Sarah Lawrence College Professor to open Fairfield University’s Bennett Center for Judaic Studies’ 2016 winter/spring season with “Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in Poland.”

Media Contact: Teddy DeRosa,, 203-254-4000 ext. 2118

Dr. Glenn Dynner’s talk will explore how the Jewish-run tavern became the center of leisure, hospitality, business, and even religious festivities, while Jewish tavern keepers became integral to both local economies and local social life.

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (January 29, 2016) — Fairfield University’s Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies will launch its 2016 winter and spring season of free lectures for the public on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. with a talk by author and scholar Glenn Dynner, Ph.D., entitled, “Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor, and Life in Poland.” The lecture, based on Dr. Dynner’s acclaimed book, “Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor & Life in the Kingdom of Poland” (Oxford University Press, 2013), will take place in the Dolan School of Business Dining Room.

The lecture is free and open to the public, however reservations are recommended. To reserve a seat, email or call the Bennett Center at 203-254-4000, ext. 2066. For more information on other events, visit

In his lecture, Dr. Dynner, professor of Judaic Studies and chair of Humanities at Sarah Lawrence College, will discuss how in Eastern Europe during the 19th Century much of the economy was based on vodka.

“The nobles who owned most of the region’s distilleries and taverns preferred to lease them to Jews, whom they believed to be more sober than the rest of the population,” Dr. Dynner said. “The Jewish-run tavern became the center of leisure, hospitality, business, and even religious festivities, while Jewish tavernkeepers became integral to both local economies and local social life, presiding over Christian celebrations and dispensing advice, medical remedies and loans. Nevertheless, as peasant drunkenness reached epidemic proportions, reformers and government officials sought to drive Jews out of the liquor trade.”

Historians have assumed that this spelled the end of the Polish Jewish liquor trade and the noble-Jewish symbiosis. Yet new archival discoveries demonstrate that nobles tended to simply install Christians as “fronts” for their taverns and retain their Jewish lessees, said Dr. Dynner. The result — a vast underground Jewish liquor trade—reflects an impressive level of local co-existence that contrasts with the more familiar story of anti-Semitism and violence.

Dr. Dynner is a member of the Institute for Advance Studies at Princeton University, and has been both a Fulbright Scholar and the Senior NEH Scholar at the Center for Jewish History and. He is also the author of “Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society” (Oxford University Press, 2006). He is editor of “Holy Dissent: Jewish and Christian Mystics in Eastern Europe” (Wayne State University Press, 2011); co-editor of “Polin 27;” and co-editor of “Warsaw. The Jewish Metropolis: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Professor Antony Polonsky” (Brill, 2015).

Photo: Dr. Glenn Dynner; credit: Chris Taggart.

Vol. 48, No. 87

Fairfield University is a Jesuit University, rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 36 states, 47 foreign countries, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are enrolled in the University’s five schools. In the spirit of rigorous and sympathetic inquiry into all dimensions of human experience, Fairfield welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to share ideas and engage in open conversations. The University is located in the heart of a region where the future takes shape, on a stunning campus on the Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.

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Posted on February 2, 2016

Vol. 48, No. 87

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