Jewish Self-Government in Eastern Europe

Jewish Self-Government in Eastern Europe - seminar

Source: IPJS - Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies

This event is organised by the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies and the Institute of Jewish Studies, UCL. Co-organised and supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London and the Polish Cultural Institute, London

Jewish Self-Government in Eastern Europe
A One-day Online Conference to Launch

Tuesday, 1 February 2022 10:00 – 17:00 GMT on Zoom
(Due to the ongoing pandemic, the conference will now take place entirely online)

Few features have shaped east European Jewish history as much as the extent and continuity of Jewish self-rule, the topic explored by the new volume of Polin. Studies in Polish Jewry. Extensive autonomy and complex structures of civil and religious leadership were central features of the Jewish experience in this region. The volume probes the emergence of such structures from the late medieval period onwards, looking at the legal position of the individual community and its role as a political actor. Themes to be discussed at the conference are the emergence of the unique features of Jewish self-governance in the Polish and Lithuanian lands, including the implementation of Jewish law, the role of Jewish councils, a remarkable feature of supra-communal representation in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It will reflect on the dynamic nature of negotiating the place of the self-governing community in the fabric of the Commonwealth and the developments after the partitions Co-operation between representatives of the Jewish and non-Jewish communities at the local level is discussed down to the interwar years, when Jewish self-government was considered both a cherished legacy of pre-partition autonomy and a threat to the modern nation state. The conference will conclude with a personal reflection by a leading member of the Warsaw Jewish community about the transition from the People’s Republic to the 1990s.

The conference will have four panels: an introduction to the overall volume, a reflection on the emergence of the Jewish community in Poland-Lithuania with a strong legal framework of self-governance, a panel reflecting on the different trajectories negotiating Jewish self-governance in Poland and eastern Europe in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and a personal reflection on Jewish communal institution in the transition from the 1980s to the 1990s.

10:00 GMT - Welcome by the Polish Enbassy and the IPJS


Panel 1: Introducing the new volume of Polin. Studies in Polish Jewry

François Guesnet (UCL)
Antony Polonsky (GEOP/Polin Museum Warsaw)

Panel 2: The Emergence of a Jewish Polity

Jürgen Heyde (GWZO Leipzig) Autonomy and entanglement –on the Agency of Jewish communities in Early Modern Poland
Anna Michałowska-Mycielska (University of Warsaw) Jews and the Noble Sejm and Sejmiki in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Panel 3: Negotiating Self-Governance

Martin Borysek (University of Potsdam) Looking across the border: Jewish trans-communal networks in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown after the Thirty Years' War
Cornelia Aust (Bielefeld University) Burying the Dead, Saving the Community: The Jewish Burial Society in Praga as Informal Centre of Jewish Self-Government
Marcos Silber (Haifa) Learning the Past, Planning the Future: Jewish Autonomism at the beginning of the 20th Century

Panel 4: The Jewish community in Poland from Communism to the Present

Helena Datner (Warsaw)


BOOKING ESSENTIAL General admission £8 student concessions £5


Registration is via Eventbrite. Please click the REGISTER button and fill in your details on the Eventbrite site. Once you have registered, you will receive your Zoom link with your Eventbrite confirmation. This zoom link will be sent to you once again just before the lecture takes place.