The study of Soviet Jewish culture and collective psyche presents a fascinating yet still little-known subject of inquiry. Frequently subject to quotas and varying degrees of discrimination, Soviet Jews still participated fully within the larger society. Most were secular, with Russian as their native or primary tongue, and with no or very little knowledge of Judaic practice, which the state firmly opposed. Without spaces to gather or material culture to hold on to, cultural memory, practices, and thought were formed and disseminated on the page, often “between the lines.” In this environment, where Judaism had been all but destroyed and a public Jewish presence routinely delegitimized, reading provided many Soviet Jews with an entry to communal memory and identity. Marat Grinberg’s talk, based on his recent book, The Soviet Jewish Bookshelf: Jewish Culture and Identity Between the Lines, will explore the texts that Soviet Jews kept in their home libraries, from historical fiction to translations from German, Yiddish, and Hebrew to Russian novels with subterranean context to science fiction, and help to uncover the originality and central dimensions of Soviet Jewishness.
This session is sponsored by AJL’s RAS Division and is open to members only. All members are welcome.