanded representative sample of archival materials translated into English rounds out this excellent volume . . . Wodziński uses to great advantage his comprehensive familiarity with the periodical press in nineteenth-century Poland, but also utilizes sources as varied as Hasidic stories and British missionary journals. The result is an innovative and highly nuanced portrayal of a conflict that has been at the heart of the historiographical agenda for a century and more . . . Wodziński makes a convincing case for a newer, wider perspective on the conflict . . . While not a full-fledged history of either Haskalah or Hasidism in Poland, the book makes a significant contribution to both . . . a discussion rich with new insights and information. [It] is a major contribution to both Polish and Jewish history. The Littman Library is to be commended for bringing this fine book to the English-speaking public.'
- Gershon Bacon, European History Quarterly

‘There are still few books concerning the structure, internal disputes, and ideological discussions within the Jewish community. Marcin Wodziński’s publication is one of the most significant and seminal among them . . . The great value of this book is that it illustrates relations between the Maskilim and the Hasidim from many perspectives . . . should be regarded as suitable not only for historians but also for sociologists. This publication is a very interesting and original example of the analyses of such social practices as inner-group conflicts, the process of building identity, and rules of the prejudice formation.’
- Katarzyna Sztop-Rutkowska, East European Jewish Affairs

‘Wodziński’s important work challenges many of the widely held views of historians about the conflict between Haskalah and Hasidism . . . Recommended.’
- J. Fischel, Choice

‘Scarcely less valuable than his closely argued and well-documented monograph are the nineteen primary sources that Wodzinski has appended (in English translation). This collection . . . affords an unmediated glimpse at the forces that Wodziński has succeeded so adroitly in understanding, organizing, and presenting.’
- Moshe Rosman, American Historical Review

Format: Paperback

Edition: New edition

Size: 234 × 156 × 18 mm

350 Pages

1 table, 3 maps, and 9 figures

ISBN: 9781906764029

Publication: August 20, 2009

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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