The Machine Matzah Controversy
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
1M ago
The Industrial Revolution brought the mechanization of manual labor, and this reached the matzah baking industry in the mid-19th century. Although it was initially accepted in Western Europe, when it arrived in Galicia in 1857, it sparked a controversy between leading rabbinical authorities regarding the permissibility of its use. Tracing the development of the stages of this dispute leads one to the underlying reasoning of the opponents of the new machine. Beneath the veneer of a generic halachic difference of opinion, was the confrontation with modernity with modern technology as its express ..read more
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Beyond the Pale: Russian Jewry outside the Pale of Settlement
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
1M ago
The Russian Czarist government restricted Russian Jewry to the western provinces of the empire through a series of legislative acts, which came to be known as the Pale of Settlement. Starting in the 1850’s, provisions were enacted which enabled certain types of Jews to reside outside the Pale. Wealthy merchants, those with academic degrees, certain kinds of military veterans and craftsman, were gradually permitted to reside anywhere they desired across the Russian Empire. This process is now referred to as selective integration, and it proceeded quite slowly, and was often accompanied by other ..read more
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The Yeshiva Elite in 19th Century Lithuania
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
2M ago
A dominant feature of religious life of the 20th century has been the centrality of the Yeshiva institution for intensive Torah study. The modern yeshiva is a direct byproduct of its antecedents in the Russian Empire of the 19th century. The old oligarchy which controlled Jewish communal life in Eastern Europe for centuries, was a combination of the rabbinical and financial elite. The personality of the Vilna Gaon and his legacy among Lithuanian Jews cemented the scholarly ideal of total dedication to Torah study and knowledge. His prime student established the first modern yeshiva in Volozhin ..read more
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Censorship in Czarist Russia
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
2M ago
The Czarist government implemented a policy of censorship of all published material in the empire, whether it was imported or printed locally. Though this was a general policy, there were unique particularities regarding the censorship of Jewish works. In the early years following the partitions of Poland, there wasn’t an effective mechanism of censoring in place, and it was only in 1826 when censorship for Jewish works was implemented in a systematic fashion. The government utilized the tool of censorship in order to assist in solving what they termed ‘the Jewish question’. Censorship of reli ..read more
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Cantonists & The Czarist Military (+ Recap of a Trip to Ashkenaz/Germany) Featuring Dovi Safier
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
3M ago
In 1827 Czar Nicholas I implemented the military draft on the Jewish community of Russia as a means of integrating Jews into Russian society. The Jewish kahal was required to supply the young recruits, who then generally served for 25 years in the Czar’s army. The most infamous element of the draft was the cantonists. These were a select group of future draftees who were taken at a younger age to special cantonist brigades, where they underwent paramilitary training, and significant percentages of its ranks converted to the Russian Orthodox Church. The story of the cantonists in Czar Nicholas ..read more
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The Chassidic Movement in the Russian Empire
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
3M ago
The cradle of the Chassidic movement was in the areas of the Polish Kingdom which were soon annexed to the Russian Empire during the partitions of Poland in the last quarter of the 18th century. This took place just as the nascent movement was spreading rapidly throughout these areas and beyond. Chabad in White Russia, the various branches of the Chernobyl and Ruzhyn dynasties in Ukraine, Karlin, Slonim, Apta, Savran, Breslov and many other smaller dynasties dotted the countryside across the Pale of Settlement. The Czarist government initially didn’t recognize the chassidim as a separate entit ..read more
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Russian Jewry under the Czars 1881-1914
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
3M ago
The aftermath of the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881 was a watershed time period in Russian Jewish history. A reactionary phase led to the passing of the infamous May Laws which restricted Jewish life, and reversed many of the previous reforms. A series of violent pogroms broke out primarily in Ukraine and southern Russia in 1881-1884. There was a mass expulsion of Jews from Moscow and its environs in 1892, ostensibly because they were residing there illegally outside the Pale of Settlement. Further restrictions were promulgated by the reactionary government of Czar Alexander III co ..read more
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Russian Jewry under the Czars 1772-1881
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
4M ago
From the time of the first partition of Poland in 1772, until the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Czarist Russian Empire was host to the largest Jewish population in the world. The generally antisemitic Romanov dynasty early on formulated solutions to what they referred to as the ‘Jewish question’. Based on the twin themes of subjugating the Jewish populace with a series of discriminatory and restrictive measures, while also attempting to integrate the Jews into the general population, the Czarist government fluctuated between the proverbial carrot and stick throughout the 19th century. Russia ..read more
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Galician Greatness: Rav Shlomo Kluger
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
4M ago
World renowned posek of the 19th century, prolific author and courageous leader, Rav Shlomo Kluger (1785-1869) achieved immortality in the Torah world through his nearly half century tenure as Magid and Av Beis Din in the prominent Galicia town of Brody. As political and economic changes swept through the Habsburg Empire over the course of the 19th century, traditional norms changed, technological advances brought new challenges and the hegemony of the traditional Kahal (Jewish communal autonomy) was irrevocably transformed. Rav Shlomo Kluger emerged as a charismatic and strong minded leader d ..read more
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The Legacy & Impact of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
Jewish History Soundbites
by Yehuda Geberer
4M ago
As the architect of Orthodoxy in the modern era, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) has an outsized impact on the Torah world until this very day. In his own lifetime his leadership of German Jewry overall and in particular his own community of Frankfurt stemmed the tide towards secularization, and created a framework for a flourishing Torah community within modern life. His seminal works of The 19 Letters, Horeb, commentary on Chumash and hundreds of articles of his Collected Writings, formed the basis of his Torah outlook in the face of new challenges. Yet his influence wasn’t limited t ..read more
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