ⓘ Regina Lilientalowa, Zawichost - 4 December 1924, Warsaw was a Polish ethnographer, translator and journalist of Jewish origin. She is known for her pioneering ..


ⓘ Regina Lilientalowa

Regina Lilientalowa, Zawichost - 4 December 1924, Warsaw) was a Polish ethnographer, translator and journalist of Jewish origin. She is known for her pioneering research on Jewish folk rituals and literature.


1. Life

Gitla Eiger was born to Moses and Fajga Blum, in a family of Polonized Jews, in Zawichost, at the time a part of the Russian Empire. Her year of birth has been variously given as 1875 or 1877. She attended school at Sandomierz. After marriage in 1895 to Nathan Liliental, she moved to Warsaw.

Lilientalowa had two children, Stanislawa born 1897 and Antoni born 1908. Stanislawa became a mathematician, while Antoni joined the Polish army and was murdered in the Katyn Massacre.

In later life, Lilientalowa suffered from a progressive lung disease. She died on 4 December 1924 from a failed operation in Warsaw.


2. Career

In Warsaw, Lilientalowa wanted to pursue higher studies, which was difficult for women, especially those from a Jewish background. To earn a living, she became a history teacher at Polish-Jewish secondary schools.

She began to educate herself privately in Jewish folklore, supplementing her studies by attending the so-called Flying University, which organised courses for women in secret. Under Ludwik Krzywicki, she expanded her knowledge of Jewish rituals and folk literature, and began to publish in Polands main journals of anthropology, Wisla and Lud.

Lilientalowa published her first ethnographic works Przesady zydowskie Jewish superstitions, 1898; Zareczyny i wesele zydowskie Jewish betrothal and wedding, 1900; Wierzenia, przesady i praktyki ludu zydowskiego.

Her focus shifted from contemporary Jewish culture to historical customs and rituals, which she studied from German and Russian translations as well as the Yiddish Talmud. She later learned Hebrew and Aramaic to delve deeper into Talmudic traditions, resulting in two well-received books, Dziecko zydowskie The Jewish Child, 1904, and Swieta zydowskie w przeszlosci i terazniejszosci. Her work included considerable material from field investigations in Lublin, Zawichost, and Radomski, using which she demonstrated the evolution of the rites of the main Jewish pilgrimage days Pesach, Sabbath and Sukkoth, the religious holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah and Purim, which she linked to events associated with nature.

Lilientalowas interest in Jewish folklore led her to translate I. L. Peretzs Yiddish stories into the Polish language. These were published between 1906–1910. She translated Yiddish folk songs from the collections of Saul Ginzberg and Peter Marek. She also published her translations of womens tkhines prayers, focusing on their moral, magical and healing properties.


3. Selected works

  • "Ajn-hore". Jidisze Filologie. 4–6: 245–271. 1924.
  • "Przesady zydowskie". Wisla. XII: 277–284. 1898.
  • "Wierzenia, przesady i praktyki ludu zydowskiego". Archiwum Nauk Antropologicznych. I 6. 1921.
  • Dziecko zydowskie. Warsaw: Midrasz. 2007.
  • "Przesady zydowskie". Wisla. XIV: 369–644. 1900.