Bundist Counterculture in Interwar Poland by Jack Jacobs

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In the years between the two world wars, the Jewish community of Poland—the largest in Europe—was the cultural heart of the Jewish diaspora. The Jewish Workers’ Bund, which had a socialist, secularist, Yiddishist, and anti-Zionist orientation, won a series of important electoral battles in Poland on the eve of the Second World War and became a major political party. Many earlier works on the politics of Polish Jewry have suggested that Bundist victories were ephemeral or attributable to outside forces. Jack Jacobs, however, argues convincingly that the electoral success of the Bund was linked to the long-term efforts of the constellation of cultural, educational, and other movements revolving around the party. The Bundist movements for children, youth, and women, and for physical education offered highly innovative programs and promoted countercultural values. Drawing on meticulously researched archival materials, Jacobs shows how the development of these programs—such as a program to provide sex education to working-class Jewish youth—translated into a stronger, more robust party. At the same time, he suggests the Bund’s limitations, highlighting its failed women’s movement. Jacobs provides a fascinating account of Bundist movements and a thoughtful revision to the accepted view.

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