American dreams and the state of statelessness

Jasper Johns Flag MOMA

When I was at Limmud last month, I had a chance to see a new documentary on the Soviet-Jewish immigration of the late ’80s, called Stateless. I also got to review it for Tablet Magazine. Naturally, I think you should go read it. The movie looks at why the US stopped granting refugee status to Soviet-Jews in 1988, leaving hundreds of people temporarily stranded in Italy.

A Soviet-Jewish nightmare comes true on The Americans

Soviet Jews on the Americans

Well. That was gut-wrenching. I’m a little speechless. Our anti-hero protagonists just reached into my own personal life and gave it a shake. Or, more to the point, it’s like the KGB reached out and tapped my parents on the shoulders — really, every Russian that I knew as a child — and said “Here… Continue Reading »

Why I can’t stop watching The Americans

The Americans Cold War spy show on FX

Can we talk about The Americans? Let’s talk about The Americans. Because no one in my Russian-Jewish circles is talking about this show, and now they’ve got a storyline about Soviet-Jews and you should all start watching it. Even Gary Shteyngart is watching – it’s his favourite show this season (thanks, Twitter). Imagine this –… Continue Reading »

Limmud FSU Canada is coming in October

Limmud FSU Canada Organizing Committee

I’ve mentioned this before, but now there’s a website, so it’s real – Limmud FSU is coming to Canada in October. Of course you’ll be there, right? The organizing committee went on a planning retreat in January (that’d be the one where I yakked about my bukvar and other awkward childhood moments), and I thought… Continue Reading »

12 things I learned about Soviet childhood from my Bukvar

Soviet Childhood pictures from my Russian Bukvar

After my last post, one of my cousins got nostalgic for her old Bukvar and thought she’d try to buy one online. She found one on Amazon, to the tune of $2,450. My heart is breaking that I didn’t have the fortitude to do anything more useful with mine than mark it all up for… Continue Reading »

Russian Bukvar for beginners – How I almost didn’t learn Russian

Russian Bukvar - Russian Alphabet Primer

I wrote a bit last time about one of my ‘immigrant identity crisis’ vignettes that I shared at the Limmud retreat. But it started with an assignment, to bring an artifact, or object, from home about our Russian-Jewish heritage. When you and your childhood home are separated by over 3,000km, digging up an acceptable artifact… Continue Reading »

The Russian make-up brigade

Russian Makeup

Early in January, I spent a weekend at a planning retreat for Limmud FSU Canada (it’s the first ever Limmud FSU in Canada, and yes, expect to hear more from me about it soon). We were all asked to bring an artifact that spoke to our Russian selves, and as part of the identity-digging activity… Continue Reading »

Links Round-Up: Winter Olympics, Sochi-style

Sochi 2014 and Moscow 1980 Olympic Mascots

A number of people have asked me in the last few weeks whether I have any national pride for Russia during these Olympics. Maybe it’s all the writing I’ve been doing the last few years, but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked before about cheering on another country. It’s never even occurred to me… Continue Reading »

Growing up Refusenik: A Q&A with Maxim Shrayer on his new memoir

Maxim Shrayer with daughter Tatiana at St. Petersburg Jewish cemetery

[Update - Want to read this in Russian? Click here to read a translation of my Q+A on Booknik.ru] Memoirs about Soviet-Jewish life during the immigration period of the 1970s and 1980s have not yet saturated the memoir genre, so I’m really excited to tell you about a new book that’s just come out this… Continue Reading »

Share your story! Looking for Soviet-Jewish immigrants from the 1970s

Soviet schoolchildren

Hi guys, I’m really excited to tell you about funding I’ve received to do an oral history project on the 1970s immigration period!! I’ll be interviewing people and posting it as part of an online exhibit on the history of the Soviet-Jewish immigration. Here’s where you can help – I’m looking for Soviet-Jewish immigrants to… Continue Reading »