Regina Lilientalowa

ethnographer, journalist and translator

Regina Lilientalowa was a Polish ethnographer, translator and journalist at the turn of the twentieth century. She was born Gitla Eiger in Zawichost, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, on November 24, 1875.

After marrying, she and her husband moved to Warsaw where she began to pursue her interests in Jewish folklore. Because it was difficult at that time for women to attain higher education, particularly women from a Jewish background, she supplemented her own studies by attending the “Flying University” which organized courses for women clandestinely. With the support of her professor, sociologist Ludwik Krzwicki, Lilientalowa began to publish in Poland’s main anthropological journals. By 1898 she had published her first ethnographic work on Jewish superstitions and went on to complete several more groundbreaking projects based on her considerable fieldwork. In addition to these original works, she translated Yiddish short stories, Yiddish folksongs and women’s tkhines, prayers, focusing on moral, magical and healing properties. Regina Lilientalowa died on 4 December 1924 in Warsaw.

For our book, Ashkenazi Herbalism, we relied on The Jewish Child “Dziecko żydowskie(1904) and Lilientalowa’s short piece on the evil eye, "Ajn-hore" (1924). Most, if not all of Lilientalowa’s works have never been translated into English. For those interested in the daily practices of the Ashkenazim, especially with regard to women’s and children’s lives prior to the second World War, her research is without precedent. It is our hope that the work of Regina Lilientalowa is more widely recognized and with any luck, translated into English for those seeking information on the lost practices of the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe.