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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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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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The Russian make-up brigade

February 27, 2014

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…

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

December 12, 2013
Maxim Shrayer memoir - Leaving Russia Interview

[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 excited to tell you about a new book that’s just come out this month. Leaving…

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

December 11, 2013
Early 1960s Soviet schoolchildren for Soviet-Jewish immigration stories

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…

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Operatsiya Y: A Soviet movie flashback. With kompot!

November 21, 2013
Operatsiya Y Soviet movie - Operation Y with Shurik

Park yourself at a dinner table of Russians, and inevitably, as the eating part winds down and the drinks are doing their thing, someone says “And the kompot?” And everyone else laughs uproariously and the kompot rarely, rarely ever appears. It’s a line from an old Soviet movie. And, since it’s a line from every…

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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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With so many ways to keep in touch, let’s never talk again

March 11, 2013
Vintage Russian phone found in Moscow illustrating how immigrants keep in touch

I spend a lot of time downloading Facebook photos, uploading them to an email and sending them to my parents, where, I suspect, they will sit for all eternity in their inboxes. We, like most families, used to have albums, but now we have attachments we will never find again. As usual, we have an…

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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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