A Jewish Life on Three Continents: The Memoir of Menachem Mendel Frieden

A Jewish Life on Three Continents: The Memoir of Menachem Mendel Frieden

A Jewish Life on Three Continents: The Memoir of Menachem Mendel Frieden

A Jewish Life on Three Continents: The Memoir of Menachem Mendel Frieden

Excerpt

Central to the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of the Jewish People are the experience of life in the shtetl, the mass migration of East European Jews to America, and the creation of a modern Jewish homeland in Palestine. Indeed, these are arguably the three most significant elements of the story of the Jews in the century leading up to the era of the Shoah and the founding of the State of Israel. In exploring these three fundamental aspects of the modern Jewish experience, students of East European Jewish life, of the immigrant encounter with America, and of Zionist activity in the Land of Israel have relied on a wide variety of sources and among these have been the autobiographical writings of those who were themselves products of the shtetl, or immigrants to America, or Zionist pioneers. Seldom, however, have students of modern Jewish history had access to an autobiographical account written by an individual who was involved in all three of the principal facets of the modern Jewish experience in their three different settings. The Hebrew memoir completed over half a century ago by my maternal grandfather, Menachem Mendel Frieden, is, however, just such a document. It is presented here in translation, edited slightly, and with chapter introductions and notes.

1. On the general issue of using autobiographies as sources for the writing of history, see, for example, Jeremy D. Popkin, History, Historians, and Autobiography (Chicago, 2005), esp. chapt. 1; and David Carlson, “Autobiography,” in Miriam Dobson and Benjamin Ziemann, eds., Reading Primary Sources (New York, 2009).

2. One of the few other autobiographies available in English by an East European immigrant to both America and Palestine is Golda Meir’s My Life (New York, 1975), but Meir’s work devotes only three of its fifteen chapters to Eastern Europe and America, and even these chapters are focused on Meir’s developing Zionism.

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