10265 Culture, Society and Religion: 600 Years of Polish Jewry 1

Credits: 6 intermediate credits in Modern History of the Jewish People

Prerequisites: none

Authors: Moshe Rosman, David Assaf, Chava Tumiansky, Gershon Bacon, Immanuel Etkes, Mordechai Zelkin

East European Jewry constituted the largest community in the Jewish world until the Holocaust, and had an impressive level of community and inter-community organization with a great deal of spiritual and cultural activity. Religious figures from Eastern Europe were honored and respected throughout the Jewish world. In the mid-18th century, the Hasidic movement developed in Poland and was countered by widespread opposition. The existence of such a large and vibrant community calls for research on how it formed, grew and developed.

The course traces the social and spiritual life of East European Jewry from its first communities in the 13th century until the early 19th century, and examines the changing political, economic and legal reality with which the Jews contended over the years.

Topics: Beginnings and patterns of existence – Geographic, demographic and legal foundations of the Jewish community; Jews in the economy; Communities and councils – patterns of organization and leadership. Language and book – The world of the Torah, sacral and secular currents in language, learning and education. Changing values – From “Polin” to “Eastern Europe” – the relation of Eastern European Jews to their countries; From a group to a movement – the beginnings of Hasidism.


1A 4-credit version of this course is offered in Russian (42101). Its description is available on the Russian-language website of the Open University (http://www-r.openu.ac.il/).

There is some overlap in the content of this and other courses. For details, see Overlapping Courses.