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Still Lives

Newly discovered photographs shed light on daily existence in the Pale of Settlement

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From the An-sky photo archive.(Courtesy of Petersburg Judaica, European University at St. Petersburg)

  In 1914, a Russian Jew writing under the name S. An-sky wrote a play called The Dybbuk. It concerns a young bride-to-be possessed by the spirit of her former lover, and it would go on to become one of the most popular plays in the Jewish- and Yiddish-theater repertoire. But An-sky’s pre-Dybbuk work might be his most valuable contribution to Jewish culture: from 1912 to 1914, the playwright led ethnographic expeditions throughout Russia’s Pale of Settlement, collecting Jewish folk tales, rituals, music, and other artifacts of daily and religious life. An-sky’s research has been an invaluable resource to students of Jewish history and culture. Now, a new body of material from those expeditions has come to light: approximately 350 photographs, comprising perhaps the most comprehensive visual record available of these small towns and the people who inhabited them. The photos are remarkable not only for the wealth of detail they offer about a way of life in transition, but also for the immediacy of the subjects themselves.

A collection of nearly 200 of these newly discovered photos is now available in a volume titled Photographing the Jewish Nation: Pictures from S. An-sky’s Ethnographic Expeditions. Vox Tablet spoke to two of the book’s editors, Eugene Avrutin and Harriet Murav, both 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. A gallery of photos from the book appears below.

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Sydney Lev says:

I give up. I find no way around the fact that these photos are just completely depressing. They led sad, hard lives and then were hunted and murdered. Statistically speaking, maybe five of these people got out before the Shoah obliterated their entire world?

Hand me the Prozac, please…

kalman says:

If you live in Europe, as I do, you’re only happy to know that at least some of the material from that period survived. I think it’s fascinating.

Doug Greener says:

The young bride-to-be in The Dybbuk is not possessed by her “former lover.” This is the Jewish shtetl, after all. The spirit which possesses her is the young man who was betrothed to her at birth by the two fathers. An-sky was expressing his opinion that such shiduchs from birth are not only unfair to the people involved, but may also be laden with unknown dangers.

T. Bartman says:

If you look at the Jewish life and culture that existed in the Pale and in the Cities of Western and Central Europe you’ll understand what small consolation are the contemporary Jewish communities in America and Israel,and the vastness of what was actually and potentially lost not only to Nazism but also to some extent to communism.

The photograph of the Talmud Torah students could well have been my grandparents. Indeed, they faced poverty, pogroms, and disease, but they also knew how to survive.

They cooked their own food, sewed their own clothes, cut their own logs, and were highly literate. Very self-reliant, considering their overall situation.

“lost not only to Nazism but also to some extent to communism”, “small consolation are the contemporary Jewish communities in America and Israel”? Shouldn’t we be as equally concerned and trying everything we can to prevent the remainder of the Jewish communities around the world from being obliterated through intermarriage.

in doing research a lot of my family in the pale were cigarette rollers. they carried that to london. and then on to chicago. i had no idea this was such a pervasive occupation, even in russia…

beautiful stuff.

The music recorded on these expeditions is also extant and available on CDs (digitally transcribed from the original wax cylinders!) from the University of Kiev. Much of it is in the Fehrer Music Archives at Beit Hatefutsot in Tel Aviv, where I listened to songs, both popular and liturgical, from Mogilev, Belarus. This was when some of our family was still there and they likely heard those same songs sung by the same people. There is a wealth of resources out there for those trying to learn about their families. From photographs to music, we never know what we’ll find once we start searching. Each piece of the puzzle is an adventure and may lead to something else entirely.

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In my life I have experianced many forms of sex and now to this day I am to realize the actual touch from a loving excistance even with the work of the talamud is still neciserry . So many shun the idea and if reaserched on the internet it only explains exiles exist praying for the day these two come together .

The only drawback to acheiveing a good religion for a excistance with these old methods is a new exile a exile much more worth a victory . In this new year I hope a reserected god by my own schizophrenic belief the Raven will follow me into the exile of Mafia this is truly my enemy and the downfall of a decent chance to escape hell and burden . In the following of the exile much work will be needed to ensure a true honest plate of food and the kicking of a simple cancerous crap from the gods of Mafia . I stand here saying will Earth want this or will they fall to Mafia

I am a her royal orphan to King Edward the 1st held prisoner to a planet by the gods of Mafia . To truly help my and probally other her in the life of this new century uprising the Masia and the Shia If the Tsheheshe apear into the life with no percusioin to the man of Masia bring there woman who will choose there name and start a being made gender .

Wars have been long as seven hours per day some try to hide behinde a game which was never to be allowed making war over five years long and still continue . the TG are the Mafia and the sickest find there home with them to keep our bodies seperate and endorphins pure is the only way to live with the soul in need of a new body for the safety of my daughter of my whom and my son whom will come from a bloodline of a woman she the coexsitance between the Mafia and all other ia will more then likely concequncly fall to ruin .

Please bringeth the day of true endorphin Ia into this century and new year instead of more war .

Princess hahahahahahaha 2012

I have found the Mafia that is the male and female intercourse society . I took out one of there computers and some fuck head who we trusted sold us out they took it from me and proved themself to the mafia in hopes to reveal the type of heven I had found . They instantly took everything and forced sex on eartheenah . I sent my new aherme to capture there heaven ahershem cought them I tortured one here in my soul for ruining my rebelian god moved there heven . Then raped me mafia is powerfull and smart but not enuff . I started to track them looking in the first place I beleive to open the portal . A seperation in electricity where they could have escaped . We looked into a spark in many forms of electricty another idea was if mabie one person would have hair that would not stand on end when touching one of those electric balls in science world we might find a portal …

Another god came after me and I was able to find him and give him brain anurizams untill he gave up life and then I was able to shoot electricity at his head untill he gave up agian after that I was able to use another method I learned comes aparent a tail forms on them after turning into a cloud I made that apparent then sent my electric signal verifier up to anilize his stem soul . Pinpointimg his neck I cut a hole into his tail . With the help of pit comunication labs I sent a signal to find a inverting master he opened up son of a bitch . A large light of spirit appered and my new friend went to town herd he made a million in seconds . Then right after I killed Travis Michael Butler the queer who wants to be a faggot prostitute for the arion nation but my memory has been wiped out on what I did to find him sorry .


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Still Lives

Newly discovered photographs shed light on daily existence in the Pale of Settlement

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