JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen RE: Shtetl vs. Dorf #general

Alexander Sharon

Irene Berman wrote:
Messages to this discussion group often use the term "shtetl" when apparently
referring to villages rather than towns in Eastern Europe.

The author Irving Stone addressed this term in his introduction to his
magnificent history of the Jewish socialist movement in early twentieth century
in New York City, "The World of Our Fathers", published in the 1950's. He wrote
that the term "shtetl" was (and still is) commonly used erroneously for
smallish villages when the correct term was "dorf". The word "shtetl" properly
referred to larger communities such as towns.
Dorf (English: thorp) identifies a village, in general, a place with a church but
without a market.

This is not what shtetl (or settlement) was all about since market was the
central to all shtetls.

Shtetls (literally small towns) were known as Miasteczko (Polish) and
Miestieczko (Russian).

Towns with significant Jewish population were referred by Jews as Shtot.

The difference between the town (Lat. Civitas) and the small town or settlement
(Lat. Oppidum) was based primarily on the fact that shtetl was smaller than the

Smaller towns (shtetls) due to the distance to major urban centers had an
important function for the supply of products and services for the nearest rural

Alexander Sharon
Calgary, AB

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