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On #FirstSurvivor and the Russian-Jewish Holocaust experience

January 27, 2019 / Comments Off on On #FirstSurvivor and the Russian-Jewish Holocaust experience
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Walking to the site of a Holocaust mass grave in Romanow, Ukraine

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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Lost in Immigration: People I Will Never Know

December 31, 2018 / 2 Comments
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This photo was taken a few nights before we left the Soviet Union forever. To my knowledge, it is the only photo that exists of me with all my (at that time living) grandparents. That’s them, in the front row. My paternal grandmother, then my maternal grandfather (holding me), and my maternal grandmother next to…

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No Air Canada, I don’t want a Russian flag on my face

March 12, 2018 / 4 Comments
Canadian Soviet flag mash-up symbolizing Canadian diversity advertising

Readers! I took a blogging break and it accidentally stretched into too many years (with a few exceptions here and here). Dipping my toe back in more officially now. On my mind this week is Canadian diversity advertising, brought to you by this Only-in-Canada spot from Air Canada that aired during the Olympics, called “Our Time.”…

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Looking to the Soviet past to understand Remembrance Day

November 12, 2017 / Comments Off on Looking to the Soviet past to understand Remembrance Day
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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American dreams and the state of statelessness

April 10, 2014 / Comments Off on American dreams and the state of statelessness
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Jasper Johns American flag painting at the MOMA

My review of Stateless documentary 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 write a Stateless documentary review for Tablet Magazine and naturally, I think you should go read it. The…

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First Limmud FSU Canada is coming in October

March 19, 2014 / 4 Comments
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 / 3 Comments
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Russian bukvhar - alphabet book - showing Kremlin

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 / Comments Off on Russian Bukvar for beginners – How I almost didn’t learn Russian
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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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The Russian make-up brigade

February 27, 2014 / 3 Comments
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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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Limmud FSU: That time I spent a weekend speaking Russian

March 20, 2013 / Comments Off on Limmud FSU: That time I spent a weekend speaking Russian
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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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