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Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 1Poles and Jews: Renewing the Dialogue$
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Antony Polonsky

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113171

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113171.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

Jewish Perceptions of Insecurity and Powerlessness in 16th-18th Century Poland

Jewish Perceptions of Insecurity and Powerlessness in 16th-18th Century Poland

(p.19) Jewish Perceptions of Insecurity and Powerlessness in 16th-18th Century Poland*
Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 1

M. J. Rosman

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the fundamental security and the economic and political power which the Jews possessed in 16th–18th century Poland. While many Polish Jews recognized that they were essentially secure in fact and behaved accordingly, at least some of the rabbinic and lay leadership felt that this security was a precarious one, threatened from many quarters, not to be taken for granted. Ultimate power belonged to someone else — the king who decreed, the nobility who enforced, the mob who attacked. These elements had to be pleased or placated; otherwise, seeming Jewish security might quickly evaporate. The feelings of powerlessness that some Jews felt can be detected in many of the stories about the founder of Hasidism, Israel Ba'al Shem Tov, and his successors, which show that part of the Hasidic leader's popular appeal was his ability to avert Jewish falls from the graces of the ruling authorities or his knack for outsmarting non-Jewish opponents.

Keywords:   Jews, economic power, political power, Poland, Polish Jews, Jewish security, rabbinic leadership, powerlessness, Hasidism, Israel Ba'al Shem Tov

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