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Post Vilnius, "Jerusalem of Lithuania"; Polish Tatars
Created by John Eipper on 04/08/19 3:12 AM

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Vilnius, "Jerusalem of Lithuania"; Polish Tatars (Edward Jajko, USA, 04/08/19 3:12 am)

As a gloss on Henry Levin's words (April 3rd) about the former Jewish presence in Lithuania.  Vilnius--then known as Wilno in Polish and Vilne in Yiddish--had so many yeshivahs and academies of Jewish learning, and learned rabbis and scholars as well as Jewish publishers, that it was renowned as "Yerushalayim d'Lita," the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

The standard edition of the Babylonian Talmud is the Vilna edition published there by the Widow and Brothers Romm in 1886. This continues to be the standard edition, photographically reproduced. (Aficionados of Wikipedia should note that the article about this work is under title "Vilna edition Shas," "Shas" being the Hebrew acronym for "SHishah Sedarim," the Six Orders of the Mishnah.)

A note on Tom Hashimoto's reference to Muslim settlement in or near Trakai, Lithuania: this settlement dates back to the 14th century, when animist Tatars settled among yet-pagan Lithuanian tribes. Later, Muslim Tatars were allowed to settle among Catholic Christian Lithuanians and Poles, serving in the military (I see some parallel to the status of the Druse in the State of Israel). In Poland, the Tatarzy have long since been an assimilated group, thoroughly Polish albeit Muslim (although in his great nationalistic epic novels, Henryk Sienkiewicz has characters like Zagłoba say that the Polish warrior who kills a Tatar gains a plenary indulgence).

JE comments:  How did I not know about the Polish Tatars?  They have a long and storied history in Poland/Lithuania/Belarus.  Wikipedia (yes I'm an aficionado) tells us that only two tiny villages remain on the Polish side of the redrawn borders:  Bohoniki and Kruszyniani.  Their total numbers are fewer than two thousand in Poland, with 3200 in Lithuania and 7800 in Belarus.  The Tatarzy have a glorious reputation as soldiers.  Major Aleksander Jeljaszewicz distinguished himself against the Germans in 1939, as the leader of the last Muslim unit in the Polish army.  Interestingly (see above), the same article claims that Sienkiewicz himself was of Polish Tatar ancestry--as was American action hero Charles Bronson.  Tough fellows, they.

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