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Jewish Group

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elleng

(128,852 posts)
Mon Sep 18, 2017, 06:34 PM Sep 2017

From Poland to Lithuania: A Writers Search for Her Jewish Past [View all]

From the Jewish districts of historic cities to small, out-of-the-way towns once known as shtetls, the author finds remnants of the past at every turn.

'I think I was in an iced-over bus lot in northeastern Poland, standing in front of a mound of desecrated gravestones, when I first had the feeling that Jewish heritage travel in Europe might be a mistake. I had been walking with a guide and an interpreter, both Polish men in late middle age, through Makow Mazowiecki, a small town about 45 miles north of Warsaw. This was where two of my great-grandparents were born in the late 19th century, when Jews made up nearly half the local population.

Like the vast majority of American Jews, I descend from Yiddish-speaking Europeans who settled along the Rhine River around the first millennium. Known as Ashkenazi Jews (Ashkenazi being an old term for German), they later moved to the edges of the Russian Empire, the so-called Pale of Settlement, an area spanning much of present-day Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Moldova, where Jews were allowed to reside.

All eight of my great-grandparents immigrated around the turn of the century from the Pale to the United States. They settled in New Jersey, where my father grew up, and Kansas City, Mo., where my mother, and later my brothers and I, were raised among the mowed lawns and flush supermarkets of Midwestern suburbia.

“They lived in shtetls,” my parents would say, using the Yiddish diminutive for town. “Backward, mud-caked, poverty-stricken little villages surrounded by anti-Semites.” Or something along those lines.'>>>

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/travel/jewish-heritage-travel-poland-lithuania.html?

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