Topics: Main Topic: Demography and Migration, Emigration, Aliyah, Post-1989, Post-War Jewish History, Russian Emigration, Russian-Speaking Jews
Abstract: This introductory article provides an overview of modern Jewish migration from Eastern Europe. It engages the foundational historiography of the field and explores intersections of Jewish migration with general migration theory. In addition to framing the six articles in this special collection, this essay presents longue durée factors linking today's post-Soviet diaspora communities on three continents with social and political trends beginning in the late nineteenth century and during the interwar period and postwar periods.
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.
The emigration intentions of Russian Jews: the role of socio-demographic variables, social networks, and satisfaction with life
Topics: Main Topic: Demography and Migration, Aliyah, Russian Emigration, Emigration, Demography, Surveys
Abstract: The present study investigated the role of socio-demographic characteristics, social networks, and satisfaction with various aspects of life in predicting the emigration intentions of Jews living in Russia. The study’s subjects consisted of Jews and their relatives eligible for immigration to Israel under the Israeli Law of Return. The study’s participants (n = 824) lived in five metropolitan areas. Socio-demographic characteristics, social networks, and satisfaction with life in Russia together explained 23% of the variance in emigration intentions among Russian Jews. Specifically, stronger emigration intentions were associated with a younger age, a smaller number of Jewish ancestors, a lower level of religiosity, a smaller number of Russian friends, a larger number of friends living abroad, a lower level of psychological well-being, and dissatisfaction with the education and healthcare systems in Russia. In addition, Jews living in Moscow and St. Petersburg expressed stronger emigration intentions than Jews living in other cities in Russia.
The long silent revolution: capturing the life stories of Soviet-Jewish migrants to the West, 1970–2010
Topics: Main Topic: Demography and Migration, Russian Emigration, Russian-Speaking Jews, Aliyah, Oral History and Biography
Abstract: How can the prism of self-reflection help scholars see the mass exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union and its successor states in new ways? This article discusses the first effort to collect the life stories of the 1.6 million Jews and their non-Jewish relatives who left the former Soviet Union between 1970 and 2000. Believing that autobiographical essays elicits a unique perspective on Russian Jewish migration that would otherwise not be known, the authors set out to collect autobiographical materials from members of this last wave of Russian-Jewish migration through autobiography contests modeled after contests run by Max Weinreich and the YIVO Institute in the early twentieth century. Through its discussion of the two winning autobiographies collected through the contests, the article demonstrates why the full social scientific study of the role Russian Jewish migrants played in shaping Jewish history needs to pay heed to the voices and stories of regular migrants
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Identity, Christianity, Religious Belief, Religious Observance and Practice, Conversion, Ethnicity, Secularity
Abstract: For many centuries the attitude towards baptised Jews within Jewish society was extremely negative, as baptism was perceived as apostasy. This attitude persists to this day, even though many Jews have abandoned Judaism and a secular Jewish identity has emerged. After seven decades of Soviet rule, during which a new Soviet, wholly secular Jewish identity, was constructed, Jewish identity in the former Soviet Union (FSU) is based mainly on the ethnic principle. As a result of an almost total detachment from Judaism, some Soviet and former‐Soviet Jews have converted to Russian Orthodoxy. Moreover, we can see the formation of a paradoxical Russian Orthodox Jewish self‐identification in post‐Soviet Russia. This processes, its trends and peculiar features are poorly studied, a matter this paper intends to remedy.
Media, politics, and Jewish migration from East Europe amid the military crisis in Ukraine, 2014–2015
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Diaspora, Conflict, Politics, Russian-Speaking Jews, Jewish Identity, National Identity, Internet
Abstract: Over the course of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the identity of the global Russian-speaking Jewish community was put to the test. The conflict in Ukraine marked the first time in the history of Russian-speaking Jews that every expression, blog or Twitter post, and opinion article were recorded on the World Wide Web. This readily available data enables us to reconstruct the information climate that surrounded Russian-speaking Jews. The present article explores the sway of this climate on the political discourse of Jewish elites in Ukraine, Russia, and Jewish Russian-speaking diasporas between 2014 and 2015. Our findings suggest that identities of these groups are multilayered, but not hierarchical. Moreover, the elites’ common ethno-cultural Jewish identity coexists with distinct political affiliations. The allegiance of minorities to host societies is a well-known phenomenon. However, its mechanisms have yet to command sufficient research interest. Is it fear, prudence, genuine attachment to the country of residence, or other factors that stand behind the minorities’ commitment? This paper fuses thematic maps with content analysis to show that the “infosphere” is a key to understanding the position of Jews toward host regimes and their co-ethnics in other nation-states.
Inside the Museum: A Museum in a museum—the experience of exhibiting Jewish collections in the Russian Museum of Ethnography, St. Petersburg
Abstract: The small-scale Jewish museums in Chișinău (Moldova), Odessa (Ukraine), Lviv (Ukraine), and Minsk (Belarus) narrate the history of once flourishing Jewish communities, and document their disappearance. Their permanent collections, which consist of the private belongings that emigrating Jewish families gave them in the early 1990s, are the basis for their exhibitions. These museums opened in the early 2000s under the auspices of local Jewish cultural and charitable organizations. They are not state museums and lack a solid financial foundation and stable professional curatorial team. Much depends on the personal vision of their directors. Despite both limited exhibition space and locations not frequented by tourists, these museums are important agents of memory and identity for local Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, as well as for international visitors.
Reportage: The Bukharan-Jewish Museum in Samarkand: memory preservation of a rapidly-diminishing community
Inside the Museum: Galicia Jewish Museum: Re-defining the role of the Jewish museum in a post-communist Poland
Abstract: This article discusses the architectural conversion of the historical Gliwice Pre-Burial House into the Museum of Upper Silesian Jews. It describes the former function of the building in the context of the specific history of Upper Silesian Jews, the Haskalah movement, and funeral rites in Judaism. The main part of the paper is devoted to the presentation of the architectural design and the functional division of the planned museum as proposed by the architectural collective that the author is part of. Special attention is given to a discussion of the conceptual framework of the design which tries to reveal the continuity of unformatted architectural memory. The features of proposed design, such as the central installation of The Cloud, merge commemorative aspects with new functions related to hosting public events and historical display. In this way, the design negotiates between remembrance of the Jewish community and the needs of the new inhabitants and users of the space. Thus, the paper contributes to the larger discussion about the adaptation of former Jewish facilities for new public functions.
Abstract: After the proclamation of the People's Republic of Romania, at the end of 1947, until 1988, about 300,000 Jews have left Romania. Currently, in Romania, the Jewish population is around 12,000–15,000, generally aging. Despite the general interest of the Romanian society in Judaism and the Jewish communities, as the article highlights, there are only about half a dozen Jewish museums, most of them being rather unknown and modest community exhibitions, dusty and decrepit. The article focuses on these particular museums and their collections, but trying to point out the resources and real potential of the Jewish heritage in Romania, envisaging that it is high time to experience new Jewish museums
Reportage: Beyond Prague's “Precious Legacy”: post-communist Jewish exhibits and synagogue restorations in the Czech Republic
Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Museums, Post-1989, Synagogues, Jewish Community, Jewish Heritage
Abstract: The 10 Stars project, a linked network of restored or re-restored historic synagogues, associated buildings, and exhibitions in 10 towns around the Czech Republic, is the most ambitious single Jewish heritage project to be carried out in the Czech Republic since the fall of communism. Inaugurated in 2014, it falls within (and is the culmination of) a multifaceted program for Jewish heritage preservation and promotion in that country that was already being implemented in the early 1990s, thanks to the strategic vision of Jewish communal leaders and the active involvement and participation of municipalities, NGOs and others. As a result, in the past quarter century, the Czech Republic has seen the restoration of more than 65 synagogues, as well as the creation of regional Jewish museums and the installation of many local exhibits on Jewish history and heritage. This essay examines elements of the strategic process that achieved these results and shows how the various stages of its implementation led up to the 10 Stars.
Inside the Museum: When Orthodox synagogue meets museum: the New Jewish Community Museum in Bratislava
Abstract: This article examines the institutional development of Jewish museums in Prague, Budapest, and Bratislava from 1989 to the present, with special reference to their role as agents of cultural memory. I consider how these museums contribute to the formation of Jewish identities in post-communist societies, which are themselves struggling to form collective identities. After analyzing the institutional structures and exhibition concepts of these museums in relation to shifts in the politics of representation, I propose a core area on which each museum could base its future development.
Staging Traumatic Memory: Competing Narratives of State Violence in Post-Communist Hungarian Museums
Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Museums, Memory, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Education, Holocaust Memorials, Jewish - Non - Jewish Relations, Post-1989, Communism
Abstract: The article examines the way three contemporary Hungarian museums–the House of Terror Museum, the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial and Documentation Center–represent the history of the Holocaust and the history of Jewish/non-Jewish relations. Reflecting different political agendas, each of the three museums offers a different interpretation of how the Holocaust fits into the larger narrative of Hungary's 20th century history. The article argues that post-communist public memory has been constructed through debates about these histories. By analyzing the three museums' displays, narratives and the debates surrounding them, the article argues that Hungarian public discourse has yet to come to terms with the meaning and place of “Jewishness” (and the way it has informed “Hungarianness”) in modern Hungarian history. Despite the centrality of Jews and Jewish-non-Jewish relations to the museums' narratives, none are able to offer a clear definition of what “Jewishness” means and how it functioned at different times throughout the 20th century.
Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Museums, Memory, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Education, Holocaust Memorials, Jewish - Non - Jewish Relations
Abstract: The reception of the core exception of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which opened in Warsaw on 28 October 2014, is the focus of this essay. While eschewing a master narrative, the exhibition is guided by metahistorical principles and a distinctive approach to mode of narration. Both have proven controversial as evidenced by answers to the following questions. What is the difference between a history of Polish Jews and a history of Polish Jewish relations? What is the most important period in the history of Polish Jews? Can visitors be trusted to draw the proper conclusions from a multi-voiced narrative based largely on quotations from primary sources, supported with scholarly commentary? Is a museum whose core exhibition features relatively few original objects a museum? What is the role of intangible heritage in such a museum?
The Square of Polish Innocence: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and its symbolic topography
Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Museums, Memory, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Education, Holocaust Memorials, Jewish - Non - Jewish Relations
Abstract: The text refers to the space around the Nathan Rapoport’s Monument to the Fighters and Martyrs of the Ghetto and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN in Warsaw (Poland). The site of death – at the heart of the former Warsaw Ghetto – has now become a site overloaded with other symbolic messages. Two main symbolic centers (the 1948 Monument and the 2013 Museum) are today encircled by ten other, additional memorials. The message emerging from the content as well as the proportion of commemorations is that Polish solidarity with the Jews was a fact and it stood the test of terror and death brought by the Germans. Although it does not undermine the veracity of the few and isolated exceptions, such a version of events is drastically different from the actual facts. Both symbolic centers are perceived as emblems of Jewish minority narrative. Additional artefacts are a message formulated by the Polish majority. They constitute a kind of symbolic encirclement, block. Emphasizing the dominant majority’s version of the events in this place is in fact a symbolic pre-emptive action. It is meant to silence the unwanted narrative or suppress even the mere possibility that it might emerge. What turns out to be at stake in the dominant Polish narrative about the Holocaust and Polish-Jewish relations is the image of Poland and the Poles. This shows not only the topographic and symbolic situation but also the socio-cultural context of the functioning of the new Museum.
Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Museums, Post-1989, Jewish Revival, Memory, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Education, Communism, Soviet Jewry
Abstract: This article considers the representation of the shtetl in two museum narratives devoted to Jews in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. The first, the state-funded 1939 exhibit “The Jews in Tsarist Russia and the USSR” was organized by the Jewish Section of the State Museum of Ethnography in Leningrad and remained on display to the Soviet public until the Nazi invasion in June 1941. The second is the privately funded Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which opened in 2012. Though conceived under radically different ideological and political circumstances, each exhibition conveys a significant message about the place of Jews in Soviet and post-Soviet society, respectively, and each positions the shtetl as a formative arena for Jewish civic identity vis-à-vis the Russian homeland. Across the chasm of over seventy years, these two museum projects raise strikingly similar questions about how and why cultural institutions are mobilized to define the relationship of Ashkenazi Jews and the state. In both cases, the shtetl plays a significant role in narrating this unequal relationship.
Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Museums, Post-1989, Jewish Revival, Memory, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Education
Abstract: In 2012, a new Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center opened in Moscow – an event unthinkable during the Soviet regime. Financed at the level of $50 million, created by an international crew of academics and museum designers, and located in a landmark building, the museum immediately rose to a position of cultural prominence in the Russian museum scene. Using interactive technology and multimedia, the museum's core exhibition presents several centuries of complex local Jewish history, including the Second World War period. Naturally, the Holocaust is an important part of the story. Olga Gershenson's essay analyzes the museum's relationship to Holocaust history and memory in the post-Soviet context. She describes the museum's struggle to reconcile a Soviet understanding of the “Great Patriotic War” with a dominant Western narrative of the Holocaust, while also bringing the Holocaust in the Soviet Union to a broader audience via the museum. Through recorded testimonies, period documents, and film, the museum's display narrates the events of the Holocaust on Soviet soil. This is a significant revision of the Soviet-era discourse, which universalized and externalized the Holocaust. But this important revision is limited by the museum's choice to avoid the subject of local collaborators and bystanders. The museum shies away from the most pernicious aspect of the Holocaust history on Soviet soil, missing an opportunity to take historic responsibility and confront the difficult past.
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Russian-Speaking Jews, Jewish Revival, Jewish Identity, Jewish Organisations, Immigration, Jewish Continuity, Gemeinden, Jewish Space, Stereotypes
Abstract: Glancing at the Jewish spaces in contemporary Germany, an occasional observer would probably be startled. Since the Russian Jewish migration of the 1990s, Germany's Jewish community has come to be the third-largest in Europe. Synagogues, Jewish community centres, and Jewish cultural events have burgeoned. There is even talk about a “Jewish renaissance” in Germany. However, many immigrants claim that the resurrection of Jewish life in Germany is “only a myth,” “an illusion.” This paper is part of a project exploring the processes of the reconstruction of Jewish identities and Jewish communal life by Russian Jewish immigrants in Germany. The focus of this paper is on the stereotypes of Jews and Jewishness evident in immigrants' perceptions and imaginings of their physical gathering spaces – the Jewish community centres (Gemeinden). Focusing on the images that haunt a particular place, I seek to shed light upon the difficulties of re/creating Jewish identity and life among the Russian Jewish immigrants in contemporary Germany.
From 1960s’ youth activism to post‐Communist reunions: generational community among Czech and Slovak Jewry
Abstract: Using historical data, material from relevant Internet forums and websites, as well as personal experiences and observations, this article examines 12 Czech/Slovak Jewish reunions that have taken place since Communism collapsed and the country split into two separate states. Many of the participants have known each other since they were adolescents or young adults in the 1960s when, as part of their search for a Jewish identity, they joined several Jewish youth groups then in existence. The reunions have involved both those who emigrated (after the August 1968 Soviet invasion) and those who remained. They have entailed memorial journeys both in time and space. The reunions are analysed as case studies of autobiographical occasion, commemoration, reflective nostalgia and diasporic practice, addressing questions of identity, memory and group dynamics. Since the transnational generational community of Czech and Slovak Jews of the first post‐Holocaust generation is essentially a latent community based on shared experiences unique to that group, the reunions have played an important role in resurrecting the past, both historical and biographical. Neither the memory nor the strong emotion surrounding the generational experience can be successfully transmitted trans‐generationally. Thus, as the group members age and die off, this generational community is bound to disappear. In the meantime, however, it serves its current members rather well.
The post‐Soviet immigrants and the Jüdische allgemeine in the new millennium: Post‐communism in Germany's Jewish communities
Topics: Immigration, Russian Jews, Gemeinden, Jewish Community, Russian Emigration, Main Topic: Identity and Community
Topics: Immigration, Russian Jews, Post-colonial, Jewish Identity, Main Topic: Identity and Community
Topics: Immigration, Russian Jews, Integration, Russian Emigration, Main Topic: Demography and Migration
From objects of administration to agents of change: Fourteen years of post-Soviet Jewish immigration to Germany
A New Phase in Jewish-Ukrainian Relations? Problems and perspectives in the ethno‐politics over the Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman
In search of a liberal polity: the Rukh Council of Nationalities, the Jewish question, and Ukrainian independence
Topics: National Identity, Post-1989, Jewish Renewal, Jewish-Non-Jewish Relations, Minorities, Liberalism, Main Topic: Other
Abstract: By circumstances of history The Popular Movement of Ukraine, more frequently referred to simply as Rukh, became a critical part of the effort to consolidate Ukraine's early independence. A broad, grassroots coalition established in 1989 to support Gorbachev's policies to revitalize Soviet society, Rukh's original appeal called for respect and friendship among ethnic and national groups and the development of deep understanding between them, values that guided the work of Rukh's Council of Nationalities. This account focuses particular attention on the Council's involvement with the nascent Jewish revival in Ukraine. The original strength of Rukh was its emphasis on inclusion. However, competing interests intervened and Rukh was transformed from a popular coalition into a center-right political party. By 1993, the Council of Nationalities had ceased to exit. This firsthand account by the former chair of the Council of Nationalities recounts the interplay from 1989 to 1993 between the aspirations of Rukh, its Council of Nationalities, the Jewish community, the rapidly developing events that led to Ukraine's independence and their immediate aftermath for Rukh and the Council.
Constructing Jewish identity in post-communist Poland part 2: Symbolic Jewishness or cosmopolitan Polishness?
Constructing Jewish identity in post-communist Poland part 1 : ‘deassimilation without depolonization’
If a Platypus is Both a Reptile and a Mammal, Can a Person Be Both a Russian and a Jew? Post-Soviet Teenagers' Constructions of Russian Jewish Identity
From Soviet Jewish affairs to East European Jewish affairs: A 24-year retrospective on the shifting priorities of Jews in east-central Europe