The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

A Jewish Woman of Distinction: The Life and Diaries of Zinaida Poliakova

ChaeRan Y. Freeze; translated by Gregory L. Freeze

"A Jewish Woman of Distinction: The Life and Diaries of Zinaida Poliakova" by ChaeRan Y. Freeze. Cover art is a sepia photo of Poliakova, leaning on a bannister, which blends into the architecture of a synagogue.

Zinaida Poliakova (1863-1953) was the eldest daughter of Lazar Solomonovich Poliakov, one of three brothers, known as the Russian Rothschilds, who dominated Russian finance and business and built almost a quarter of the railroad lines in Imperial Russia. Poliakova’s diaries, which span three quarters of a century, provide a rare into the world of the Jewish elites in Moscow and St. Petersburg and reveal how Jews successfully integrated into Russian aristocratic society through their intimate friendships and patronage of the arts and philanthropy, but without converting and indeed while staunchly demonstrating their Jewishness. The aristocratic sensibilities and lifestyle that Poliakova cultivated in Russia informed her tastes, habits and sociability as an émigré in France following her marriage to Reuben Gubbay (the grandson of Sir Albert Abdullah Sassoon), even during the difficult years in Paris during World War II and postwar years in England after she lost almost all her family members and friends during the Holocaust.

Purchase from Brandeis University Press

About the Author

ChaeRan Y. Freeze is Professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University. She has focused her research on the history and culture of the Jews of Russia with special attention to gender and women. Her books include “Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia” and “Everyday Jewish Life in Imperial Russia, 1825-1914: Select Documents” (co-authored with Jay Harris).