“Deconstructing Fiddler on the Roof” is a favorite gambit of professors introducing students to the history of East European Jewry: begin with what they think they know about life in the shtetl, and then start busting the myths. Were matchmakers women? (No.) Did Russian police instigate pogroms? (Rarely, if ever.) Is there a single documented case of shtetl residents singing “Sunrise, Sunset” at a wedding? (Come on.)
Busting the Shtetl Myth
What you think you know about Jewish life in Eastern Europe is wrong, argues a fascinating (but problematic) new book.