The Jews of Pin­sk, 1506 to 1880

Mordechai Nadav; Moshe Ros­man and Faigie Trop­per, trans.
  • Review
By – January 27, 2012

In the wake of the Holo­caust, it is too often assumed that the his­to­ry of the anni­hi­lat­ed com­mu­ni­ties is lost. The Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of Pin­sk, now in Belarus, exist­ed for over 400 years as a prin­ci­pal cen­ter of Pol­ish-Lithuan­ian Jew­ry. Its his­to­ry was pre­served in one of the most ambi­tious yizkor memo­r­i­al books pub­lished in the gen­er­a­tion after the Holo­caust. The edi­tors and trans­la­tors of this remark­able vol­ume are to be con­grat­u­lat­ed for mak­ing a por­tion acces­si­ble to those unable to read the Hebrew original. 

Con­struct­ed on a wide-rang­ing foun­da­tion of research into sources in Hebrew, Yid­dish, Pol­ish, Russ­ian, Ger­man, and Latin, the sto­ry of Pin­sk Jew­ry is told here with regard to its eco­nom­ic, demo­graph­ic, cul­tur­al, polit­i­cal, and reli­gious devel­op­ment. Both the community’s suc­cess­es and tra­vails are recount­ed, as well as the intense strug­gles between the ris­ing Hasidic move­ment and its Ortho­dox oppo­nents, even as Pin­sk became a cen­ter of mod­ern­iz­ing Haskalah ten­den­cies. Broad social, intel­lec­tu­al, and cul­tur­al trends are explored and por­trayed through inti­mate fam­i­ly his­to­ries drawn from a vari­ety of sources. One hopes that the remain­der of the his­to­ry of Pin­sk Jew­ry will also soon appear in such a read­able form. This book should be part of any seri­ous Jew­ish library. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, maps, notes, photographs.
Robert Moses Shapiro teach­es mod­ern Jew­ish his­to­ry, Holo­caust stud­ies, and Yid­dish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture at Brook­lyn Col­lege of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. His most recent book is The War­saw Ghet­to Oyneg Shabes-Ringel­blum Archive: Cat­a­log and Guide (Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press in asso­ci­a­tion with the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Library and the Jew­ish His­tor­i­cal Insti­tute in War­saw, 2009). He is cur­rent­ly engaged in trans­lat­ing Pol­ish and Yid­dish diaries from the Łódź ghet­to and the Yid­dish Son­derkom­man­do doc­u­ments found buried in the ash pits at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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