Hasidism, a Jewish religious movement that originated in Poland in the eighteenth century, today counts over 700,000 adherents, primarily in the U.S., Israel, and the UK. Popular and scholarly interest in Hasidic Judaism and Hasidic Jews is growing, but there is no textbook dedicated to research methods in the field, nor sources for the history of Hasidism have been properly recognized. Studying Hasidism, edited by Marcin Wodziński, an internationally recognized historian of Hasidism, aims to remedy this gap. The work’s thirteen chapters each draws upon a set of different sources, many of them previously untapped, including folklore, music, big data, and material culture to demonstrate what is still to be achieved in the study of Hasidism. Ultimately, this textbook presents research methods that can decentralize the role community leaders play in the current literature and reclaim the everyday lives of Hasidic Jews.
This fascinating volume reveals some of the dark, dramatic episodes concealed in the folds of the hasidic cloak—shocking events and anomalous figures in the history of Hasidism. Using tools of detection, Assaf extracts historical truth from a variety of sources by examining how the same events are treated in different memory traditions, whether hasidic, maskilic, or modern historical, and tells the stories of individuals from the hasidic elites who found themselves unable to walk the trodden path. By placing these episodes and individuals under his historical lens, Assaf offers a more nuanced historical portrayal of Hasidism in the nineteenth-century context.