Polish-Jewish Literature

The first works written by Jews in the Polish language date back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and are associated with the Frankism movement. The teachings of J. Frank, written by his pupils, have survived. The assimilationist movement that developed in Poland in the nineteenth century promoted publicistic writings and Jewish literature in Polish. These were published, for example, in Dostrzegacz Nadwislanski - Der Beobachter an der Weichsel [Polish and Yiddish/German, The Vistula Observer] (1823-24), Izraelita Polski [Polish, The Polish Israelite] (1830-31), Jutrzenka [Polish, Morning Star] (1861-63), and Izraelita [Polish, Israelite] (1866-1915). D. Neufeld, the publisher of Jutrzenka, translated the Jewish prayer book (mahzor) into Polish. Another assimilationist, D. Rundo, translated selections from the Talmudic midrashim, and I. Cylkow, rabbi from a progressive synagogue in Warsaw, translated the Bible and mahzor, and published his own sermons in Polish. M. Jastrow was one of the first to preach in a Warsaw synagogue in Polish; he also published his sermons.

The Polish-language works of literature written by nineteenth-century assimilationists, such as novellas by W. Feldman and H. Nussbaum, did not survive the test of time, but remain an interesting document from that period. A. Kraushar wrote poetry. The first female Jewish writer in Poland was M. Meyersonowa, author of Dawid (Polish, David) (1878) and the stories Z ciasnej sfery (Polish, From a Crowded Sphere) (1878). Assimilated Jews translated literature from foreign languages, primarily from German, thus helping to introduce those works into Polish culture.

In the twentieth century, as Jews' political awareness grew, and as increasing numbers gained access to education and were becoming assimilated, Jewish literature began to be written in Polish, as did works bordering on both cultures. Many assimilated writers and poets were active whose works should be considered part of Polish literature. The criterion differentiating these two types of literature is their audience (whether the readership was Jewish or Polish), as well as the authors' own self-identification. The journalists and writers associated with the publications Nasz Przegl�d (Polish, Our Review) (1923-39), Chwila (Polish, A While (1919-30) and Opinia (Polish, Opinion) (1933-35), should be considered part of the first group. Although they were published in Polish, they represented the Jewish national point of view, and supported Zionism. Authors of this group, among many, included Y. Appenshlak, M. Arnstein, I. Berman, H. Hescheles and W. Shlengl. Their writing, not included in the Polish national literary canon, has been all but forgotten. They made a valuable contribution through their translations, which exposed Polish culture to some of the masterpieces of modern Western literature, such as the writings of F. Kafka.
Literary works addressed to Polish audiences that were written by Jewish authors (or those of Jewish ancestry) are regarded as an integral part of Polish literature. Some such authors include J. Korczak, A. Rudnicki, J. Brzechwa (J. Lesman) and B. Lesmian (B. Lesman); the Skamandrites: J. Tuwim, A. Slonimski, J. Lechon (L. Serafinowicz), K. Wierzynski; the poets J. Wittlin, A. Wazyk (A. Wagman), A. Wat (A. Chwat), W. Slobodnik; the author of cabaret texts, M. Hemar (M. Hescheles); representatives of the avant-garde in literature: B. Jasienski (B. Zysman), M. Jastrun (M. Agatstein), A. Stern, B. Winawer and T. Peiper; and the contemporary writers J. Stryjkowski and H. Grynberg.

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