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Community and Identity in the interwar Shtetl 

Samuel D. Kassow


(Son of Vilna gubarnia natives, born in 1946 in a D. P camp in Germany) 


The Shtetl confronts the historian of interwar Poland with the daunting problem of reconciling symbolism with reality, implied uniformities with unmistakable diversity, assumed national exclusivity with the growing presence of another nation for whom the term Shtetl meant absolutely nothing. Indeed the historian is tempted to plead academic rigor and leave the Shtetl to the literary critics.


To complicate matters, finding satisfactory sources is a major task. Secondary literature is sparse and unsatisfactory.1 Memorial books give vital information but only when used with great care and, if one hopes to document major trends, in great quantity.2 Oral history offers possibilities, but many survivors were only adolescents at the beginning of the war and would therefore have much less to say about communal institutions than, for example, about youth movements. (This situation affects the memorial books as well.) The central Yiddish press reported events in the small towns but not in much detail. Yet useful sources do exist. While the memorial books are uneven, some contain important information. The archives of the Joint Distribution Committee in New York, the Jacob Lestschinsky Archives at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the youth autobiographies in the archives of the YIVO institute for Jewish Research in New York are quite important, as are contemporary articles in such journals as Folkshilf and Dos virtshaftlekhe lebn. Moreover some Shtetl newspapers-such as a full run of the Gluboker lebn and the Gluboker shtime-have survived.3 These are a priceless resource, especially when the historian remembers their limitations .4 All these sources, when used with care, enable the historian to examine the major contours of social and communal life in the interwar Polish Shtetl. The subject needs attention. While political history and the Jewish political parties have been studied by historians of Polish Jewry, there has been relatively little written about Jewish life on the local level, about the interplay of people and communal institutions.


Such an examination, albeit tentative and preliminary, will show that the shtetl was a much more dynamic community than many have supposed, that its institutions and inhabitants were closely intertwined with outside organizations and influences, and that its network of communal institutions reflected a remarkable degree of social and attitudinal flexibility. Above all, the Shtetl should not be studied in a vacuum but should rather be seen in a specific historical and legal context.


Given the realities of Polish Jewry in 1938, it is both ironic and revealing that Mordechai Gebirtig, in writing "Undzer shtetl brent" (Our Shtetl Is Burning), chose the Shtetl to symbolize endangere Polish Jewry. After all, on the eve of World War II one out of four Polish Jews lived in the five largest cities and 40 percent lived in settlements of more than ten thousand Jews. The city, not the shtetl, was the center of the new political parties, trade unions, newspapers, youth organizations, credit associations, and cultural networks that were transforming Polish-Jewish life. But be it Gebirtig's song, Sholern Asch's sentimentalism, Y. L. Peretz's depressing travel sketches, L M. Weissenberg's brilliant treatment of the shtetl in revolutionary upheaval, or L. Rashkin's pitiless analysis of the demoralization of the wartime shtetl, the small town maintained its hold on the imagination of Eastern European Jewry. 



It is as a symbol of a certain kind of Jewish community that the shtetl claims its place in Jewish history. And given the peculiar position of Polish Jewry, the institutions, customs, and communal patterns developed in the small towns reflected crucial social and political processes in a people who occupied a double position: often a majority on the local level, a decided minority on the national level. Historically a Jew could identify far more easily with a specific town than with a province or country, and it was local structures; the rabbi, the bes-medresh (study house), or the bikur kholim (community hospital)-that touched his or her life far more than provincial and national organizations.6


As an ideal type, the shtetl was a form of settlement based on a market that served as a contact point between the Jewish majority and a Gentile hinterland whose social composition and cultural level minimized the threat not only of assimilation but even of acculturation. Even in a Shtetl with a sizable Polish population, the Jews lived in a compact mass, usually in the streets around the marketplace .7 The shtetl's economic function dictated a specific interplay of time and space, with the market day and the Sabbath as the two main events of the week, as well as an economic relationship with the Gentiles that was complementary rather than competitive, although in practice competition from Gentile merchants, artisans, and cooperatives became more severe during the interwar period. The market day itself tended to divide into the morning hours, when the peasants sold their products, and the afternoon, when they went into the Jewish shops to buy goods. On nonmarket days the shtetl was eerily quiet.8


The state of communications and transportation dictated a static market: the shtetl mainly served peasants who could come to town with their horse-drawn wagons and return home on the same day.9 Unless there was a major river system or railroad, entrepreneurial opportunities were rare and credit was a persistent problem, so much so that a major function of communal organization was often the extension of credit to buy goods to sell on the market day.


Yet while the market has come to be seen as the focal point of the shtetl's economic existence, there were in fact wide variations in the economic physiognomy of various shtetlekh, especially during the interwar period. While a shtetl in Polesie or the Vilna area might have conformed to the classic pattern of the market town and suffered greatly from the crisis of its agricultural hinterland, other shtetlekh, such as Kaluszyn in Warsaw province, found a modicum of economic security as centers of specialized handicrafts or as transfer points between larger cities and the surrounding countryside.10


The shtetl had enough Jews to support a basic network of community institutions-a mikveh (ritual bathhouse), a bes-medresh, a khevre kadisha, (burial society), and a rabbi or moreh-horaah (religious judge). In this way it differed from smaller types of settlement such as villages, and the differences between Yishuvnikes (village Jews) and shtetl Jews figured prominently in the shtetl's collective sense of humor. But the Jewish community was not so big that most inhabitants were not known, ranked, exposed to social pressures, and most often fixed in the community's mind by an apt nickname.11 Social differences were clear and strong. Seating arrangements in the synagogue, aliyes (calls to the Torah), and burial sites in the cemetery all served as a constant reminder of social gradations: sheyne yidn (upper-class Jews), balebatim (well-to-do Jews), balmelokhes (artisans), proste (lower-class Jews), and so forth. Even within such comparatively modest categories as artisans, there were definite distinctions of status based on the nature of the tailoring or the shoemaking being performed. Watchmaking ranked higher Still. 12


But if the shtetl nursed a strong sense of social gradation, it also maintained important "safety valves;' counters to the humiliations of the caste system. Bal-melokhes could gain prestigious aliyes by the simple expedient of starting their own minyan (quorum for public prayer), which also doubled as a fraternal organization.13 if a rich man showed little social responsibility, or gave too little to charity, his heirs might well face a hefty bill from the khevre kadisha. Especially in Congress Poland and Galicia, Hasidism was a powerful social force that established sub communities marked by close contact between rich and poor-although often at the expense of women and family life. 14


If social differences and prejudices were real, they still lacked clear legal and moral underpinnings. The shtetl culture was pluralistic and flexible enough to nourish new social attitudes, and this tendency was especially marked in the interwar period. After World War I youth movements introduced new ferment into the shtetl's life and sharply attacked the traditional shtetl bias toward mishker (trade) and against physical labor and craftsmanship. New organizations like the handverkerfareynen (artisans' unions) fought hard to counteract this traditional prejudice by emphasizing the dignity of physical labor-melokhe iz melukhe (having a trade is power). The massive influx of aid from the United States after World War I gave new leaders a chance to come forward and take a prominent role in the relief effort. In the process they contested the position of the prewar elite in the shtetl's politics.15


This tension between social discrimination and countervailing safety valves provides a basic key to understanding the inter-war shtetl. Another was a growing structure of organizational links between the shtetl and the wider Jewish community. The landsmanshaft, the Joint Distribution Committee, the central headquarters of the political party or youth group, the touring Yiddish theater troupe, or the daily newspaper coming from Warsaw or Vilna all helped integrate the shtetl into a wider network of allegiances and loyalties. The interplay of economic deprivation and these new outside currents imparted its own logic to social organizations in the shtetl. Young people could not afford books and newspapers but developed libraries within the framework of youth organizations, which in turn transformed patterns of social life, especially in the area of male-female relationships. The growing need for credit gave the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) the opportunity to begin a new kind of democratic credit organization, the gentiles khesed kase (freeloan society), which also came to play a very important social role. Alongside traditional social events such as the banquets of long established societies, new rituals, such as annual firemen's parades (a good example of Jewish-Gentile cooperation), Passover fundraising bazaars (which connected the youth movements with adult politics), and amateur theater performances (often linked to the fund-raising needs of the local Tarbut or TSYSHO school) helped to mark the evolution of the interwar shtetl and create a sense of community.


If one accepts such integration as an index of "modernization," where traditional communities fall under the influence of universal symbols and mobilizing influences from the outside, then the interwar shtetl was clearly undergoing such a process, Yet in fact there was no straight linear evolution from "tradition" to "modernity." The influence of outside institutions on the shtetl was filtered through traditional social organizations. While the shtetlekh on the eve of World War II had both caftaned Agudaniks and militant young Bundists or halutzim (Zionist pioneers) in blue shirts tramping off to soccer matches on Sabbath afternoons, one should not forget that most Jews in the shtetl fell somewhere between these two extremes. All shtetlekh had a khevre shas (study society) or its equivalent. At the same time, in most shtetlekh Jews could peruse advertisements for the screening of King Kong (a tsvantsik meterdike malpe! [an ape twenty meters high!]), Captains Courageous, and The Blue Angel-not to mention such uplifting rituals as "Miss Globokie" (or Dublin or Kazimierz), complete with all the latest vicarious glitter from Atlantic City.


Traditional patterns and organizations remained strong and reflected the intertwining of social and religious issues. One example was the conflict over electing new rabbis; poorer Jews could work through organizations such as the handverker fareyn to ensure the election of a rabbi they perceived to be friendly to their interests. 16 Artisans could wield power by gaining control of the khevre kadisha. Traditional minyanim and khevres often assumed a particular political complexion or even ran their own candidates in kehillah elections. One measure of their importance was that they often were the major distributors of moes khitim (Passover relief) and other funds sent to the shtetl by landsmanshaftn abroad. 17 The hold of religion, if only in the form of haltn shtat (doing things for appearance' sake), remained strong-until the very end.


Contrary to popular perceptions, the shtetl saw its share of violence and chicanery. Chaim Grade's account in Tsenakh Atlas of a local balebos's hiring thugs to destroy a library 18 accords with real-life accounts of violence during kehillah elections, disputes over new rabbis and funerals, and arguments over taxes. Grudges and grievances often interrupted Sabbath prayers and even led to fights in the synagogue.19 Incidents such as that which occurred in Mifisk Ma-


zowiecki in the 1930s, when the local butchers assaulted a respected Zionist delegate to the kehillah after he raised the meat tax to pay for the local Tarbut school, were not uncommon. Bribery to fix elections of new rabbis was rampant, and the disgruntled party often brought in its own candidate, thus leading to serious conflicts that split families and friends.


Quite often these conflicts went to the Polish courts, a point suggesting a higher degree of Jewish-Gentile contact than one would assume from reading the memorial books. An incident in Globokie on Yom Kippur in 1932 was not atypical. In that case, a conflict arose in the Starosielsker minyan over who would lead the musaf (additional) prayers. When Rabbi Menakhem-Mendl Kuperstock began to intone "Hineni he-ani;' a fistfight broke out. His opponents, still draped in prayer shawls, ran to adjoining synagogues to rally reinforcements. A mass brawl ensued, and as Polish police arrived en masse to quell the fighting, the leader of the pro Kuperstock faction was seen escaping through a window. Twenty five Jews, including many of the prominent community leaders, faced a public trial, which ended in suspended sentences. The editor of the local newspaper had pleaded with the opposing parties to settle their differences before the trial began. For a time it seemed that he had succeeded, but as soon as the court session started, charges and countercharges-in a broken Polish that caused waves of laughter from the spectators-began flying back and forth .20 In Mifisk Mazowiecki, a sharp battle over the rabbi's position went all the way to the Polish Najwyiszy Trybunal Administracyjny (Supreme Administrative Tribunal) .21


Indeed the shtetl did not accord a rabbi automatic respect. That had to be won through force of personality; it did not come with the office. Sometimes a forlorn rabbi had to beg the kehillah for his salary and even run a stall in the marketplace to eke out a precarious living .22 Yet in other cases the rabbi would be not only a religious leader but an organizer of philanthropy, a mobilizer of the community in crisis, and an intermediary with national Jewish organizations .23 In short, generalizations are difficult.


Thus while the shtetl as an "ideal type" has a certain heuristic value, no two shtetlekh were alike. Each shtetl had its own particular economic characteristics and its own particular occupational patterns. A common feature, though, was the prevalence of "secondary occupations" as a supplemental source of income, especially for those Jews dependent on trade .24


Regional differences were reflected in institutional, educational, and political patterns. In shtetlekh in the eastern, formerly Russian provinces (the kresy) a much larger percentage of Jewish children attended private, nongovernmental schools than was the case in Congress Poland or Galicia .25 Over time, however, economic pressures caused a tendency for more parents to send their children, especially girls, to government schools. Voting patterns also showed marked differences depending on the size of the settlement and region. For example, shtetlekh in the central provinces were a stronghold for the Agudat Israel, while their counterparts in the eastern provinces favored the various Zionist parties .26


In addition to regional differences, personal factors and relationships played a key role in the development of particular political organizations and educational trends. One shtetl might have a Tarbut school for its children, while a neighboring one would support a Yiddishist school of the Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye


(TSYSHO, Central Yiddish School Organization) .27 Adjoining shtetlekh would support a totally different constellation of youth organizations. Sokolovv Podlaski was a Poalei Zion stronghold, while nearby Luk6w's major organization was Hashomer Hazair. These differences arose not from economic or social factors but from purely personal reasons. In fact the shtetl was heavily dependent on a small core of people-both young people and adults-who gave their time and effort to run communal institutions, youth organizations, and cultural events. When such individuals emigrated, tired of their task, or, in the case of young people, married and withdrew into private concerns, the community often had considerable difficulty replacing them.28


A major difference between the structure of communal life in the bigger cities and in the shtetlekh stemmed from the role and functions of the kehillah. During Partition, the various parts of Poland had different legislation concerning Jewish community councils.29. The common denominator of the pre-1914 councils was restricted suffrage and purely religious competence. While reform of the kehillah was a major concern of both Zionists and Bundists before World War I, little in fact happened until the German occupation and the subsequent period of Polish independence.30 By 1928 new kehillah legislation allowed all males over twenty-five to vote. While their function remained primarily religious, the councils were allowed, if they wished, to spend money on social needs.31 In short, the kehillah became a catalyst for the development of political activity that embraced all strata of the population-a situation markedly different from that of the prewar period. Political parties, coalitions of mitnagdim and Hasidim, personal cliques, and occupational organizations all contested the elections. The campaigns were often marked by violence, especially when the Agudah turned to local authorities to void Bundist and left-wing Zionist election victories.32


Depending on the inclinations of the wojewoda (provincial governor) and whether the Jewish component of a particular town had been diluted by annexations of adjoining villages, the Jewish community could often use its delegates on the local town council to win needed financial support for local institutions like Jewish schools, the linas hatsedek (hospice for the poor), the Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludno~ci 2ydowskiej (TOZ, Society for the Safeguarding of Health of the Jewish Population), or for even sending needy individuals for rest cures at sanatoriums. Local politics was a key area of Jewish-Gentile interaction, and the results were sometimes, although not always, positive.33


But political realities forced the Jews into compromises even when they formed a majority of the voters and paid 80 percent of the taxes. Since the wojewoda could change budgets approved by the town councils, Jewish council members often settled for far lower subsidies than they felt Jewish institutions deserved. In Globokie, even when the Jews formed two-thirds of the town council, they did not push their claims to generous subsidies. In the local elections of 1935 the Jews faced a choice of joining with the government bloc and accepting minority status on the council (seven of fifteen delegates) or contesting the elections on a separate Jewish list. Many Jews wanted to fight it out, but the newspaper editor reminded his readers that the risk of stirring up anti-Semitism was too high a price to pay. The local authorities could always assure a Gentile majority by annexing adjoining villages. Besides, the town council had comparatively little power. After many stormy public meetings and much argument, the Jewish community accepted the Polish offer. 34


The politicization of the shtetlekh was also affected by new organizations developed by amkho (poor Jews) after the First World War. At that time, in addition to political parties, new craft organizations began to mobilize previously dormant groups in the shtetl. One of the most important was the handverkerfareyn. In some shtetlekh, depending on personal and local factors, the handverkerfareyn collaborated with the Agudah, in others with the Bund or the Zionists. What mattered was the effort of thefareyn to give the Jewish artisan a new sense of self-respect and inspire him to play a more assertive role in the affairs of the shtetl. 35 The handverker fareyn played on long years of pent-up resentment against the balebatim. But in many shtetlekh organizers found artisans intimidated, too unsure of themselves, to start contesting balebatim's control of the kehillah. 36 One of the ways the fareyn tried to build up spirit was through song.


Handverker fun ale fakhn


glaykht di rukns oys


derloybt nisht mer fun aykh tsu lakhn


geyt shtolts, mutik un faroys


zingt un loybt glaykh mit laytn


di arbet nor iz undzer makht


fargest di alte, alte tsaytn


der handverker hot tsurik ervakht


arnol is geven a groyser khet


tsu zayn a blekher, shloser, shmid


yeder yakhsn hot zikh tseredt: bal melokhe,. nidriker yid


inem klal fun lebn keyn onteyl genumen


fun ale gevezn farakht


gey fun vanen du bist gekumen


vi a nidrike brie hot yeder getrakht.37 



Artisans of all trades


Stand tall


Don't let them laugh at you


Go proudly forward


Sing, praise, just like everyone else


It's work that is our one great strength


Forget the old times


The artisan has awakened


Once it was a great sin


To be a tinsmith or a locksmith


The rich Jews thought an artisan is a lowly Jew


We took no part in communal life


All taunted us


Go back where you came from, they said


They thought we were a lower form of life.


The development of new organizations in the interwar shtetl also led to calls for a change in the position of women. In February 1934 an angry article in the Gluboker vokh pointed out that while women bore much of the burden in running charitable organizations, they had no representation in the shtetl's major institutions. In a later issue of the same newspaper an article ridiculing this claim called forth a bitter rebuttal from the froyen fareyn (women's union), which played a growing role in Globokie and other shtetlekh. 38


Another general feature of the transformation of the shtetl in interwar Poland was the integration of previously autonomous societies into the organizational structure of the kehillah. While this did not happen everywhere, there was a tendency for the kehillah to assert its control over the khevre kadisha and the slaughter of meat.39 After World War I it became more common for the khevre kadisha to share burial fees with the kehillah.


During the interwar period the khevre kadisha remained a focal point of conflict, and communal political alignments and tensions were often reflected in the khevre. In MiAsk Mazowiecki, where the handverkerfareyn managed to bring the khevre under its effective control, rich families who had been at odds with the fareyn often had to bargain for a few days before their relatives could be buried .40 Another source of tension was funerals for leftists. In Kazimierz (in Yiddish, Kuzmir) a shoving match at a funeral (over the issue of wearing yarmulkes) resulted in the president of the khevre being pushed into an open grave. In Dqblin (in Yiddish, Demblin) violence broke out after the khevre buried a member of the Poalei Zion near the fence of the cemetery. His friends disinterred the body, reburied him, and guarded the grave .41


A major difference between the kehillot in large cities and those in small towns was in how they spent their money. While revenue sources were largely the same-the meat tax, the poll tax (etat), and burial fees-kehillot in large cities spent a much larger proportion of their budgets on education and social welfare. In the smaller towns, to the great chagrin of many shtetl residents, the major concern of the kehillah continued to be the rabbi's salary and the upkeep of traditional religious institutions .42 This became a major issue of small-town politics, as various groups called for more disbursements to help particular schools, credit unions, or the needs of the poor.


Pressures on the shtetl kehillot to provide support for the poor increased during the Great Depression. For obvious reasons, Polish authorities encouraged the attitude that Jewish poverty was a Jewish problem rather than a charge on public relief funds. But here the shtetl kehillah faced unforeseen problems. In 1933 the Globokie kehillah tried to organize a public campaign to help the poor. But the "masses" became deeply suspicious when the printed appeal emphasized the plight of gefalene balehatim (well-to-do Jews who had lost their economic status), and the kehillah had to reassure an un- rully crowd gathered in the main synagogue that social status was not a criterion in allocating aid. Unfortunately the appeal failed to raise enough money, and a crowd of destitute Jews staged another demonstration in front of the kehillah building.43


One reason for the difference in the kehillah budgets was that conditions in the larger cities already required the extensive institutionalization of social services, while the shtetl still relied on personal, more direct forms of philanthropy. There was very strong social pressure on well-off individuals to give not only money but also time as well.44 Passover relief and dowries for poor brides would raise money by staging traditional Purim plays. The shtetlekh tried to keep their traditional "social safety net" in place: the synagogue stove (which warmed the very poor), the hekdesh (poorhouse), nedoves (alms) for wandering beggars. After havdole, the ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath, volunteers would collect slices or loaves of bread in a torbe (pail) to distribute to the poor (lekhem evyonim, or "bread of the poor").


In 1929 Hirsh Abramovich, a statistician of the Vilna Evreiskii Komitet Pomoschi Zhertvarn Voyny (EKOPO, Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims), wrote a revealing, strongly negative report on the decline of his nearby shtetl. But he emphasized that Jews in the shtetl still gave a much higher proportion of their disposable income to charity than did Jews in the larger cities and that the bonds of social responsibility remained strong, especially during major illnesses, when the Jews contributed to send their ailing townsperson to city hospitals .46 The Gluboker lebn regularly featured open appeals, where the givers publicly challenged specific individuals to match their gift. A typical case was Libe Kraut, a widow with six children who had nowhere to live. Leading balebatim led a campaign to fix her house .47 Charities even extended to the public schools. When a Jewish woman ran off with a Gentile, leaving her husband and children and taking the family's savings, the children's classmates raised twenty-five zlotys in the local szabaszwka, a Polish language public school intended exclusively for Jewish children .48,


Yet the interwar period saw growing sentiment for a basic change in the structure of shtetl philanthropy. The traditional reliance on personal giving, lekhem evyonim, and so forth, was sharply criticized, especially by those who argued that many needy Jews who were too proud to take alms from individuals might accept help if it were properly organized and institutionalized .49Taking food collected in a pail was cited in particular as a custom badly needing reform.50


Size of community




Passover Relief, 1937




Size of community Less than----- 2,000 ----2,000-5,000----- 5,000-10,000 -10,000+




Percentage from local Jews 22.6-%---------- 44.2%---------- 77.7%-------------81.6%


Percentage from Jews foreign sources 77.4%------- 55.8% --------22.3%------------- 19.4%





SOURCE: Hersh Shner, "Ankete vegn pesakh shtitse in di yorn 1935-37," Yidishe economik 1 (1937): 65. The figures for communities of 10,000 plus add up to more than 100 percent.


In the interwar period the bonds of place became particularly apparent in the crucial relationship between the shtetlekh and the landsmanshaft. According to one JDC report, the worse off a shtetl had been before World War 1, the more help it was likely to get from this source, since it was the poorest shtetlekh that provided the highest proportion of emigration before World War 1. 51 Figures published in 1937 on Passover relief illustrate just how important the landsmanshaft were (see table 1).


For Gigbokie, donations from the United States were of critical importance. A few key landslayt-Barney Rappaport of Hartford, Connecticut; Morris Cepelowicz of Buffalo, New York; and Judah Pollak of New York City-regularly organized appeals to support Passover relief, the TOZ, the Kinder Shutz (Society for the Protection of Children), the gemiles khesed kase, and the local Tarbut school. An important factor in maintaining contact between Globokie and landslayt overseas was the weekly Gluboker lebn, which was regularly sent to the United States. (Globokie, in turn, had the chance to read extensive articles about the exploits of Barney Rappaport in the Connecticut legislature.) Not counting funds sent to individual relatives, American money probably provided for 60 percent of the resources used to maintain these public institutions. The distribution of the American moneys often led to bitter conflicts.


The help from the United States, nourished by the weekly arrival of the Gluboker lebn, came at a price. The Gluboker lebn faithfully reported the growing poverty in the town but tried to play down incidents such as the Yom Kippur brawl for fear of jeopardizing the inflow of dollars. American landslayt regularly visited Globokie and heard complaints from those who felt that they had been slighted in the distribution of funds. Some Jews resented the groveling tone supposedly taken by the Gluboker lebn toward the landslayt. In 1934 a coup ousted Shloyme Bagin as the editor. His successor, Yonah Berkman, announced to the readers that henceforth the newspaper would be written in proper Yiddish rather than the Americanized "jargon" favored by Bagin. American visitors would be treated with dignified respect, but the shtetl would also remind them that Globokie was more than just a shnorrers' association. 52


The shtetl suffered greatly from the Great Depression and the structural problems of the Polish economy. In addition, the problem of economic boycott for the Jew in the small town took a different cast. The Jew in the shtetl could not be an anonymous economic actor. His economic position was conspicuous and personal and depended to a large extent on a specific relationship with individual Gentiles. Nor could the Gentile easily hide the fact that he was buying from a Jew.


On the other hand, one must keep in mind Joseph Marcus's argument that the issue of Jewish poverty must be seen in the context of the living standards of the non-Jewish population.53 Another important point is that the effectiveness of economic boycott depended on two fundamental factors: the attitudes of the Polish local authorities and the ability of newly minted Gentile merchants to compete effectively over time. Jacob Lestschinsky filed a dispatch describing how, in the aftermath of the 1936 pogrom, the Jewish share of commerce in Minsk Mazowiecki had fallen from 81 percent to 63 percent. 54 But four months later a reporter for the Varshever radio wrote that the Jews were holding their own in the town and that while the Polish townspeople felt strong social pressure to avoid Jewish shops, the peasants were ignoring the boycott. Many of the new Gentile shopkeepers could not retain peasant business, and the new starosta (district head) forbade close picketing of Jewish stores." Shtetlekh fortunate enough to have a starosta determined to keep order suffered much less from the boycott than towns where the local authorities were less sympathetic.


Besides help from the landsmanshaft, a major weapon against economic crisis was the credit union-especially the JDC-sponsored gentiles khesed kase. The development of these kases played a key role in the economic life of the interwar shtetl, not only as an economic lifeboat but also as a social institution counterbalancing the centrifugal influence of political parties and ideologies.


Credit had always been important in the traditional shtetl, both gemiles khesed (free loans) and more conventional loans. But the traditional organization of credit had depended largely on private individuals. Interest rates on conventional loans were high, and the traditional gemiles khesed kases had required the posting of articles as security. 56


In 1926 the Joint Distribution Committee laid the groundwork for the establishment of a network of gentiles khesed kases, which by 1937 included 870 towns and cities out of a total of 1,013 settlements of more than three hundred Jews. The kases were to give small, free loans (they averaged ninety-five zlotys) to Jewish artisans or traders who needed money to buy wares for the market day and somewhat larger loans for the purchase of a horse or an artisan's license. In order to force members of the Jewish community to work together and avoid the party strife that plagued Jewish local politics, the JDC stipulated that "all social and economic groups in the town be united in the kase's work ... and that there exist no kases for special groups." The JDC gave a town seed money after ascertaining that a suitable committee, able to command the respect and trust of the community, was ready to manage the enterprise. The town had to supplement the JDC's capital with its own contributions and eventually to pay the JDC back. The strategy was successful. The kases won the trust and respect of the Jewish public, and the JDC's share of the total kase capital declined from 58 percent in 1929 to 47 percent in 1936. In that year the total capital of the kases amounted to ten million zlotys. The smaller the town, the higher proportion of the Jewish population dependent on the kase. A survey in the late 1930s showed that Jewish small traders obtained half their total credits from the kases, 20 percent from private moneylenders, 10 percent from private banks, and 5 percent from commercial savings institutions. Thirty-three percent of all borrowers were artisans, and 50 percent were small traders.57


In many shtetlekh more than 90 percent of the working population joined the kases, whose membership elected the supervising committee each year. The committee met once a week, usually on Sunday, to hear requests for loans. Each loan applicant went to the kase and made his or her case for a loan, which was to be repaid in not less than three and not more than twelve months. The records of the kases provide a valuable glimpse into the problems of shtetl life. The following case, taken from the kase report of WVgr6w, was typical.


A woman enters with tears in her eyes. "Jews," she says, "you know


that my husband is a scribe and makes eight zlotys a week. Of course you know that one can't live on that wage. My children don't have any bread.... I would like to open a soda-water stand . . . some soda water, some apples, and I'll be able to make do [Ikh vel zikh an eytse gebnl. But a license costs twenty-eight zlotys.... Please Jews, lend me twenty-five zlotys. I'll pay back one zloty a week:",


The JDC went to great lengths to investigate any charges of corruption or personal bias. Unlike the credit cooperatives for more well to-do merchants, the kases were relatively free of charges of favoritism or corruption.59


Along with the new kehillot and the political parties, the kases were institutions that mobilized groups previously uninvolved in the communal affairs of the shtetl. Unlike the first two types of organizations, however, the kases engendered a spirit of communal cooperation rather than competition.


Of all the new changes affecting the interwar shtetl, one of the most significant was the advent of the youth movements .60 Although the great ideological movements that swept Eastern European Jewry had begun before World War 1, they did not become mass movements until the postwar period, and their vital core was the youth organizations. While the latter were certainly not rebelling against the leadership of the adult parties, the fact remains that Jewish parliamentary politics in interwar Poland could not really improve the condition of Polish Jewry. But in creating a framework for new social networks and youth organizations, the political parties were more successful.


It would not be too far fetched to say that literature and theater played almost as large a role in the Jewish youth movements as ideology. Discussions of literary as well as ideological questions and an intense interest in amateur theater gave the youth movement in the shtetlekh its own peculiar cast-that of a counterculture, a home away from home .61


A major determinant of the youth movements was the progressive decline of economic opportunity. Traditional options for young men in the shtetl had included taking a dowry and starting a store; going to a master, either in the shtetl or in a larger city, and learning a trade; studying in the bes-medresh in the hopes of impressing a prospective father-in-law; entering the parent's business; or emigrating. If a young woman did not marry, there was the choice of going to a larger city and becoming a maid or finding some sort of factory work. Many of these options narrowed after World War I. Economic conditions often meant that dowries which earlier would have sufficed to start a business no longer covered these costs.62 Only a small proportion of Polish-Jewish youth had entered trade schools, and hard-pressed artisans were taking on fewer youths as apprentices.63 In Globokie a 1931 survey showed that 61 percent of the boys and 83 percent of the girls between ages sixteen and twenty had no work .64 Another product of the economic situation may have been a trend toward later marriage .65 To some extent the economic pressure on Jewish youth had been counterbalanced by the demographic impact of World War I, but the number of Jewish children turning thirteen increased from twenty-four thousand in 1930 to forty-five thousand in 1938, heightening competition for limited economic opportunities .66


The youth organizations offered hope and dignity, evenings and Saturday afternoons of intense discussion about moral values, literature, and politics, and opportunities to engage in amateur theater and to travel. 67 There was always the chance, however slim, that years of backbreaking hakhsharah (pioneer training) might eventually lead to a coveted Palestine emigration certificate. Youths from poorer families often found in the Bundist (and communist) youth organizations a supportive environment that not only encouraged respect for the dignity of their labor but also gave them the chance to raise their self-esteem through cultivation of their dramatic and cultural talents in the language they knew best (Yiddish).


Regardless of ideology, the structure of the youth organizations was largely the same. A rented room-the lokal-was the center of the organization's activities. The lokal would probably have a library where books-too expensive for most youths to afford on their own-would be available and serve as the basis for kestl ovntn (debates) and discussions. The organizations sponsored amateur plays, trips to neighboring shtetlekh, and long hikes. All but the religious youth organizations scheduled trips on the Sabbath, thus straining relations between young people and religious parents.


As Moshe Kligsberg points out, the values encouraged by the youth movement provided a powerful antidote to traditional shtetl attitudes that denigrated manual work and valued commerce .68 If the youth movements did not entirely eliminate social divisions, they at least provided a new structure in which young people from different classes could meet on equal terms. On the whole there was more social integration in the Zionist than in the Bundist youth organizations; the latter remained primarily working class.


The youth movements played a major role in changing relationships between young men and young women. Hikes, discussion groups, and kestl ovntn provided opportunities for young people to meet away from the supervision of parents. Parents often tried to stop their daughters from joining youth organizations, but few succeeded. A hapless father in a shtetl near Vilna, told that his daughter was going on picnics in the woods on Saturday afternoon and even carrying baskets of food, replied, "Male vos zey trogn in vald iz nor a halbe tsore. Di gantse tsore vet zayn ven zey veln onheybn trogn fun vald" (I'm more worried about what she'll be carrying out of the forest than what she carries into it).69


This survey has attempted to show that there were in fact wide variations among the Jewish shtetlekh in interwar Poland as well as some basic common trends. The interwar shtetl was undergoing a process of political and social transformation. Social tensions and conflicts were a constant feature of shtetl life, and these conflicts often became quite bitter. Yet the overall tendency was for the shtetl to reflect wider trends in the history of interwar Polish Jewry and


to develop new institutions and organizations that involved and mobilized a larger proportion of the population and provided some Antidote-moral if not financial-to a declining economic situation. Above all, the shtetl developed institutions and attitudes that counterbalanced traditional prejudices and provided the community with underlying social flexibility and even resilience. Personalities mattered as much as institutions. Power and authority in the shtetl did not flow automatically from the rabbinate and the kehillah but reflected the ability of specific personalities to gain respect and prestige by working through particular structures. While economic pressures affected the shtetl, overall generalizations have to be counterbalanced against local factors. The Jewish struggle for economic survival was not entirely unsuccessful. The attitude of local authorities, help from the United States, the ability of Jewish merchants to hold on to peasant business, and the continuing social pressures to help less fortunate members of the community all point to at least a partial revision of the widespread view that, on the eve of the war, Polish Jews were waiting for their death.


1. Two secondary works on the Shtetl are Mark Zborowski, Life Is with People (New York, 19 50); and Rachel Ertel, Le Shtetl: La bourgade juive (Paris, 1982). Zborowski's shtetl is an abstract composite. Ertel makes good use of memorial books and provides a helpful discussion of youth movements but makes little reference to the Polish and Yiddish press. Furthermore, the book fails to provide an adequate historical context.


2. See Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Boyarin, "Yizker Bikher and the Problem of Historical Veracity: An Anthropological approach," in this volume


3. The archives of the YIV0 Institute for Jewish Research in New York have full runs of the Gluboker lebn (1930-36) and the Gluboker shtime (1936-39), as well as issues of the Gluboker vokh (1934-36). By coincidence, these newspapers cover the area where my parents lived.


4. The editor of the Gluboker lebn tried to downplay events that would undermine the image of the shtetl among the American landslayt. Moreover, to avoid fomenting further controversy, the paper deemphasized ideological disputes as well as the conflict over who should be the town rabbi. It also appears-especially after the advent of a competing newspaper in 1934-that the Gluboker lebn was not overanxious to offend the local Polish authorities.


5. Mordechai Gebirtig, "Undzer shtetl brent" (1938), in Gebirtig, Ha-ayarah boeretl


Undzer shtetl brent (Tel Aviv, 1967), pp. 8-11; Sholem Asch, A shtetl (New York, 1909); Y. L. Peretz, "Rayze bilder," in Peretz, Geklibene verk, ed. David Pinski, vol. 2 (New York, 1920), pp. 3-285; L M. Weissenberg, "A shtetl:' in Weissenberg, Geklibene verk, vol. 1, ed. Pearl Weissenberg (Chicago, 1959), pp. 287-355; L. Rashkin (Shaul Fridman], Di mentshn fun God1bozhits (Warsaw, 1936). See also Dan Miron, Der imazsh fun shtetl (Tel Aviv, 1981).


6. A fine essay discussing this point is Abram Menes, "Di kemerlekh fun tsibur lebn bay yidn:' Y1V0 bleter 2 (1931): 193-99.


7. One supplement to the overwhelming evidence on this point contained in memorial books and interviews is the archives of Minsk Mazowiecki, which contain a street-by- street breakdown of the Jewish and non-Jewish population in 1932. Ninety percent of the Jewish population lived on six streets adjoining the marketplace. See Population Registry, 1932, Archiwum Miiiska Mazowieckiego, Otwock, file 112.


8. An excellent description of a shtetl on a nonmarket day can be found in a report on WVgr6w in the late 1930s. See Bezalel Botchan, report on the WVgr6w gemiles khesed kase ~free-loan society), 1937, Jacob Lestschinsky Archives, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, file 258. 


9. For a discussion of this point, see Hayim Sosnov, "Kalkalah ve-hevrah beKolno bein shtei milhamot ha.olam," in Sefer zikaron le-kehillat Kolno, ed. Isaac Reinba and Benjamin Halevi (Tel Aviv, 1971), pp. 28-42. In the 1930s Sosnov collected data on economic conditions in various shtetlekh for YIV0.


10. On Kaluszyn, see S. Gotlib, "A yidish shtetl vu ale hobn parnose:' Varshever


radio, October 16, 1936.


11. On the role of nicknames, see, besides the memorial books, Hirsh Abramo-


vich, "A yidish shtetl in Lite," in Oyfdi khurvesfun milkhomes un mehumes: Pinkesfun gegnt-komitet EKOPO, ed. Moshe Shalit (Vilna, 1931), pp. 362-84.


12. On the question of status distinctions among artisans, see Note Koifrnan, "Dos yidishe ekonomishe lebn in Sokolov," in Sefer ha-zikaron: Sokolow Podlaski, ed. M. Gelbart (Tel Aviv, 1962), pp. 156-70. See also Moshe Kligsberg, "Di yidishe yugnt bavegungen in Poyln tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes: A sotsyologishe shtudye:' in Studies on Polish dewry, 1919-1939, ed. Joshua A. Fishman (New York, 1974), pp. 143-44.


13. For a good explanation of why artisans wanted to start their own minyanim, see YaakovMalanvanchik, "In katsevishnbes-medresh:'in Seferyizkor le-kehillat Shedletz, ed. A. Wolf Jasny (Yasni) (Buenos Aires, 1956), pp. 581-84. In 1938 the Gf~-bokie tailor's minyan was in danger of being closed down on the grounds that it violated sanitary regulations. The Gluboker shtime reported: "Yes, this was a minyan for workers, for artisans, for those toilers [horepashnikes] who felt a sense of selfrespect there. They did not have to wait for the second-class aliye, for the thin maftir [weekly haftorah portion] that were thrown to them in other synagogues. They elected a president [gabai] from among their own ... and became in their own eyes the equal of everybody else." See S. Agus, "Shtol," Gluboker shtime, August 12, 1938.


14. Yekhezkiel Kotik, Mayne zikhroynes (Warsaw, 1913), pp. 399-415, offers an excellent discussion of the social impact of Hasidism in the late nineteenth century. Much of what Kotik observed was still relevant for the interwar period. A fictional treatment of how Hasidism affected family life can be found in 1. J. Singer, Di brider ashkenazi (New York, 1951). See also Jacob Katz, Radition andCrisis (New York, 1961).


15. A prime example was the role of the Evreiskii Komitet Pomoschi Zhertvam Voyny (EKOPO, Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims) in distributing Joint Distribution Committee (JDQ money in northeastern Poland. The EKOPO recruited local committees to ensure that the relief funds were spent fairly. 


16. An example is the controversy surrounding the election of a rabbi in Mifisk Mazowiecki in the early 1930s. Efraim Shedletzky, interview with author, Jerusalem, July 1982.


17. "Vi a,oy zaynen farteylt gevorn di 300 doler," Gluboker lebn, April 15, 1932. A committee in the shtetl would receive a sum from the American landsmanshafin and distribute most of it to the minyanim to help the neediest cases. Certain sums were, of course, reserved for communal institutions or for Jews who were not associated with a particular minyan.


18. Chaim Grade, Tsemakh Atlas (New York, 1968), 2:141.


19. Shloyme Bagin, "Shande! Shande!" Gluboker kbn, September 25, 1931: "Other peoples like to fight in bars.... We prefer to fight in shul [synagogue]. All disputes, all lowly feelings, all kinds of crazy behavior are saved for the synagogue on the Sabbath or on a holiday... If somebody bears a grudge against somebody else ... then he waits until Saturday." The paper pointed out that on the previous Saturday, Shabes tshuve, there had been fights in three synagogues


20. "Arum dem yom-kipur protses," Gluboker lebn, June 2, 1933. One should note that there is no mention of this incident in the memorial book.


21. Nasz Przeglqd, July 2, 1936.


22. On this point, see, aside from obvious literary references, Abramovich, "A yidish shied in Lite," pp. 380-81.


23. For example, see Elkhanan Saratzkin, "Der lebnsveg fun ha-Rav Zalmen Sar- atzkin," in Pinkes Zhetl, ed. Borukh Kaplinski (Tel Aviv, 1957), p. 233. In Glgbokie, Rabbi Yosef Halevi Katz played a major role in the creation of the town bank. In Mihsk Mazowiecki, Rabbi Jacob Kaplan halted a Sabbath service and ordered Jews to go home and bring money to help the victims of fire in a nearby town. See Yehoshua Budvitzki, "Bein noar dati;' in Sefer Minsk Mazowieck, ed. Efraim Shedletzky (Jerusalem, 1976), p. 93.


24. This becomes quite clear in the various JDC reports. One example is Probuina, in Galicia. Of the 1, 104 Jews in the town, 40.2 percent of those employed depended on trade, and 26.8 percent were in crafts and manufacturing. Of the 185 families engaged in trade, 62 had a secondary occupation. Of 121 families dependent on crafts, 17 had secondary occupations. The more modest the type of commercial activity, the more likely the Jew was to have a secondary occupation. Of the 38 market stall owners, all but 8 had another occupation. Report on Probuina, 1934, Joint Distribution Committee Archives, New York, Poland, Reconstruction, Localities, Probuina.


25. "Uczniowie 2ydzi w szkolach powszechnych:' Biuletyn Ekonomiczno-Statystyczny, September 1937. In the central provinces 81.9 percent of Jewish children attended state schools, while 18. 1 percent attended the various Jewish schools (Tarbut, TSYSHO, Yavneh, etc.). in four eastern provinces, 58 percent attended state schools, while in Galicia 95 percent were in state schools. In Vilna province itself, 5 6.3 percent of Jewish children attended Jewish schools. Ibid.


26. Leon Ringelblum, "Di vain tsu di shtotram in Poyln in 1934;'Dos virtshaftlekhe lebn, 1934, nos. 8-9, pp. 1-12.


27. For an informative survey of education in forty-nine shtetlekh in Vilna province in 1929, see Moshe Shalit, "Ankete vegn der tsol kinder in di shuln fun Vilne on gegnt in lernyor 1929-1930," in Oyfdi khurves, p. 688.


28. Y. V., "Miz zaynen orem. in gezelshaftlekhe tuer,' , Gluboker shtime, March 3, 1939; Yankev Dokshitski, "Tsurik in di reyen:' Gluboker vokh, February 16, 1934.


29. On the details of kehillah legislation, see Michal Ringel, "Ustawodawstwo Polski Odrodzonej o gminach iydowskich," in ~ydzi w PoIsce Odrodzonej, vol. 2, ed. ignacy (Yitzhak) Schiper, Aryeh Tartakower, and Aleksander Hafftka (Warsaw, n.d.), pp. 242-48.


30. For a valuable account of the importance of this issue in pre-1914 Jewish politics in the Russian Empire, see Genrikh Sliozberg, Dela Minuvshikh Dnei (Paris, 1934), 3:263-64.


31. Ringel, "Ustawodawstwo Polski Odrodzonej o gminach iydowskich," pp. 246-48.


religion. In Sokol6w Podlaski, after the Agudah joined forces with the handverkerfareyn in voiding a Left Poalei Zion victory, the Poalei Zion supporters hurled rocks through the windows of the home of the Agudah leader and invaded the kehillah building, overturning desks and chairs. See Peretz Granatshtein, Mayn khorevgevorene shtetl Sokolov (Buenos Aires, 1946), p. 66.


33. In interwar Zdzi~ci6f (in Yiddish, Zhetl), the Jewish majority managed to reverse a decision diluting the Jewish hold on the local town council by incorporating nearby villages. Thus the Jewish delegates were able to use local taxes (mostly paid by the Jews themselves) for the well-being of the town. See Moyshe Mendel Layzerovitsh, "Zhetl un der zhetler handverker," in Pinkes Zhetl, pp. 134-35. The interwar archives of the Miftsk Mazowiecki town council, where as a result of incorporation the Jewish delegates were in a minority, record the constant struggle to retain town subsidies to Jewish communal institutions. While the subsidies were small, they continued throughout the interwar period, as did the practice of subsidizing the sanatorium expenses of poorer citizens


34. Shloyme Bagin, -Tsu an eynhaytlekher yidish-kristlekher liste tsu di shrotrat


valn," Gluboker lebn, May 18, 1934.


3 5. A useful, if biased, source on the handverkerfareyn is Elimelekh Rak, Zikhroynes


fun a yidishn handverker tuer (Buenos Aires, 1958).


36. For example, see Yaakov Rag, "Tsvey khevres," in Sefer Ratne, ed. Yakov Ba-


toshanski and Yitzhak Yanosovich (Buenos Aires, 19 52), pp. 141-47. 3 7. Rak, Zikhroynes fun a yidishn handverker tuer p. 15 138. M. Rubin, "Vi halt es mit der froy in undzer gezelshaftlekhn lebn:' 6luboker vokh, February 2, 1934; letter to the editor, Gluboker vokh, February 9, 1934.


39. For example, see Zalmen Saratzkin, "Zhetl in der tsayt fun mayn rabones," and anon., "Hevres un institutsyes:' Pinkes Zhed, pp. 97-109, 177-79, respectively.


40. Esther Rokhman, interview with author, Tel Aviv, August 6, 1981; Efraim, Shedletzky, interview with author, Jerusalem, August 7, 198141. David Shtokfish, ed., Pinkes Kuzmir (Tel Aviv, 1970), p. 195; Shtokfish, ed., Sefer Demblin-Modzice (Tel Aviv, 1969), p. 127.


42. "Sotsyale arbet in Poyln," June 1936, JDC Archives, Poland, General, no. 326a; Y. Bornshteyn, "Di struktur fun di budzshetn fun di yidishe kehiles in Poyln:' Dos virtshaftlekhe lebn, 1934, nos. 1-2, pp. 16-18.


43. "Hunger demonstratsye bay der yidisher kehile in Glubok:' Gluboker lebn, February 12, 1933. When the Polish police arrived, the Jews asked to be arrested, arguing that at least in jail they would be fed.


44. Moshe Zisserman, interview with author, Holon, Israel, August 27, 1981. Zisserman was the president of the linas hatsedek in Mifisk Mazowiecki in the late 19 30s. 



45. "Sotsyale arbet in Poy1n." The 1934 report on Probuina (see note 24, above) mentions that all charity was organized by the rabbi. Hayim Sosnov recalls that in Kolno his father objected to the institutionalization of the town's philanthropy on the grounds that "it was not Jewish." See "Kalkalah ve-hevrah be-Kolno," pp. 28-42.


46. Abramovich, "A yidish Shred in Lite," pp. 381-84.


47. "Retungs-keyt tsu endikn di kleyn shtibele fun der almone mit di yesoymim Kraut;' Gluboker vokh, July 6, 1934.


48. "A familyen tragedye vos iz farlofn in Glubok," Glubokershtime, April 15, 1938.


49. "Arbet un sotsyale hilf;' Gluboker lebn, January 29, 1932.


50. [Shloyme Bagin?], "Arum der Gluboker lekhem evyonim;' Gluboker lebn,


November 10, 1933: "A beggar might take a piece ofbread in a pail, but notgefalene balebatim or someone who has lost his job." The newspaper argued that philanthropy was the responsibility of both the town council and the kehillah.


5 1. For a discussion of this point, see the report on Sok6lka, 1937, JDC Archives, Poland, Reconstruction, Localities, Sok6lka. 52. Yonah Berkman, "Der sakhaki fun a yor arbet:' Gluboker lebn, June 28, 1935. 5 3. Joseph Marcus, Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland, 1919-1939 (New York, 1983), p. 243.


54. Jacob Lestschinsky's account of his visit to Mifisk Mazowiecki can be found in the Lestschinsky Archives, file 286. For another unpublished eyewitness account of the pogrom, see Moshe Rozenberg's entry in the 1939 YIVO youth autobiography contest, YIVO Archives, Youth Autobiographies, 143644/3753.


55. S. Gotlib, "Der emes vegn di straganes," Varshever radio, October 7, 1936.


56. "Sotsyale arbet in Poyln." In Yunge yorn (New York, 1918), Sholem, Asch describes Leybl, a traditional moneylender who enjoyed walking around the shtetl intimidating all his debtors. For a good description of a Jewish credit bank before World War I, see B. Mintz, "Di antviklung fun yidishn kredit vezn in Shedletz:' in Sefer Shedletz, pp. 42 5-48. One constant problem in the organization of credit in the shtetl was the tension between the needs of the artisans and those of the small merchants 57. Internal memorandum, April 15, 1943, JDC Archives, Poland, Reconstruction, Gemiles Khesed Kases, no. 398; "Sotsyale arbet in PoyIn."


58. Botchan, report on the Wggr6w gemiles khesed kase.


59. Internal memorandum on gemiles khesed kases, April 11, 1938, JDC Archives, Poland, Reconstruction, General, 1938.


60. An indispensable source for any discussion of the youth movements is Kligs


b berg, "Di yidishe yugnt bavegungen in Poyln," pp. 137-228. Much of the discussion


elow is based on Kligsberg as well as on extensive interviews conducted in 1981


and 1982 with participants in the youth movements.


6 1. On this point, see the excellent treatment by Ertel, Le shtetl, pp. 243-98. On this aspect of the youth movements, I owe much to a conversation with my late uncle, Lazar Kraut, who was a member of Hashomer Hazair in GICbokie.


62. On this point, see Abramovich, "A yidish shtetl in Lite;' pp. 371-72.


63. There are many discussions of this point in Fvlkshitf as well as in Dos virtshaftlekhe lebn. A spot survey taken by the JDC in Ostr6g, a shtetl in Volynia, in the late 1930s showed that of forty-two youngsters between age fourteen and sixteen, three had a contract with a master to learn a trade. Report on Ostr6g, 1937, JDC Archives, Poland, Reconstruction, Localities, Ostr6g. 64. Shaul Yididovich, "Di yidishe bafelkerung fun Glebok in tsifern:' Yrm bleter 2 (1931): 414-20. Of those "employed:' most helped out in their parents' shops. For the town as a whole, 53.6 percent of the Jewish population depended on crafts and 26.2 percent on trade.


65. in Horodno, of forty-four young people in the twenty-five to twenty-nine age group, thirty-three were unmarried. See A. Tzinaman and L. Shlamovitsch, "Di yidishe bafelkerung in Horodno," Dos virtshaftlekhe lebn, 1935, nos. 8-9, pp. 92-105. of course overall generalizations are difficult to make on the basis of such fragmentary evidence. See also Shaul Stampfer, "Marital Patterns in Interwar Poland," in this volume.


66. Jacob Lestschinsky, "Vegn a konstruktivn plan fun hilf far di poylishe yidn," Yidishe ekonomik 2 (1938): 12.


67. Granatshtein, Mayn khorev gevorene shtetl Sokolov, provides excellent material on the youth organizations in Sokol6w Podlaski. in one chapter (pp. 142-48) he recalls going to neighboring SterdyA with other members of the Poalei Zion to attend the wedding of some friends. The leader of the SterdyA Poalei Zion youth group wanted to use the wedding to recruit new members. The brother of the bride, a Bundist, objected to the political speeches and suggested that everyone relax and have a good time. When the Sokol6w Poalei Zion supported this suggestion, the whole SterdyA group got up en masse and left the weddingl


68. Kligsberg, "Di yidishe yungt bavegungen in Poyln," pp. 137-228.


,,be69p.reAgnbraamovich, "A yidish shtetl in Lite," p. 370. Rogn means both "carry" and