In advance of the 68th Annu­al Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards cer­e­mo­ny on March 5th, 2019 (which you can buy tick­ets for here), Jew­ish Book Coun­cil is shar­ing short inter­views with the win­ners in each category.

Marcin Wodziński’s His­tor­i­cal Atlas of Hasidism is the win­ner of the 2018 Nahum M. Sar­na Memo­r­i­al Award for Schol­ar­ship. With sev­en­ty-four maps, hun­dreds of pho­tographs, charts, and tables, and a well-orga­nized text, the book explores the rela­tion­ship between space and spir­it, and the demo­graph­ic expan­sions and shifts of Hasidic com­mu­ni­ties with a focus on the rank and file. The judges of the Schol­ar­ship Award say: By map­ping the geo­graph­ic shifts and demo­graph­ic expan­sions [of Hasidism], the book offers unique insight into the rela­tion­ship between loca­tion, dis­tinct types of reli­gious lead­er­ship, and unique forms of cul­tur­al expression.”

Which three Jew­ish writ­ers, dead or alive, would you most like to have din­ner with?

Fania Lewan­do, S.Y Agnon, and I.B. Singer. Great authors who came from East­ern Europe, and were all veg­e­tar­i­ans, so we could peace­ful­ly dine together.

What’s your favorite book that no one else has heard of?

As I read most­ly in Pol­ish, I trust much of the lit­er­a­ture I read is unknown to the read­ers of this blog any­way. If I were to choose, I’d pick House of Day, House of Night by my favorite nov­el­ist Olga Tokarczuk.

Which Jew­ish writ­ers work­ing today do you admire most?

Strange­ly enough, I come from a place where it is inap­pro­pri­ate to ask about people’s creed and eth­nic­i­ty more gen­er­al­ly. This is why I don’t divide writ­ers into Jew­ish and non-Jewish.

What are you read­ing right now?

Adam Zaga­jew­s­ki, Select­ed poems (in Pol­ish); Kat­ja Petrowska­ja, Maybe Esther (in Pol­ish trans­la­tion); Uriel Gell­man, The Emer­gence of Hasidism in Poland; and gal­leys of Study­ing Hasidism, to be pub­lished in August.

What are your great­est cre­ative influ­ences (oth­er than books)?

Peo­ple, of course. My father, who taught me think­ing. Pro­fes­sor Jerzy Woron­czak z”l, my first aca­d­e­m­ic men­tor. Pro­fes­sor Moshe Ros­man, my ulti­mate aca­d­e­m­ic men­tor. My university’s finan­cial office who teach­es me every day how to sur­vive in extreme con­di­tions. My cur­rent gov­ern­ment who teach­es me to not take for grant­ed democ­ra­cy and con­sti­tu­tion­al rights and freedoms.

What do you hope read­ers will take away from your book?

First, the atlas looks at Hasidism beyond the lead­ers — at thou­sands of their fol­low­ers liv­ing far from Hasidic cen­ters. This is a new, inno­v­a­tive, and very need­ed cor­rec­tive and I hope read­ers will appre­ci­ate it. Sec­ond, it exam­ines Hasidism in its his­tor­i­cal entire­ty from its begin­nings till today. Few pub­li­ca­tions are sim­i­lar­ly com­pre­hen­sive. Third, respond­ing to the chal­lenge of dig­i­tal human­i­ties, it uses the diverse col­lec­tion of qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive data, includ­ing exten­sive GIS-processed data­bas­es of his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary records. The largest data­base is near­ly 130,000 records! Final­ly, many of the maps are sim­ply beau­ti­ful, so my wife says they will make a per­fect print on table­cloths, T‑shirts, and post­cards. We can’t wait to open the sou­venir shop!