Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire

Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire

Jeffrey Veidlinger
Distribution: World
Publication date: 04/14/2009
Format: Paperback 18 b&w photos, 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-22058-5
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Winner, 2010 Canadian Jewish Book Awards, Scholarship on a Jewish Subject categoryWinner, J.I. Segal Award

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 Dubnov—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.

Author Bio

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.


“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

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Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration
Introduction: Jewish Public Culture
1. The Jews of this World
2. Libraries: From the Study Hall to the Public Library
3. Reading: From Sacred Duty to Leisure Time
4. Literary Societies: The Culture of Language and the Language of Culture
5. Cultural Performance: The People of the Book and the Spoken Word
6. Theater: The Professionalization of Performance
7. Musical and Dramatic Societies: Amateur Performers and Audiences
8. The Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society: Collecting the Jewish Past
9. Public History: Imagining Russian Jews
Conclusion: …and They Gathered