In a new book, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs professor emeritus and author Jack Rothman chronicles his journey to find the forgotten village in Ukraine where his family had lived for generations.
For Rothman, planning a visit to his parents’ birthplace, Butsnevits, was challenging. The biggest issue: No map seems to acknowledge the existence of such a place.
In his self-published book, “Searching for Butsnevits: A Shtetl Tale,” Rothman sets off to find the titular shtetl, a word for a small Jewish village, of which his father would speak fondly about.
After writing 25 other books in more traditional academic prose, Rothman’s latest publication takes on a more personal feel. Described in the introduction as “part autobiography, part social history, and part detective story,” Rothman pieces together clues to the shtetl life of his parents in early 20th century Ukraine.
His interest piqued growing up with a family that referred to Butsnevits as “der haim” (“the home”). As a researcher at UCLA, Rothman unsuccessfully plowed through the records at the UCLA Jewish Library and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. In addition to recounting his travels through rural Ukraine, Rothman sets his journey and the shtetl in question in conversation with the Russian Revolution and a growing disdain among locals toward Jewish communities.
Rothman is a former social welfare professor at UCLA, where he focused his research on community organizing for social change.
“Searching for Butsnevits: A Shtetl Tale” is available via Amazon.