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DIFFICULT RETURNS: RECONVERTS AS PUBLISHERS OF JEWISH BOOKS – MOSHE BEN ABRAHAM AVINU, SIMCHA BUNIM AND ISRAEL BAR AVRAHAM 1792 (Trudne powroty: rekonwertyci jako wydawcy ksiązek zydowskich – Mosze ben Awraham Awinu i Israel bar Abraham)

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The instances of reconversion to Judaism are particularly difficult to study. We either know the biographies of Jewish converts from the Jewish and Christian periods of their lives but once they return to the Jewish religion, any trace of them is lost, or it is the other way round: we are dealing with Jewish reconverts, about whose previous Jewish or Christian ‘incarnations' we hardly know anything. Tak wlaśnie bylo w przypadku wydawców, o których mowa w niniejszym artykule. Why did they become publishers? After the change of faith, converts typically try to do the work they have mastered, using the knowledge and skills obtained in the original milieu. If they hailed from Jewish intelligentsia, once they joined the Christian community they became university teachers, censors of Jewish books, or wrote books about Jews and Jewish traditions. Those converting to Judaic faith faced a bigger problem because the Jews did not need experts in Christianity. The reconverts did not find the going easy either but still it was less taxing than the life of Christian converts to Judaism. They were helped by the knowledge of the Jewish languages and familiarity with Hebrew, Aramaic and Yiddish literature. As they could not dream of a career as rabbis, the profession of a printer or publisher of Jewish books appeared to be the optimum choice. Their competence attests to the fact that they must have hailed from the Jewish community, have studied in quality yeshivas or have gained experience in Jewish publishing businesses. Whatever scant information about them we have, we owe it to their very profession: we find it on title pages or in the colophons of the books published by them, and also in official documentation concerning their activities, regulated as they were both by the Christian powers and Jewish religious authorities.
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  • dr hab. Jan Doktór – Zydowski Instytut Historyczny w Warszawie, Poland
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