Polish modern literature and Judaism

Referent: prof. dr hab. Sławomir Żurek

Data: 28 maja 2023

Godzina: 20:00

On the 28th of May we gathered to focus on a new aspect of Judaic culture – its influence on Polish literature. The referent, who prepared the lecture for us, was professor Sławomir Żurek, a specialist in the field of the history and cultural heritage of the Jews in Eastern and the Western Europe. In the lecture the professor explained what are the Jewish topoi and their sources as well as the most important roots of the Jewish culture: the written Torah, the spoken Torah – Talmud and the Kabbalah. Listening to the lecture was a unique opportunity to understand what the Torah means for the Jewish and how important it is to read it – as the Jews believe, the one and only way to unite with God is by reading Torah, as it is not just a book, but she is a lot more. The Torah is created of living letters, she is the Bride of HaShem [HaShem in Hebrew means “the name”, in Judaism it refers to God) and as the Jews believe she is the only woman worth devoting one’s life. She is not only a book, but the whole library, teaching the Jews how to live outside Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel). After clarifying the sources of Jewish culture, the professor moved on to the topic of the Polish writers with Jewish roots in the 19th century – the only gate for them to belong to the culture and be active in it was to receive baptism. We need to keep in mind that reading was not a common competence in the 19th century, only 7% of the Polish population was literate, within this group there were many Poles with Jewish roots.The next point of the lecture was an explanation of the Shabbat and its meaning in the context of the Jewish topoi, the topos of the Ahasverus – a Jew as an everlasting wanderer. In the finishing part it was brought to our attention that there have been four new topoi since the Holocaust, which is their newest source in the Jewish culture. They were confronted with the topos of polish martyrology. To sum up his speech, the professor stated that Polish literature is full of the Jewish ghosts.