The Ties that Bind: Jewish Kinship Networks and Modernization in Darbenai and its Diaspora
This project is being conducted by Professor Eric L. Goldstein of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Using genealogical sources and methods, this project aims to reconstruct the kinship networks of the eastern European shtetl of Darbenai, Lithuania to demonstrate the centrality of family ties to economic life, the construction and maintenance of social categories and communal leadership, social and geographical mobility and patterns of migration during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By documenting these ties, the project reveals family networks as the basic building block of shtetl life and casts light on the central importance of these networks and their disintegration in the larger history of Jews in the modern period. While historians of eastern European Jewish history have generally ignored the family and focused on topics such as intellectual and religious movements and the history of communal organizations and Jewish self-government, this study reveals that the family network was a much more important factor in the daily lives of average Jews, particularly those who lived in small towns and did not have a highly organized communal structure on which to rely (these Jews constituted more than 50% of the Jewish population in the Pale of Settlement before the beginning of the 20th century). The ways in which these networks were challenged and ultimately replaced by new frameworks for social and cultural identity in post-immigration settings forms a major new narrative in understanding the process of migration and modernization for eastern European Jews.
Click here for a fuller description by Professor Eric Goldstein of the work on this project.