Hundert on Weinryb

Reflections by
Gershon Hundert
McGill University

Bernard D. Weinryb, “Texts and Studies in the Communal History of Polish Jewry,” PAAJR 19 (1950), 1-110 (English Section); 1- 264 (Hebrew Section)

Bernard Dov Weinryb’s “Texts and Studies in the Communal History of Polish Jewry,” consisting of excerpts from the minute books of Włodawa, Kraków and Poznań, is one of the very few scholarly publications of this rich genre of materials. Pinkassim  (in this context “minute books”) are an exceedingly rich and under-exploited source of information about Jews in early modern Europe. They can facilitate research in multiple disciplines including studies of pluralism and ethnic autonomy with obvious implications for the present and they can also contribute meaningfully to the study of the development of the nation state, of urban organization and government, and Jewish-Christian relations.

This is in addition to obvious connections to the history of the Hebrew language, Jewish law, and the Jewish experience in Europe as well as aspects of vie quotidienne such as dress and foodways. For example, the kahal limited and policed marriages of the poor lest they become a financial burden on the community and, especially in the case of Poznań, because of overcrowding. Similarly, the kahal forbade servants to marry without a special permit that could be granted only with a two-thirds majority decision of the elders. A gendered analysis of the communal records, something not taken up by Weinryb, would repay an enterprising researcher richly.


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