03 June 2010

Book: 'Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora'

My great-grandmother Rebecca Fink (aka Regina Halpern Weintraub) was born in Skom Bobl, athough she lived in Suchostaw (Galicia->Poand->Ukraine).


My grandfather, Szaja (Sidney) Fink, always said she was from Bialystok and included the other place as well. No one ever heard of it. I assumed it had long ago disappeared as a neighborhood swallowed up by beautiful downtown Bialystok.

Years ago, on a visit to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I checked out the Slavnik Geografnica. This multi-volume Polish-language work was published at the end of the 19th century and includes references for many "dots on the map," hard to find elsewhere.

Imagine my surprise to find not only Rebecca's hometown but also entries for our Talalay towns of Mogilev, Zavarezhye and Vorotinschtina. Of course, the spellings were in Polish (Vs represented by Ws, and other substitutions.

There is now a remarkable book covering Bialystok, its history and diaspora throughout the world.

"Jewish Bialystock and its Diaspora," by Rebecca Kobrin, published by University of Indiana Press, and covering the city and its immigrants who settled throughout Europe, the US, Canada, Israel, Australia and South America.

Kobrin has spoken at past international Jewish genealogy conferences.

The Russell and Bettina Knapp Assistant Professor of American Jewish History at Columbia University, Kobrin has also spoken to Jewish genealogy societies about landsmanshaftn and these organizations' connections to the old country.
The mass migration of East European Jews and their resettlement in cities throughout Europe, the United States, Argentina, the Middle East and Australia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries not only transformed the demographic and cultural centers of world Jewry, it also reshaped Jews' understanding and performance of their diasporic identities.

Rebecca Kobrin's study of the dispersal of Jews from one city in Poland - Bialystok - demonstrates how the act of migration set in motion a wide range of transformations that led the migrants to imagine themselves as exiles not only from the mythic Land of Israel but most immediately from their east European homeland. Kobrin explores the organizations, institutions, newspapers, and philanthropies that the Bialystokers created around the world and that reshaped their perceptions of exile and diaspora.
If your family hails from Bialystok, this is the book for you. Read more here.

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