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Reclaiming the Soviet Holocaust film industry: My article in Tablet

June 13, 2013
Soviet Holocaust films - Olga Gershenson's Phantom Holocaust Review

I’m very excited about my latest article for Tablet on a new book about Soviet Holocaust films. The book is called The Phantom Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and Jewish Catastrophe, by Olga Gershenson. (Yes, that’s the book I was reading while waiting to pick up my visa application.) I’m not sure I did justice to the…

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Limmud FSU: That time I spent a weekend speaking Russian

March 20, 2013
Limmud FSU 2013

Years of travelling and moving around the world, and I still managed to pull off a first this weekend, at Limmud FSU, a Russian-Jewish conference in Princeton. My first experience of the organized Russian-Jewish community in North America. Just how fish-out-of-water was this for me? It was a full 48 hours in when a friend turned…

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Has the Soviet Jewry movement anniversary forgotten Soviet Jews themselves?

February 19, 2013
March for Soviet Jews pin - commemorating Soviet Jewry movement anniversary

Have you joined the virtual march to commemorate the real march for Soviet Jews yet? On December 6, 1987, some 250,000 people rallied in Washington, DC, to demand immigration rights for Soviet Jews. If you missed it, you can “remember” by joining the virtual march. There are a lot of people talking about the Soviet…

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An A-Z of Russian hospitality to Jews for Shimon Peres: The outtakes

December 5, 2012
Moscow Jewish Museum of Tolerance logo - Peres at Jewish Museum in Moscow

You might have heard something about Israeli President Shimon Peres and the Jewish museum in Moscow? It’s just opened and Peres was among the important so-and-so’s in attendance. At some point in the proceedings, overcome with emotions dredged up from childhood, he opened his mouth and and the following came out: “My mother sang to me in…

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An interview with Swimming in the Daylight author Lisa Paul

July 17, 2012
Cover of Swimming in the Daylight by Lisa Paul

I am really excited about today’s post – an interview with Lisa Paul, whose memoir, Swimming in the Daylight, is about her time in Moscow and friendship with Soviet refusenik and dissident Inna Meiman. In 1985, after returning from her trip, Lisa went on a hunger strike to bring attention to her friend’s plight and…

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CLOSED: A hunger strike! A memoir! A giveaway!

July 13, 2012
Cover of Swimming in the Daylight by Lisa Paul

I’m very excited to announce that I’m doing a book giveaway in the next issue of the Soviet Samovar newsletter. Those of you who follow my page on Facebook can also sign up through the giveaway tab on the page. In 1985, an American student named Lisa Paul went on a 25-day hunger strike, to…

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A joke to die for: Old communists telling Soviet jokes

July 2, 2012
Soviet jokes in Hammer & Tickle by Ben Lewis

Every time you tell a joke, a dictator gets a little weaker. If you grew up in any household of former eastern European emigres, then you’re probably familiar with the very particular form of Soviet black humour. There is no North American equivalent to the anekdot – aside from the jokes that periodically make the rounds…

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Apparently, there are words I still don’t know in English. Like apron.

March 8, 2012
Vyertolyet - or wooden helicopter toy - a word I often forget in English

I forgot the word for helicopter the other day. For the rotor, actually. And I didn’t forget so much as remember it in the wrong language. My brain froze up and then offered me nothing but a very Russian “vyertolyot”. The end result is that I have a toddler who will never know what those…

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My KGB file – Yes, there was probably a file with my name on it

March 7, 2012
My KGB file

*Updated at bottom Excuse me while I continue to geek out on Soviet government memos… As I flip through, I’m continually amazed at the level of specificity in these memos, and to realize that “Big Brother” genuinely read all letters received from North American activists and government officials. (Paging Amnesty International.) We like to complain…

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The loneliness of crossing oceans

March 2, 2012
Umbrellas on the Spanish Steps

I’ve been writing about a trip I took to Rome with my parents a few years ago. We tried to find the apartment we’d lived in while we were waiting for our Canadian paperwork, but then didn’t. We did eat a lot of gelato and drink a lot of wine. But one of the things…

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