Posts tagged Annelise Orleck.

“In Russia,” Sirotin says sadly, “I was told I cannot be Russian because I have a Jewish face. Here, the Jews say, ‘Can these be Jews? They’re so Russian!’ What does it mean to be a Jew without feeling for the religion that is a whole national-spiritual-ethical way of living? I can’t explain it. But I feel Jewishness in my essence, under my thoughts. I feel it in my heart. So now we are trying to find a way to be. It was very difficult to be a Jew in Russia. But it is not easy to be a Russian Jew in America.”

More than a few of the new immigrants were outraged that those who had lived comfortably in the United States for much of this time would dare to tell them that they were not Jews. Indeed, surveys of Soviet immigrants in the United States show that a large majority strongly identify as Jews, far more strongly than do most American-born Jews.

Annelise Orleck, The Soviet Jewish Americans (via sovietjewry)

With such a lukewarm response from the Soviets [to observant Jews’ attempts to teach and outreach to them], tempers flared among older Brighton immigrants. […] Their resentment was openly expressed. You could hear it on the streets, on the boardwalk, in the synagogues, in the stores: “Why did we fight to bring them here? Why did they want to come here? They’re not even Jews. They don’t want to be Jews.” The Soviets irked Brighton residents for a host of reasons, but the oldtimers’ anger often took the form of a single rebuff: The newcomers were not really Jews.

Some strongly Jewish-identified members of the immigrant community tried to mediate. Alexander Sirotin formed the Jewish Union of Russian Immigrants to sponsor activities with a Jewish theme among the new arrivals. Through the 1980s he was host of “Gorizont” (Horizon), a Russian-language radio show on the Lyubavitch Hasidic radio network. The message of Sirotin and other Jewish-identified community leaders in Brighton was: Let the Soviet immigrants nourish their Jewish identities in their own ways, in their own time. As examples, he pointed to an emigre Yiddish theatre troupe and to gatherings of senior citizens at which Yiddish songs and poems were sung and recited by recent Soviet immigrants.

By contrast, many American Jewish attempts at outreach were perceived by newcomers as somehow threatening, no matter how well intentioned. Several days after he arrived from Moscow in 1974, Victor Rashkovsky awoke to find two young men whom he did not know, and who spoke no Russian, praying and nailing a mezuzah (decorated case containing a holy scoll) to his doorpost: “All I understood was that they wanted to proceed with some ritual they considered to be important.” He thought that he recognized them from a local synagogue and so he let them proceed but he had no idea what they were doing. “Only later did I learn this custom.”

Annelise Orleck, The Soviet Jewish Americans (via sovietjewry)
Title: Ekh Lyuli Lyuli #3: Assimilation & Authenticity 0 plays

Ekh Lyuli Lyuli #3: Assimilation & Authenticity
Air date: July 19, 2011 - 4pm EST

"In Russia,” Sirotin says sadly, “I was told I cannot be Russian because I have a Jewish face. Here, the Jews say, ‘Can these be Jews? They’re so Russian!’ What does it mean to be a Jew without feeling for the religion that is a whole national-spiritual-ethical way of living? I can’t explain it.

Selections from Annelise Orleck’s book The Soviet Jewish Americans, interspersed with some great music. Readings touch on the history of Soviet-Jewish immigration to the United States; questions of Jewish identity, authenticity, and memory; and the ways in which generational differences have affected and influenced experiences of immigration and assimilation in North America.

*Note: The first few seconds in the above recording are from the show just before.

Music:
"Train Across Ukraine" by Golem
"Dumay!" by The Unternationale
"Immigrant Song" by Amsterdam Klezmer Band
"Di Arbuzn = The Watermelons" by Mikveh
"Borsht Revisited" by Daniel Kahn & the Painted Bird
"How It Ends" by DeVotchKa

Download the podcast.

  October 10, 2011 at 04:33am

Alexander Sirotin sums up the cultural tension that divided Soviet immigrants from other immigrant and native-born American Jews: “Here in America the first concern of the Russian Jew was not religion. Being Jewish had kept them from getting many good things in Russia. They want those things first: good apartments, good jobs, respect, education for their children. But the American Jews offered prayer books, candlesticks, prayer shawls.” When Soviet emigres chose not to accept them, their American neighbours were insulted and often lashed out. “In Russia,” Sirotin says sadly, “I was told I cannot be Russian because I have a Jewish face. Here, the Jews say, ‘Can these be Jews? They’re so Russian!’ What does it mean to be a Jew without feeling for the religion that is a whole national-spiritual-ethical way of living? I can’t explain it. But I feel Jewishness in my essence, under my thoughts. I feel it in my heart. So now we are trying to find a way to be. It was very difficult to be a Jew in Russia. But it is not easy to be a Russian Jew in America.”

More than a few of the new immigrants were outraged that those who had lived comfortably in the United States for much of this time would dare to tell them that they were not Jews. Indeed, surveys of Soviet immigrants in the United States show that a large majority strongly identify as Jews, far more strongly than do most American-born Jews.

Annelise Orleck, The Soviet Jewish Americans
  October 10, 2011 at 04:18am

With such a lukewarm response from the Soviets [to observant Jews’ attempts to teach and outreach to them], tempers flared among older Brighton immigrants. […] Their resentment was openly expressed. You could hear it on the streets, on the boardwalk, in the synagogues, in the stores: “Why did we fight to bring them here? Why did they want to come here? They’re not even Jews. They don’t want to be Jews.” The Soviets irked Brighton residents for a host of reasons, but the oldtimers’ anger often took the form of a single rebuff: The newcomers were not really Jews.

Some strongly Jewish-identified members of the immigrant community tried to mediate. Alexander Sirotin formed the Jewish Union of Russian Immigrants to sponsor activities with a Jewish theme among the new arrivals. Through the 1980s he was host of “Gorizont” (Horizon), a Russian-language radio show on the Lyubavitch Hasidic radio network. The message of Sirotin and other Jewish-identified community leaders in Brighton was: Let the Soviet immigrants nourish their Jewish identities in their own ways, in their own time. As examples, he pointed to an emigre Yiddish theatre troupe and to gatherings of senior citizens at which Yiddish songs and poems were sung and recited by recent Soviet immigrants.

By contrast, many American Jewish attempts at outreach were perceived by newcomers as somehow threatening, no matter how well intentioned. Several days after he arrived from Moscow in 1974, Victor Rashkovsky awoke to find two young men whom he did not know, and who spoke no Russian, praying and nailing a mezuzah (decorated case containing a holy scoll) to his doorpost: “All I understood was that they wanted to proceed with some ritual they considered to be important.” He thought that he recognized them from a local synagogue and so he let them proceed but he had no idea what they were doing. “Only later did I learn this custom.”

Annelise Orleck, The Soviet Jewish Americans
  October 10, 2011 at 04:17am

[E]ven the most Russian-identified immigrant would admit that Russian Jews were always strangers in their own country. In times of crisis, of which there were so many during the turbulent 20th century, Jews were inevitably the first targets of nationalist demagogues and discontented soldiers, easily labeled as the enemies within. So, at the heart of Soviet Jewish immigrants’ strained relationship to the United States is their conflicted attachment to Russia and things Russian.

Annelise Orleck, The Soviet Jewish Americans
  October 10, 2011 at 04:14am