Convergent Aims: The revival of Jewish Studies in St. Petersburg and the search for Russia’s “unaffiliated Jews”
Topics: Assimilation, Jewish Revival, Jewish Organisations, Fundraising and Philanthropy, Affiliation and Belonging, Jewish Studies, Universities / Higher Education, Jewish Education, Main Topic: Education, Outreach
Abstract: Twentieth-century events in Russia and Eastern Europe resulted in complex definitions of Jewish identity and communal relations. When the Soviet Union disbanded, foreign agencies pushed funds and resources to rebuild Jewish communities and institutions. One of the avenues for this funding is the creation and support of academic research centers responsible for training students and scholars. Organizations interested in Russia’s “unaffiliated Jews” and the research centers responsible for the revival of Jewish Studies form unique partnerships that bridge academic and public arenas. Reclaiming Jews who do not identify with Judaism or Jewish culture (unaffiliated Jews) in Russia is a significant goal of some Jewish funding agencies in the United States and Israel. An examination of mission statements by these philanthropic agencies reveals narrow definitions of “Jews” that ignore major contributions from Jewish Studies scholars focused on understanding a diverse population with disparate self-understandings.