The Jews in Polish Culture

Richard Lourie, Translator, Aleksander Hertz, Author Northwestern University Press $39.95 (266p) ISBN 978-0-8101-0757-1
Although only a handful live in Poland today, ``for a thousand years Jews had been one of the important elements in Polish life,'' asserts the late Hertz, a noted Polish-Jewish sociologist, in this excellent overview that contends that the Jews in Poland displayed the principal traits characteristic of a caste group. He explains the dynamics of the Jew in a hostile world (his theories of the ``kindred and the alien'' and the ``caste system''), the ambivalent image of the Jew (a ``swindler'' and ``bloodsucker'' yet intelligent and all-knowing), how assimilation occurred, benefiting both the Poles (culturally) and the Jews (facilitating a Jewish national rebirth), and how little the Poles knew of the actual life of this strong presence in their world. While it offers comparisons between the position of blacks in America and the situation of the Jews in Poland that are anachronistic today, more than 25 years after its original publication, and it assumes some knowledge of Polish history because it was written for a Polish audience, the intelligent work will be enjoyable and accessible for American readers. (August)
Reviewed on: 08/05/1988
Release date: 08/01/1988
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