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Shtetl on the Great Plains

The size of the tight-knit Jewish population and its well-developed infrastructure led some Jews in town to refer to Postville as a shtetl. Shtetl is a Yiddish term that literally means “little town.” Shtetls (the plural in Yiddish is shtetlekh) were small towns with large Jewish populations that existed throughout pre-Holocaust Eastern and Central Europe. Some shtetls were founded a thousand years ago. Shtetls were socially stable and resilient communities where Orthodox Judaism flourished, safe from outside influence or interference.
Most of the Orthodox sects represented in Postville have their roots in different shtetls. Members of the Lubavitch movement, for example, trace their roots to the Russian shtetl of Lubavitch, a Jewish community that started in the late eighteenth century.
Most Americans are familiar with the concept of shtetl through the play and movie Fiddler on the Roof, which portrayed the beauty and pain of the shtetl in Eastern Europe as it experienced periods of prosperity and tolerance and endured times of extreme poverty and pogroms.
During the period depicted in the play, riots were directed at Jews and other groups; people were murdered, and homes, synagogues, and businesses destroyed. At times, the pogroms were carried out with the blessing of local governments.
Today, the term shtetl often is used as a metaphor for European Jewish life in the nineteenth century.
Many Jews in Postville refer to the town as a shtetl because of the relative physical isolation of the community, its integration with a predominately Christian town, and its well-established infrastructure. Some use the term when they feel threatened by outside influences and negative portrayals in the media. Some Israeli Jews, with a distinct preference for cosmopolitan urban living, use the word shtetl to describe small-town rural life.
The establishment of a shtetl and the presence of so many Hassidic Jews in Postville have spawned a great deal of interest in the media. It is a fascinating and rather peculiar situation, and the curiosity is understandable.
At times, tourists from as far away as Chicago, New York, and even Israel have wandered through the town to take photographs and wonder at this unique social experiment. Others have made documentaries, published stories, or written articles about this unique little town.
Click the links below to read further information about the Shtetl. 
For additional info about our Shtetl please read our Shtetl Museum flyer,  Click Here