How did Jews live 100 years ago? 200? 500?

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  • #601902

    Feif Un
    Participant

    People have this idea of what life was like for Jews in the past. Can we please clarify things?

    100 years ago, in the USA, there were very few frum Jews, so let’s concentrate on Europe. I am writing here what I heard from my grandparents, as well as some other people who were raised in Europe.

    In Europe, there were many yeshivos which are well known today. However, they weren’t as large as the well-known yeshivos are today. The largest of them had students numbering in the hundreds, not even close to 1,000.

    Most people did not stay in yeshiva for a long time. They married relatively young, and needed to support their families. They would learn a trade or join a family business. There were shiurim given by the Rav of the town in the evenings that men went to. Women, for the most part, stayed at home, cooking, cleaning, and watching small children.

    If a child showed that he had a sharp mind, and an aptitude for learning, he would be sent to one of the main yeshivos, to learn under one of the gedolim. These boys would often be away from home for months or even years at a time.

    This is all I have time to write now (I have a meeting soon), I can try to continue later.

    #849372

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    How the blazes should I know? I’m not a historian! And even when I met one last night, I disagreed with him.

    #849373

    🍫Syag Lchochma
    Participant

    popa – are you implying you need to know about something before you can comment on it?

    #849374

    ItcheSrulik
    Member

    According to zichron Yaakov (grandfather of Rabbi Lipschitz of the American Yated and secretary of the Agudah) they did not keep glatt in Lita because it was “motziin mamon shel yisrael shelo k’halacha”

    #849375

    WolfishMusings
    Participant

    How did Jews live 100 years ago?

    Through (among other processes) ingestion, respiration, homeostasis and excretion.

    200?

    Through (among other processes) ingestion, respiration, homeostasis and excretion.

    500?

    Through (among other processes) ingestion, respiration, homeostasis and excretion.

    The Wolf

    #849376

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    According to zichron Yaakov (grandfather of Rabbi Lipschitz of the American Yated and secretary of the Agudah) they did not keep glatt in Lita because it was “motziin mamon shel yisrael shelo k’halacha”

    Hmm. But they did keep other chumros which cost money.

    Maybe it has to do with balancing the chomer of the chumrah, and the cost. So if the cost changes, it could change.

    Aside 1: A friend of mine whose father owns a small shlachthois told me his father makes more money selling the treifos to goyim than selling the ksheiros to jews.

    Aside 2: I have heard, that the adoption of glatt in america, was in response to mafia involvement in shechita, and their unwillingness to allow cows to be called “not kosher” since they lost money. So we started keeping glatt and saying the cow was just not glatt. Maybe an enterprising YWN-er can google around and find this.

    #849377

    AinOhdMilvado
    Participant

    I think it would be safe to sum it up like this…

    Most towns probably had just one or maybe two shuls.

    Most towns probably had just one or maybe two yeshivas.

    Most people probably had much less and worked much harder than most people do today.

    Most people were probably still much happier than most people are today.

    #849378

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Now here is some popa history.

    In europe, people sometimes owned chickens, which they let roam around in their houses.

    In europe, people didn’t have running water- and if they had to go to the bathroom in the night, they had a chamber pot which they kept under their bed. and you were allowed to empty it on shabbos, even though you would think it is muktza.

    In europe, people didn’t eat meat on shabbos unless they were outrageously wealthy. Maybe they ate chicken, if they were only regular wealthy.

    In europe, people didn’t learn torah at night, unless they were rich and could afford candles and oil for lamps.

    In europe, the whole town had only one lulav and esrog.

    In europe, if there was an orphan, you would let him sleep in the shul and beg for food. but you certainly wouldn’t adopt him.

    In europe, people had lice, and didn’t use stupid shampoos to try to wash them out.

    You want to be Amish, or you want to be Jewish?

    #849379

    WolfishMusings
    Participant

    Most towns probably had just one or maybe two yeshivas.

    Before the invention of the printing press, most towns probably had no more than one or two gemarahs.

    The Wolf

    #849380

    sushee
    Member

    Popa, Jewish orphans weren’t left to live in shul and beg for food in Europe.

    #849381

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Before the invention of the printing press, most towns probably had no more than one or two gemarahs.

    Pretty impressive that the french were able to find 24 wagonloads to burn. How many volumes fit on a wagon?

    #849382

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    Pogroms and Starvation had a bigger negative effect than many are willing to admit

    Why do you think many jews emigrated to the “Traif Medina” against every Rav’s wishes. They went because they were starving and scared of pogroms.

    #849383

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Popa, Jewish orphans weren’t let to live in shul and beg for food in Europe.

    Of course they let them sleep in shul and beg for food. It would have been downright cruel not to.

    #849384

    sushee
    Member

    They placed them in respectable environments with food and shelter. They didn’t leave them to beg.

    #849385

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    sushe: You are picking a narrow subset of places and times. Most towns in most times were not rich enough to have anywhere to put them.

    Consider the story of chatzkele l’kavod shabbos. He grew up on the street, late at night he came to the synagogue and said teach me something. So he knows how to read and recite the sounds. He knows the beginning, but he doesn’t know the end.

    When will we go again to yerushalayim, and when will we sing again? In the holy temple, l’kavod shabbos, oy l’kavod shabbos, l’kavod shabbos, oy l’kaaavod shaaabooos.

    #849386

    akuperma
    Participant

    One hundred years ago in America only a handful of Jews even attempted to be frum. Milk was a problem (the heterim for Stam Halav only apply after the government started regulating milk – back then it was sold “by quality” based on how it was dilluted and with what). Being frum always meant be desperately poor, and knowing that to become affluent meant giving up Torah. Life in eneral wasn’t so great either – remember this is before air conditioning, before refrigerators, before anti-biotics. In the English speaking countries violent anti-semitism wasn’t a problem.

    Go back 200 or more years the poverty was still a problem, but almost no one had indoor plumbing. Life expectancy was horrific by our standards (no sanitation, no serious surgery other than amputations since there were no pain killers stronger than whiskey or opium, most children didn’t live to adulthood, and complications of pregnancy and childbirth were the leading causes of death for women). Before trains and steamships, a city forty miles away meant an overnight trip – and forget about travelling further unless you were making it a very long voyage.

    You go back 500 years, books were a rarity. A humash was something owned by a shul or a rich person. A sidur was an heirloom. A complete Talmud was something you would rarely encounter.

    The truth of the matter, is now is a very good time to be alive.

    #849387

    squeak
    Participant

    Popa, Amish has rumshpringe. Jews have only rum and Schprintze.

    #849388

    ItcheSrulik
    Member

    popa: Which? Maybe they were things that weren’t expensive there because of other factors. Another litvish minhag was to remove the beard just to be kovea the halacha that there was a muttar way to do it. AFAIK this is a relatively new minhag that started just to annoy the chassidim.

    #849389

    mdd
    Member

    PBA, people did learn at night — the shul had oil or kerosine.

    #849390

    Toi
    Participant

    itche- at least their humor was teefer.

    #849392

    twisted
    Participant

    I knew an old polisher Yid, who was orphaned young. He said he survived by begging for scraps of bread, and at 10 he was chapped by the the Russians, who made him a tailor for the Red Army. That remained his parnossa, and in the US, he became a wealthy by tailor’s standards.

    #849393

    ItcheSrulik
    Member

    Toi: And it’s a great loss for klal yisroel that most of it is considered unprintable.

    #849394

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    yeshivas had eating days.

    Meaning if you learned in a yeshiva you only ate maybe 4 days a week

    Weddings were usually done on Friday (except famously in Krakow) and the seduah went into shabbos to save money and combine seudos

    #849395

    oomis
    Participant

    Weddings were usually done on Friday (except famously in Krakow) and the seduah went into shabbos to save money and combine seudos’

    Funny you should mention this. It is exactly what I was going to write (except the Krakow part, which I didn’t know).

    #849396

    msseeker
    Member

    Read Chaim Shapiro’s Once Upon A Shtetl for a beautiful and amusing description, plus answers to some questions here.

    #849397

    metrodriver
    Member

    My only question is how the OP (Mr. or MS. Feif Un) heard stories by his/her grandparents that happened to them 100 and 200 years ago.

    #849398

    Toi
    Participant

    itche- im not sure wht youre refering to but ive unfortunately seen my fair share of “yiddish’ humor and its revolting.

    Hey, ive got another- it was common practice in europe for in-laws to commit to ‘kest’ which meant that couples ate all or a specific number of meals at the in-laws to save them money. ad kidei kach that i read a story about a gadol (cant remember who) who took his FIL to a din torah because he defaulted on kest and it affected his learning (they did have kollel back then!), and this thread was a bit started to be mafki’ah from the idea of kollel, so i think its matim.

    #849399

    YW Moderator-42
    Moderator

    They had no Internet, they had no cell phones, they had no phones. They sent messages by hand-written letters or… By speaking in person!

    #849400

    lesschumras
    Participant

    One hundred years ago, everyhing was in turmoil in Eastern Eurpoe. All the “isms ” ( nationalism, socialism, communisism,anarchism and zionism ) were making inroads into the frum communities, even the yeshivas. The Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires were tinderboxes and WWI was only 2 years away.

    #849401

    zahavasdad
    Participant

    @oomis

    In Krakow one year there was a poor orphan girl who was getting married on a Friday, Her brother owned some seat in the shul and this seat was supposed to be some sort of dowry for her new husband.

    On the Friday of the wedding, a dispute arouse over the dowery and it got late in the day into Shabbos. The dispute finally went to the Rema.

    The Rema made his decsion, but it was Shabbos. The Rema poskined that the wedding should occur on SHABBOS and he perfomed the ceremony himself to make it clear it was ok. He did not want a poor orphan girl to feel her wedding was any less than anyone else.

    However this decsion was not popular among other. Since the Rema himself performed the wedding they allowed this one to happen, but to prevent this from happening in the future they said no more Friday weddings

    #849402

    twisted
    Participant

    A great window into the past is Shu”t. Reading between the lines one can draw a mental picture of what must have been. For some, such as the shailos and tshuvos that arose in the ghettos and the camps, you don’t need the “in between the lines”.

    #849403

    ZeesKite
    Participant

    Messages went wireless – pigeons. Sometime by airwaves – smoke.

    #849404

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    ad kidei kach that i read a story about a gadol (cant remember who) who took his FIL to a din torah because he defaulted on kest and it affected his learning

    You are probably referring to the Taz who sued his father in law the Bach. Their deal was that he was supposed to give him “meat,” but the Bach lost his money and started giving him lung. The shaila in contract interpretation was whether lung is meat.

    #849405

    ItcheSrulik
    Member

    Toi: the baal habos is an endangered species. We now only have kollel yungeleit and kollel wannabes both working and not.

    #849406

    OnlyTheTruth
    Member

    In some villages in Poland they ate stuffed pigeon on Shabbos in the Cholent. Can you imagine you serving that to your guest in 2012.

    #849407

    Toi
    Participant

    Itche- I know you wont like this, but shouldnt the ideal be yungeleit and wannabes? and if they need to leave to go work thats more then fine but i think their hearts should remain in the beis medrash. to be a baal habos by choice ie. to decide that learning isnt the way to go and id rather live my life by choice in the office shouldnt be the ideal for anyone. I dont mean working is a necessary evil, its not evil, but learning should be held in higher esteem. Thus, baalibatim by choice are a good species to be endangered.

    #849409

    Think first
    Member

    Actually till late 1800s the world was pretty much as it was in the 1200s no electric, running water, trasporations was horse and buggy and boats.

    #849410

    Tora Yid
    Member

    No toilets.

    #849411

    147
    Participant

    Listen to HaGaon HoRav Berel Wein’s tapes on the Golden age in Spain. This shall answer your question.

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