Yankels Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland

Paperback | November 12, 2014

byGlenn Dynner

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In nineteenth-century Eastern Europe, the Jewish-run tavern was often the center of leisure, hospitality, business, and even religious festivities. This unusual situation came about because the nobles who owned taverns throughout the formerly Polish lands believed that only Jews were soberenough to run taverns profitably, a belief so ingrained as to endure even the rise of Hasidism's robust drinking culture. As liquor became the region's boom industry, Jewish tavernkeepers became integral to both local economies and local social life, presiding over Christian celebrations anddispensing advice, medical remedies and loans. Nevertheless, reformers and government officials, blaming Jewish tavernkeepers for epidemic peasant drunkenness, sought to drive Jews out of the liquor trade. Their efforts were particularly intense and sustained in the Kingdom of Poland, asemi-autonomous province of the Russian empire that was often treated as a laboratory for social and political change. Historians have assumed that this spelled the end of the Polish Jewish liquor trade. However, newly discovered archival sources demonstrate that many nobles helped their Jewish tavernkeepers evade fees, bans and expulsions by installing Christians as fronts for their taverns. The result - a vastunderground Jewish liquor trade - reflects an impressive level of local Polish-Jewish co-existence that contrasts with the more familiar story of anti-Semitism and violence. By tapping into sources that reveal the lives of everyday Jews and Christians in the Kingdom of Poland, Yankel's Taverntransforms our understanding of the region during the tumultuous period of Polish uprisings and Jewish mystical revival.

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In nineteenth-century Eastern Europe, the Jewish-run tavern was often the center of leisure, hospitality, business, and even religious festivities. This unusual situation came about because the nobles who owned taverns throughout the formerly Polish lands believed that only Jews were soberenough to run taverns profitably, a belief so i...

Glenn Dynner is Professor of Jewish Studies at Sarah Lawrence College. He is author of Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society, which received the Koret Publication Prize, and editor of Holy Dissent: Jewish and Christian Mystics in Eastern Europe. He has been a Fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies a...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.68 inPublished:November 12, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190204141

ISBN - 13:9780190204143

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Table of Contents

Author's PrefaceA Note on TranslationsIntroduction1. Entrance: Myths and Countermyths2. Rural Jewish Prohibition in the Kingdom of Poland3. The Urban Jewish Liquor Trade in the Kingdom of Poland4. Patriots, Smugglers and Spies: Tavernkeepers during the Polish Uprisings of 1830 and 18635. The Tavernkeepers Speak: Polish Jewish Tavernkeeping in the Wake of Peasant Emancipation6. Farmers, Soldiers, and Students: Attempts to Transform Jewish TavernkeepersConclusionNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Based upon massive new archival research, Glenn Dynner presents a wide-ranging portrait of the Jewish-run tavern, a central but overlooked institution of Polish Jewry. Drawing on a remarkable range of sources - legal, administrative, rabbinic, and literary - he illuminates the social,economic, religious and political ramifications of his subject. A sobering view of an intoxicating subject, told with sensitivity, nuance, and balance." --Jerry Z. Muller, author of Capitalism and the Jews