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   Eastern European Jewry

*INTRODUCTION*  

*EXHIBITION*


A very small fraction of the total number of Jews who once populated the many countries of Eastern Europe before the devastation of World War  II remained in these countries after the war. Those who returned most often did not find their loved ones there. Even after the war, many were greeted with virulent anti-Semitism or worse. Despite the gross maltreatment they were forced to endure, the pogroms, and the massive waves of emigration of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, one can still find Jews in many of these countries, though in very small numbers. Perhaps one can even find a synagogue that wasn't razed during the war (especially those in the bigger towns or cities), and maybe even a Jewish cemetery in need of some degree of repair.

During the time that there were large numbers of Jews who lived in such countries as Poland, the Ukraine, Galicia, Hungary and Romania, where there thrived a rich Jewish culture and an endearing and traditional way of life. Much of the opportunities that were afforded them often depended on the region in which they lived and who ruled the land. In such areas as the "Pale of Settlement" and in other regions under the control of the Russian government, Jewish life and livelihood was often dictated by the whim of the man who was the Tsar at the time. Restrictions and regulations were heaped upon the Jews that affected their way of life, such as those that had to do with land ownership, education and occupation. There were also special regulations that were also placed on the Jews concerning military conscription.

Perhaps such selective and pejorative treatment was placed upon the Jew because it had always been done to them before--a product of the old prejudices that had been passed down from one generation to the next. Perhaps it was easy to single out Jews because of their traditional lifestyle, appearance and way of dress, making them easy targets. There was certainly no one reason why all this befell the Jew. It was, however, through this same traditional way of life, through an abiding faith and belief in strong family ties, that the Jewish people managed to survive and prosper in the years following the war.

In this section of the Museum of Family History, a humble attempt is made to paint a picture of what life was like for the Jew during these times, when a great Jewish population graced the many shtetls, towns and cities of Eastern Europe, enriching the Eastern European cultures as a whole. Hopefully such a portrayal, when combined with additional knowledge, such as an understanding of the lives of those who survived an arduous emigration and immigration, along with stories that exemplify the lives of the many Jewish immigrants who settled in such countries such as the United States, will give both young and old alike a better and enduring sense of what Jewish life was like during these historic times.
 

 



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