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At the turn of the twentieth century, over forty percent of the world's Jews lived within the Russian Empire, almost all in the Pale of Settlement. From the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Jews of the Pale created a distinctive way of life little known be At the turn of the twentieth century, over forty percent of the world's Jews lived within the Russian Empire, almost all in the Pale of Settlement. From the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Jews of the Pale created a distinctive way of life little known be


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At the turn of the twentieth century, over forty percent of the world's Jews lived within the Russian Empire, almost all in the Pale of Settlement. From the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Jews of the Pale created a distinctive way of life little known be At the turn of the twentieth century, over forty percent of the world's Jews lived within the Russian Empire, almost all in the Pale of Settlement. From the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Jews of the Pale created a distinctive way of life little known be

35 review for The Jewish Dark Continent: Life and Death in the Russian Pale of Settlement

  1. 5 out of 5

    University of Chicago Magazine

    Nathaniel Deutsch, AB'88, AM'89, PhD'95 Author At the turn of the 20th century, more than 40 percent of the world’s Jews lived within the Russian Empire, almost all in the Pale of Settlement. From the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Jews of the Pale created a distinctive way of life little known beyond its borders. This led the historian Simon Dubnow to label the territory a Jewish “Dark Continent.” Just before World War I, a socialist revolutionary and aspiring ethnographer named An-sky pledged to ex Nathaniel Deutsch, AB'88, AM'89, PhD'95 Author At the turn of the 20th century, more than 40 percent of the world’s Jews lived within the Russian Empire, almost all in the Pale of Settlement. From the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Jews of the Pale created a distinctive way of life little known beyond its borders. This led the historian Simon Dubnow to label the territory a Jewish “Dark Continent.” Just before World War I, a socialist revolutionary and aspiring ethnographer named An-sky pledged to explore the Pale. He dreamed of leading an ethnographic expedition that would produce an archive—what he called an Oral Torah of the common people rather than the rabbinic elite—which would preserve Jewish traditions and transform them into the seeds of a modern Jewish culture. Between 1912 and 1914, An-sky and his team collected jokes, recorded songs, took thousands of photographs, and created a massive ethnographic questionnaire. Consisting of 2,087 questions in Yiddish—exploring the gamut of Jewish folk beliefs and traditions, from everyday activities to spiritual exercises to marital intimacies—the Jewish Ethnographic Program constitutes an invaluable portrait of Eastern European Jewish life on the brink of destruction. Nathaniel Deutsch offers the first complete translation of the questionnaire, as well as the riveting story of An-sky’s almost messianic efforts to create a Jewish ethnography in an era of revolutionary change. An-sky’s project was halted by World War I, and within a few years the Pale of Settlement would no longer exist. These survey questions revive and reveal shtetl life in all its wonder and complexity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    There are apparently no histories of the Pale of Settlement, so I had to resort to reading this: a history of An-Sky's famous ethnographic expeditions into the Pale during the 1910s in an attempt to catalogue and record as much Jewish folklore and music as he could. An amazing story in and of itself, the first half of this book details various aspects of An-Sky's work in the Pale and his approaches to peeling away the mystique of the area to preserve centuries-old knowledge and lore, especially There are apparently no histories of the Pale of Settlement, so I had to resort to reading this: a history of An-Sky's famous ethnographic expeditions into the Pale during the 1910s in an attempt to catalogue and record as much Jewish folklore and music as he could. An amazing story in and of itself, the first half of this book details various aspects of An-Sky's work in the Pale and his approaches to peeling away the mystique of the area to preserve centuries-old knowledge and lore, especially his 1097 question questionnaire on Jewish traditions and daily life. Weirdly, the other half of this book is the questionnaire, translated into English for the first time, with little to no discussion of what An-Sky discovered. There really should be a history of the Pale, not because it falls outside of the rubric of nation-states and nationalisms, but also because the shtetl life imported elsewhere, mostly to the US, was awesome!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Hopkins

    Not really what I was expecting...only the first 70-100ish pages are about the ethnographic project itself and then the remaining 200 pages are just lists of the questions asked. There are footnotes with some detail but I thought the book would be more of an analysis of the project itself. For what it's worth, the analysis IS good...and really does explain the project well...but with a book called "Life and Death in the Russian Pale of Settlement," wouldn't you think there'd be some examples of Not really what I was expecting...only the first 70-100ish pages are about the ethnographic project itself and then the remaining 200 pages are just lists of the questions asked. There are footnotes with some detail but I thought the book would be more of an analysis of the project itself. For what it's worth, the analysis IS good...and really does explain the project well...but with a book called "Life and Death in the Russian Pale of Settlement," wouldn't you think there'd be some examples of life and death in the Pale!?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ben Vos

  7. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Gil

  8. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lambsky

  12. 4 out of 5

    Feras sroor

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shirah Rosin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jean

  16. 5 out of 5

    Claire HK

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marti Clemmons

  18. 4 out of 5

    Annie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cezar Popescu

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sam Shuman

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lisette Winkler

  23. 5 out of 5

    The Jewish Book Council

  24. 4 out of 5

    Liva-Katrina

  25. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Griffiths

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anne-Louise

  27. 5 out of 5

    Seth

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sara H.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Neal Cohen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Donna

  31. 4 out of 5

    Alex Barnes

  32. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  33. 4 out of 5

    Ezra

  34. 4 out of 5

    Amos Vos

  35. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Stanley

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