Soviet-Jewish History

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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Has the Soviet Jewry movement anniversary forgotten Soviet Jews themselves?

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

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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Monopoly board for educational history games

Summer camp is for history games (mud optional)

Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance (an Orwellian-sounding name if there ever was one) has just launched a communist-style variation of Monopoly, to help teach kids about life under communist rule. Lots of waiting in lines, lots of squabbling over basic necessities, lots of random shortages—”Go to end of line. Do not pass Go. Do not …

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Russian Jews Holocaust fund fraud

Caught between Stalin and Hitler: On not bridging gaps between old and new

The poison inside the people who allegedly defrauded the Holocaust fund would be inside you, too, if you had lived as Jews in the Soviet Union. Whatever their sins, these people are heroes, too, for having survived it. The struggle to defeat its legacy requires a daily application of conscience and will, even for members …

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Circumcision and Russian Jews: the tools

Circumcision and the irrational moments of life

So circumcision. Or, circumcision and Russian Jews, specifically. I’ve been neglecting this blog lately (vacations, dead computers, more vacations…), and why not jump back in with something that’s sure to upset someone, somewhere. In a post titled “Taking On The Difficult Obligation of Brit Milah,” on The Forward‘s Sisterhood blog, Debra Nussbaum Cohen defends the …

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Roman Vishniac Exhibit at Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam; photo by the Persian-Dutch Network

Roman Vishniac’s photography: The impoverished life that wasn’t quite

A few years ago, I was at a lecture on Jewish immigration where someone asked why Soviet/Russian Jewish immigrants were so smug about their academic credentials. The response? Academics was just about the only thing they had to feel good about, since, as a group, Russian-Jews were not well accepted by the established Jewish community. …

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