|Eastern European Jewry|
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.
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 villages, 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
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