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Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16Focusing on Jewish Popular Culture and Its Afterlife$
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Michael C. Steinlauf and Antony Polonsky

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774730

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774730.001.0001

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Simkhe Plakhte: From ‘Folklore’ to Literary Artefact

Simkhe Plakhte: From ‘Folklore’ to Literary Artefact

(p.119) Simkhe Plakhte: From ‘Folklore’ to Literary Artefact
Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16

Seth L. Wolitz

Liverpool University Press

This chapter evaluates the Polish Jewish folk motif and figure of Simkhe Plakhte. This topic deserves closer attention because of its wide popularity and extensive literary reworking among Polish Jews during the twentieth century. The putative folk tale of Simkhe Plakhte projects a character drawn from the shtetl underclass who not only subverts the established social order of the traditional Jewish world, but also earns respect from the non-Jewish ruling class of the old Polish Commonwealth. While the tale contains maskilic elements of anti-hasidic satire, it is also a conscious expression of Jewish fantasy and wish-fulfilment, reflecting a specific Polish Jewish milieu in the nineteenth century. These elements go far towards explaining the wide interest this material has sustained.

Keywords:   Polish Jewish folklore, Simkhe Plakhte, Polish Jews, shtetl, Jewish world, non-Jewish ruling class, Polish Commonwealth, anti-hasidic satire, Jewish fantasy

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