This article explores family networks as an understudied yet crucial feature of the social life of small-town Jews in the Russian Empire, focusing in particular on the Lithuanian town of Darbėnai. Family networks allowed Jews to function successfully in the “frontier” environment of the small-town setting, enabling them both to pursue economic opportunity across entire regions and to protect themselves against the challenges of living at a distance from large urban centers. Jews of different classes and genders all relied on family networks, albeit in ways that reflected their varied interests and positions within small-town societies. By revealing the geographical mobility, interaction among cultures, and constant social and economic change that characterized Jewish life in small towns, the study of family networks powerfully challenges the mythology of the “shtetl” that has frequently informed our understanding of these locales.


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pp. 34-74
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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