Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire

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Overview

In the midst of the violent, revolutionary turmoil that accompanied the last decade of tsarist rule in the Russian Empire, many Jews came to reject what they regarded as the apocalyptic and utopian prophecies of political dreamers and religious fanatics, preferring instead to focus on the promotion of cultural development in the present. Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire examines the cultural identities that Jews were creating and disseminating through voluntary associations such as libraries, drama circles, literary clubs, historical societies, and even fire brigades. Jeffrey Veidlinger explores the venues in which prominent cultural figures-including Sholem Aleichem, Mendele Moykher Sforim, and Simon Dubnow-interacted with the general Jewish public, encouraging Jewish expression within Russia's multicultural society. By highlighting the cultural experiences shared by Jews of diverse social backgrounds-from seamstresses to parliamentarians-and in disparate geographic locales-from Ukrainian shtetls to Polish metropolises-the book revises traditional views of Jewish society in the late Russian Empire.
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Editorial Reviews

H-Judaic
"By posing questions that have never been debated previously about Jews in the Russian Empire, Professor Veidlinger has produced a book that transforms our perspective on Jewish civil society in the critical moments at the end of tsarism." —Brian Horowitz, Tulane University, September 2009

— Brian Horowitz, Tulane University

Jewish Book World / Jewish Book Council

"This book provides a sense of the dynamism of Jewish cultural life, broadly defined, in what was the world’s largest Jewish community whose descendants established American Jewry." —Jewish Book World / Jewish Book Council, Winter 5770/2009

American Historical Review
"Based on research in five languages ina wide range of published sources and on material located in four major archival collections, the book succeeds admirably in depicting the emergence into 'modernity' of the largest Jewish community in the world... Veidlinger is to be congratulated for having produced a compelling and important study on a cultural development that transformed East European Jewry and that has been crucial in the history of world Jewry over the past century." —Abraham Ascher, Graduate Center, City University of New York, American Historical Review, Vol. 115. 1 Feb. 2010

— Abraham Ascher, Graduate Center, City University of New York

Slavic Review

"... a deeply engaging and insightful book..." —Slavic Review, Vol.70.2 Summer 2011

Slavic and East European Journal

"... a fascinating and exhaustively researched account... a major contribution to the rich and burgeoning scholarship on Jewish society in late imperial Russia." —Slavic and East European Journal, 55.1 Spring 2011

Russian Review

"In all, Jewish Public Culture is rich, thoroughly researched, and engagingly written; it presents new data and compelling analysis to show how the new Jewish public culture flourished in the late tsarist Russia. The book is an important contribution to both Slavic and Jewish studies, and a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on Russian Jewish history and culture." —Russian Review

Jewish Book World/Jewish Book Council
"This book provides a sense of the dynamism of Jewish cultural life, broadly defined, in what was the world’s largest Jewish community whose descendants established American Jewry." —Jewish Book World/Jewish Book Council, Winter 5770/2009
Chai-Ran Freeze

"This ambitious study offers a new perspective on the construction, ethos, and dynamics of a burgeoning Jewish public sphere following the Revolution of 1905." —Chai-Ran Freeze, Brandeis University

H-Judaic - Brian Horowitz

"By posing questions that have never been debated previously about Jews in the Russian Empire, Professor Veidlinger has produced a book that transforms our perspective on Jewish civil society in the critical moments at the end of tsarism." —Brian Horowitz, Tulane University, September 2009

American Historical Review - Abraham Ascher

"Based on research in five languages ina wide range of published sources and on material located in four major archival collections, the book succeeds admirably in depicting the emergence into 'modernity' of the largest Jewish community in the world... Veidlinger is to be congratulated for having produced a compelling and important study on a cultural development that transformed East European Jewry and that has been crucial in the history of world Jewry over the past century." —Abraham Ascher, Graduate Center, City University of New York, American Historical Review, Vol. 115. 1 Feb. 2010

Religious Studies Review

"This wonderful, thoroughly researched, and well-crafted study convincingly argues that fundamental changes in the ways that Jewish activists and intellectuals viewed the intersection between culture and community transformed the very experience of daily life and the nature of community for early twentieth-century Jews in the Russian Empire." —Religious Studies Review

From the Publisher
"This wonderful, thoroughly researched, and well-crafted study convincingly argues that fundamental changes in the ways that Jewish activists and intellectuals viewed the intersection between culture and community transformed the very experience of daily life and the nature of community for early twentieth-century Jews in the Russian Empire." —Religious
Studies Review

"This book provides a sense of the dynamism of Jewish cultural life, broadly defined,
in what was the world’s largest Jewish community whose descendants established American
Jewry." —Jewish Book World / Jewish Book Council, Winter 5770/2009

"Based on research in five languages ina wide range of published sources and on material located in four major archival collections, the book succeeds admirably in depicting the emergence into 'modernity' of the largest Jewish community in the world... Veidlinger is to be congratulated for having produced a compelling and important study on a cultural development that transformed East European Jewry and that has been crucial in the history of world Jewry over the past century." —Abraham Ascher, Graduate Center, City University of New York, American
Historical Review, Vol. 115. 1 Feb. 2010

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Veidlinger is Associate Professor of History, Alvin H. Rosenfeld Chair in
Jewish Studies, and Associate Director of the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University
Bloomington. He is author of The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage
(IUP, 2001) and co-director of the Archive of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish
Memories.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

A Note on Transliteration ix

Introduction: Jewish Public Culture xi

1 The Jews of This World 1

2 Libraries: From the Study Hall to the Public Library 24

3 Reading: From Sacred Duty to Leisure Time 67

4 Literary Societies: The Culture of Language and the Language of Culture 114

5 Cultural Performance: The People of the Book and the Spoken Word 141

6 Theater: The Professionalization of Performance 165

7 Musical and Dramatic Societies: Amateur Performers and Audiences 196

8 The Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society: Collecting the Jewish Past 229

9 Public History: Imagining Russian Jews 261

Conclusion: This World and the Next 283

Notes 293

Bibliography 339

Index 361

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