UBC Lectures, Seminars, and Symposia

Imagining Jewish Carpathians : The Myth of Baal Shem Tov in the Yiddish and Polish Literature of the 20th Century Moskalets, Vladyslava


This talk explores how Jewish Yiddish and Polish literature interpreted the image of Baal Shem Tov in the 20th century. Baal Shem Tov, the 18th-century founder of Hasidism, who developed some of his ideas during meditations in the Carpathians, became an important symbol in Yiddish and Polish secular texts. His figure is one of the points where Jewish and Polish narratives intersect. Reporters and tourists visiting the mountains during the interwar period, among them Warsaw Yiddish journalist Yoel Mastboym looked for traces of Baal Shem Tov in local towns and valleys. They were disappointed in the tourist industry, which, according to them, ruined Carpathian authenticity. Following the steps of Baal Shem Tov was their way to appropriate nature as an integral part of Jewish mysticism and religion. For Polish writers, such as Stanislav Vincenz, Baal-Shem Tov became a symbol of Jewish spirituality, inseparably connected with Carpathian nature. The figure of Baal Shem in the imagination of interwar writers helped to find common ground in understanding the complex multicultural Carpathian ethnic landscape.

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Attribution 4.0 International