Beyond the Pale

I’ve been going through more old photos, and old family history. It seems that as we get older, we become more interested in our origins.

Of course, we have had many lifetimes, each with it’s own distinct family lineage.

My mother’s descendants are from Poland. Some of them perished in the Auschwitz concentration camps. My father’s descendants are from Russia.

This is my great-great grandfather Jacob, (photo circa 1900) who lived in a Russian Pale of Settlement.


A ‘Pale’ is an old term meaning an area designated to a particular authority. The Jews of Russia were delegated to strict areas of residence, and they were forbidden to overstep those delegated boundaries. Jacob lived in one of these areas.

You may have heard of the term ‘beyond the pale’. If someone’s behaviour is described as beyond the pale, it is unacceptable. Or in other words, they have overstepped the mark of good manners or decency.

Life in these Pales was quite tough. In spite of the difficult circumstances, Jewish cultural life developed and flourished in the Pale. From the Pale emerged a group of writers who can be considered the founding fathers of modern secular Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and many of them became world famous.

By the end of the 19th century, the Jewish population in Russia increased to over 5 million. Russian Jews become more assimilated.

But political upheavals, like the The Pogroms of 1903 – 1906, and widespread discrimination led to the mass emigration of Jews to America and Western Europe. Between 1881 and 1914, more than 2 million Jews left Russia.

Jacob was one of them.

This is his son, on a camel in 1917.

Egypt, 1917:

His son was my father’s father. The rest is history.
Posted by Kurma on 11/1/07; 12:56:20 AM f

Life and Travel

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