East European History

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 Weekly Discussion Questions:

Week One:

Use these questions to help you through the readings. Write a one-to-two page (2 pages double-spaced tops) essay based on some aspects of these readings, and be prepared to discuss the readings and your reactions to them in class. Be sure to include comments on all three readings in your essay.

 

  • Abraham David, A Hebrew Chronicle from Prague: (14) 79-93
  • Bernard Weinryb, The Jews of Poland: ìImmigration & Settlementî (15) 17-32
  • Daniel Elazar, The Balkan Jewish Communities: ìThe Sunset of Balkan Jewryî (6) 1-6

 

Abraham David, A Hebrew Chronicle from Prague, c. 1615.

1. a. Does the chronicler seem equally distraught about happenings in far-off Portugal and Spain, as in his own city, Prague? Why? What about time? The author lived in the late 16th-early 17th centuries. But he writes also about 15th century and 1st century events among Jews. What is his mind-set? time-frame?

2. What kinds of violence did the Jews suffer? What crimes predominate overall? What kinds of events did the expulsions and riots coincide with?

3. Why does the author link these crimes to Jewish sins (81, 84)? ìour inequitiesî

4. Why does the author speak kindly of the ruler after he has expelled the Jews (87, 88, n. 5 and 6 on p. 88)? How do these examples illustrate the Jewsí dependence on the state? Why might the author have singled out one ruler only as ìof accursed memoryî(80)?

5. What other side of Jewish life in Prague does one see in this chroniclerís account from 1583 on?

6. From this chronicle fragment how would you characterize Jewish life in Central Europe?

 

Bernard Weinryb, The Jews of Poland: ìImmigration & Settlementî (15) 17-32

1. Are there real historical sources to tell us why, when, how Jews arrived in Poland?

2. What is the difference between ìdocumentary evidenceî and legends (about the Jewsí coming to Poland)?

3. Is there complete agreement about the origin of East Europeís Jews? What kinds of theories exist about the origins of E. European Jews?

4. What is Weinrybís own interpretation of how/when the Jews arrived in Poland?

5. What is Weinrybís own interpretation of where these Jews came from ? How does his argument run?

 

Daniel Elazar, "The Sunset of Balkan Jewry"

1. What does Elazar tell us about the vintage of the Balkan Jewish communities, and the different ìlayersî of Jews and non-Jews in the area? What imperial powers dominated the area? Were Balkan Jews better off under the Ottoman Empire or under the national states that succeeded it?

2. What are Sephardic Jews and what brought them to the Balkans? What is Ladino?

  • Familiarize yourself with maps 1, 17, 21, 23, 30, 31, 45, 46 in Gilbert (coursepack)

 Week Two:

Use these questions to help you through the readings. Write a one-to-two page (2 pages double-spaced tops) essay based on some aspects of these readings, and be prepared to discuss the readings and your reactions to them in class. Be sure to include comments on all the readings in your essay.

  • Jacob Katz, "Family, Kinship, and Marriage among Ashkenazim in the 16-18th Centuries," Jewish Journal of Sociology 1/1, April 1959 (17) 4-22
  • Ellen Umansky ìPiety, Persuasion, and Friendshipî in Umansky & Ashton, Four Centuries of Jewish Womenís Spirituality in Eastern Europe (6), 1-6, 24-6
  • Weinryb, Jews of Poland: ìLegal and Political Situationî (12) 33-45
  • Diane and David Roskies, The Shtetl Book: ìKnow Thy Porets," ìThe Rendar Opens the Gates of Heaven," ìThe Porets Puts His Rendar to a Test," ìThe Evil Rendarî (11) 59-68
  • Shmuel Ettinger, ìJewish Participation in the Settlement of Ukraineî in Aster & Potichnyj, eds., Ukrainian-Jewish Relations (7) 23-30

 

Jacob Katz, Family, Kinship, and Marriage Among Ashkenazim in the 16th to 18th Centuries.

1. Make a list of the aspects of family and kinship that Katz covers. Mark which ones seem typical of all pre-industrial families, and which ones seem to be ìtypically Jewish traits, both in the mode of life and in the consciousness which accompanied it. . . ."(5) Are there many that seem typical of all societies, although the ìconsciousnessî is Jewish?

2. A criticism of this article is that Katz does not differentiate between different regions of Europe, and in the changes that occurred over time. What do you gain/lose without such differentiations? without comparisons with West European Jews (p. 20, n. 2)? without comparisons with Christians living in the same region?

3. What do you think about the class relations (especially p. 10) as Katz describes them? Are they logical to you? Persuasive?

4. Do you think that, at times, Katz is describing an ideal or a goal rather than a typical practice or attitude, when he states the practice and then the exceptions to it (e.g., rich v. poor relations, p. 15, or the end of the paragraph, top of p. 14)?

5. From this article do you get a sense of what Jewish communities lost upon receiving Emancipation as individuals? Which institutions were necessary to pre-Emancipation Jewish life? Which survive today? Why?

Ellen Umansky ìPiety, Persuasion, and Friendshipî in Umansky & Ashton, Four Centuries of Jewish Womenís Spirituality in Eastern Europe (6), 1-6, 24-6

How did the spiritual lives of Jewish women differ from that of Jewish men?

Roskies, Diane K and David G. Roskies. The Shtetl Book.

1. After their introduction, ìKnow thy porets," the Roskies present three stories or folktales about Jewish-Gentile relations. These are not ìnormalî historical documents. How can they be useful to historians?

2. In what ways do the stories challenge our stereotypes about Jewish life in early modern Eastern Europe? Is there a single type of Jew depicted? Is the role of the Jew only one of oppression and sorrow? Did the rendars ever have any power vis-a-vis the porets? the peasants?

Weinryb, Jews of Poland: ìLegal and Political Situationî (12) 33-45

1. What allowed Jews to settle in Poland legally speaking?

2. Was the situation of the Jews in Poland much better than in Germany or Bohemia? Was it better in different parts of Poland?

3. What classes Poles were the Jewsí best protectors? Who were their worst enemies?

4. Does Weinrybís historical account square with the folktales in Roskies?

Shmuel Ettinger, ìJewish Participation in the Settlement of Ukraineî in Aster & Potichnyj, eds., Ukrainian-Jewish Relations (7) 23-30

What was the Jewish role the settlement of Ukraine? Were the Jews getting involved in a dangerous enterprise, and if so, how and why?

 Week Three:

Use these questions to help you through the readings. Write a one-to-two page (2 pages double-spaced tops) essay based on some aspects of these readings, and be prepared to discuss the readings and your reactions to them in class. Be sure to include comments on all the readings in your essay.

 

7. Shmuel Ettinger, ìJewish Participation in the Settlement of Ukraineî (7) 23-30

8. Jaroslav Pelenski, ìThe Cossack insurrections in Jewish-Ukrainian Relationsî (11) 31-42

9. William Hallo et al., Heritage, Civilization, and the Jews (5) 185-190

**map 52

 

 

Shmuel Ettinger, ìJewish Participation in the Settlement of Ukraineî

 

What was the Jewish role the settlement of Ukraine? Were the Jews getting involved in a dangerous enterprise, and if so, how and why?

 

What attracted or drove Jews to Ukraine?

 

What was the Jewish relationship over time to the magnates? burghers? Cossacks?

 

 

Jaroslav Pelenski, ìThe Cossack insurrections in Jewish-Ukrainian Relationsî

 

According to Pelenski, is it easy to untangle the story of the Cossacksí war of independence and their attacks on the Jews by reading modern Jewish historiography? 17th century Jewish chronicles?

 

Are the figures for the Jewish victims of the massacres straight forward? Why would Jewish sources exaggerate these numbers? How does Pelenski arrive at his estimates? What do you think of his method?

 

What was the impact of the Holocaust on thinking about the Khmelnytsky massacres and Haidamaks? Is there a difference between the Holocaust and these much earlier events, and if so, what is it?

 

What role can this 17th century history play in contemporary politics?

 

Is Pelenski arguing that the Jews were singled out by the Cossacks?

 

**consult map 52 to get a sense of the chronological and geographic extent of the false messiah phenomenon

 

locate Smyrna on map 52, and trace Shabbetai Zeviís approximate itinerary on map 46

 

 

ìA Christian Eye-Witness Account of Shabbetai Zeviî & ìFrom Jacob Frankís ëWords of the Masterí î

 

 

How did the rabbis (ìHakamsî), Zevi, and Zeviís followers get along in Smyrna? in Constantinople?

 

From this account, what was Sh. Zeviís impact on the Jewish world once he began his collaboration with Nathan of Gaza?

 

Did the Sultan, (ìGrand Signiorî) take Zevi seriously?

 

How did Zeviís Jewish followers deal with his conversion to Islam?

 

Are there similarities between Shabbetai Zevi and Jacob Frank? Differences?

 

Does Frank remind you of any present-day personages?

 Week Four:

Use these questions to help you through the readings. Write a one-to-two page (2 pages double-spaced tops) essay based on some aspects of these readings, and be prepared to discuss the readings and your reactions to them in class. Be sure to include comments on all the readings in your essay.

 

 

14. Raphael Mahler, ìSociopolitical Foundations of Hasidism in Galiciaî

15. ìI am not a God: A Hasidic Tale,î in Hallo et al., eds., Heritage

16. ìRebel and Penitent: Moses Leib Lilienblumî (to page 127 only)

 

 

Raphael Mahler, ìSociopolitical Foundations of Hasidism in Galiciaî

 

 

What was life like for 19th century Galician Jews? What economic and cultural measures were these Jews subject to and with what effect?

 

What is Mahlerís view of Enlightened Absolutism? How does he explain the popularity of Hasidism in Galicia?

 

What class relationships existed within the Galician Jewish community, and how did these get expressed in religious preferences between the Haskala and Hasidic movements?

 

What were some of the practices and beliefs of the Hasidim?

 

 

ìI am not a God: A Hasidic Tale,î in Hallo et al., eds., Heritage

 

The introduction to this tale indicates the ìpremodernî character and large size of Polish, Russian, and Galician Jewry in the 19th century. How does that help put Hasidism in context?

 

What can you learn about Hasidic practice and belief ìfrom the inside,î i.e. from this Hasidic tale? If this tale is any indication, how did the zaddik (rebbe) help the man in trouble?

 

 

ìRebel and Penitent: Moses Leib Lilienblumî (to page 127 only)

 

 

What was Lilienblumís path to the Haskala? What early personal experiences affected his choice?

 

What psychological, economic, and social difficulties did his choice of belief bring about? Why does Lilienblum identify himself as a ìvictim of the Haskalaî?

 

What advice does Lilienblum have for parents?

 Week Five:

Use these questions to help you through the readings. Write a one-to-two page (2 pages double-spaced tops) essay based on some aspects of these readings, and be prepared to discuss the readings and your reactions to them in class. Be sure to include comments on all the readings in your essay.

 

 

14. Raphael Mahler, ìSociopolitical Foundations of Hasidism in Galiciaî

15. ìI am not a God: A Hasidic Tale,î in Hallo et al., eds., Heritage

16. ìRebel and Penitent: Moses Leib Lilienblumî (to page 127 only)

 

 

Raphael Mahler, ìSociopolitical Foundations of Hasidism in Galiciaî

 

 

What was life like for 19th century Galician Jews? What economic and cultural measures were these Jews subject to and with what effect?

 

What is Mahlerís view of Enlightened Absolutism? How does he explain the popularity of Hasidism in Galicia?

 

What class relationships existed within the Galician Jewish community, and how did these get expressed in religious preferences between the Haskala and Hasidic movements?

 

What were some of the practices and beliefs of the Hasidim?

 

 

ìI am not a God: A Hasidic Tale,î in Hallo et al., eds., Heritage

 

The introduction to this tale indicates the ìpremodernî character and large size of Polish, Russian, and Galician Jewry in the 19th century. How does that help put Hasidism in context?

 

What can you learn about Hasidic practice and belief ìfrom the inside,î i.e. from this Hasidic tale? If this tale is any indication, how did the zaddik (rebbe) help the man in trouble?

 

 

ìRebel and Penitent: Moses Leib Lilienblumî (to page 127 only)

 

 

What was Lilienblumís path to the Haskala? What early personal experiences affected his choice?

 

What psychological, economic, and social difficulties did his choice of belief bring about? Why does Lilienblum identify himself as a ìvictim of the Haskalaî?

 

What advice does Lilienblum have for parents?

 Week Six:

Use these questions to help you through the readings. Write a one-to-two page (2 pages double-spaced tops) essay based on some aspects of these readings, and be prepared to discuss the readings and your reactions to them in class. Be sure to include comments on all the readings in your essay.

 

12. ìHow the Prague Jews Liveî

13. Stefan Kieniewicz, ìPolish Society and the Jewish Problem in the 19th Centuryî

 

12. ìHow the Prague Jews Liveî

 

Describe Jewish life in 19th Century Prague. In what various ways did these Jews make a living? What roles did women have?

 

Does this description make sense in the context of the other pieces that you have read about Prague Jewry in the 17th and 18th centuries (David, ìThe Solemn Procession,î ìA Successful Jewî)?

 

 

13. Stefan Kieniewicz, ìPolish Society and the Jewish Problem in the 19th Centuryî

 

Can one speak about Polish Jews still after the partitions of Poland?

 

What kinds of reforms did the ideology of the Enlightenment prescribe toward Polish Jews? What Jewish stereotypes were assumed by some of the Polish reform programs?

 

How were assimilation and emancipation related to one another in the Polish case? Did all Poles wish the Jews to become Poles?

 

Were Jews considered good Polish patriots?

 Week Seven:

Read Sachar 253-276 and the coursepack assignments for topic 6 using the following study questions to help you. Write an essay based on these questions, due next Thursday.

 

 

 

Richard Levy, Antisemitism in the Modern World

Albert Lindemann, The Jew Accused

Iggers: ìA Czech Poetî and ìOur Mister Fixlî

 

 

How does Levy define antisemitism in his Introduction, and how does antisemitism differ from age-old anti-Jewish prejudice? Do you agree with his definition and argument?

 

Does Lindemannís description of the Ostjude phenomenon fit in with this definition? Were the Ostjuden to blame in any sense for the rise of antisemitism?

 

Does Levyís definition of antisemitism help make sense of events in Hungary (Lindemann) and in the Czech lands as they appear in the two selections from Iggers

 Week Eight:

Siegfried Kapper, To Vaclav Bolemir Nebesky (poem)

Karel Havlicek, ìA Jewish Poet Rejected by a Spokesman for the Czechsî

Gisa Pickova-Saudkova memoir in Iggers, Women of Prague

Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew

Rebel and Penitent: Moses Leib Lilienblum (Dawidowicz)

Pavel Axelrod, ìSocialist Jews Confront the Pogromsî(Dawidowicz)

Susan Glenn, ìA Girl Wasnít Muchî

 

Read and be prepared to discuss all these selections. Write a 1-2 page essay about one of the following two topics.

 

1. Jews who embraced modernization, often became ìassimilatedî. What is assimilation? What did it mean to Pickova-Saudkova? Isaac Deutscher? Pavel Axelrod? How did Gentile reactions like Havlicekís review of Kapper or the Czech anti-Semitism encountered by Pickova-Saudkova, or the Russian pogroms affect assimilationist Jews?

 

2. Compare the lives of well-to-do bourgeois Jewish women like Pickova-Saudkova, and those of the working-class women featured in Susan Glennís chapter ìA Girl Wasnít Much.î What strains did each of these types of Jewish women experience and what solutions were open to them?

 

 

 

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