Jewish discourse and the Shtetl

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The Shtetl, the small town of Eastern Europe, especially in Poland and Russia, where Jews were the majority in the population and set the tone of life, has not received proper historiographical treatment. The major problem is that the shtetl has been idealized, much like in the play Fiddler on the Roof, to represent people's nostalgia, not reality. Shtetl society was also taken by Zionists and others as representative of an objectionable Jewish role model, the contrary of what Zionist sought to achieve. It is commonly thought that by the time of the Shoah, when the Nazis indeed destroyed it, the shtetl was already moribund. In fact, through the early twentieth century, shtetl population remained steady; in some cases it even grew. This survey of existing literature, whose quantity is less than what might be expected, is a prelude to a comprehensive study on shtetl society, in particular during the twentieth century, which this author is now concluding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-179
Number of pages11
JournalJewish History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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