Christian Maidservants in Jewish Households in Early 20th Century Poland Cover Image
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Christian Maidservants in Jewish Households in Early 20th Century Poland
Christian Maidservants in Jewish Households in Early 20th Century Poland

Author(s): Blanka Górecka
Subject(s): History, Jewish studies, Jewish Thought and Philosophy, History of Judaism
Published by: Żydowski Instytut Historyczny
Keywords: domestic service; Polish-Jewish relations; women employment in Poland; Jewish household

Summary/Abstract: This piece deals with Christian maidservants working in Jewish Households in Polish lands in the early 20th century. The matter is virtually absent from historical writings and whatever infrequent publications raise this topic, they point to the lack of broader in-depth studies. The article is based on deepened interviews conducted by the author in the years 2008-2015 with Polish Catholics and Jews born before 1930. It focuses on the encounters between Christian and Jewish religiousness in the intimate home space (cooking, prayer, home rites, etc.). It analyses, on the one hand, the scope of insight and participation of each party in the ritual and spiritual world of the other, while also looking at the ways in which this was perceived and reported by the sources of such information. The author also seeks to demonstrate the scale of the phenomenon consisting in the employment of Christian servants in Jewish households. Servanthood was one of the more popular occupations among employed women in urban areas, typically involving residence in the employer’s home. The proportion of Jewish households employing non-Jewish servants was considerable and, according to the author, could exceed 25% in the larger cities. This discloses the immense and as yet unresearched scope of Christian-Jewish contact, one of a continuous, long-term and intimate nature, a contact that must have exerted a impact on the evolution of the attitudes, distances and mutual perceptions of Poles and Jews; it also engendered a social practice that maintained ongoing dialogue with Christian and Jewish standards, testing them and forcing the adoption of compromises.

  • Issue Year: 259/2016
  • Issue No: 03
  • Page Range: 629-651
  • Page Count: 23
  • Language: English