3
Dynamics

One way to study the balance of power among the various schools of Jewish politics is to employ the case study method. I propose in this chapter to consider the dynamics of Jewish politics in the two largest and most important Jewish communities in what was once called the "free world," those in Poland and the United States.


Poland

Enough has already been said about the Jewish community of the interwar Polish Republic to indicate that it was unique. It was huge--by far the largest in non-Communist Europe. Most Polish Jews were rooted in Orthodox Judaism, although many were in the process of abandoning it; most were Yiddish-speaking, although during the interwar years many of those who did not know Polish learned it; most declared themselves, on official census forms, to be "Jews by nationality," not only "Jews by religion" Most were lower-middle and working class, although the relatively small number of Jewish professionals and intellectuals played a great role in Polish cultural life. Many lived in little "Jewish" towns (shtettakh), but Jews also constituted around one-third of the population of the great Polish cities of the central and eastern regions of the state. In all essentials the Jews of Poland were very different from the more acculturated, less religious, less numerous, and richer Jews of Central and Western Europe, though in some ways rather similar to the much smaller Jewish communities of the Baltic states and Romania.

The general environment in which the Jews of Poland lived was also

-63-

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On Modern Jewish Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Contents xiii
  • 1 - Varieties 3
  • 2 - Geography 37
  • 3 - Dynamics 63
  • 5 - Success? 115
  • 6 - Comparisons 127
  • 7 - Conclusions: Then and Now 141
  • Notes 147
  • Index 161
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