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138 SHOFAR Summer 1999 Vol. 17, No.4 Jews in Early Modern Poland, edited by Gershon David Hundert. Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 10. Oxford: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1997. Published for the Institute ofPolish-Jewish Studies, Oxford. 457 pp. $29.50. In the now-defunct Polish People's Republic (1944-1989), the study and memory of Polish Jewry was, for political reasons, manipulated, censored, and damned to silence by the communist regime. Democratic dissidents in the search for Poland's Jewish history first broke that silence beginning in the late 1970s. In the 1980s an interdisciplinary renaissance in Polish Jewish studies occurred in Poland, Europe, the United State, and Israel. There were five major international conferences. At the 1984 conference in Oxford the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies and its American companion, the American Association for Polish-Jewish Studies, were established, and the┬Ěpublication of the annual Polin was inaugurated. Ten volumes have appeared under the distinguished general editorship of Antony Polonsky, formerly of Oxford and now at Brandeis, and they constitute an astonishing collective recovery ofthe story of Polish Jewry before the Holocaust, as well as an important discussion ofHolocaust and postHolocaust issues. Studies from Polin: From Shtetl to Socialism (1993) is a sampling of the intellectual riches ofPolin's first 7 volumes. The latest Polin reflects the annual's traditional breath. It opens with a lecture by Krzysztof Sliwinski, Polish Ambassador to the Jewish Diaspora, on "the way forward" in Polish-Jewish dialogue. Ten years ago the idea of a living Jewry in Poland could be described as "history." A determined, albeit numerically small revival occurred, and what others label "the new Polish Jews" emerged. Sliwinski cautiously asserts that Poland's Jewish community is no longer in "terminal decline" (p. xviii). Major problems for further dialogue remain, including Auschwitz's future, property seized by the Nazis and Communists, mutual and often one-sided perceptions of the Holocaust, and residual antisemitism and anti-Jewish hostility. Overall, the past decade vindicates the renewed study of Poland's Jewish history. Its recovery completes the Polish historical memory, and becomes a shared heritage for contemporary Poles and Jews in Poland, and for those in the Diaspora. Part 1 gives the title to the volwne. The outer chronologicallirnit is 1800, just after the third partition of the Polish Lithuanian commonwealth. There are essays with specific religious focus. Chava Weissler discusses the tkhine for "Laying Wicks" by Sarah bas Tovim. Compared to Simeon Frankfurt's tkhine, Sarah's is emotionally richer, combining domestic and eschatological (i.e., the Messianic redemption) concerns. Elimelech Westreich examines the Ban of Rabbenu Gershom on polygamy in Ashkenazi legal tradition; he finds non-Aszkehnazic influences from Italian and Ottoman Jewish cultures in the divergent opinions about the validity ofthe Ban after its expiration. E1chanan Reiner discusses the attitudes of the Ashkenazi elite towards printed books and changes in the way halakhic literature was written and transmitted. Book Reviews 139 He concludes that aspects ofthe medieval scribal tradition survived, creating texts with esoteric components, which in effect enabled the intellectual elite to preserve its elitist position. Moshe Rosman critically analyzes the editions ofShivhei ha Besht. Jacob Goldberg studies Jewish marriages in eighteenth-century Poland, when maskilim and representatives of the Polish Enlightenment discussed changing the structure ofthese marriages so as to stabilize the institution, inlprove the community's economic position, and draw it closer to mainstream Polish culture. Thomas C. Hubka, recognizing vernacular architectural influences, looks for specific Jewish influences in the unique interior-domed, wooden synagogues of the Gwoidziec-Chodorow. Zenon GuIdon and Jacek Wijaczka systematically enumerate the accusations of ritual murder in Poland from 1500 to 1800 and provide a reference point for further discussion. Daniel Stone's study of foreign languages among eighteenth-century Polish Jews suggests that if it were not for the partitions their knowledge ofPolish would have been much more extensive. Jews who embraced modernity would have taken advantage of Polish secular schools, and a considerable amount of integration with the Poles would have occurred. This, ofcourse, would have had important consequences on later JewishPolish relations. Each essay in its own way illustrates Hundert's introductory observation that it would...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 138-140
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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