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Yankel's Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland Hardcover – December 16, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0199988518 ISBN-10: 019998851X Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"The best English language work on the subject of Jewish tavernkeeping in nineteenth-century Poland....Dynner's short monograph is a remarkable achievement. The book is one of those rare academic accomplishments: persuasive yet concise. The frequent turn to literary references makes sense given Dynner's own elegant, almost effortless prose. There are protagonists and antagonists, evocative settings and fits of sentimentality (intended or not). Any historian of East European Jewry will find much to feast on inside Yankel's tavern."--European History Quarterly


"Glenn Dynner has written a history of Jewish tavern keepers that serves as a point of entry into a much broader challenge to a surprisingly diverse swath of conventional wisdom about Jewish life in the Polish lands of the Russian Empire. For this reason, Yankel s Tavern should be required reading for anyone interested in Jewish history, Polish history, Russian imperial history, nationalism and national identity, and the economic history of eastern Europe. Without ever adopting an aggressive or polemical tone, Dynner has launched several debates that are sure to continue for years to come....[Dynner]offers a story of nuance and complexity, one that defies any attempt to squeeze it into the simplistic dualities that have long weakened both Polish and Jewish history. This alone should place Yankel's Tavern on everyone's must-read list."--AJS Review


"[An] erudite, meticulously researched, and refreshingly original new book..."
--Jewish Review of Books


"Yankel's Tavern is an interesting work that provides insight into the social, economic, political and religious realities of Jews during this time period. The book is a pleasure to read and accessible to the scholar and non-scholar alike."
--Association of Jewish Library Reviews


"Dynner s rich archival discoveries lead him into multifarious aspects of Jewish life in the Congress Kingdom. He offers a thoughtful survey of Jewish perspectives on the Polish insurrections of 1830 31 and 1863."--Times Literary Supplement


"The sacred, the profane, and the 45-percent proof are at the heart of Glenn Dynner's new book, Yankel's Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in the Kingdom of Poland. Like all fine scholarly work, this...volume contains multitudes." --Tablet Magazine


"Meticulously researched, judiciously analyzed and deeply engaging, Yankel's Tavern sets a new standard in Jewish social history. Dynner succeeds admirably in cutting through the swath of filio-pietistic myth and anti-Semitic invective that envelops the Eastern European Jewish past. His enthusiasm for reconstructing the 'tragi-comic' lives of ordinary people is positively infectious. A rich and stimulating read." --Olga Litvak, author of Haskalah: The Romantic Movement in Judaism


"Dynner shifts the focus of nineteenth-century Polish-Jewish history from government policy, ideological movements and secularization to the lives of real people and the persistence of traditional social, economic and cultural patterns. Using the pervasive liquor trade as a prism, he illuminates both the myths and the reality of the complexities and perplexities of the Polish-Jewish symbiosis." - Moshe Rosman, author of The Lords' Jews: Magnate-Jewish Relations in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth


"Based upon massive new archival research, Glenn Dynner presents a wide-ranging portrait of the Jewish-run tavern, a central but overlooked institution of Polish Jewry. Drawing on a remarkable range of sources - legal, administrative, rabbinic, and literary - he illuminates the social, economic, religious and political ramifications of his subject. A sobering view of an intoxicating subject, told with sensitivity, nuance, and balance." - Jerry Z. Muller, author of Capitalism and the Jews


About the Author


Glenn Dynner is Professor of Jewish Studies at Sarah Lawrence College. He is author of Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society, which received the Koret Publication Prize, and editor of Holy Dissent: Jewish and Christian Mystics in Eastern Europe. He has been a Fellow at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, and is currently the NEH Senior Scholar at the Center for Jewish History in New York.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019998851X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199988518
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.9 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,190,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Academic on May 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Finally a book that focuses on the more typical experience of Polish-Jewish coexistence, even if it wasn't always pleasant. Really well-written and informative.
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Format: Hardcover
The author has written a fascinating study that exhibits an obvious attempt at even-handedness. However, in common with many works on this subject, it treats Jews primarily as the servants of nobles and rulers, and devotes insufficient attention to the decision-making freedoms of Jews. The time period of this book is the late 1700's through the mid- and late-1800's, the era of Partition and post-Partition Poland.

JEWS FORCED TO BE TAVERN OWNERS?

Jews, of course, were not brought to Poland in chains. They came voluntarily, and under the condition that they be welcomed in the role of a merchant class.

Dynner repeats the argument (or exculpation) that Jews became tavern owners under compulsion, in that they usually were denied permission to purchase land, join artisan guilds and professions, etc. (p. 10). This is a chicken-or-egg question--or perhaps it was a reciprocal feedback process. In addition, Dynner undermines his own argument when he later cites the Hasidic tzaddik Menahem Mendel of 18th-century Vitebsk. This tzaddik claimed that the forcible removal of Jewish tavernkeepers was not disastrous, as these Jews simply found new occupations. (pp. 52-53).

Attempts by Poland's foreign rulers to remove Jews from tavern ownership proceeded in fits, starts, and reversals, over many decades, because liquor concessions were so lucrative (p. 57), and because officials feared the influx of multitudes of unemployed Jews. (p. 54). However, was the latter because Jews were forbidden from performing any other line of work, or was it because the economy could not speedily absorb them, especially in large numbers?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anastasiya Novatorskaya on September 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Wonderful book!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A well-written and researched history, but unless you are especially interested in the subject, you may find it tedious as it goes on.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Curious on January 18, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The work has no peer. For now it is a bit dull in many spots. There is some redundancy and it might have been better to focus on like forms of local or regional attempts to work about otherwise enforced regulations or laws in different periods and then summarize the history, referring back to a cited instance. There is a pattern there that is seen once and again and one feels that the Eighteenth and then the Nineteenth Century one lands yet again in a similar rut along the road. Still, with that reservation, the author makes a point that Jews provide reliable middlemen for the local lords and that with heads turned away from them, the Jews earned some substantial monies and status as providers of libation as well as lodging. To the extent that this has been previously ignored, the work is worthwhile. It is not terribly lengthy, but I suspect that it could have been cut by a quarter, or nearly so, with tight editing.
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