Jewish History, Migration, Architecture, Geography




James Penn


Ashkenazi Jews hold a unique place in the history of Europe and the United States resulting from maintaining a distinct religion and culture while often facing legal restrictions and violent persecution. Both the legal restrictions and frequent violence have forced Jews to live in segregated spaces to differing extents depending upon where and when. Understanding the changes in such spaces over time offers a glimpse not only into Jewish history, but also into how communities deal with limitations on their civil liberties, take measures to protect themselves, integrate with surrounding cultures, and create a place for their religion and culture within a hostile society. Examining broad patterns of migration and settlement involves a journey through Ashkenazi history, the push and pull factors prompting movement, and the influences shaping settlements. The major push and pull factors often related to economic conditions and antisemitism. Places with greater economic opportunity and fewer restrictions on the kinds of work Jews could engage in tended to pull people in while legal restrictions and violence pushed people away. Many factors, both from within Jewish communities and from the surrounding society, contributed to the shape of Jewish settlements. Some major factors include religious requirements and cultural customs, the adoption or rejection of surrounding styles, access to resources, legal restrictions, and protection against antisemitic violence.

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