Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora

Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora

Rebecca Kobrin
Distribution: World
Publication date: 4/13/2010
ISBN: 978-0-253-00428-4
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Finalist, 2010 National Jewish Book Awards, American Jewish Studies
Selected for list of Essential Readings in American Jewish History, American Jewish Historical Society, 2010
The mass migration of East European Jews and their resettlement in cities throughout Europe, the United States, Argentina, the Middle East and Australia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries not only transformed the demographic and cultural centers of world Jewry, it also reshaped Jews' understanding and performance of their diasporic identities. Rebecca Kobrin's study of the dispersal of Jews from one city in Poland—Bialystok—demonstrates how the act of migration set in motion a wide range of transformations that led the migrants to imagine themselves as exiles not only from the mythic Land of Israel but most immediately from their east European homeland. Kobrin explores the organizations, institutions, newspapers, and philanthropies that the Bialystokers created around the world and that reshaped their perceptions of exile and diaspora.

Author Bio

Rebecca Kobrin is Assistant Professor of Jewish History at Columbia University. She is author (with Adam Shear) of an exhibition catalog, From Written to Printed Text: The Transmission of Jewish Tradition.


"Kobrin's well-written, well-researched book [provides] a valuable resource for scholars and students alike. . . . Recommended." —Choice

"This well-researched and innovative study is both an account of the history of Jewish Bialystok and of the way its diaspora was mobilized to support Jewish life in the town from abroad. . . . It . . . provides a new way of examining the relation between East European Jewish emigrants and the lands from which they set out to make new lives elsewhere." —The Russian Review , Vol. 70.2, April 2011

". . . fascinating from first page to last." —Sir Martin Gilbert

"Kobrin's wide-ranging analysis draws on huge and impressive variety of sources and many of the scholarly debates that her work relates to are very well explained . . . [This book] is a rare contribution to contemporary debates about migration" —

"A work of truly extraordinary scope, driven by admirable intellectual ambition. It is exhilarating to come across a work of such imagination and originality." —Jonathan Frankel, author of Crisis, Revolution, and Russian Jews

"Challenges and refines long-standing assumptions about Old World/New World dynamics generally and Jewish immigrants to America in particular. . . . Original and smartly conceived, grounded in careful, extensive research and thoughtful analysis." —Jeffrey Shandler, Rutgers University

"An imaginative and original work. It offers an intriguing argument that in the first half of the 20th century, diaspora Jewish identities were defined through a constant, dynamic process of interaction between the place of origin and the several sites of immigration." —Derek Penslar, University of Toronto

"This thoughtful, strikingly original work of scholarship possesses the added value of being readable (and, one hopes, appreciated) by an audience beyond specialists in the field. . . . In sum, this book's contribution to Russian, east European, American, and 'diapora' studies is truly extraordinary." —
Slavic Review , Vol. 70.3, Fall 2011

"Rebecca Kobrin is to be commended for her stimulating and thought-provoking study." —

"[T]his illuminating case study sheds useful comparative and conceptual light, first and foremost on the notions of transnationalism and colonialism and the relationship between homeland and diaspora." —Austrian History Yearbook

"Carefully researched and clearly written, this book offers a rich picture of a transnational Jewish community. Kobrin's novel approach to the study of Jewish history is significant for scholars committed to understanding the complex threads that wove together the early twentieth-century Jewish world." —American Historical Review

"This is a stimulating, pathbreaking book, and it is a pleasure to read." —Jewish History

"This ambitious study is rigorous and highly impressive in its scope and methodology . . . There is no doubt that Jewish Bialystok and its Diaspora is a field-shaping study, which crosses quite a few disciplinary borders marked by Jewish history, diaspora and migration studies and transnational communication, as well as memory and identity studies." —Journal of Modern Jewish Studies

"In addition to original and illuminating research, Jewish Bialystock and Its Diaspora is to be commended for its lucid style of writing. Kobrin knows how to tell a story, arousing the reader’s curiosity from the very first page." —Studies in Contemporary Jewry

"This excellent study very forcefully and convincingly shows that 'many early twentieth-century East European immigrant Jews saw the pain of exile not only in relation to ancient Zion but in reference to East Europe', demostrating that 'Jews have always harbored a complex web of longings for many real and imagined homelands'." —Journal of Jewish Studies

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Table of Contents

Note on Orthography and Transliteration

introduction: Between Exile and Empire: Visions of Jewish Dispersal in the Age of Mass Migration
1. The Dispersal Within: Bialystok, Jewish Migration, and Urban Life in the Borderlands of Eastern Europe
2. Rebuilding Homeland in Promised Lands
3. "Buying Bricks for Bialystok": Philanthropy and the Bonds of the New Jewish Diaspora
4. Rewriting the Jewish Diaspora: Images of Bialystok in the Transnational Bialystok Jewish Press, 1921–1949
5. Shifting Centers, Conflicting Philanthropists: Rebuilding, Resettling, and Remembering Jewish Bialystok in the Post-Holocaust Era

Epilogue: Diaspora and the Politics of East European Jewish Identity in the Age of Mass Migration