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Dr. Glenn Dynner: Yankel's Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in Poland

Sunday, August 18, 2024, 1:00 PM until 3:30 PM
Additional Info:
Event Contact(s):
Deborah Long
Monthly Meetings
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This will be a hybrid meeting. Zoom link will be sent one week in advance of the event.
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Dr. Glenn Dynner

Dr Glenn Dynner



In nineteenth-century Eastern Europe, the Jewish-run tavern was often the center of leisure, hospitality, business, and even religious festivities. This unusual situation came about because the nobles who owned taverns throughout the formerly Polish lands believed that only Jews were sober enough to run taverns profitably, a belief so ingrained as to endure even the rise of Hasidism's robust drinking culture. As liquor became the region's boom industry, Jewish tavernkeepers became integral to both local economies and local social life, presiding over Christian celebrations and dispensing advice, medical remedies and loans.

Nevertheless, reformers and government officials, blaming Jewish tavernkeepers for epidemic peasant drunkenness, sought to drive Jews out of the liquor trade. Their efforts were particularly intense and sustained in the Kingdom of Poland, a semi-autonomous province of the Russian empire that was often treated as a laboratory for social and political change. Historians have assumed that this spelled the end of the Polish Jewish liquor trade. However, newly discovered archival sources demonstrate that many nobles helped their Jewish tavernkeepers evade fees, bans and expulsions by installing Christians as fronts for their taverns. The result-a vast underground Jewish liquor trade-reflects an impressive level of local Polish-Jewish co-existence that contrasts with the more familiar story of anti-Semitism and violence. By tapping into sources that reveal the lives of everyday Jews and Christians in the Kingdom of Poland, 
Yankel's Tavern transforms our understanding of the region during the tumultuous period of Polish uprisings and Jewish mystical revival.


Glenn Davis Dynner  is an American author and historian specializing in religion and history of East European Jewry. He is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies and a Professor and Chair of Religion at Sarah Lawrence College.

Dynner received his B.A. in Comparative History from Brandeis University in 1993, his M.A. in Jewish Studies from McGill University in 1997, and his Ph.D. in Near Eastern & Judaic Studies from Brandeis University in 2002.

He works primarily in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew sources on the Jewish social and religious history in Poland, and specializes in the Hasidic movement.

In 2011, Dynner appeared on NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? with actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Throughout the episode, Dynner helps Gwyneth Paltrow uncover her ancestral Jewish past. On the same show and its spin-offs, he also consulted on the Rashida Jones and Bernie Sanders episodes.


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