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Dr. Mariusz Kałczewiak

Assoziiertes Mitglied / Kollegium Jüdische Studien

Universität Potsdam
Institut für Slavistik

Manly Choices. Concepts, Constructions andPerformativity of Polish-Jewish Masculinities, 1890s-1930s

What did it mean to be a Jew and a man in early 20th-century Poland? How was Jewish masculinity negotiated and performed, what values and attributes did Polish Jews define as “masculine values” and how did they construct models which validated their masculinity? This research project explores the evolution of Polish-Jewish masculinities between the 1890s and 1930s.The gendered perspective allows to rethink what we know about Polish Jews since it gives attention to masculine values which Jewish and non-Jewish men shared and illuminates on how Jewish men constructed their identities not only as Jews, but also as men. As tradition and religion were losing their monopoly over the Jewish souls in Poland, at the turn of the 20th century Jewish men faced a need to re-conceptualize who they were and who they aspired to be. Polish-Jewish masculinities were intersectionally defined by age, socio-economic status, level of religiosity, place of residence, patterns of exchange with the non-Jewish surrounding, character of familial relations and by how non-Jews and the state perceived Jewish men.  The areas which this projects explores include diverse spaces were masculinity was performed: yeshivot and beis midrashim, army, youth movements, sport clubs or university associations. I analyze memoirs and biographies of Jewish men, explore press discourses, programs and activities of youth movements, pedagogy books, reports of Jewish students associations, and Polish non-Jewish sources concerning Jewish presence in the army, sports and business.