Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 19

BookPolin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 19

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 19

Polish-Jewish Relations in North America

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, 19


December 7th, 2006





Poland today is a very different country from the Poland of the past, yet attitudes inherited from the past continue to affect Polish–Jewish relations in the present. In Poland itself, now a free society, memories of the Jewish place in Poland’s history, long suppressed by communism, are being re-evaluated. In America the attitudes that had divided the two sides in the Old Country seemed for a long time to be becoming more entrenched. This volume—probably the first comprehensive study of Polish–Jewish relations in North America—explores how this situation came about, and also considers the efforts being made to put the resentments caused by past conflicts to one side as the influences long dominant in the Polish–Jewish relationship in North America begin to lose their formative power. The contributors deal boldly with matters at the heart of the relationship. There is an attempt to quantify the attitudes of both sides to a number of key aspects of the Holocaust, and fascinating questions are raised about how the Holocaust has distorted the perceptions that Poles and Jews have of each other, and why the Holocaust remains a problem in Polish–Jewish relations. Stereotyping is confronted head-on. There is an investigation of how crude stereotypes of Polish peasants have found their way into Jewish history textbooks, crucially affecting the disposition of American Jews towards Poland, and of how the stereotyped world of the shtetl still haunts the American Jewish imagination, with great consequences for attitudes to Poles and Polish Americans. The way in which this stereotype is challenged by realities encountered in the context of the March of the Living is provocatively discussed, along with the options for dealing with a landscape ‘poor in Jews, but rich in Jewish ruins’. A number of chapters describe attempts to overcome mutual stereotyping, including a detailed and valuable account of the National Polish American–Jewish American Council, and of the attempts that have been made to steer the Jedwabne debate in a constructive direction. These small beginnings show that it is possible to go beyond past differences and to concentrate instead on what has linked Poles and Jews in their long history. As in earlier volumes of Polin, substantial space is given, in ‘New Views’, to recent research in other areas of Polish–Jewish studies.

'Very successful . . . a comprehensive introduction and eighteen separate essays, arranged roughly in chronological order, which discuss different aspects of interactions between Polish and Jewish ethnic communities . . . a plethora of accomplished scholars focus on sources of tension as well as examples of collaboration . . . a solid, provocative, and much-needed contribution to the scholarship; hopefully it will become a must-read to all those who in the future will undertake further exploration of Polish-Jewish relations in North America.' Anna D. Jaroszynska-Kirchmann, American Jewish History

'In the last fifteen years serious academic research into Polish-Jewish history has emerged as a burgeoning field at Polish universities. Indeed, Polin has played a major role in disseminating this research among an international audience . . . This volume brings together a number of very specific and more general essays, written by leading representatives of both fields, and from both perspectives. These articles point to a new and promising research sub-discipline in American ethnic history.' Tobias Brinkmann, Journal of Jewish Studies

‘Polin has long been a journal commanding attention and respect. This volume demonstrates that it sets the agenda for scholars of Polish-Jewish studies, contributes to the ongoing dialogue on the history of Polish-Jewish relations, and helps to understand how our relationships with members from each group might improve as a result of greater knowledge . . . Apparent throughout the volume is the immensely valuable service the editors provide to the scholarly community by including views on current happenings.’ Sean Martin, Polish Review

'Polin has for more than two decades defined the field of Polish-Jewish studies. Volume Nineteen continues that tradition by opening up the area of Polish-Jewish relations in North America . . . The introductory articles by the editors stands as a model of its kind. It not only introduces the articles in the collection and ties them together, but also stands as one of the best contributions in the volume for its incisive weaving of the Polish and Jewish stories in North America . . . This volume, like its predecessors, belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in Polish-Jewish relations.' Thaddeus C. Radzilowski, Shofar

'Rich and diverse . . . a must for anyone taking up serious studies of Jewish issues not only in the United States, but also in Poland.' Przemysław Różański, Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-


Author Information

Mieczyslaw B. Biskupski holds the S. A. Blejwas Endowed Chair in Polish History at Central Connecticut State University, and is the author of many books including The History of Poland; Ideology, Politics and Diplomacy in East Central Europe; Polish Democratic Thought; and Poland and Europe: Historical Dimensions. Antony Polonsky is Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and Chief Historian of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw.