HIS 350L • Eastern European Jews in the Modern World
This course explores Jewish history and culture in Eastern Europe by focusing on life in the region's small towns (shtetls). Thanks to films such as Fiddler on the Roof, the shtetl is known to most as a wholesome Jewish space. Historically, however, these small towns were complex ethnic, religious, and socio-economic places. Focusing primarily on the Russian and Austrian Empires, the course falls into three parts. The first part seeks to map the historical experience of small town Jews in Eastern Europe from the late 1700s until the first decades of 20th Century through topics such as secularization, industrialization, urbanization, migration, antisemitism, and war. In the second part, we will delve into the ways in which Jewish life has been imagined and remembered in literature, memoirs, film, and music. In the third and last section, we will examine the destruction of East European Jewry during the Holocaust and in the aftermath of World War II.