Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 34

BookPolin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 34

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 34

Jewish Self-Government in Eastern Europe

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, 34


December 14th, 2021

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Few features have shaped east European Jewish history as much as the extent and continuity of Jewish self-rule. Offering a broad perspective, this volume explores the traditions, scope, limitations, and evolution of Jewish self-government in the Polish lands and beyond. Extensive autonomy and complex structures of civil and religious leadership were central features of the Jewish experience in this region, and this volume probes the emergence of such structures from the late medieval period onwards, looking at the legal position of the individual community and its role as a political actor. Chapters discuss the implementation of Jewish law and the role of the regional and national Jewish councils which were a remarkable feature of supra-communal representation in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The volume reflects on the interaction between Jewish legal traditions and state policies, and offers an in-depth analysis of the transformation of Jewish self-government under the impact of the partitions of Poland–Lithuania and the administrative principles of the Enlightenment. Co-operation between representatives of the Jewish and non-Jewish communities at the local level is discussed down to the interwar years, when Jewish self-government was considered both a cherished legacy of pre-partition autonomy and a threat to the modern nation state.

Author Information

François Guesnet is Professor of Modern Jewish History, University College London and chair of the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies. His publications include ‘Chanukah and its Function in the Invention of a Jewish-Heroic Tradition in Early Zionism’ in Nationalism, Zionism and ethnic mobilisation (ed. Michael Berkowitz, 2004) and Sources on Jewish Self-Government in the Polish Lands from Its Inception to the Present, edited with Jerzy Tomaszewski (2022). Antony Polonsky is Emeritus Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University, and Chief Historian of the Global Education Outreach Program at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. His three-volume history the Jews in Poland and Russia (2010–12), also published by the Littman Library, was awarded the Pro Historia Polonorum Prize of the Polish Senate for the best book on the history of Poland in a language other than Polish.