Encyclopedia of Things We Lost Forever – Day 9: Shtetl

Banksy for the Wimp: Encyclopedia of Things We Lost Forever


The Pale of Settlement was a stretch of land at the western border of the Russian Empire that included modern Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, where all the Jews of the Empire were confined to live under strict regulations. This restriction gave rise to the Shtetls, the typical Jewish market-villages of Eastern Europe that provided the community with everything from schools and hospitals to an own language and identity. Born out of repression, Shtetls were centers of learning and charity where education was seen as the highest good and giving considered essential. Shtetls – Jiddish for little towns – could also be found in the Congress Kingdom of Poland, Galicia, and Romania.

The culture died with the people that lived it. Any attempt to revive it as it was today can only fail. It only lives on in literature and art like in Chagall’s work. More on him in: It’s not Love without a Fiddle