Date & Time
Sunday, May 5, 2024
1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Location Virtual Program
Ticketing JGS members/Free General public/$5

Everything you need to know about the heart of Eastern European Jewry.

Jews were welcomed into the Polish principalities in the 1200s, most notably, by the Duke of Greater Poland, Bolesław the Pious. Thousands fleeing persecution and expulsions across Western Europe came. As Poland expanded to the east and south, Jews moved into Lithuanian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian lands. By 1800 there were more than a million Jews in the Pale. By 1900, they would number nearly five million. Jews flourished in the Pale, creating diverse religious, cultural, educational, and charitable institutions. Then, between 1881 and 1914 over two million left all that they had known for the West. This talk discusses how the Pale came to be, life in it and why this mass migration occurred. It breaks the 120-year history of the Pale into periods of creation, confinement, repression, enlightenment, pogroms, and chaos. There is much more to the story than the horrific pogroms at the turn of the 20th century.

Additional brief talk, “My 5th Great Grandfather’s Name”

The oldest family documentation that I have found is the 1850 Russian Revision List (census) for Dubno which lists my 3rd great-grandfather (who had died in 1848) and my 2nd great-grandfather (who, as a young man, was now head of the family). Unlike censuses, revision lists included information on residents who had died since the previous revision list. Based on the patronymic middle name of my 3rd great-grandfather, I had the name, if nothing more, of my 4th great-grandfather. The records office in Dubno, where the Bookbinders lived, was destroyed during World War II and all records contained there were lost. The regional archive in Rivne has no earlier records. So far as I know, no records exist for my 5th great-grandfather. So, I developed a hypothesis as to his name and the approximate dates of his birth and death. You might use the technique that I employed to do the same when no records can be found.

This program is possible through the generous support of the William M. Lowenstein Genealogical Research Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation.


“Why did our Jewish ancestors leave the Pale?” is a collaboration between the Jewish Genealogy Society of Pittsburgh and the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center. Please register online. The program is free for JGS-Pittsburgh members and $5 for the general public. To become a member of the JGS-Pittsburgh and receive a free membership code for this program, please visit its website.

This program will be recorded and made available to current JGS-Pittsburgh members.


Hal Bookbinder is a retired information systems professional who continues to instruct at the university level. He has been actively researching his genealogy for more than three decades, identifying over 4,000 relatives and tracing two lines to the mid-1700s in modern Ukraine. He is a past president of the JGS of Los Angeles and of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Hal publishes a series of monthly articles on safe computing which are freely available here. He and his wife, Marci, were raised in the Catskills of New York State, in the famed “Borsht Belt”. After attending New York University and a four-year stint in the US Air Force, they have lived in the Los Angeles area. In 2018, he made a journey to Ukraine, visiting various areas of the former Volhynia and Podolia in which his family lived for hundreds of years.