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152 SHOFAR Spring 1994 Vol. 12, No.3 phenomenon: the generalized European crisis of the post-Reformation era. In the east, the surprisingly successful but marginalized and over-specialized series of arrangements that had allowed a very large number ofJews to survive and, in many cases, prosper in what was, by anybody's standards, a highly hierarchical and egregiously backward social order, were being toppled by a broadly based social upheaval. The collapse ofthe system that had sustained the world of the stetlacb called into question the whole of the Law-centered world of the eastern Ashkenazim. In the west, the regression of religious antisemitism, due in part to a generalized secularization of life and to some extent to the intellectual positions taken by Enlightenment figures, led to a society which, if it did not actively sympathize with the Jews, was at least sufficiently neutral to religious differences to make plausible the aspirations of the more adventurous and prosperous among these to achieve a degree of social equality without giving up their religious identity. It might be added that these two diverse responses-arrant mysticism and detached rationalism-rather than being limited to the exceptional circumstances of the early modern period, have traditionally characterized Jewish life throughout the diaspora and well before, a point that Katz did not miss. Finally, Katz's methodology was path-breaking. His extensive use of the halakhic texts (the responsa of prominent rabbis to questions concerning the interpretation of the Law) was in itself novel. These had seldom been drawn upon as historical, rather than religious, sources. But, more important, the subtlety with which he extracted from them evidence for ongoing change in Jewish attitudes which had routinely been assumed to be wholly mired in tradition was truly remarkable. Paul P. Bernard Department of History University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign The Jews in a Polish Private Town: The Case of Opat6w in the Eighteenth Century, by Gershon David Hundert. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. 242 pp. $39.95. Although social historians of western Europe have been using the community studies approach for years, only a few examples of this genre exist for the European east, and most of these deal with their communities Book Reviews 153 from the turn of the nineteenth century on. Virtual absence of precedent is one reason why Gershon David Hundert's work on Opat6w in eighteenth -century Poland is likely to become a model for future researches; another is the exemplary historical scholarship Professor Hundert has brought to his task. The materials used for this study include a substantial number of archival collections in Poland and, as far as one can tell, virtually all of the relevant secondary sources dealing with the history of Jews in eastern Europe. Knowing that in the 1600-1800 period there existed hundreds of like-sized communities to be described, Hundert wisely examines Opat6w as a case study, thus preparing his findings for comparative use. But the comparisons will have to be with other specifically delineated communities rather than with the general situation ofJews elsewhere in the European east. The units of comparison have to be the same, for, as Hundert observes, "broad characterizations, even as diverse as those of Dubnow and Weinryb, have little application [to Opat6w]" (p. 156). Though in principle comparable to other towns, Opat6w combined several characteristics that gave its history a special twist. It was a proprietary town owned by the aristocratic Lubomirski family, and most of its 4,000 (maximum) or so inhabitants throughout the eighteenth century were always Jews. Household censuses (pp. 1-11) suggest fluctuations of the balance between Jewish and Christian inhabitants, with a substantial total decline by the end of the eighteenth century. In its heyday, however, Opat6w was a notable community, being, among other things, what the author calls "the capital" of the Landaus, one of the most prominent Jewish families of east central Europe. Opat6w's Jewish residents evidently got along fairly well with the owner-magnates, the Lubomirskis, whose governance was not capricious and who, in the final analysis, had a shared interest with the Jews (p. 157) in making the town a successful economic enterprise. When...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 152-154
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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