Creating Home: Eastern European Jewish Immigrant Community Building in North America

About Me

Hi everyone! My name is Rachael Rosenstein. I am so excited to begin this Brackenridge research journey this summer! I have always wanted to understand how people function and choose to shape their lives. This interest brought me to my majors of Psychology and History as well as my minor in Classical Civilizations. Psychology studies people- their cognition, emotions, reactions and development. History also studies people, but through the perspective of people’s actions and interactions throughout time. I especially love my Classics minor because it offers the opportunity to learn about some of the ancient civilizations that shape our modern society.

I plan to study to become an Occupational Therapist after graduation, and am excited to continue my interest in how people work by learning techniques and therapies to help people function in their day to day lives.

I love nature, trying new foods and being around kids. I have worked in the Infant Communication Lab for the past year and a half studying infant development, where I code videos of infants exploring their environment. I also tutor middle schoolers, and babysit weekly for a family in Squirrel Hill. 

My Project

In 1926, my Great Grandmother migrated to Canada from Ukraine as a recent widow after her husband (my Great Grandfather) was killed in a pogrom. She travelled alone with her five year old daughter and two year old son (my Zayde) to an entirely new country.

My Great Grandmother Rossia Rosenstein

This summer, I will be researching how my Great Grandmother and other Jewish Eastern European immigrants created a new home in North America in the time period between World War I and World War II. I am especially interested in asking how immigrants built community and communal institutions to succeed in their new countries, as well as how these immigrants understood these communities and passed on the story of this period to their children and grandchildren. Often, Jewish ancestral stories are rooted in trauma and survival, but this research is important in its focus on Jewish creation and community building, as well as its placement in a pre-Holocaust context.

To answer these questions, I will be conducting interviews with the descendants of Eastern European Jewish immigrants of this period, as well as reviewing photos and written documents of community events/ organizations from this time. I hope to combine these elements to create a picture of how Eastern European Jews created community and support for one another, as well as how they perceived this community building and passed on this legacy to the North American Jewish community of today. My research will and has been guided by my mentor, Dr. Gregor Thum of the History Department. The concept for this project was formed while studying under Dr. Thum in his class on the Ukrainian- Russian conflict, and I am immensely grateful for his encouragement and guidance.

I am so excited to participate in the Brackenridge fellowship this summer. I believe that the interdisciplinary nature of this fellowship will encourage me to better explain my research to those from different academic backgrounds. I also believe my peers and mentors will push me to learn new techniques and strategies to become a better researcher and writer. I cannot wait to begin this journey!

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