The Shtetl: New Evaluations

Overview

Dating from the sixteenth century, there were hundreds of shtetls—Jewish settlements—in Eastern Europe that were home to a large and compact population that differed from their gentile, mostly peasant neighbors in religion, occupation, language, and culture. The shtetls were different in important respects from previous types of Jewish settlements in the Diaspora in that Jews had rarely formed a majority in the towns in which they lived. This was not true of the shtetl, where Jews sometimes comprised 80% or more ...

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The Shtetl: New Evaluations

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Overview

Dating from the sixteenth century, there were hundreds of shtetls—Jewish settlements—in Eastern Europe that were home to a large and compact population that differed from their gentile, mostly peasant neighbors in religion, occupation, language, and culture. The shtetls were different in important respects from previous types of Jewish settlements in the Diaspora in that Jews had rarely formed a majority in the towns in which they lived. This was not true of the shtetl, where Jews sometimes comprised 80% or more of the population. While the shtetl began to decline during the course of the nineteenth century, it was the Holocaust which finally destroyed it.

During the last thirty years the shtetl has attracted a growing amount of scholarly attention, though gross generalizations and romanticized nostalgia continue to affect how the topic is treated. This volume takes a new look at this most important facet of East European Jewish life. It helps to correct the notion that the shtetl was an entirely Jewish world and shows the ways in which the Jews of the shtetl interacted both with their co-religionists and with their gentile neighbors. The volume includes chapters on the history of the shtetl, its myths and realities, politics, gender dynamics, how the shtetl has been (mis)represented in literature, and the changes brought about by World War I and the Holocaust, among others.

Contributors: Samuel Kassow, Gershon David Hundert, Immanuel Etkes, Nehemia Polen, Henry Abramson, Konrad Zielinski, Jeremy Dauber, Israel Bartel, Naomi Seidman, Mikhail Krutikov, Arnold J. Band, Katarzyna Wieclawska, Yehunda Bauer, and Elie Wiesel.

This is the first book published in the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies Series.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“The quality of the essays is uniformly good, and after reading them, readers will be fully acquainted with the elusive concept of the shtetl. The essays are well documented.”

-Choice

,

“This important and comprehensive collection provides a fascinating re-evaluation of one of the main locations of Jewish life in Eastern Europe down to the Holocaust and beyond.”
-Antony Polonsky,Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studiesat the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Brandeis University

“[A]nyone looking to really understand the Jewish past, not just the romanticized version of it, will find this book a perfect antidote.”
-The Reporter

,

“The book is a must-buy for all libraries.”
-AJL Newsletter

,

"Talk about stereotype busting! Not only are we forced to readjust our sights . . . but in the best moments of Katz’s collection we learn how to distinguish what is factually true from what is mythically imagined. Even more importantly, we begin to see . . . the world of the shtetlach that the fog and night of the Holocaust forever destroyed."
-New Jersey Jewish News

,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814748015
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 12/24/2006
  • Series: Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies
  • Pages: 338
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven T. Katz is Slater Professor of Jewish and Holocaust Studies and former Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University. His many publications include The Holocaust in Historical Context.
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Table of Contents


Editor's Note   Steven T. Katz     vii
Introduction   Samuel Kassow     1
The Importance of Demography and Patterns of Settlement for an Understanding of the Jewish Experience in East-Central Europe   Gershon David Hundert     29
A Shtetl with a Yeshiva: The Case of Volozhin   Immanuel Etkes     39
Rebbetzins, Wonder-Children, and the Emergence of the Dynastic Principle in Hasidism   Nehemia Polen     53
Two Jews, Three Opinions: Politics in the Shtetl at the Turn of the Twentieth Century   Henry Abramson     85
The Shtetl in Poland, 1914-1918   Konrad Zielinski     102
The Shtetl in Interwar Poland   Samuel Kassow     121
Looking at the Yiddish Landscape: Representation in Nineteenth-Century Hasidic and Maskilic Literature   Jeremy Dauber     140
Imagined Geography: The Shtetl, Myth, and Reality   Israel Bartal     179
Gender and the Disintegration of the Shtetl in Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literature   Naomi Seidman     193
Rediscovering the Shtetl as a New Reality: David Bergelson and Itsik Kipnis   Mikhail Krutikov     211
Agnon's Synthetic Shtetl   Arnold J. Band     233
The Image of the Shtetl in Contemporary Polish Fiction   Katarzyna Wietawska     243
Sarny and Rokitno in the Holocaust: A Case Study of Two Townships in Wolyn (Volhynia)   Yehuda Bauer     253
The World of the Shtetl   Elie Wiesel     290
About the Contributors     307
Index     311
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