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Schiper, Ignacy


SCHIPER, IGNACY (Yiẓḥak ; 1884–1943), historian and public worker. Schiper was born in Tarnow, Galicia. From his youth he was a member of the Po'alei Zion movement, and from 1922 of the General Zionists (Al ha-Mishmar), holding various public positions in the parties and acting as their emissary. During 1922–27 he was a deputy in the Polish Sejm. After the establishment of the Institute of Jewish Sciences in Warsaw in 1928, he lectured on the history of Jewish economy. Schiper died in a German concentration camp near Lublin.

Although his academic education was essentially a legal one, Schiper took an interest in historical research throughout his life. Within the group of Jewish historians which emerged in Galicia in the early 20th century (*Balaban, *Schorr), Schiper distinguished himself in the history of economics and of popular culture (in Yiddish). Whether this was due to his social outlook or to his limited Hebrew education, he thought that the study of the spiritual history of the nation and its leaders had been exhausted; "the Sabbath-Jew with his extra soul" was already well known, and there arose a need, he felt, to become acquainted with the secular aspect of the nation's life. Schiper's first work, in the sphere of Jewish economics, was his original research on the beginnings of capitalism among the Jews of the Western world (Anfaenge des Kapitalismus bei den abendlaendischen Juden im frueheren Mittelalter, 1907), which was also translated into Russian and Yiddish. Schiper then turned his attention to research into Jewish economy in Poland, at first during the Middle Ages and then during the modern era also.

His principal works in this sphere are Studya nad stosunkami gospodarczymi Żydów w Polsce podczas średniowiecza (1911, Yid. tr. 1926), and Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937). Of his studies on the history of culture, two of his works are of note: Kultur-Geshikhte fun di Yidn in Poyln beysn Mitlalter (1926), which deals with the way of life of the Jews, and Geshikhte fun der Yidisher Teater-Kunst un Drame: fun di Eltste Tsaytn bis 1750 (3 vols., 1927–28), which deals with theatrical art and drama. Schiper also occupied himself with other historical questions, such as Jewish autonomy in Poland, but he dealt mainly with Jewry's relationship to the external world, using primarily non-Jewish sources. A historian of great intuition and imagination, he promoted and enriched historical research on Polish Jewry, though he did not always trouble to establish his ideas on a firm historical footing.


J. Hirschhaut, Fun Noenter Over, 1 (1955), 185–263 (incl. bibl.); R. Mahler, in yivo Bleter, 25 (1945/46), 19–32; J. Shatzky, ibid., 39 (1954/55), 352–4; Y. Gruenbaum, Penei ha-Dor, 1 (1958), 379–85; S. Eidelberg (ed.), Yiẓḥak Shipper; Ketavim Nivḥarim ve-Divrei Ha'arakhah (1967).

[Israel Halpern]

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