My parents did not speak Yiddish to me or my sister. They wanted us to speak Russian. But they spoke Yiddish between themselves, so we understood and learned it. Also, I spoke Yiddish with my grandmother, who did not speak Russian. When I was seven I was supposed to go to school and was very excited about it. My mother wanted me to go to a Russian school. One day she took me to the director of the school. Then she told me to say that I did not speak Yiddish. I was very surprised, because this was the first time my mother asked me to lie. I said: “Mother, you used to say it is not good to lie!” She answered then: “This time, it is better for you not to say the truth. Do not reveal to them that you know Yiddish.”
When we arrived there were three men in the room. I entered with my mother. They asked me in Russian my name, my age, and then they asked if I knew any Yiddish. I said I did not know Yiddish. Then one of the men told me [in Yiddish]: “Meydele, gey farmakh di dir!" [Girl, go close the door!] I went to close the door. That was how they enlisted me in a Jewish school.
Ida V. (b. 1923), on how she ended up in a Jewish school in Odessa in 1930. Oral testimony in Anna Shternshis’ Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (2006), p. 16-7.
"A great number of Soviet Jewish schools were established in the mid-1920s. In theory, these schools were designed for children who spoke Yiddish as their native language. Jewish parents often preferred Russian schools because they felt that such an education would give their children more opportunities in the future. But government officials insisted that Jewish children attend Soviet-run Yiddish-language schools, as many ideologues believed that children would learn Soviet values better if they were taught in their mother tongue. […] The specifically Jewish element in the curriculum was used simply as a tool to convert the Yiddish-speaking population into a Soviet-thinking one."
1: Jewish colonists, residents of a collective farm in Stalindorf, a Jewish autonomous subdistrict of the Kherson region (now in Ukraine) reading Der emes, 1937. (YIVO)
2: Der apikoyres, special fall edition, Kiev, 1923. The text reads: “The Torah is the best merchandise.” (via joanerges)
"[A]nti-Judaist diatribes were found throughout all types of Soviet Yiddish publications, from newspapers to scholarly discourses. At least seventy-four titles of specifically antireligious Yiddish literature were issued between 1917 and 1941. The Yiddish Communist newspaper, Der emes (The truth), became a leading forum for antireligous writing. The most intensive period of publishing antireligious literature was from 1927 to 1935. A special Yiddish-language periodical, Der apikoyres (The godless) was published from 1931 to 1935 by the League of the Militant Godless.”
— Anna Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (2006), p. 4.
BIG WAVE OF JEWS COMING
American Fund for the Relief of Those So Bitterly Oppressed in Russia Will Be Used to Bring Thousands Here.
New York City is just beginning to feel the crest of another great wave of Jewish immigration. The Russian massacres have caused more Hebrews to look hither for a refuge than have ever before turned their faces toward this land of freedom and wealth. The “plagues of the sword and torch” that have smitten their race in Russia in the last few weeks exceed any catastrophe known to their history since their dispersal. As was said the other day in the appeal by the National Hebrew Relief Fund Committee of the United States to the Jews of this country:
"Apparently no calamity of such magnitude has befallen Israel since the fall of Jerusalem. All the horrors of the Inquisition, all the persecutions of the Middle Ages, seem incomparable with this stupendous and unspeakable crime, both in its malignity and in the number of people affected and endangered."
And yet in spite of all these horrors it is said by Jews as prominent as Oscar S. Straus that the worst is still likely to come.
Headline in the New York Tribune, dated December 17, 1905
See the newspaper page here & more of the article transcription here.
It’s winter in Russia and the people are hungry. The town council announces that meat will be arriving so everyone gets in line to wait for the meat. After an hour of waiting in the snow and freezing cold, the town council announces that there will be less meat coming than expected, all Jews go home. So all the Jews leave the line. Another hour goes by and, again, the town council announces there will be less than expected food arriving, all non-communists go home. All the non-communists leave the line. Another hour, and the town council announces there will be no food arriving, everybody go home. As one man trudges home through the snow, he turns to his friend and says, “you see, the Jews always get to go home first!”
Thursday, February 28, 2013 // 6pm
Columbia/Barnard Kraft Center
606 West 115 Street, New York, NY
Speak Memory is an exhibition of four recipients of the COJECO Blueprint Fellowship: Katya Meykson, Irina Sheynfeld, Tanya Levina and Yuliya Levit. This show explores Russian-Jewish immigrant identity, artists ties to the historic past, and the connection to our roots that we feel in everyday lives.
(via Soviet Samovar)
The Russian-Jewish club, I imagined, would provide an environment that would foster the complex, and sometimes contradictory, Judaism of Russian-Jewish students. I wanted to create a meeting place for students like myself to explore the Jewish side of our heritage, while still maintaining our ties to Russian traditions. My intention was that students might feel a closer connection to Judaism by realizing the unique space they occupy on the Jewish spectrum.
[…] Because of the varied geopolitical backgrounds of the students involved, the organization strives to provide a space in which we are all able to explore what it means to be Jewish as children of Soviet refugees, in all of its complexity. In doing so, we’ve discovered a shared question, raised consistently as we’ve considered our Jewish identities: does our neglect of many traditional Jewish practices make us “bad Jews”? This has been a question I, myself, have constantly entertained.
Jonathan Levin, “First Generation Soviet-Jewry Descendants: Bad Jews?" (The Nation)
(via Soviet Samovar)
Limmud FSU Princeton 2013:
3-day Festival of Russian-Jewish Culture, Learning and Entertainment!
A truly unique event, organized and run entirely by volunteers, Limmud FSU has revolutionized pluralistic Jewish engagement of Russian-speaking Jews by involving them in an array of interactive workshops, intellectually-stimulating discussions, a festive Shabbat celebration, controversial debates, film screenings, artistic performances, music, dancing and much more.
Join us on March 15 – 17th, 2013 and experience the magic of Limmud FSU!
REGISTER // Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Olga Gershenson & Psoy Korolenko will be there, among many others!
(via Soviet Samovar)
Kadya Molodowsky recites one of her poems for Chekow in her Grand street spartment during the winter of 1970.
Photo by Arnold Chekow
(via Yiddish Book Center)
more Kadya Molodowsky
On the eve of the Sabbath I am always tormented by the dense sorrow of memory.
Isaac Babel, “Gedali” (via broletariat)
From Cavalry Army (Конармия), a collection of short stories first published in the 1920s.
more Isaac Babel
Antonio de la Gandara - Ida Rubinstein (1913)
more on Ida Rubinstein