Originally, playwright, revolutionary socialist, and ethnographer S. An-sky set out to create a 10,000-question questionnaire for inhabitants of the Pale of Settlement, in order to capture everything there was to know about daily Jewish life there. Ultimately, the questionnaire amounted to only 2,087 questions, but even then it never reached its intended respondents. World War I intervened, followed by An-sky’s death in 1920, and then the permanent destruction of Jewish life in Eastern Europe.
A century later, history and literature professor Nathaniel Deutsch has created the first English-language translation of the questionnaire, along with extensive commentary. In the course of his research, he thought it might be possible to pick up where An-sky left off by circulating the survey among some Hasidic communities in Brooklyn. As was the case with his predecessor, he tells Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry, certain historical contingencies interfered with the project.
Hear the rest on Monday.