Confessions of the Shtetl: Converts from Judaism in Imperial Russia, 1817-1906 - Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture (Hardback)Ellie R. Schainker (author)
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Over the course of the nineteenth century, some 84,500 Jews in imperial Russia converted to Christianity. Confessions of the Shtetl explores the day-to-day world of these people, including the social, geographic, religious, and economic links among converts, Christians, and Jews. The book narrates converts' tales of love, desperation, and fear, tracing the uneasy contest between religious choice and collective Jewish identity in tsarist Russia. Rather than viewing the shtetl as the foundation myth for modern Jewish nationhood, this work reveals the shtetl's history of conversions and communal engagement with converts, which ultimately yielded a cultural hybridity that both challenged and fueled visions of Jewish separatism.
Drawing on extensive research with conversion files in imperial Russian archives, in addition to the mass press, novels, and memoirs, Ellie R. Schainker offers a sociocultural history of religious toleration and Jewish life that sees baptism not as the fundamental departure from Jewishness or the Jewish community, but as a conversion that marked the start of a complicated experiment with new forms of identity and belonging. Ultimately, she argues that the Jewish encounter with imperial Russia did not revolve around coercion and ghettoization but was a genuinely religious drama with a diverse, attractive, and aggressive Christianity.
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Number of pages: 360
Weight: 612 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
"The corner of Russian Jewish life opened up by this unsentimental, lucid work is, on the whole, startlingly new. Ellie Schainker shows herself to be a prodigiously clear-headed historian in a study that encompasses Russian imperial law as well as everyday life with its choices made of a medley of desperation, expediency, conviction and, not infrequently, love." -- Steven J. Zipperstein * Stanford University *
"What makes this book so novel and stimulating is its investigation into the very concept of "Jew" vs. "Christian" and showing how the blurring of confessional lines caused by conversion forced official and everyday individuals to react, sometimes in surprising ways. For anyone interested in European history, the intricacies of religious and inter-ethnic toleration, and of course Jewish studies, this book is highly recommended." -- Theodore R. Weeks * EuropeNow *
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