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Missing from most accounts of the modern history of Jews in Europe is the experience of what was once the largest Jewish community in the world—an oversight that Gershon David Hundert corrects in this history of Eastern European Jews in the eighteenth century.
The experience of eighteenth-century Jews in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth did not fit the pattern of integration and universalization—in short, of westernization—that historians tend to place at the origins of Jewish modernity. Hundert puts this experience, that of the majority of the Jewish people, at the center of his history. He focuses on the relations of Jews with the state and their role in the economy, and on more "internal" developments such as the popularization of the Kabbalah and the rise of Hasidism. Thus he describes the elements of Jewish experience that became the basis for a "core Jewish identity"—an identity that accompanied the majority of Jews into modernity.
List of Maps
List of Tables
A Note on Place-Names and Transliteration
List of Abbreviations
1. The Largest Jewish Community in the World
2. Economic Integration
3. The Polish Church and Jews, Polish Jews and the Church
4. The Community
5. Was There a Communal "Crisis" in the Eighteenth Century?
6. The Popularization of Kabbalah
7. Mystic Ascetics and Religious Radicals
8. The Contexts of Hasidism
9. Hasidism, a New Path
10. Jews and the Sejm
Gershon David Hundert is Professor of Jewish Studies and History at McGill University. He is the author of The Jews in a Polish Private Town: The Case of Opatów in the Eighteenth Century (1992), the coauthor of The Jews in Poland and Russia: Bibliographical Essays (1984), and the editor of Jews in Early Modern Poland (1997) and Essential Papers on Hasidism: Origins to Present (1991).
“Here is a book destined to become a classic in the field of Jewish history.”—Arnold Ages Post & Opinion
"Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century
provides a wide-ranging synthesis of the current scholarship on Polish-Lithuanian Jewry. Gershon David Hundert's control of the secondary literature is magnificent: he incorporates the findings of over a century of research up to and including the most recent works in every relevant language. Only a handful of scholars in the world today could approach this level of mastery."—Benjamin Nathans, author of Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia
"Gershon David Hundert's Jews in Poland-Lithuania in the Eighteenth Century
is likely to be viewed as the standard scholarly survey of the topic of 'classic' Polish Jewry for years to come."—Moshe Rosman, author of Founder of Hasidism: A Quest for the Historical Ba'al Shem Tov
I.J. Segal Book Award, Jewish Public Library
The Oskar Halecki Polish History Award, Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences of America