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This study explores the intersection of two historical phenomena. From the 1880s to the 1920s, Central Appalachia experienced rapid industrial development as the entry of railroads into the mountains initiated large-scale coal extraction. At the same time, East European Jewish immigrants streamed into America's eastern seaboard. Some found their way to the coalfields, where they carved out a role as retailers in an expanding rural-industrial economy. This niche enabled them to build several small but vital Jewish communities which lasted late into the twentieth century. Their economic position facilitated the entry of Jews into the coalfield middle class and made them contributors to the region's transformation from an agrarian, subsistence-oriented society to a consumer-oriented society. Focusing on southern West Virginia, southeastern Kentucky, and southwestern Virginia, the study examines how the Jews' East European background interacted with the Appalachian environment to shape their experience. Jews were welcomed into a society where the small preexisting local elite needed entrepreneurial newcomers to help achieve economic development. They participated fully in their towns' social and civic life and created a strong communal life, establishing nine congregations. Yet they confronted numerous dilemmas related to their anomalous position: as non-Christians in an overwhelmingly Christian milieu; middle-class town dwellers amidst a predominantly working-class rural population; non-participants in the single industry that employed almost everyone else; bystanders in a region often wracked by violent labor-management conflict. The study examines the challenges Jews faced in the economic, social, and communal realms. It devotes particular attention to how they dealt with the boom-and-bust nature of the coal economy and the domination of coal company stores. It delves deeply into how they maintained Jewish community and identity in a location seemingly remote from American Jewish centers. The study is informed by literature on "middleman minorities" the transition to capitalism in western societies, and the "frontier" as historical construct. Above all, it draws on the themes of Appalachian studies and American Jewish studies, and aims to contribute to both fields. It helps fills a gap in Appalachian studies: recent scholarship emphasizes the region's ethnic diversity and the complexities of its economic transformation, yet the role of commerce has been neglected and few studies of its ethnic communities exist. American Jewish history focuses on major metropolitan areas. A study of small-town, rural Jews contributes to a more complete picture of the American Jewish experience and offers a unique perspective on issues of identity, assimilation, and Jewish-gentile relations.