The Politics and Culture of Modern East European Jewry
(The Politics and Culture )

By the end of the eighteenth century, Eastern Europe was home to more than half of the world’s Jewish population. By the early twentieth century, the majority of the world’s Jews—from England and France to Argentina and the United States—could trace their origins to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and its successor states, especially Tsarist Russia. This course will examine the experiences of Eastern European Jewry, focusing in part on the state’s efforts to integrate the Jews into a rapidly changing society, but also on the distinct Jewish developments in the political and cultural sphere. It will examine the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) and Hasidism, the emergence of Jewish political movements (Socialism, Zionism, Autonomism), the mass westward migration of the late nineteenth century, and the flourishing of secular Jewish culture. The course ends with the Russian Revolution of 1917, but many of the themes covered are relevant to understanding the subsequent experiences of Eastern European Jews, not only in the Soviet Union, but also in the neighboring and distant countries in which they chose to start new lives.