Poles and Jews: A Failed Brotherhood

Magdalena Opalski, Author, Israel Bartal, Author Brandeis University Press $45 (205p) ISBN 978-0-87451-601-2
This volume focuses on a lesser-known episode in the stormy history of Polish-Jewish relations, a brief period of rapprochement in the 1860s. Opalski, a professor of East European studies at Carleton University (in Ottawa), and Bartal, a professor of modern Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, bring an unusual perspective to the subject, studying the Polish and Jewish literature of the period to understand ``the myth of Polish-Jewish brotherhood during the last Polish uprising against Russia.'' Polish Jews were eager participants in the anti-Russian nationalist wave of 1861-1862, a phenomenon that ``gave birth to a peculiar ritual of fraternizing with the Jews.'' Although the authors paint the overall struggle of Poland for independence, too often the specific historical incidents under discussion are unknown to all but students of Polish history. Opalski and Bartal are much better at elucidating the broad social currents that allowed the Jews to be linked unfavorably in the Polish imagination with the rising tide of capitalism. The book is useful as a survey of an enormous range of 19th-century Polish and Jewish literature, and as an introduction to Polish-Jewish relations before the Holocaust, but the writing is dry and academic. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1992
Release date: 12/01/1992
Paperback - 205 pages - 978-0-87451-602-9
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