Lelov : cultural memory and a Jewish town in Poland : investigating the identity and history of an ultra-orthodox society

Author/s: Lucja Morawska, PhD
Availability: Open Access
Type: Thesis
Year: 2011

Abstract: Lelov, an otherwise quiet village about fifty miles south of Cracow (Poland), is where Rebbe Dovid (David) Biederman founder of the Lelov ultra-orthodox (Chasidic) Jewish group, - is buried. His grave is now a focal point of the Chasidic pilgrimages. The pilgrims themselves are a Chasidic hodgepodge, dressed in fur-brimmed hats, dreadlocked, and they all come to Lelov for the same reasons: to pray, love, and eat with their brethren. The number of pilgrims has grown exponentially since the collapse of Communism in Poland in 1989; today about three hundred ultra-orthodox Jews make a trek. Mass pilgrimage to kevorim (Chasidic graves), is quite a new phenomenon in Eastern Europe but it has already became part of Chasidic identity. This thesis focuses on the Chasidic pilgrimage which has always been a major part of the Jewish tradition. However, for the past fifty years, only a devoted few have been able to undertake trips back to Poland. With the collapse of Communism, when the sites in Eastern and Central Europe became more open and much more accessible, the ultra-orthodox Jews were among the first to create a ‘return movement’. Those who had been the last to leave Poland in search of asylum are now becoming the initiators of the re-discovery of Jewish symbols in this part of the world.

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