Common Grounds? On the Place and Role of Jewish Coffee Houses at the Turn of the Century

Scott Ury

Hebrew University, Jerusalem

This talk examines the different ways that various coffee houses and other public dining establishments (buffets, milk bars and similar venues) influenced the nature of collective assembly and, in turn, political organization and action for many of Warsaw’s 275,000 Jewish residents at the turn of the century. Throughout this paper, I look at how different political activists and organizations in Warsaw – liberal, national and revolutionary – used coffee houses as centers for assembly, organization and action. Through this analysis, I will argue that coffee houses and other public dining establishments were not only an integral part of Jewish urban culture but that they also served critical social and political roles by providing neutral, open environments in which Jewish activists and organizations could both preach and organize their new social and political agendas.

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