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On #FirstSurvivor and the Russian-Jewish Holocaust experience

January 27, 2019 / 0 Comments
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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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Operation Wedding: A conversation with Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov

January 15, 2019 / Comments Off on Operation Wedding: A conversation with Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov
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Operation Wedding escape plan graphic, designed by Armands Blumbergs.

A while ago I interviewed Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov for an article about her award-winning documentary, Operation Wedding, still one of just a tiny handful of docs on the Soviet-Jewish immigration. It’s the story of her parents’ attempt to escape the USSR in 1970, by hijacking an empty plane and flying it across the border to Sweden.…

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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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Kristallnacht on Twitter seems hopelessly naive

November 11, 2013 / Comments Off on Kristallnacht on Twitter seems hopelessly naive
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Kristallnacht on Twitter post - interior of burnt synagogue in Berlin

This weekend was the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht – the Night of the Broken Glass, when thousands of Jewish homes and businesses were ransacked and destroyed across Germany. Ninety-one Jews died that night. That was the night of November 9/10, 1938. (Awkward anniversary tie-in – on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down.) Media…

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Reclaiming the Soviet Holocaust film industry: My article in Tablet

June 13, 2013 / Comments Off on Reclaiming the Soviet Holocaust film industry: My article in Tablet
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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 / 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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An interview with Swimming in the Daylight author Lisa Paul

July 17, 2012 / Comments Off on An interview with Swimming in the Daylight author Lisa Paul
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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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In which I am immersed in Russian music but would have preferred herring

March 31, 2011 / Comments Off on In which I am immersed in Russian music but would have preferred herring
Jars of herring in the fridge

I was at a wedding this past weekend. Both parties are Russian Jews, who left shortly after communism collapsed, and both have maintained a strong Russian (/Soviet) Jewish identity. Unfortunately, this did not translate into a dinner of herring and pickled tongue, but rather, into an evening of almost exclusively Russian music – actually more…

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Teaching history through games: Are some things off-limits?

February 1, 2011 / Comments Off on Teaching history through games: Are some things off-limits?
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Monopoly ship piece representing teaching history through games

In my last post, I talked about a new Monopoly game in Poland, which is being used to teach children about communism. I also talked about a role-playing game I participated in at summer camp, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, where we played Soviet Jews trying to escape the country. Come to…

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Lego and Monopoly: What’s history got to do with it?

November 29, 2010 / Comments Off on Lego and Monopoly: What’s history got to do with it?
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A few links that have been hanging around in my bookmarks and Twitter feed… a lot of video, a little bit of Lego, a little bit of Monopoly… History via Lego Up above, we have the complete history of Soviet-Russia for children, told through Lego. Need I say more? (If you liked that, you should…

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