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Stepchildren of the Shtetl: The Destitute, Disabled and Mad of Jewish Eastern Europe, 1800 – 1939, with Natan Meir
Memoirs of Jewish life in the east European shtetl often recall the hekdesh (town poorhouse) and its residents: beggars, madmen and madwomen, disabled people, and poor orphans. In this course, we will examine the place of these marginalized figures in the Jewish community from the dawn of modernity to the eve of the Holocaust. The course will include sessions on the history of the hekdesh, mentally ill people and so-called “town fools,” the conscription of marginal people into the Russian military, and the cholera wedding, a magical ritual to end an epidemic in which the community would marry its most vulnerable and marginalized members to each other.
Natan M. Meir is the Lorry I. Lokey Associate Professor of Judaic Studies at Portland State University. His research interest is modern Jewish history, focusing on the social and cultural history of East European Jewry. Meir is the author of Kiev, Jewish Metropolis: A History, 1859-1914 and co-editor of Anti-Jewish Violence: Rethinking the Pogrom in East European History. His newest book is Stepchildren of the Shtetl: The Destitute, Disabled, and Mad of Jewish Eastern Europe.
Presented by New Lehrhaus. Co-presented by KlezCalifornia.
Register HERE. (11/3, 11/10, 11/17). Program fee for all three sessions: $36.