Hasidism and Politics

The Kingdom of Poland, 1815-1864

Marcin Wodzinski

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ISBN: 9781906764944

Publication: September 1, 2016

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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Analysing the political relations between the Kingdom of Poland and the hasidic movement, this book examines plans formulated by the government and by groups close to government circles regarding hasidim, and describes how a hasidic body politic developed in response. Marcin Wodziński demonstrates that the rise of hasidism was an important factor in shaping the Jewish policy of both central and provincial authorities and shows how the creation of socio-political conditions that were advantageous to the hasidic movement accelerated its growth. While concentrating on the dynamic that developed in the Kingdom of Poland, the discussion is informed by a consideration of the relationship between the state and the hasidic movement from its inception in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Its focus on the interaction between the state, the established Jewish community, and the hasidic movement permits a new understanding of how the latter took root and grew. The novelty of this study lies in the fact that, whereas most analyses of political culture concentrate on states and societies with well-established electoral systems of representation, Wodziński focuses on the under-researched area of political relations between a non-democratic state and a low-status community lacking authorized representation. Applying concepts more often associated with cultural history, his analysis draws a distinction between the terms of reference of high-level political debate and the actual implementation of policy by middle- and low-level officials. Similarly, in analysing hasidic responses he differentiates between high-level hasidic representations in the state and the grassroots politics of the community. This combination enables a broad contextualization of the whole subject, integrating the social and cultural history of Polish Jewry with that of Polish society in general.

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, including Haskalah and Hasidism in the Kingdom of Poland: A History of Conflict (2005) and Hasidism and Politics: The Kingdom of Poland, 1815–1864 (2013), both published by the Littman Library, 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.

List of Illustrations
Note on Transliteration, Place Names, and Sources
List of Abbreviations


1 To 'Civilize' the Jews: Polish Debates on the Reform of the Jewish People, 1789- 1830
The Framework of the Debate * Diagnosis * The Goal * Measures: What are 'Civil Christians?' * What does 'to Civilize' Mean? * Conclusions
2 Origins: Controversies over Hasidic Shtiblekh
Before the Congress Kingdom * Nameless: The First Ruling on Hasidic Shtiblekh * Investigating the Kitajowcy in Plock * Michels: Shtiblekh, Mikveh, and Burial Societies * Conclusions
3 The Investigation of 1823-4
Hussites: Beginnings of the Investigation * Hasidism is Banned * Counteroffensive * Stanislaw Staszic against the Tsadikim * Hasidism Delivered: Conclusions
4 Between Words and Actions
State Politics and Local Politicians * Silent Turning Point : Hasidism in the Politics of the Kingdom after 1831 * The Last Investigation * Ignorance, Inertia, Frustration * Who Profited? On the Ostensible Equality of Hasidism * Epilogue: The 1860s * Conclusions
5 The Hasidim Strike Back: Development of Hasidic Political Involvements
Beginnings: Berek Sonnenberg and his Circle * Offensive: Meir Rotenberg of Opatow * Triumph: Isaac Kalisz of Warka * The Third Phase * Digression: Corruption * The Local Context: Conclusions
6 Communal Dimensions of Hasidic Politics
Who? Agents of Hasidic Communal Politics * Whom? Protagonists * Why? Goals * How? Means * Local or Universal? * Conclusions
7 Haskalah and Government Policy towards Hasidism
The Role of Hasidism in the Political Activity of the Polish Maskilim * Myth and Reality in the Role of the Maskilim * How did Maskilic and Hasidic Shtadlanim Differ? * Conclusions



‘A worthy successor to the author's path-breaking Haskalah and Hasidism in the Kingdom of Poland . . . one of the leading scholars in the field, and he brings to his subject a wide familiarity with Polish and Jewish sources in Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, and other languages and, most notably, the fruits of his thorough combing of national, regional, and local Polish archives . . . He has thus been able to free the historical narrative from the long-regnant approaches of Simon Dubnow and Raphael Mahler, looking afresh at the complex and developing relationships between Polish authorities and Polish Jewry in general, and the rapidly expanding Hasidic movement in particular . . . a notable addition to the growing number of studies focusing on the long-neglected topic of Hasidism in the nineteenth century . . . a carefully nuanced and contextualized portrait of a complex topic that in earlier historiography suffered from stereotyping and oversimplification . . . an excellent book that should interest students of Polish and Jewish history alike.’
Gershon Bacon, Slavic Review

‘The study of Hasidism . . . has been transformed recently by a new generation of researchers who have mined Polish archives for documentation on the movement. Professor Wodziński is one of the most notable of this group and this monograph is a path-breaking contribution to the understanding of how Hasidism operated in Poland in the first half of the nineteenth century and how it spread . . . crucial to any collection that deals with Hasidism and east European Jewish life but it is no less important for the study of religion and politics in general.’
Shaul Stampfer, Religious Studies Review

‘Marcin Wodziński, in another masterful book on Hasidism, turns his expert attention to analyzing the political history of the Kingdom of Poland and its relationship to the Hasidic movement . . . best suited to the scholar or serious student.’
- David Tesler, AJL Reviews

Format: Paperback

Size: 235 x 155 x 18 mm

348 Pages

2 maps and 43 figures

ISBN: 9781906764944

Publication: September 1, 2016

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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