Life in the Shtetl:

Fact and Fiction

Edith Rogovin Frankel
Jewish Culture & History / Arts & Letters

Course Description

This interdisciplinary program deals with life in the small towns and townlets (shtetls) where many Ashkenazi (European) Jews lived their lives from the Middle Ages up into the 20th century, in the lands of Poland-Lithuania and within the Russian Empire (also Hungary, Bessarabia, Bukovina). To illuminate particular facets of Jewish life, lectures will include discussions of works of both fiction and non-fiction, including stories and memoirs (among the authors Nathan Hanover, I.J. Singer, Solomon Maimon, Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Babel). The lectures will cover such diverse topics as social framework, economy, religion, language, and pogroms. What will emerge is a rich picture of the lives of our ancestors' generations. The series will enable participants to reach a new and deeper understanding of life in the shtetl and enjoy an introduction to contemporary works of literature on the subject.


1. Social and Economic Life
2. Religious Life: Jewish education, from heder to yeshiva. The Hasidic way of life and other forms of Judaism. The language of the Jews.
3. Judeophobia, Blood Libels and Pogroms: The origins of judeophobia and anti-Semitism. The impact of pogroms on Jewish life from Chmielnitski to Kishinev.
4. The Shtetl and the Outside World: The Jewish Enlightenment, women, tsars, socialism, Yiddish literature, Zionism, emigration.

About the Instructor

  • Dr. Edith Rogovin Frankel is a native-born American who lived in Israel and taught at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for many years. Her BA is from Cornell University and her MA and PhD are from Columbia University. For years Frankel specialized in the Soviet Union and then gradually moved into Jewish history, particularly that of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, as well as the Habsburg Empire. She taught these subjects at various institutions, including Dartmouth, Stanford, Hunter College and Columbia University. Her most recent book, Old Lives and New: Soviet Immigrants in Israel and America, deals with the subject of migration and immigration.

Upcoming programs presented by Edith Rogovin Frankel.

TypeNumberInstructorCourse TitleAdd to Cart
4wk W541B Edith Rogovin Frankel Life in the Shtetl: Fact and Fiction
Fridays, February 8, 15, 22; March 1: 10:00 am - 11:30 am