Home for the Homeless? The Hekdesh in Eastern Europe
Place in Modern Jewish Culture and Society
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.
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Meir, N. (2018-09-27). Home for the Homeless? The Hekdesh in Eastern Europe. In (Ed.), Place in Modern Jewish Culture and Society. : Oxford University Press.