THE JEWS IN POLISH CULTURE by Aleksander Hertz

THE JEWS IN POLISH CULTURE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A richly perceptive sociological consideration of the Jewish community as a caste in 19th- and early-2Oth-century Poland. When this text was written in 1961, the subject was largely untouched: Hertz (People and Ideas, 1931; Classics of Sociology, 1933: Contemporary Sociology, 1938; etc.), an important figure in Polish scholarship, was defining a set of inquiries as much as exploring them. This straightforward translation (with a foreword by Czeslaw Milosz) is conceptually accessible, but Hertz wrote for a Polish Jewish readership, and familiarity with that intellectual milieu is quite helpful (this first English edition has been footnoted for American readers, but inadequately). Nonetheless, he offers some powerful insights: the initial understanding of the Jewish community as a caste; the myth-making process that accompanies such isolation; the rise of modern Polish anti-Semitism only as Jews assimilated, closing the distance between themselves and the larger society; and the identification of Zionism as a product of European thought, its relation to other contemporary nationalist movements, and the processes that gave them rise. Intelligent and enlightening material, marred only by Hertz's lack of familiarity with the American ethnic experience--often cited for contrast, but not quite so rosy as he would have it. A book that should be part of any study of modern Polish culture or Diaspora Jewry.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1988
Publisher: Northwestern Univ. Press