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Looking to the Soviet past to understand Remembrance Day

November 12, 2017
My grandfather (and his siblings) as a Red Army soldier at the outset of WWII, in approximately 1941.

I properly met my maternal grandparents for the first time shortly before my 10th birthday. Until then, they had been photographs and letters I couldn’t read and Russian storybooks that arrived periodically in the mail. They were the sound of my parents shouting down the telephone line, because in the long ago 1980s people sounded…

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Stumbling into Syrian cuisine while searching for a Soviet-Russian seder tradition

April 7, 2017
Soviet-Russian seder traditions - Syrian Roasted Lamb Shanks recipe

It starts, as these things so often do, with food. My (non-Jewish) partner and I, recently reunited after a short separation, in the sad bachelor apartment where he had temporarily landed. Where familiar, lonely kitchen things still glared at me woefully, bereft of their mates that had landed up in my kitchen. Where we bumped into each…

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It’s oh so quiet…

June 5, 2014
Lego figurine on a swing

I am taking a slight hiatus from the blogging as I turn my attention to my main project of the moment – the Soviet-Jewish immigration stories and oral history project. What project? I’m interviewing Soviet-Jewish immigrants who came to Canada in the 1970s and early 1980s. If that’s you, or someone you know, get in…

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CLOSED: Weekend Give-Away – Do Russian-Jewish at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival!

May 2, 2014
Toronto Jewish Film Festival ticket giveaway

I’m excited to announce that the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, which is on now, has very generously offered to giveaway 10 tickets to screenings of ‘The Unvanquished’ and ‘From Russia with Falafel’. Want those tickets? You just have to sign up for the Soviet Samovar – my monthly round-up of Russian-Jewish news, events and culture.…

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American dreams and the state of statelessness

April 10, 2014
Jasper Johns American flag painting at the MOMA

Review of Stateless in Tablet 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 and naturally, I think you should go read it. The movie looks at why the…

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A Soviet-Jewish nightmare comes true on The Americans

March 27, 2014
The Americans Cold War spy show on FX

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…

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Why I can’t stop watching The Americans

March 26, 2014
Poster for watching The Americans

Can we talk about The Americans? Let’s talk about The Americans. Because I can’t stop watching The Americans and meanwhile 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…

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First Limmud FSU Canada is coming in October

March 19, 2014
First ever Limmud FSU Canada organizing committee 2013

I’ve mentioned this before, but now there’s a website, so it’s real – the first Limmud FSU Canada is coming 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…

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12 things I learned about Soviet childhood from my Bukvar

March 13, 2014
Russian bukhvar - Russian alphabet - Soviet children at home alone with a photo of Yuri Gagarin looking down at them

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…

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

March 5, 2014
Russian bukvhar from 1970s

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…

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