Following tremendous advances in recent years in the study of religious belief, this volume adopts a fresh understanding of Jewish religious life in Poland. Approaches deriving from the anthropology,
history, phenomenology, psychology, and sociology of religion have replaced the methodologies of social or political history that were applied in the past, offering fascinating new perspectives.
The well-established interest in hasidism continues, albeit from new angles, but topics that have barely been considered before are well represented here too. Women’s religious practice gains new prominence, and a focus on elites has given way to a consideration of the beliefs and practices of ordinary people. Reappraisals of religious responses to secularization and modernity, both liberal and Orthodox, offer more nuanced insights into this key issue. Other research areas represented
here include the material history of Jewish religious life in eastern Europe
and the shift of emphasis from theology to praxis in the search for the
defining quality of religious experience.
The contemporary reassessments in this volume, with their awareness of emerging techniques that have the potential to extract fresh insights from source materials both old and new, show how our understanding of what it means to be Jewish is continuing to expand.
François Guesnet is Reader in Modern Jewish History in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London and specializes in the early modern and nineteenth-century history of Polish Jews. 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. He is the author of the three-volume History of the Jews in Poland and Russia, published in an abridged paperback version as The Jews in Poland and Russia: A Short History. Ada Rapoport-Albert, who died on 18 June 2020, was Professor of Jewish Studies and former Head of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London. She was the author of a number of studies on the history of hasidism. Marcin Wodziński is Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Wrocław. His special fields of interest are the social history of the Jews in the nineteenth century, the regional history of the Jews in Silesia, and Jewish sepulchral art. He is the author of several books, and is editor of the Bibliotheca Judaica and Makor/Źródła series. He is vice president of the Polish Association of Jewish Studies and editor in chief of its periodical, Studia Judaica. In 2011 he was awarded the Jan Karski and Pola Nirenska Prize by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.