Abstract: Victor Shnirelman situates issues of multiple Jewish identities in the broad context of Russian society and the ideologies that have nurtured it in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. The article reveals the insidiousness of quests for overarching, essentialist theories about culture, since they are often repackaged racism in scientific clothing. When such theories permeate school textbooks, as they have begun to do in Russia, scientific debates about cultural change and "national character" harden into pragmatic concerns about latent and blatant prejudice. Russian ideologues and also some intellectuals of the war-torn regions of Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Georgia have been abusing history in particularly polarizing and dangerous ways.
"Lost Jews," "Chimeras," or "the Hope of the Nation"? Jews, Russia, Mixed Marriages, and Historical Memory Revisited
Abstract: Elena Nosenko-Shteyn focuses on the problem of Jewish assimilation through the lens of complex, qualitative survey research with people of mixed ethnic heritage in Russia. She has divided her 112 interlocutors into four basic groups: those already fully "Russian" in their self-image and values; those "cosmopolitan" or "international" enough to accept Jewish roots without prioritizing them; those who have "dual" or "transitional" identities that are often situational or fluid; and those who are "new Jewish," ready to embrace with renewed vigor the religion and customs of their ancestors.
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Community, Mountain Jews, Rural and Small Town, Diaspora
Abstract: Mikhail Chlenov, secretary general of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, introduces the classic volume Mountain Jews, edited by Iosef Begun and Valerii Dymshits. This essay presents the significance of the group as well as the book. Mountain or "Highland" Jews have cultural roots in the history of a far-flung Persian Jewish archipelago. Many Jews from mountainous villages in Dagestan and Azerbaijan in the post-Soviet period have fled long-established rural communities, often landing in Moscow as outsiders within an already "outsider" group.
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Community, Jewish Organisations, Reform/Liberal/Progressive Judaism, Fundraising and Philanthropy, Politics, Denominations
Abstract: Semen Charnyi provides insight into the range of Jewish communities in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Basic differences within Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism are overlaid with other issues, including the involvement of rich benefactors and high-level politicians in Jewish life. A relatively recent development within the Jewish community, Progressive Judaism, also is featured, as are the problems that various Jewish groups face today.