Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Identity, Israeli Expatriates, Diaspora, Ethnography, Emigration, Immigration
Abstract: In this ethnographic essay, I reflect on the origins and present condition of the new (post-2010) Israeli diaspora in Berlin. Based on 10 months of participant observation, I map out the main sub-streams of this emigration; elicit the economic, professional, and political reasons for leaving Israel; and explore these émigrés’ initial encounter with German society. My observations suggest that many Israeli residents of Berlin (mostly secular) rediscover their Jewishness along diasporic lines and forge ties with the local religious and community organizations. Being a small minority in the German-speaking milieu, Israelis invest in building their own Hebrew-based community networks, including media outlets and cultural and educational institutions. Lastly, I explore these émigrés’ ties with Israel and conclude that many Israelis in Berlin are sojourners rather than immigrants and that Berlin is but one phase in their life journey.
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Identity, Migration, Russian Emigration, Russian-Speaking Jews, Diaspora
Abstract: After the demise of state socialism in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, over 1.6 million Jews and their non-Jewish family members from Russia, Ukraine, and other parts of the Former Soviet Union (FSU) emigrated to Israel, the United States, Canada, Germany, and other Western countries. Large communities of former Soviets found themselves in the diverse national contexts of the receiving countries as either refugees or independent migrants.1 Soon after establishing an initial economic and social foothold, former Soviet immigrants started rebuilding their social networks, both within each new homeland and across national borders. These networks, spanning four continents, based on common language, culture, and historic legacies, mainly come to the fore as informal social spaces, although there are also some examples of successful civic associations representing common interests of Russian immigrants or Russian Jewry at large. This introduction examines the roots of Russian Jewish identity in the Former Soviet Union and presents an overview of some major trends in late twentieth century Russian Jewish migration to the West.
Choosing One or Being Both: The Identity Dilemmas of Russian-Jewish Mixed Ethnics Living in Russia and in Israel
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Identity, Intermarriage, Migration, Aliyah, Integration, Interviews
Abstract: A large share of Russian/Soviet Jews, especially among younger cohorts, are descendants of intermarriage. In this essay, I reflect on the implications of the built-in ambivalence of these mixed ethnics, comparing their identity qualms and social strategies in their native Russia and after migration to Israel. My analysis draws upon participant observation and interviews conducted in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and across Israel over the last 20 years. My theoretical anchors are recent discussions on the evolving nature of Jewish identity, formed at the intersection of religion, ethnicity, and culture, in the context of ongoing intermarriage and assimilation. The comparison between the (ex-)Soviet and Israeli context underscores the role of local social constructions of ethno-religious belonging, nationalism, and citizenship as synergistic forces in shaping social locations of mixed ethnics. It also sheds light on the tactics of adjustment and “passing” among individuals with ambivalent ethnic identities who experience rapid social transformation or migration.
Translated Title: Бывшие советские иммигранты в Израиле и на Западе: интеграция, изоляция и транснационализм / יהודי ברה''מ לשעבר בישראל ובמערב: השתלבות, דחייה וטרנס-לאומיות
Topics: Main Topic: Demography and Migration, Immigration, Russian Emigration, Russian-Speaking Jews, Diaspora, Globalisation, Integration
Abstract: Theoretical focus of the paper is the relationship between transnationalism and immigrant incorporation in the host country’s labor market and social system. It is shown that due to its timing and composition, Russian immigration of the 1990s was readily transnational at the outset, but the expression of diasporic interests and activities depends both on geographic location and modes of integration in the new homelands. Russian Jews in Israel and Germany display stronger diasporic tendencies than those who resettled in the USA and Canada. Across the New Diaspora, transnational activities among Russian Jews grow ‘from below’ (i.e. from individual initiative rather than institutional action) and are largely limited to the socio-cultural domain. The reliance on co-ethnic networks within and outside of the host country may be a mixed blessing, both empowering the weaker segments of the immigrants and thwarting their integration by creating an alternative social space.
Generation 1.5 of Russian-speaking immigrants in Israel and in Germany: An overview of recent research and a German pilot study
Topics: Main Topic: Demography and Migration, Aliyah, Russian-Speaking Jews, Integration, Immigration, Age and Generational Issues, Discrimination, Interviews
Abstract: This chapter oﬀers a comparative overview of immigrant trajectories and inte-gration outcomes of Russian-Jewish youths (the so-called 1.5 generation) who immigrated to Israel and Germany with their families over the last 25 years. At the outset, I compare Israeli and German reception contexts and policies and present the generic features of the 1.5 immigrant generation. Next I overview the Israeli research ﬁndings on Russian Israeli 1.5ers – their schooling, social mobility, cultural and linguistic practices, parents’ role in their integration, and juxtapose them with (still limited) German data. e ﬁnal section presents two recent German studies of young Russian-Jewish adults and the initial ﬁndings from my own study among these immigrants living in four German cities. My interviews with 20 men and women, mostly successful professionals or entrepreneurs, indicate that their upward social mobility was facilitated by the continuous welfare support of their families, school integration programs, and low ﬁnancial barriers to higher education. Despite common occupation-al and social downgrading of the parental generation in both countries, the 1.5-ers in Israel had to struggle harder to overcome their inherent immigrant disadvantage vs. native peers to access good schools and professional careers. Most young immigrants deem full assimilation in the host country’s main-stream unattainable and opt instead for a bilingual and/or bicultural strategy of integration
Abstract: In the early 1990s, more than 1.6 million Jews from the former Soviet Union emigrated to Israel, the United States, Canada, Germany, and other Western countries. Larissa Remennick relates the saga of their encounter with the economic marketplaces, lifestyles, and everyday cultures of their new homelands, drawing on comparative sociological research among Russian-Jewish immigrants. Although citizens of Jewish origin ostensibly left the former Soviet Union to flee persecution and join their co-religionists, Israeli, North American, and German Jews were universally disappointed by the new arrivals' tenuous Jewish identity. In turn, Russian Jews, whose identity had been shaped by seventy years of secular education and assimilation into the Soviet mainstream, hoped to be accepted as ambitious and hard working individuals seeking better lives. These divergent expectations shaped lines of conflict between Russian-speaking Jews and the Jewish communities of the receiving countries. Since her own immigration to Israel from Moscow in 1991, Remennick has been both a participant and an observer of this saga. This is the first attempt to compare resettlement and integration experiences of a single ethnic community (former Soviet Jews) in various global destinations. It also analyzes their emerging transnational lifestyles.
‘Idealists Headed to Israel, Pragmatics Chose Europe’: Identity Dilemmas and Social Incorporation among Former Soviet Jews who Migrated to Germany
Abstract: Since German reunification in 1989, about 185,000 former Soviet Jews have been granted refugee status in Germany. Drawing on my observations and in-depth interviews with recent immigrants in five German cities, this qualitative study explores the identity dilemmas faced by Russian Jews who moved to the lands of the historic nemesis loaded with the memories of the Holocaust. The findings suggest that for most informants migrating to Germany (rather than Israel or North America) was a pragmatic decision based on the anticipated benefits from the German welfare system, security and comfort of living in Europe. All but a few informants were secular and had limited interest in the Jewish life, keeping in touch with the Jewish communities only inasmuch as it proved useful for their resettlement. Most middle-aged informants were traumatised by their occupational downgrading and/or chronic unemployment, but many also believed that the welfare aid they receive from the German state is morally justified as a continuing retribution for the wartime crimes. Older immigrants did not even try to narrow a cultural gap with German society, kept to their co-ethnic social circle, and were permanently intimidated by the shadow of anti-Semitism. Conversely, many younger informants opined that past grievances were no longer relevant, tried to adopt some cultural features of the mainstream, and saw themselves as citizens of unified Europe, rather than Germany as such.