Migration as redemption: The myth and memory of jewish migration from eastern Europe to the new world

Scott Ury*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article argues that Jewish migration from Eastern Europe to the New World has long been viewed through the lens of a specific historical narrative that revolves around and reinforces key themes such as anti-Jewish prejudice and violence in Eastern Europe, Jewish flight to Western countries, and the successful integration of Jewish immigrants into new societies. While this interpretation of Jewish migration as a story of crisis and redemption was central to key works on Jewish migration to the United States, Israel and other countries, recent academic studies have critiqued such renditions of Jewish migration as a historical drama of persecution, flight and rescue. Despite these interventions, central scholarly works and dominant communal accounts continue to frame and explain Jewish migration through the traditional historiographical paradigm. The continued salience of this particular interpretation of Jewish migration history raises several fascinating questions regarding the connection between academic scholarship and communal interests as well as larger issues related to the tension between history and memory, past and present, Jewish history and general history. The article concludes with a discussion surrounding the possible origins of these tensions as well as potential strategies for resolving these and related questions regarding the study of Jewish migration, in particular, and modern Jewish society, in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-22
Number of pages20
JournalJewish Culture and History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • American Jewry
  • East European Jewry
  • Jewish migration
  • Pogroms
  • The history of migration


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