The painting, "Pale of Settlement" by Eugene Ivanov celebrates the cultural richness of life in the Pale. It seems especially appropriate for Abraham and Lena's family given the musical background and talent exhibited by many of its members.


The Descendents of Abraham Lagovsky  and Libe Goodseit

The Pale of Settlement

Abraham Lagovsky, his wife Libe and their  six children immigrated to America in the early 1900's from Russia. They came from the town of Slutsk in the old Lithuanian province of Minsk in what was then known as the Pale of Settlement and now is called Belarus.

The Pale of Settlement literally means The Boundary of Settlement. From 1791 to 1915 the majority of Jews living in Eastern Europe were confined by the Russian Empire to this area. No Jew was allowed to make their home outside the Pale except by special privilege conveyed by the Czarist authorities.

The Pale of Settlement was acquired in a series of military conquests and diplomatic maneuvers between 1791 and 1835. The partition of Poland in 1793 was a significant factor in its creation. Before then Russia's Jewish population had been limited in size but the annexation of of the Polish-Lithuanian increased it substantially. The Pale consisted of 25 provinces that included Lithuania, Belorussia, Ukraine, Crimea and part of Poland. No Jew was allowed to make their home outside this Pale except by special privilege. The 1897 census recorded 4,899,300 Jews living within the confines of the Pale. This number comprised almost 95 percent of the total Jewish population of Russia.

With almost five million Jews eventually living and working within its borders, Russian lawmakers used the confines of the Pale as an opportunity to limit Jewish participation in most areas of social, economic, and political life. With few exceptions, Jews were forced to reside within the Pale's overcrowded cities and small towns called shtetls, restricted from traveling, prevented from entering various professions (including agriculture), levied with extra taxation, forbidden to receive higher education, and kept from engaging in various forms of trade to subsidize their livelihood.

Although Jews in the Pale were destined to a endure a life of poverty and restriction, most managed to make their way into the local economies by working as tailors, cobblers, peddlers, and small shopkeepers. However, as Russia began experiencing the early stages of industrialization during the 1880s, the Pale began to witness a steady decline in its agricultural, artisanal, and petty entrepreneurial economies. Because of this transition, many independent producers of goods and services could no longer subsist and were forced to find jobs in factories. Very few, especially the Jewish artisans and tailors, were able to continue producing independently or as middlemen to larger manufacturing plants. By the start of the twentieth century, the manufacturing sector was increasingly becoming the primary source of employment in the Pale, with wage laborers producing cigarettes, cigars, knit goods, gloves, textiles, artificial flowers, buttons, glass, bricks, soap, candy, and various other goods.

Anti-Semitic persecution was another source of hardship. The concentration of Jews in the Pale made them easy targets for pogroms and anti-Jewish violence. Though pogroms were staged throughout the existence of the Pale, particularly devastating attacks occurred from 18811883 and from 19031906, targeting hundreds of communities, killing thousands of Jews, and causing considerable property damage.

The pogroms and restrictions within the Pale, along with the severe poverty and deteriorating economy, resulted in a major wave of Jewish immigration to Western Europe and the United States. Between 1881 and 1914 over 2 million Jews left the Pale of Settlement to seek a better life. From 1899 to 1907 some 55,000 left for the United States alone. Abraham and Libe and their family were among them.


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