Librarian's Lobby
by Daniel D. Stuhlman
January 2008

Research Strategy

Finding information at any level from is an important skill. Separating the useless and useful are important lessons learned all of our lives.  It annoys me to find researchers who refuse to think and analyze the search process.  Some of the questions I get are so naïve I wonder if the questioner took a few moments to think.  Let me take you through a search so that you can ask better questions and become more efficient in your searches.

Question: My father grew up in a small Jewish community in Aiken, South Carolina.  In my research I found Charleston, South Carolina. had more Jews in 1800 than New York City. Aiken is about 132 miles from Charleston and 17 miles from Augusta,GA. He has many stories of the difficulty growing up Jewish in the South.  Are there any books are articles about Jews from small towns.

Answer: Today over half of the world’s Jewish population is concentrated in 10 metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami.  If you want access to synagogues, kosher food, Jewish education, and Jewish social life, you need a large population base.  In Europe before the Holocaust, most Jews lived in small towns.  In a given European town the Jews were more likely to be homogeneous in their practices than in a similar sized town in the United States. Jews settled in many small towns across the United States and several books have been written on the topic. 

Beginning the search is quite straight forward.  Since you don’t know the exact subject, use a keyword search. In Google use: jews small towns.You will get more than 220,000 hits.  You will see articles and references to books.

For example from the New York Times: “A Memorial to Jewish Small-Town Immigration “was published July 5, 1997. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C05E1DB1F30F936A35754C0A961958260

 “Small-Town South Clings to Jewish History” by Peter Applebome, published: September 29, 1991 deals exactly with Jewish communities in the south such as your father’s home town. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE5D61339F93AA1575AC0A967958260

The search will lead you to a recent book on the topic: Jewish Life in Small-Town America: A History, by Lee Shai Weissbach. New Haven; Yale University Press, 2005.  If you look up the subject headings for this book it will lead you to others examining the social conditions of Jews in the United States One of the subject heading is: Cities and towns--Religious aspects--Judaism. A new feature of Library of Congress records is a permanent URL for each title.  The URL for this title is: http://lccn.loc.gov/2004051195.  If you go to this record you will be able to click on the author or subject to find similar items.

Once you learn the names of small towns, you can research them in other sources.  One good source is the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1901-1906.  It is in the public domain and available without fee on line at: http://jewishencyclopedia.com/.  This was the first scholarly Jewish encyclopedia in English.


Daniel D. Stuhlman is president of Stuhlman Management Consultants, Chicago , a firm helping organizations turn data and information into knowledge. We are looking for new clients and opportunities. Visit the web site at Stuhlman.biz to learn more about knowledge management and what our firm can do for you. Previous issues of Librarian's Lobby can be found at: http://home.earthlink.net/~DDStuhlman/liblob.htm.    E-mail author.


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 ©2008 by Daniel D. Stuhlman. All rights reserved.
Last revised February 18, 2008