15 December 2020: Of Chicken and Eggs. Jewish Political Agency in the Context of Jewish Self-Government in the Polish Lands

A message of welcome from
Sir Ben Helfgott, 
Life Patron of the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, and former Chairman


“The Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies has again organised an inspiring range of events to remind us of the rich legacy of Jewish life in Poland, and in Eastern Europe more generally. Lectures, book launches, workshops and the annual conference to launch the new volume of Polin. Studies in Polish Jewry bring the state of the art in this field to a London audience. I very much look forward to join these events, many of which will also be accessible from further afield by computer.”



15 Dec 2020 – with UCL’s Institute of Jewish Studies (UCL IJS) and on Zoom:
Of Chicken and Eggs: Jewish Political Agency in the Context of Jewish Self-Government in the Polish Lands
IPJS Chair François Guesnet in discussion with IPJS Founder and Vice-President Antony Polonsky.
Jewish self-government in the Polish lands has since long been recognised as one of the defining features of the Eastern European Jewish experience. In this lecture, François Guesnet will first reflect on the origin of some of the most salient features of the Jewish community in Eastern Europe, such as the strong position of the community board (kahal) and regional and national representation in Councils (va’adim), in the medieval and early modern period. He will then explore to which degree this specific encounter shaped ideas and practices about political leadership and agency in later periods.

François Guesnet is Professor in Modern Jewish History in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London. He is also the Chair of the Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies, and the co-chair of the editorial board of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry. He holds a PhD in Modern History from Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg im Breisgau, and specializes in the early modern and 19th century history of Eastern European, and more specifically, Polish Jews. He has published widely on Polish-Jewish history, and most recently contributed to the Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. VII (2018). His current areas of research include: Jewish political tradition (shtadlanut); Jewish autonomy in eastern Europe; Sir Moses Montefiore; history of antisemitism; and history of the body (Plica polonica).

Professor Antony Polonsky, Emeritus Professor, Brandeis University, and founder of the IPJS, was Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies since 1999, an appointment held jointly with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He has also been a visiting professor at the University of Warsaw, the Institute for the Human Sciences, Vienna and the University of Cape Town, Skirball visiting fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Senior Associate Member of Saint Antony’s College, Oxford and Honorary Research Fellow at University College, London.