The Pale of Settlement is based on the true story of how the filmmaker's great-grandfather, Moische Glasserman, narrowly escaped forced conscription into the Russian army.

Starting in 1827, the Russian government imposed a harsh recruitment quota on the Jewish communities within the borders of the Russian Empire. Often, the local town councils were tasked with choosing and providing the recruits each year.

In order to meet the quota, these councils would sometimes hire khappers, bounty hunters, to go and kidnap underage children from their peasant families. As part of a sweeping effort to rid the Russian countryside of the Jewish traditions, the Russian military looked the other way when presented with children under the age of 11. Most of these children died on the trek to the military training schools in Siberia, or in the schools themselves.

During the Crimean War, the unspoken practice of hiring khappers increased greatly due to the sudden increase in the quota imposed upon the Jewish communities. A large majority of these children were taken and would never see their families again.

The film starts as these khappers arrive at Moische's cottage to take him away. However, instead of sticking around to find out what they want, Moische runs for his life and must evade his pursuers...