This book analyses the role of social networks in the process of migration. Based on stories of Polish Jews who migrated between Poland and Palestine in the 1920s, the author presents all stages of the journey and shows how networks of friends and families spread in different countries contributed to the migration experience. Presenting these stories through correspondence, she shows how migrants were not only motivated by traditional push and pull factors, or ideology, but also by dependence on other members of their social network. This book shows the process of migration from the perspective of their international social ties.
Chapter 1: Jews in Poland in the 1920s: Historical Background
In his introduction to Volume XVIII of the YIVO Annual published in 1983, discussing immigration to the United States, Arcadius Kahan noted the importance of migrants’ backgrounds to historical studies: “To gain a thorough understanding of the problems Jewish immigrants faced in coming to the United States, we need first to understand the complex world from which their common ties of culture, their historical experience and shared memories, even their diverse hopes come.”71 Kahan, as a former migrant from Poland to the United States, understood well the significance of recognizing the social and economic milieu of prospective emigrants as an important starting point for exploration of the migration process. He claimed that, while the experiences of individual migrants might differ after leaving their countries, the social and economic background of their homelands could provide some answers to the question of what initiated emigration. Similarly, viewing events “from the other side of the ocean” (here outside the United States) could allow a better understanding of the pattern of acculturation among migrants from different countries or regions.
Kahan’s remark has resonances for the study of Polish Jews who migrated to Palestine between 1924 and 1928. Social networks in the form of personal relationships and assistance from abroad played the role of helping tools, but other factors, such as socio-political and economic contexts, constitute a common historical background for potential emigrants. Although citizens of a reborn Polish Republic that was less than a decade old, Jews from different...
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