June 1, 2015
This is the story of Aharon Ya'akov Dukhan, a Jewish-Russian frontier man whose life spanned the second half of the nineteenth century. In Pale in Comparison, a paper that I am currently developing, I argue that even in as late a period as the one in which Aharon Ya'akov was active, Jews were, in a certain economic sense, countryside people. The rural frontier was an integral part of the ecology that defined the economic and demographic aspects of Jewish lives in the Pale of Settlement. Dukhan embodied the experience of the Jewish frontier, and his path exemplifies several of the empirical regularities that I find in the paper.
November 5, 2014
The migration of one and a half million Jews from the Russian Empire to the United States during the years 1881–1914 is commonly linked to the occurrence of pogroms, eruptions of anti-Jewish mob violence, that took place mainly in two waves in 1881–1882 and in 1903–1906. Although the common perception that pogroms were a major cause for Jewish migration is now questioned by historians, little quantitative evidence exists to support or refute this view. This paper addresses this question empirically, based on a large newly constructed data sets. The answer is a complex combination of a "yes" and a "no".
April 10, 2014
Were Jewish immigrants from the Pale of Settlement to the United States really driven by pogroms? This is a question with which I deal empirically, using data on migration and on events of anti-Jewish violence. But before zooming out to the large statistical picture, it is important to verify anecdotally that one can find particular cases in which pogrom-driven migration did clearly occur. For this, I chose to dwell into a case study of a single Jewish town–Kalarash–that experienced a rather gruesome pogrom in October [o.s.] 1905. In this rather extreme case, I show here that indeed there was such a thing as pogrom-driven migration. That is, the pogrom was so devastating that the data shows without doubt that many Jews of Kalarash that would not have immigrated otherwise, were driven out by it in search of a safe haven in a new land. This is how it looked.
January 20, 2014
When I present my work on the Jewish migration, I like using this cartoon in order to illustrate the traditional thesis that the Jewish migration from the Pale of Settlement was caused by the pogroms. It shows a Jewish town, on that right, that was hit by a pogrom, and a stream of Jewish refugees fleeing it on their way to become immigrants in the United States. The cartoon is interesting in its own right, and I wanted to share my thoughts on how I understand it.
October 5, 2013
A Russian Correspondent of The Times says that the mother of one of the Jewish surgeons who were sent from Warsaw to the war recently received from her son a letter written in the usual official Russian style and bearing the stamp of the censor. The letter stated that the writer was in good health, that admirable order prevailed among the troops, who were certain of victory and amply supplied with all necessaries, and that there was so little illness that the army surgeons had hardly anything to do. It concluded with the request that his mother send some Hebrew books of which he gave the titles. These read: “Famine and Destitution,” “Consequent Fearful Epidemics,” “Scarcely Any Sanitary Appliances,” Demoralization of the Army Constantly Increasing,” “End of Discipline,” “Wish I were Taken Prisoner.” Evidently the censor did not know Hebrew.
May 8, 2013
"Is it Good for the Jews?" is a generations-old criterion for making sense of world events. Wars, revolutions, natural disasters, something colossal has happened, at the bottom line we want to know the only thing that matters - is it, or is it not? For the occasion of the abdication of Dutch Queen Beatrix and the inauguration of her son Willem-Alexander, I translated with the help of my friend David Nortman a 1890 article from Ha-Melitz reporting the death of King Willem III of the Netherlands. I found this article randomly while looking for materials on the Jewish migration overseas, and thought that it was worth presenting as a pure demonstration of this analytic tool in action, a hilarious combination of cosmopolitanism and provincialism. It reads as "The King is Dead, Long live the… Wait, is it Good for the Jews?".