Izraelita, vol. 1, no. 27 (1866). (The Dorot Jewish Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations)

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the


Based in Warsaw and published between 1866 and 1915, Izraelita was the longest-lasting Polish Jewish journal. Published in the Polish language by Jewish reformers, the weekly initially described itself as a journal “for the study of Judaism”; later it broadened its self-definition to include “religious and educational” as well as “scientific, social, and literary matters.” Izraelita is recognized as an outstanding source on Jewish thought and modernization during a crucial period of Polish Jewish history. Established at the time of increased hopes for integration, Izraelita’s final years on the Polish cultural scene confronted a rising tide of nationalism and antisemitism, representing a crisis for integrationist Jewish circles.

The journal was read primarily by the Polonized Jewish elites and a few Poles; it failed to appeal to the Jewish masses. Its influence among Jews did not grow significantly over time as reflected by the editors’ inability to lift circulation above 500 copies. Poles, on the other hand, saw Izraelita as an unsuccessful agent of Polonization. The Warsaw press occasionally responded to the paper’s commentaries on Jewish society, often blaming the weekly for the slow progress of Polonization, and criticizing its concessions to “Jewish separatism,” such as the journal’s advocacy of a separate Jewish educational system.

Izraelita’s founder and first editor was Szmul Hirsz Peltyn (1831–1896), who followed in the footsteps of earlier Polish Jewish journals in trying to popularize the Polish language and culture and in attempting to stimulate patriotism. Under his editorship, Izraelita strongly articulated such classic concerns of Western-style Haskalah as religious reform and modernized Jewish education while opposing the use of Yiddish and other external markers of Jewish distinctiveness. Izraelita, however, affirmed Jewish religious identity. Despite opposing both secular nationalism and religious traditionalism, it conveyed a sense of pride in Jewish heritage, reported extensively on ideological debates in Jewish society, and offered low-key but persistent opposition to antisemitism.

This editorial line was modified after Peltyn’s death by Naḥum Sokolow. Under his editorship, Izraelita reached its highest level of journalistic, intellectual, and literary achievement, toned down its assimilationist rhetoric, and gave expression to Jewish national ideas, especially Zionism. Under its last editors, Izrael Groslik, Adolf Jakub Cohn, Henryk Lichtenbaum, and Józef Wassercug, Izraelita made a partial return to its original Polish patriotic and integrationist rhetoric. Although Izraelita tended to be viewed as assimilationist, its readers, editors, and contributors represented a relatively broad ideological spectrum, ranging from assimilationists in the strictest sense of the term, to moderate Western-style enlighteners who adopted Polish as their everyday language.

In addition to providing the reader with much information on Warsaw and Polish Jewry at a time of modernization and intense internal debate, Izraelita succeeded in integrating and nurturing a vibrant intellectual milieu that enriched Polish culture, literature, and science with the works of Jewish luminaries. The milieu around Izraelita became the cradle of Polish Jewish literature, responsible for introducing to Polish belles lettres the first works on Jewish themes composed by “insiders” of the Jewish world.

Suggested Reading

Marian Fuks, Prasa żydowska w Warszawie, 1823–1939 (Warsaw, 1979), pp. 85–103; Aleksander Hafftka, “Prasa żydowska w Polsce (do 1918 r.),” in Żydzi w Polsce Odrodzonej, vol. 2, pp. 148–161 (Warsaw, 1935); Jacob Shatzky, Geshikhte fun yidn in Varshe, vol. 3 (New York, 1953), pp. 319–321.