The Society of Jewish Students of Philosophy

ID: 75
One of several organizations uniting Jewish students at the Jan Kazimierz University and opposing nationalist sentiment and the introduction of the so-called “bench ghetto.” One of the well-known curators of the society was Hugo Steinhaus.


During the interwar period several organizations of Jewish students were active at the Jan Kazimierz University, engaged in scientific work and mutual assistance at the same time. Among them, there were the Society of Jewish Physicians, the Society of Jewish Students of Law, and the Society of Jewish Students of Philosophy. The first of these was formed in 1912. The second was created in 1921 in response to the position of Polish chauvinistic circles which did not consent with the acceptance of Jewish university students to the Library Society of Law Students. The youngest of the three mentioned organizations was the Society of Jewish Students of Philosophy, founded in 1922. It was reported that one of the causes for the foundation of the Society was the exclusion of young people of Jewish origin from student organizations such as the Brotherly Aid and the Academic Reading Room.

The meeting convened to create the society took place on 22 January 1922 in the Jewish Academic House on Św. Terezy street 26a (now Anhelovycha street 28). In February of the same year, the charter of the organization was adopted and a board was elected. According to the charter, every Jew, male or female, who was a student of the humanities faculty or mathematics and natural sciences faculty, could become a regular member. The first chairman of the organization was elected Dr. Markus Starer, and the curator was Mojżesz Schorr. The management of the Society consisted of the General Assembly, the Executive Department (which included the chairman and two deputy chairmans, a secretary and his deputy, a librarian, a treasurer, as well as six representatives of the faculty and four deputies, elected by members of the General Meeting annually), the Audit Commission and the Court of Honour. The society had a labour exchange for its members. In order to facilitate the activities of the organization, in 1926-1927 special commissions were created, including a commission for festive events, for cultural and financial issues and for mutual assistance. Scientific activity was instead carried out by scientific sections, organized specifically for this aim; there were historical, mathematical, and linguistic sections in the society.

The organization board repulsed all forms of discrimination in higher educational institutions. They opposed the ideas of radical youth to implement the principle of numerus clausus. In view of the intensification of anti-Semitic sentiments at the Jan Kazimierz University, when slogans calling for the official introduction of a ghetto for Jewish youth were advanced, the Society of Jewish Students of Philosophy stated its desire to support the persecuted. Campaigns arranged by the nationalist students’ camp in the 1930s, caused the decline in the number of the organization members. In 1934, the society consisted of 238 members; in February 1938, there were only 116 persons in it.

One of the well-known curators of the society was Hugo Steinhaus. As the organization guardian, he later recalled those in his care as follows:

As the curator of the Society of Jewish Students, I had to deal with those young men and women. It can be said for sure that they were not worse than the average youth, probably better than those who attacked them, armed with knives and brass knuckles; they had, however, little education and innate culture and, moreover, were completely deprived of political instinct (...) in the Zionist press, they complained about various injustices, mentioning individual cases of discrimination, calling for humanity and democracy and not realizing that the society they lived in had little in common with democracy (...)"

Debora Vogel and Rachela Auerbach, future writers, belonged to the well-known members of the Society. The former served as one of the delegates of the section, and the latter was the secretary of the Society in 1922. Among other figures, there were Fanny Grünfeldówna, Aszer Deresiewicz, Artur Sandauer, Natan Singer, Zachariasz Tisch, Leon Józef Landau.

The premises of the organization were located on Św. Stanisława (now Tyktora) street 5.

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Tyktora str. 5 - Dormitory of the Medical University



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Written by Ewa Bukowska-Marczak
Scientific editing by Vasyl Rasevych
Translated from Polish by Myroslava Kit
Translated from Ukrainian by Andriy Maslyukh