“Please think of me like an endangered species and just observe me quietly from far away. If you try to talk to me or touch me casually, I may get intimidated and bite you. So please be careful.”—Haruki Murakami at his first public appearance in 18 years today in Kyōto
Underfed, overworked Anatevka
Where else would Sabbath be so sweet?
Intimate, obstinate Anatevka
Where I know everyone I meet
So you might have heard of the word shtetl. You might not. But if you hear the word shtetl, what comes to mind (besides Fiddler on the Roof, that is)? Is it hamlet, a market town, a town, or a village? It’s a town, a market town. And they all started some hundreds of years ago - before the Crusades. Before the Jews even lived in the shtetls (aka the shtetlach) of Eastern Europe.
Before the Jews even moved to Eastern Europe, they lived in Germany and France in the Rhineland region. (This is also the place where Yiddish started but that’s for another post.) Life was good until the rise of the Crusades in 1096. During the First Crusade (1096), the Crusaders who came through killed somewhere between 5,000-15,000 Jews; they did this because Jews didn’t believe in Jesus Christ being their Saviour and because the Crusaders blamed the Jews for killing Jesus. This is called the Pogroms of 1096. Thankfully though, during the Second, Third, and Fourth Crusades, no Jews were killed.
But the bloodshed didn’t end there. In 1298, the Rindfleish, organized gangs of people whose purpose was to kill Jews, killed some 50,000-120,000 Jews. And then there were the Armleder gangs in 1312 who were just like the Rindfleish. The Black Plague (1346) continued the Anti-Semitism. During the Black Plague, Jews were accused of poisoning the wells. Why? It was because traditionally, Jews wash their hands (meaning at least pour water over them) right before they eat any meal; many people, if not everyone except the Jews, didn’t do this. Which meant that many many people died from illness but also from lack of basic hygiene. Therefore, since the Jews had at some basic hygiene, they didn’t get as sick in as many numbers as their Christian neighbors did, which in turn, turned into accusations by the Christians that the Jews were poisoning the wells.
By this point in time, the Jews had had enough. At this time, Poland was an undeveloped country and the government wanted to bring commerce in. So they invited a bunch of nationalities whom they thought could help them - such as the Germans, Dutch, Greeks, and others - primarily to Poland to help establish commerce. And with the Germans, came the German Jews - the same ones who lived in the Rhineland region. When people arrived in Poland, they set up their communities so that everyone from the same nationality lived in the same town. So in the case of the Germans, the Christians lived on one side and the Jews lived on the other. Over many generations, all of the people from the different nationalities married into Polish families and in essence, became Polish. All of them except for the Jews that is. But probably before this started occurring, the very first pogrom in Eastern Europe happened. The German Christians instigated a pogrom against the German Jews because they didn’t want the Jews to be there. They probably thought that Jews were going to be competing with them for jobs and they didn’t like that. So the Polish government told the Jews they can leave the cities and their enemies (the German Christians) and go be a middle-man between the Polish and Lithuanian nobility and the newly conquered Ukrainian peasants. They took up this opportunity, but disaster still followed.
One of the middle-man (Arendar) occupations that the Jews took up was as a tax collector. This caused serious problems. The Polish or Lithuanian nobility would impose high taxes on their Ukrainian peasants, but of course, they would hardly, if ever, see their farmland in the Ukraine. Instead, they would have their tax collector go to their farmland to collect those enormously high taxes from the peasants, which meant that the peasants blamed the tax collector on the outrageously high taxes and not on who was actually instigating them - the nobility. Keep in mind that the peasants only got 5% of what they farmed/income; while some was kept to pay the tax collector, the rest of it was sent to the lord in Poland and/or Lithuania. Since the peasants had such a hard life, many men fled into the mountains, lived with the nomads for several years, and in the process learn how to fight and become battle-hardened, all the while maintaining a vengeance against the Jews. Then, after several years of being away, they would swoop down from the mountains and take revenge against the Jews. These peasants would later be known as Cossacks.
After 1650, which was the start of the pogroms in Eastern Europe, Jews moved west and settled in Central Europe - primarily Hungary, Romania, Carpathian-Russia, and Slovakia. A little bit over 100 years later, by 1772, Poland was weakened by the Swedes, Ottoman Empire, Poles not liking each other, the Cossacks, and other factors. Thus, over the next 23 years, Poland was partitioned three times - in 1772, 1793, and 1795 - and incorporated into the Russian, Prussian, and Austrian Empires. It wasn’t until 1772 that Jews were allowed to live in Russia; but really, in that case, it was more of, “Oh! Shoot! We just got all this land from Poland and it has 1 million Jews in it!” and not at all moving to where present-day Russia is.
Starting in 1791, Russia instituted the Pale of Settlement - an area that by the last partition of 1795, consisted of 386,100 square miles. (The Russian Empire was 20 million square miles.) Jews were forced to live in the Pale; they were forbidden from living anywhere else in the Russian Empire. They forced the Jews who were living in the cities in the Pale to move out and live in the shtetlach. There were various laws that forbade them from doing this or that. One notable example is that Jews were not allowed to own land; the most they could do was rent it. But the pogroms that had started with the Germans many years before, continued with the Russians - especially after 1881, when the assassination of Tsar Alexander I was blamed on the Jews. And these pogroms weren’t the kind that you see in Fiddler on the Roof at Tzeitl and Motl’s wedding where they terrify the Jews and turn over tables. That is bad enough. But without going into detail, I can definitely tell you that the pogroms were absolutely terrifying and horrific. One notable example is the Kishinev pogrom of 1903.
So once again, the Jews left. They went to Central Europe (as I said before), including Germany, or usually to America. As for the Jews who came to Vienna, many of them came there only after 1850; the only Jews who came to Vienna before 1850 were the creme de la creme (like the Rothchilds). But it wasn’t just the pogroms that made Jews leave. There were other factors too. The railroads were putting Jews out of business - for example, instead of getting your shoes made by the local Jewish shoemaker, you could just get new ones shipped in from the cities. This didn’t help because Jews ran the shops in the shtetlach. Also, Jews had a monopoly in selling liquor, but the Tsar took away that license/monopoly from the Jews. Furthermore, contrary to public opinion, the shtetlach Jews had already learned the Singer sewing machine by the late 1800s or early 1900s - which is the time period of when they came to the U.S.
And for those Jews who moved to Germany from Eastern Europe, their descendants (if not they themselves too) were the ones who were one of the groups of Holocaust victims. And for the people who moved to Central Europe too.
And for the Jews who moved out of the shtetlach of Eastern Europe …
Soon I’ll be a stranger in a strange new place
Searching for an old familiar face
People Are StrangeThe Doors
Obit of the Day: Ray Manzarek, Founding Member of The Doors
Ray Manzarek, one of the original members of The Doors, has died at the age of 74. He is considered one of the greatest keyboard players in rock and roll history.
A native of Chicago, Manzarek met Jim Morrison while attending film school at UCLA in 1965. Manzarek and Morrison would recruit drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger from another local band. But it was Morrison’s voice and Manzarek’s skill on the keys that would create the band’s signature sound.
They signed their first contract with Elektra Records in 1966 and released their self-titled album in 1967 which featured their first number one hit, “Light My Fire.”
The group would release seven top ten albums with Morrison as lead vocalist until his untimely death in 1971 at the age of 27. The remaining members of the group tried to stay together and recorded two more albums Other Voices (1971) and Full Circle (1972) with Manzarek on vocals. Sales were poor with neither album breaking the top 25 in the United States.
Manzarek would take a few years off before getting back into music forming Nite City in 1977 with Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison. They would produce two albums.
Since 2001 Manzarek and Krieger have toured as Manzarek-Krieger, Ray and Bobby, The Doors of the 21st Century, and The Riders of the Storm playing Doors hits. They have not recorded any albums. (John Densmore turned his attention to dance and has not performed with his former bandmates.)
Ray Manzarek, who also served as producer on the seminal punk album Los Angeles by X, died on May 20, 2013.
Sources: AllMusic.com, www.rayandrobby.com, and Wikipedia
(“People Are Strange” - an OOTD favorite because of The Lost Boys - and Strange Days are copyright of Elektra Entertainment, 2006.)