Dear Kid,

It turns out I was right. Or at least I wasn’t wrong. Most of the time I’ll settle for not being entirely wrong.

But there’s more to Going Beyond the Pale than I knew (special thanks to Tracey L. G. for educating me).

The Pale of Settlement was an area in western Imperial Russia where Jews were allowed to live. If you interpret that to mean they were less welcome as permanent residence in other parts of Mother Russia, give yourself a gold star and move forward three spaces.

Even within the Pale there were areas where Jews were not welcome.

The archaic English term pale is derived from the Latin word palus, a stake, extended to mean the area enclosed by a fence or boundary.

The Pale of Settlement was created by Catherine the Great when she wasn’t off doing other C the G things.

Life in the Pale was pretty much awful (in the worst of awful ways). It was cold (not “I’m chilly, go put on a sweater” cold, but bone cold), there wasn’t much food, and it was easy to hold pogroms because the Jews were all neatly packaged in small areas. On the plus side, however, it gave Sholom Aleichem something to write about—including Tevya the Milkman which eventually became (you guessed it) Fiddler on the Roof.

The Pale also gave rise to the modern Yeshiva educational system and many of the Chassidic families and practices.

Now you really know.

Love, Mom