Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 22

Social and Cultural Boundaries in Pre-Modern Poland
Edited by Adam Teller, Magda Teter, & Antony Polonsky

Boundaries - physical, political, social, religious, and cultural - were a key feature of life in medieval and early modern Poland. By focusing on the ways in which these boundaries were respected, crossed, or otherwise negotiated, this volume throws new light on the contacts between Jews and Christians in Poland (including the vexed question of conversion), between the various Jewish elements, and between Jews in Poland and elsewhere.

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Boundaries—physical, political, social, religious, and cultural—were a key feature of life in medieval and early modern Poland, and this volume focuses on the ways in which these boundaries were respected, crossed, or otherwise negotiated. It throws new light on the contacts between Jews and Poles, including the vexed question of conversion and the tensions it aroused. The collected articles also discuss relations between the various elements of Jewish society—the wealthy and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, and the religious and the lay elites, considering too contacts between Jews in Poland and those in Germany and elsewhere. Classic studies by such eminent scholars as Meir Bałaban, Jacob Goldberg, and Moshe Rosman provide a foil for new research by Hanna Zaremska and David Frick, as well as Adam Teller, Magda Teter, Elisheva Carlebach, Jürgen Heyde, and Adam Kaźmierczyk. Taken together, the contributions on this central theme help redefine the Jewish history of pre-modern Poland.

As ever, the New Views section examines a wide variety of other topics. These include accusations of ritual murder in nineteenth-century Poland; the Russian Jewish integrationist politician Mikhail Morgulis; the attitude of Bolesław Prus towards Jewish assimilation and his relationship with the Jewish journalist Nahum Sokolow; women in the Mizrahi movement in Poland; Polish patriotism among Jews; the impact of the first Soviet occupation of 1939–41 on Polish–Jewish relations; how the war affected the views of Julian Tuwim and Antoni Słonimski; the shtetl in the work of American Jewish writers Allen Hoffman and Jonathan Safran Foer; and the initial Polish response to Jan Gross's Fear.


About the editors

Adam Teller is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in the Department of Jewish History at the University of Haifa. He is the author of two books, both in Hebrew: Living Together: The Jewish Quarter of Poznan and its Inhabitants in the Seventeenth Century (2003) and Money, Power, and Influence: The Jews on the Radziwill Estates in Eighteenth-Century Lithuania (2005). He has published a number of articles on the social, economic, and cultural history of Polish Lithuanian Jewry in the early modern period, and is currently working on a history of the Polish Lithuanian rabbinate in that period.

Magda Teter is an Associate Professor of History at Wesleyan University. She is the author of Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland: A Beleaguered Church in the Post-Reformation Era (2006). Her articles on Polish Jewish history have appeared in Jewish History, AJS Review, Kwartalnik Żydowski, Sixteenth Century Journal, and Gal-ed. Her research has been supported by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Koret Foundation, YIVO Institute, and the Yad Hanadiv Foundation (Israel), among others. She directs the Early Modern Workshop project.

Antony Polonsky is Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Chief Historian of the Permanent Collection of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw.. He is the author of Politics in Independent Poland (1972), The Little Dictators (1975), The Great Powers and the Polish Question (1976), The Jews in Poland and Russia, Volumes 1–3 (forthcoming from the Littman Library), and co-author of A History of Modern Poland (1980) and The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (1981).


Contributor information

David Aberbach, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, McGill University, Montreal
Meir Bałaban, deceased
Ela Bauer, Chair, Department of Communication and Film, School of Art Education, Art, and Technology, Seminar Ha-Kibbutzim College, Tel Aviv
Elisheva Carlebach, Professor of History, Columbia University
David Frick, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature, University of California at Berkeley
Agnieska Friedrich, specialist in Jewish issues in nineteenth-century Polish literature
Klaus-Peter Friedrich,  historian living in Marburg, Germany, with an interest in Polish--Jewish relations in the twentieth century and the Holocaust
Jacob Goldberg, Professor Emeritus, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Jürgen Heyde,  teaches medieval and early modern eastern European history at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg
Brian Horowitz,  Professor of Russian and Jewish Studies and Director of Jewish Studies, Tulane University
Asaf Kaniel, Director of Jewish Renewal, JDC-Former Soviet Union
Adam Kaźmierczyk, Director, Department of Jewish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Joanna B. Michlic, Associate Professor and Chair in Holocaust Studies and Ethical Values, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania
Monika Rice, doctoral candidate in Jewish Studies, Brandeis University
Moshe Rosman, Professor of Jewish History, Bar Ilan University
Jeremy Shere, researcher in twentieth-century Jewish American literature and culture
Marci Shore, Assistant Professor of History, University
Adam Teller, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor), Department of Jewish History, University of Haifa
Magda Teter, Associate Professor of History, Wesleyan University
Marcin Wodziński, Professor of Jewish History and Literature and head of the Department of Jewish Studies, University of Wrocław
Hanna Zaremska, Professor of History, Institute for History, Polish Academy of Sciences,  Warsaw



Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration

Part I  Structural and Cultural Boundaries in Pre-Modern Poland

Adam Teller and Magda Teter

Hugo Grotius and the Blood Libel Trials in Lublin, 1636
Meir Balaban

The Boundaries of Memory: A Central European Chronograph from 1655
Elisheva Carlebach

The Authority of the Council of Four Lands Outside Poland–Lithuania
Moshe Rosman

Telling the Difference: Some Comparative Perspectives on the Jews' Legal Status in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Holy Roman Empire
Adam Teller

The Jewish Community in the Sociopolitical Structure of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Jacob Goldberg

The Jewish Economic Elite in Red Ruthenia in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
JÜrgen Heyde

Across the River: How and Why the Jews of Kraków Settled in Kazimierz at the End of the Fifteenth Century
Hanna Zaremska

The Rubinkowski Family, Converts in Kazimierz
Adam Kazmierczyk

Jews in Public Places: Chapters in the Jewish–Christian Encounter in Seventeenth-Century Vilna
David Frick

'There should be no love between us and them': Social Life and the Bounds of Jewish and Canon Law in Early Modern Poland
Magda Teter

Part II   New Views

Blood and the Hasidim: On the History of Ritual Murder Accusations in Nineteenth-Century Poland
Marcin Wodzinski

Integration and its Discontents: Mikhail Morgulis and the Ideology of Jewish Integration in Russia
Brian Horowitz

Bolesław Prus and the Assimilation of Polish Jews
Agnieszka Friedrich

Dialogue  or Monologue? The Relationship Between Jewish and Polish Journalists in Warsaw at the End of the Nineteenth Century
Ela Bauer

Gender, Zionism, and Orthodoxy: The Women of the Mizrahi Movement in Poland, 1916–1939
Asaf Kaniel

Patriotism and Antisemitism: The Crisis of Polish Jewish Identity between the Wars
David Aberbach

The Nazi Murder of the Jews in Polish Eyes: Views in the Underground Press, 1942–1945
Klaus-Peter Friedrich

The Spring that Passed: The Pikador Poets’ Return to Jewishness
Marci Shore

Resisting a Phantom Book: A Critical Assessment of the Initial Polish Discussion of Jan Gross’s Fear
Monika Rice

Imagined Diaspora: The Shtetl in Allen Hoffman’s Small Worlds and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated
Jeremy Shere


John Klier

Notes on the Contributors



'This is a notable contribution to the leading English-language series on Polish Jewry. It can serve as an ideal starting point for students interested in the development of Judaism in Eastern Europe in pre-modern Poland. The introduction by Teller and Teter offers an incisive picture of much of the historiography of of the period, while many of the articles offer both background and detailed pictures of specific institutions and events that are important for religious studies . . . Libraries with a serious collection dealing with Eastern European Jewish life and culture might want to consider the series in its entirety.' Shaul Stampfer, Religious Studies Review