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.
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.
December 4, 2012
For fourteen years I had been a childless Jewess, I prayed God for a son, and he gave him to me in the fifteenth year of my marriage. It was my long-awaited yearned son. God has blessed me, for I had a pure and noble son, full with love for his family and passion for his people. He was only seventeen years old, but he dedicated himself entirely to the service of his brethren.
July 22, 2012
This map shows the precise place of residence of over 4.3 million Jews at the time of the Russian census of 1897. The census enumerated over 5 million Jews living in the Pale of Settlement, the 25 western provinces of the Russian Empire in which Jews were generally free to reside. Together with the Jewish communities that existed beyond the boundaries of the Pale, the Russian Empire was home to some 5.3 million Jews, more than half of world Jewry. It is the best source of statistical information on this population, and probably on any other large Jewish concentration prior to WWII. The map represents a new database that was recently created by Gennady Polonetsky and I, mainly from figures published in the 1897 census. It is posted here, along with a few notes, in order to make this visualization of the patterns of Jewish settlement in the Russian Empire available to the interested readers. Other pieces of analysis pertaining to this database will be posted soon.