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Men of SilkThe Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society$
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Glenn Dynner

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195175226

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195175226.001.0001

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Charlatans or “Lovers of Israel”?

Charlatans or “Lovers of Israel”?

Evaluating Hasidic Populism

(p.137) 5 Charlatans or “Lovers of Israel”?
Men of Silk

Glenn Dynner (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter evaluates the movement's grassroots appeal through its miracle working enterprises, arguing that Polish zaddikim were neither charlatans, nor were they, technically speaking, “popular” leaders. In their embrace of folk religion, they were apparently sincere and differed little from traditional mystical practitioners,ba'alei shem, but differed markedly in their social status and concomitant influence among the Jewish masses and Polish officialdom. Women and youth obtained unprecedented access to zaddikim; yet followers from the Jewish elite granted special or lengthier audiences and were groomed for leadership succession. The chapter concludes with a look at the most ambivalent zaddik with respect to miracle working, R. Simha Bunem of Przysucha.

Keywords:   Jews, Hasidism, Poland, Eastern Europe, ba'al shem, zaddik, popular religion, miracles, women, adolescents

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