This survey of Eastern European Jewry was prompted by Meltzer's desire to investigate the background his immigrant parents never talked about. As Meltzer reads neither Yiddish nor Hebrew, the result is, predictably, a montage of impressions excerpted from such standard English works as Zborowski and Herzog's Life is With People, Chamofsky's Jewish Life in the Ukraine, I.L. Peretz' Memoirs, and I.J. Singer's novels. Yet the book -- which ends up focusing on the 19th century shtetl of Russian-Polish Jews -- possesses the virtue of eschewing sentimentality about that hard and dirty life. Meltzer also sketches with detachment the split between the Hasidic mystics and various opponents who wanted to merge Judaism with the Enlightenment, as well as the origins of the Bund and Zionism. A well made introduction for those who need a bridge to the standard works Meltzer introduces.