A shtetl (, diminutive form of Yiddish shtot שטאָט, "town", pronounced very similarly to the South German diminutive "Städtle", "little town") was typically a small town with a large Jewish population in pre-Holocaust Central and Eastern Europe. Shtetls (Yiddish plural: שטעטלעך, shtetlekh) were mainly found in the areas which constituted the 19th century Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire, the Congress Kingdom of Poland, Galicia, and Romania. A larger city, like Lemberg or Czernowitz, was called a shtot (); a smaller village was called a dorf ().
The concept of shtetl culture is used as a metaphor for the traditional way of life of 19th-century Eastern European Jews. Shtetls are portrayed as pious communities following Orthodox Judaism, socially stable and unchanging despite outside influence or attacks. The Holocaust resulted in the disappearance of the vast majority of shtetls, through both extermination and mass exodus to the United States and what became Israel.
OriginsHistory of the oldest Eastern European shtetls began about a millennium ago and saw periods of relative tolerance and prosperity as well as times of extreme poverty, hardships and pogroms.
Social structure of the shtetl
Thinking and talking things outThe zest for analyzing anything and everything was central to shtetl culture, not only in regards to religious study of the Torah and Talmud but also everyday life:
The attitudes and thought habits characteristic of the learning tradition are as evident in the street and market place as the yeshiva. The popular picture of the Jew in Eastern Europe, held by Jew and Gentile alike, is true to the Talmudic tradition. The picture includes the tendency to examine, analyze and re-analyze, to seek meanings behind meanings and for implications and secondary consequences. It includes also a dependence on deductive logic as a basis for practical conclusions and actions.
In life, as in the Torah, it is assumed that everything has deeper and secondary meanings, which must be probed. All subjects have implications and ramifications. Moreover, the person who makes a statement must have a reason, and this too must be probed. Often a comment will evoke an answer to the assumed reason behind it or to the meaning believed to lie beneath it, or to the remote consequences to which it leads. The process that produces such a response-- often with lightning speed-- is a modest reproduction of the pilpul process.
Not only did the Jews of the shtetl speak a unique language (Yiddish), but they also had a unique rhetorical style, rooted in traditions of Talmudic learning:
In keeping with his own conception of contradictory reality, the man of the shtetl is noted both for volubility and for laconic, allusive speech. Both pictures are true, and both are characteristic of the yeshiva as well as the market places. When the scholar converses with his intellectual peers, incomplete sentences a hint, a gesture, may replace a whole paragraph. The listener is expected to understand the full meaning on the basis of a word or even a sound... Such a conversation, prolonged and animated, may be as incomprehensible to the initiated as if the excited discussants were talking in tongues. The same verbal economy may be found in domestic or business circles.
Tzedaka is a key element of Jewish culture, both secular and religious, to this day. It exists not only as a material tradition (e.g tzedaka boxes), but also immaterially, as an ethos of compassion and activism for those in need.
Money and workMaterial things were neither disdained nor extremely praised in the shtetl. Learning and education were the ultimate measures of worth in the eyes of the community, while money was secondary to status.
Menial labor was generally looked down upon as prost, or prole. Even the poorer classes in the shtetl tended to work in jobs that required the use of skills, such as shoe-making or tailoring of clothes.
The shtetl had a consistent work ethic which valued hard work and frowned upon laziness. Studying, of course, was considered the most valuable and hard work of all. Learned yeshiva men who did not provide bread and relied on their wives for money were not frowned upon but praised as ideal Jews.
Interaction with gentilesThe shtetl's main interaction with gentile citizens was in trading with the neighboring peasants. There was often animosity towards the Jews from these peasants, resulting in pogroms. This, among other things, helped foster a very strong "us-them" mentality based on an exaggeration of differences between the peoples:
A series of contrasts is set up in the mind of the shtetl child, who grows up to regard certain behavior as characteristic of Jews, and its opposite as characteristic of Gentiles. Among Jews he expects to find emphasis on intellect, a sense of moderation, cherishing of spiritual values, cultivation of rational, goal-directed activities, a "beautiful" family life. Among the Gentiles he looks for the opposite of each item: emphasis on the body, excess, blind instinct, sexual license, and ruthless force. |- | flag Belarus || Bobruisk http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1212&letter=B&search=bobruisk || באַברויסק || Babruisk || 21,558 |- | flag Belarus || Brest http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1460&letter=B || בריסק || Brisk|| 30,000 |- | flag Belarus || Minsk http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=643&letter=M&search=minsk || מינסק || Minsk|| 90,000 |- | flag Belarus || Pinsk http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=338&letter=P&search=Pinsk || פינסק || Pinsk|| 20,200 |- | flag Czech Republic || Prague http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=494&letter=P&search=Prague || פּראָג || Prog|| 56,000 |- | flag Germany || Frankfurt ||פראנקפורט||Frankfurt|| 26,158 |- | flag Germany || Berlin || בערלין ||Berlin|| 170,000 |- | flag Hungary || Budapest http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1561&letter=B&search=budapest || בודאפעסט || Budapest|| 184,000 |- | flag Latvia || Daugavpils http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=540&letter=D&search=Dvinsk || דענענבורג || Denenburg|| 11,106 |- | flag Latvia || Riga http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.js?artid=291&letter=R || ריגע || Rige|| 43,672 |- | flag Lithuania || Kaunas http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=387&letter=K&search=kovno || קאָװנע || Kovne || 38,000 |- | flag Lithuania || Vilnius http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=194&letter=W || װילנע || Vilne || 55,000 |- | flag Moldova || Chişinău http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=247&letter=K&search=kishinev || קעשענעװ || Keshenev || 70,000 |- | flag Poland || Gdańsk http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=55&letter=D&search=gdansk || דאַנץ || Dants |- | flag Poland || Kraków http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=848&letter=C&search=cracow || קראָקע || Kroke|| 60,000 |- | flag Poland || Łódź http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=514&letter=L&search=lodz || לאָדז || Lodzh || 223,000 |- | flag Poland || Lublin http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=602&letter=L&search=lublin || לובלין || Lublin|| 40,000 |- | flag Poland || Poznań http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=.org/pages/t046/t04651.html || פּױזן || Poyzn|| |- | flag Poland || Warsaw http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=43&letter=W&search=warsaw || װאַרשע || Varshe|| 400,000 |- | flag Poland || Wrocław http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=712&letter=S || ברעסלאַו || Breslau|| 10,309 |- | flag Romania || Bucharest http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1548&letter=B&search=bucharest || בוקארעשט || Bukaresht || 100,000 |- | flag Romania || Cluj-Napoca http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=263&letter=K&search=Klausenburg || קלויזענבורג || Kloizenberg || 16,763 |- | flag Romania || Iaşi http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=167&letter=J&search=Jassy || יאס || Yos || 51,000 |- | flag Russia || Kaliningrad || קעניגסבערג || Kenigsberg || |- | flag Slovakia || Bratislava http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=512&letter=P&search=presburg || פרעשבורג || Pressburg || 14,882 |- | flag Ukraine || Chernivtsi http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=961&letter=C&search=czernowitz || טשערנאָוויץ || Cernowitz || 50,000 |- | flag Ukraine || Dnipropetrovsk || קאַטערינעסלאַוו || Katerineslav || 100,000 |- | flag Ukraine || Ivano-Frankivsk || סטאַניסלעװ || Stanislev|| 30,000 |- | flag Ukraine || Kyiv http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=211&letter=K&search=kiev || קיִעװ || Kiev|| 175,000 |- | flag Ukraine || Kharkiv || כאַרקעוו || Kharkev || 130,200 |- | flag Ukraine || Khmelnytskyi http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=558&letter=P&search=proskurov || פּראָסקערעוו || Praskerev || 13,500 |- | flag Ukraine || L'viv http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=175&letter=L&search=lemberg|| לעמבערג || Lemberg || 150,000 |- | flag Ukraine || Odessa http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=23&letter=O || אַדעס || Ades || 180,000 |- | flag Ukraine || Ternopil http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=68&letter=T&search=tarnopol || טאַרנעפּל || Tarnepl || 18,000 |- | flag Ukraine || Vinnitsa http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=82&letter=V&search=vinnitsa ||וויניצע || Vinitse || 21,812 |- | flag Ukraine || Zhytomyr http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=118&letter=Z&search=zhitomir || זשיטאָמיר || Zhitomir || 30,000 |- |}
- Jewish diaspora
- List of Hasidic dynasties
- List of shtetls and shtots.
- History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union
- History of the Jews in Bessarabia
- History of the Jews in Carpathian Ruthenia
- History of the Jews in Poland
- Kiryas Joel, New York
- New Square, New York
- Crown Heights, Brooklyn
- Kiryas Tosh, Quebec
- Moisés Ville (Argentina)
- Joshua Rothenberg, "Demythologizing the Shtetl"
- Life is With People: The Culture of the Shtetl by Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog. 1962 edition.
- Boris Feldblyum Collection
- Galicia, Diaspora - Jewish Encyclopedia
- Cities of Poland - Simon Wiesenthal Center Multimedia Learning Center Online
- Virtual Shtetl
- Jewish history of Radziłów
- Remembering Luboml: images of a Jewish Community
- The Art of Dora Shampanier
- Towns in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Life
- Pre-1939 Kresy (now Ukraine) photo album
- Jewish Web Index - Polish Shtetls
- The Lost Jewish Communities of Poland
- History of the Jews in Poland
- History of Berdychiv
- Antopol Yizkor Book
- The Journey to Trochenbrod and Lozisht aug 2006
- Shtetl gallery. 80 paintings by Ilex Beller. In German and Russian languages
shtetel in German: Schtetl
shtetel in French: Shtetl
shtetel in Indonesian: Shtetl
shtetel in Italian: Shtetl
shtetel in Hebrew: שטעטל
shtetel in Dutch: Sjtetl
shtetel in Japanese: シュテットル
shtetel in Norwegian: Shtetl
shtetel in Polish: Sztetl
shtetel in Portuguese: Shtetl
shtetel in Yiddish: שטעטל