Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry

Volume 16: Jewish Popular Culture and Its Afterlife
Edited by Michael C. Steinlauf and Antony Polonsky

Scholarship on the civilization of Polish Jews has tended to focus on elite culture and canonical literature. Even modern Yiddish culture has generally been approached from the perspective of ‘great works’. This special issue on Jewish popular culture focuses on relatively less explored but historically vital forms of culture that have previously been relegated to the margins of scholarly interest. Most of the articles look at the period before the Second World War, but there are also several studies of the traces of this culture in the contemporary world. The volume is intended to help reconfigure our understanding of Polish Jewish civilization in its true richness and variety.

More info

'This massive volume is a pioneering step in the study of popular Jewish culture in Poland . . . a fascinating collection.'
Shulamith Z. Berger, AJL Newsletter

Scholarship on the civilization of Polish Jews has tended to focus on elite culture and canonical literature; even modern Yiddish culture has generally been approached from the perspective of ‘great works’. This volume of Polin focuses on the less explored but historically vital theme of Jewish popular culture and shows how, confronted by the challenges and opportunities of modernity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it blossomed into a complex expression of Jewish life. In addition to a range of articles on the period before the Second World War there are studies of the traces of this culture in the contemporary world. The volume as a whole aims to develop a fresh understanding of Polish Jewish civilization in all its richness and variety.

Subjects discussed in depth include klezmorim and Jewish recorded music; the development of Jewish theatre in Poland, theatrical parody, and the popular poet and performer Mordechai Gebirtig; Jewish postcards in Poland and Germany; the early Yiddish popular press in Galicia and cartoons in the Yiddish press; working-class libraries in inter-war Poland; the impact of the photographs of Roman Vishniac; contemporary Polish wooden figures of Jews; and the Kraków Jewish culture festival. In addition, a Polish Jewish popular song is traced to a Nazi concentration camp, the badkhn (wedding jester) is rediscovered in present-day Jerusalem, and Yiddish cabaret turns up in blues, rock ‘n roll, and reggae garb.

There are also translations from the work of two writers previously unavailable in English: excerpts from the ethnographer A. Litvin’s pioneering five-volume work Yidishe neshomes (Jewish Souls) and several chapters from the autobiography, notorious in inter-war Poland, of the writer and thief Urke Nachalnik.

As in earlier volumes of Polin substantial space is also given to new research into a variety of topics in Polish Jewish studies. These include the origins of antisemitism in Poland; what is known about the presence of German forces in the vicinity of Jedwabne in the summer of 1941; and the vexed question of Jews in the communist security apparatus in Poland after 1944.

The review section includes an important discussion of what should be done about the paintings in Sandomierz cathedral which represent an alleged ritual murder in the seventeenth century, and an examination of the ‘anti-Zionist’ campaign of 1968.

 

About the editors

Michael C. Steinlauf is Associate Professor of History at Gratz College, Pennsylvania.
Antony Polonsky is the first holder of the Albert Abramson Chair of Holocaust Studies, a joint appointment held in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

Contributors
Eliyana R. Adler, Department of Near Eastern & Judaic Studies, Brandeis University
David Assaf, Professor of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University; Director, Center for
Research on the History of Polish Jewry, Tel Aviv University
Veronica Belling, Jewish Studies Librarian, University of Cape Town
Daniel Blatman, Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Joanna Rostropowicz Clark, Rutgers University
Jan Doktór, Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
Michal Galas, Department of Jewish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Susanne Galley, University of Potsdam
Roland Goetschel, Professor Emeritus of Hebraic Language & Civilization, Sorbonne;
Associate Professor, Free University of Brussels
Karl E. Grözinger, Professor of Religion & Jewish Studies, University of Potsdam
Gershon David Hundert, Chair, Department of Jewish Studies, and Professor of History,
McGill University, Montreal
Yoram Jacobson, Head of Kabbalistic & Hasidic Studies, Department of Jewish
Philosophy, Tel Aviv University
Judith Kalik, Department of Russian & Slavonic Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Slawomir Kapralski, Professor of Sociology, Central European University, Warsaw
Adam Kazmierczyk, Assistant Professor, Department of Jewish Studies, Jagiellonian
University, Kraków
Marta Kurkowska-Budzan, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Sid Z. Leiman, Professor of Jewish History & Literature, Brooklyn College, City University
of New York; Visiting Professor, Bernard Revel Graduate School, Yeshiva University
Harris Lenowitz, Professor of Hebrew, University of Utah
Sarunas Liekis, Executive Director, Open Society Foundation, Vilnius
Krzysztof Pilarczyk, Associate Professor, Center for the History & Culture of the Jews in
Poland, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Eugenia Prokop-Janiec, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
John Radzilowski, Center for Nations in Transition, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of
Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
Szymon Rudnicki, Professor of History, University of Warsaw
Margarete Schlüter, Professor of Jewish Studies, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University,
Frankfurt-am-Main
Stefan Schreiner, Professor of Jewish History, Institutum Judaicum, University of
Tübingen
Jerzy Tomaszewski, Professor, Historical Institute, and Head, Mordekhai Anieliewicz
Research Center on the History of the Jews in Poland, University of Warsaw
Scott Ury, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hanna Wegrzynek, Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
Robert S. Wistrich, Erich & Foga Neuberger Professor of Modern Jewish History,
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 

Publication details

Format 23.5 x 15.5 cm / 6" x 9"
Pages 622 pages, 40 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-874774-73-0 hardback - out of print
978-1-874774-74-7 paperback
Price £39.95 / $59.50 hardback - out of print
£24.95 / $39.95 paperback
Date of publication 27 November 2003

Contents

Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration

Part I Jewish Popular Culture in Poland its Afterlife

Introduction
MICHAEL C. STEINLAUF
The Badkhn: From Wedding Stage to Writing Desk
ARIELA KRASNEY
Remembrance of Things Past: Klezmer Musicians of Galicia, 1870–1940
WALTER ZEV FELDMAN
Early Recordings of Jewish Music in Poland
MICHAEL AYLWARD
Jewish Theatre in Poland
MICHAEL C. STEINLAUF
A Tuml in the Shtetl: Khaym Betsalel Grinberg’s Di khevre-kedishe sude
FRANÇOIS GUESNET
Mordechai Gebirtig: The Folksong and the Cabaret Song
NATAN GROSS
Simkhe Plakhte: From ‘Folklore’ to Literary Artefact
SETH L. WOLITZ
Between Poland and Germany: Jewish Religious Practices in Illustrated Postcards of the Early Twentieth Century
SHALOM SABAR
Papers for the Folk: Jewish Nationalism and the Birth of the Yiddish Press in Galicia
JOSHUA SHANES
Shund and the Tabloids: Jewish Popular Reading in Inter-War Poland
NATAN COHEN
Dos yidishe bukh alarmirt! Toward a History of Yiddish Reading in Inter-War Poland
ELLEN KELLMAN
Exploiting Tradition: Religious Iconography in Cartoons of the Polish Yiddish Press
EDWARD PORTNOY
From ‘Madagaskar’ to Sachsenhausen: Singing about ‘Race’ in a Nazi Camp
BRET WERB and BARBARA MILEWSKI
The Badkhn in Contemporary Hasidic Society: Social, Historical, and Musical Observations
YAAKOV MAZOR
Transmigrations: Wolf Krakowski’s Yiddish Worldbeat in its Socio-Musical Context
ALEX LUBET
‘The Time of Vishniac’: Photographs of Pre-War East European Jewry in Post-War Contexts
JEFFREY SHANDLER
Repopulating Jewish Poland—in Wood
ERICA LEHRER
The Kraków Jewish Culture Festival
RUTH ELLEN GRUBER


Part II Documents

A. Litvin: Chronicler of Jewish Souls
Michael C. Steinlauf
Excerpts from Yidishe neshomes
A. LITVIN
Urke Nachalnik: A Voice from the Underworld
GWIDO ZLATKES
Excerpts from Zyciorys wlasny przestepcy
URKE NACHALNIK


Part III New Views

Making a Space for Antisemitism: The Catholic Hierarchy and the Jews in the Early Twentieth Century
BRIAN PORTER
Polish ‘Neighbours’ and German Invaders: Anti-Jewish Violence in the Bialystok District during the Opening Weeks of Operation Barbarossa
ALEXANDER B. ROSSINO
Jews in the Polish Security Apparatus: An Attempt to Test the Stereotype
ANDRZEJ PACZKOWSKI


Part IV Reviews

REVIEW ESSAYS
Some Remarks on Leszek Hondo’s Study of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Kraków
ANDRZEJ TRZCINSKI and MARCIN WODZINSKI
The Last Controversy over Ritual Murder? The Debate over the Paintings in Sandomierz Cathedral
ANNA LANDAU-CZAJKA
The Anti-Zionist Campaign in Poland of 1967–1968
WLODZIMIERZ ROZENBAUM

BOOK REVIEWS


CORRESPONDENCE
Exchange between Józef Lewandowski and Joanna Rostropowich Clark
Exchange between Dina Porat and Roni Strauber, and Alina Cala

OBITUARIES
Wladyslaw Szpilman (1911–2000)
GARY FITELBERG
Stanislaus A. Blejwas (1941–2001)
JOHN RADZILOWSKI

Notes on the Contributors
Glossary
Index

 

Reviews

'This massive volume is a pioneering step in the study of popular Jewish culture in Poland . . . a fascinating collection.'
Shulamith Z. Berger, AJL Newsletter

'Without a doubt, an important contribution to the study of the folk and popular culture of Polish Jewry . . . Such an important collection of articles . . . must be read from cover to cover.'
Itzik Gottesman, Forverts