Tablet: Pale of Settlement photos podcast

There’s another podcast at Tablet Magazine – this one focuses on the ethnographic expeditions through Russia’s Pale of Settlement from 1912-1914.

Read the text and hear the interview here.

Author S. An-sky recorded music, folk tales, photographs and every day life. Much of it had never been recorded before. A new collection of material – some 350 photos – has been recently rediscovered, resulting in a book with 200 of them.

He also recorded Jewish popular and liturgical music on wax cylinders. A few years ago, the University of Kiev digitally transcribed the music on those cylinders to CDs. I heard them at the Fehrer Music Archives at Beit Hatefutsot when Dr. Yuval Shaked was the archives director.

I especially enjoyed the music recorded in our TALALAY ancestral town of Mogilev, Belarus, when branches of the family still lived there. There were recordings by hazzanim, and likely the same people our family heard in person, as well as popular songs, which they likely sung themselves. It was a very connecting experience!

The photos bring to life the lives of our ancestors.

An-sky – his pen name – wrote popular plays, such as “The Dybbuk.”

The photos are the most comprehensive visual record available of these small towns and the people who lived there.

The book (pictured above) is Photographing the Jewish Nation: Pictures from S. An-sky’s Ethnographic Expeditions, edited by Eugene Avrutin and Harriet Murav, professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about the importance of this collection for anyone interested in shtetl life in the Russian Empire.

David G. Roskies, author of “Yiddishlands: A Memoir” wrote about this new book:

“Here, recovered and recorded at the last conceivable moment, is the living shtetl, those market towns large and small that were once home to the majority of Jews in the world: a bucolic landscape amidst the poverty and mud; school children posing with their nattily dressed teachers; mug shots of potential nannies; Jews of every age engaged in all manner of trade; a huge outdoor wedding; beautiful synagogue interiors, complete with chandeliers and signs of the zodiac; ritual objects and sacred graves; the Rabbi’s house and the local church. Here, also, is the story of the intrepid explorers, children of the shtetl themselves, who tried to salvage this Yiddish-speaking civilization for future generations. No less miraculous are their spiritual offspring, who authored this superb collection of essays and discovered these remarkable photographs.”

The list of editors, some names are familiar to readers, is here:

Eugene M. Avrutin, Assistant Professor of History and Tobor Scholar in Jewish Studies, University of Illinois. Valerii Dymshits, Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Interdepartmental Center, “Petersburg Judaica,” at the European University, St. Petersburg, Russia. Alexander Ivanov, Senior Researcher at the European University, St. Petersburg. Alexander Lvov is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at the European University, St. Petersburg. Harriet Murav, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Illinois. Alla Sokolova, Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at the European University, St. Petersburg.

The Tablet link provides a gallery of photos from the book.

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