Why They Left
is an installation of rare photographs of pogroms in Ukraine, Belarus, and other areas in The Pale
of Settlement during the latter part of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th century.
Those of us who grew up in Jewish homes were often told that our grandparents and great grandparents left Russia because in America, "The streets were paved in gold!" On the other hand, historians point to hunger as a main driver of the decision they had made to leave the life they had known behind. Many Jewish families had also experienced the violence of pogroms.
The images in Why They Left, photos of pogroms during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922), document the persecution of a helpless Jewish population. Historians estimate that between 100,00 and 300,00 individuals lost their lives in the WWI/Russian Civil War era pogroms. Many survivors of earlier pogroms made their way to America, but only a limited number of the WWI/Russian Civil War era pogroms were able to enter the United States, due to the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited Jewish immigration to the United States. Prior to the Immigration Act of 1924, US Census records indicate that about two million Jews left the old Pale of Settlement from 1880 -1920 and came to the United States. Today almost seven million Jews are citizens of the United States.
© Diane Covert 2018