Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society

Paperback | January 16, 2009

byGlenn Dynner

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The Jewish mystical movement known as Hasidism has attracted a great deal of popular interest in recent years. Hasidism is a Kabbalah-inspired Jewish spiritual revival the centers on charismatic leaders and miracle workers known as "Zaddikim." By the beginning of the 19th century, Zaddikim andtheir devotees had forged Hasidism into a movement of such power and scope that it had dramatically altered the spiritual, cultural, and social timbre of Jewish communities across Eastern and East Central Europe. Glenn Dynner provides a first critical look at Hasidism's stunning transformation into a mass movement by highlighting the variegated region of Central Poland. Dynner draws upon a staggering array of sources, including newly discovered Polish archival material and first-hand Hebrew and Yiddishtestimonies. The breadth of these sources enables him to elucidate Hasidism's unique blend of elite and folk culture, while chronicling the social and political triumphs of its leaders and adherents. At the same time he seeks to appreciate the movement within its original historical context,considering both internal and external (i.e. non-Jewish Polish) factors including the partitions of Poland, Central Poland's experiments in constitutionalism, and its incipient industrial revolution. Dynner's exhaustive and innovative research into Zaddikim's communal conquests, patronage networks,marriage strategies, miracle-working enterprises, and propaganda initiatives illustrates how Zaddikim amassed power and reshaped Polish Jewish life. His research shatters prevailing romantic notions about Hasidism during its meteoric rise, revealing Polish Zaddikim as shrewd populists who cultivatedfolksy images and achieved immense grassroots appeal, and yet proved equally adept at securing elite support, neutralizing powerful opponents, and seizing control of Jewish communal institutions across Central Poland.

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The Jewish mystical movement known as Hasidism has attracted a great deal of popular interest in recent years. Hasidism is a Kabbalah-inspired Jewish spiritual revival the centers on charismatic leaders and miracle workers known as "Zaddikim." By the beginning of the 19th century, Zaddikim andtheir devotees had forged Hasidism into a m...

Glenn Dynner is a Professor of Religion at Sarah Lawrence College.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.68 inPublished:January 16, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019538265X

ISBN - 13:9780195382655

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Hasidism in Central Poland, 1754-18302. Anatomy of a Hasidic Conquest3. Warsaw and the Patrons of Polish Hasidism4. Yihus: The Social Composition of Early Hasidic Leadership5. Charlatans or "Lovers of Israel"? Evaluating Hasidic Populism6. Sermons, Stories and Songs: Marketing HasidismConclusionAppendix A - Yihus and Marriage Strategies of early Zaddikim Outside Central Poland: Examples through 1815Appendix B - An Exorcism in Warsaw, 1818Appendix C - Works by Hasidic Authors, through 1815BibliographyNotesIndex