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Place in Modern Jewish Culture and Society$
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Richard I. Cohen

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190912628

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190912628.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 October 2021

Home for the Homeless? The Hekdesh in Eastern Europe

Home for the Homeless? The Hekdesh in Eastern Europe

(p.3) Home for the Homeless? The Hekdesh in Eastern Europe
Place in Modern Jewish Culture and Society

Natan M. Meir

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the hekdesh, one of the grimmest institutions in East European Jewish society. The hekdesh, or Jewish hospital-cum-poorhouse, is a somewhat elusive historical phenomenon but also a useful venue for analyzing traditional forms of Jewish charity in the Russian Empire as well as the dynamics of social marginality among Russian and Polish Jews. The chapter first considers an important characteristic of Jewish charity—the tendency to distinguish between conjunctural poverty and structural poverty—before discussing the hekdesh as an institution. In particular, it describes efforts to transform the hekdesh into a true medical institution and its incarnation in the late nineteenth century as a place for beggars and other cast-offs of society, with only a nominal connection to caring for the sick. It also explains how the hekdesh may have served to perpetuate the problem of begging and vagrancy.

Keywords:   Hekdesh, East Europe, Jewish society, Jewish charity, Jews, poverty, beggars, begging, vagrancy, Bikur Holim

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