Personal Essay

Walking to the site of a Holocaust mass grave in Romanow, Ukraine

On #FirstSurvivor and the Russian-Jewish Holocaust experience

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day—sharing some thoughts on the Russian-Jewish Holocaust experience. There’s a thread making its way around Twitter about #FirstSurvivors, asking people about the first survivor they ever met. This was my response, which I’m posting here too, with some tweaks, before it disappears into the abyss of updates. Like many #SovietJews there's …

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

Looking to the Soviet past to understand Remembrance Day

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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Soviet-Russian seder traditions - Syrian Roasted Lamb Shanks recipe

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

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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Limmud FSU: That time I spent a weekend speaking Russian

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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Vyertolyet - or wooden helicopter toy - a word I often forget in English

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

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

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

*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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