This article aims to answer a basic question: How was it that Hasidism spread among the masses even though most of the adherents probably did not fully understand the ideas of the movement and could not maintain regular direct contact with the tsadik? Diffusion analysis shows how the shtibl (hasidic prayer house) was a radical innovation that, by combining synagogue with social framework, created an attractive venue for hasidim to gather, to spend time, and to attract new adherents. In places where shtiblekh could not be opened, Hasidism usually failed to spread. In addition, cultural distinctiveness, varying attitudes towards Kabbalistic practice, the presence or absence of trade routes, and ongoing contacts between communities all played their part in influencing the spread of Hasidism.
KeywordsHasidism Eastern Europe Geography Dissemination Shtibl
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