Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of



10 thoughts on “Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region

  1. Lauren Lauren says:

    The worst best idea In theory A post Bolshevik revolution Jewish state, where Yiddish would the official language, instead of outlawed, where Soviet Jews could live autonomously Located in far eastern USSR, just above the border with China, a week s train ride from Moscow via the Trans Siberian Railway Established in 1934.In reality An outpost with few resources Isolated, yet with a strong core of dedicated migrants, with hopes to speak their native Yiddish and educate their children in theThe worst best idea In theory A post Bolshevik revolution Jewish state, where Yiddish would the official language, instead of outlawed, where Soviet Jews could live autonomously Located in far eastern USSR, just above the border with China, a week s train ride from Moscow via the Trans Siberian Railway Established in 1934.In reality An outpost with few resources Isolated, yet with a strong core of dedicated migrants, with hopes to speak their native Yiddish and educate their children in the rich culture The idea started strong, and Jews who had left Russia earlier were incentivized to come back from US and Latin America to settle and work the collective farms Until Stalin started the purges Which penalized the people for the exact thing they had been encouraged to do a few years before.So A Jewish Autonomous Region in name only because there never was a Jewish majority, never the fulfilled dream of a Soviet Jewish state Hence the absurd of the title.Masha Gessen, a Jewish Russian journalist and two time emigre to the US, writes this little known history of the Jewish Autonomous Region, framed by her family s own story of immigration for religious and political reasons.Although a little dry at times, this book begged a larger important question When is it time to go When is it no longer safe to stay


  2. Michele Weiner Michele Weiner says:

    This story made little impression, as the ending was always inevitable and I couldn t help but wonder how people could delude themselves again, especially after the Holocaust I suppose when you have post traumatic stress and absolutely nowhere to go, hope is the only alternative.Gessen describes in detail the road taken by Jewish intellectuals of all political, theological and philosophical persuasions In 1929, the began with enthusiasm to settle in the designated Jewish autonomous region of B This story made little impression, as the ending was always inevitable and I couldn t help but wonder how people could delude themselves again, especially after the Holocaust I suppose when you have post traumatic stress and absolutely nowhere to go, hope is the only alternative.Gessen describes in detail the road taken by Jewish intellectuals of all political, theological and philosophical persuasions In 1929, the began with enthusiasm to settle in the designated Jewish autonomous region of Birobidzhan They endured discomforts and hunger, while creating literary magazines and symphonies Then came a series of arrests and purges, and many fled to other countries After WWII, displaced Jews had very few choices, especially if they were living in the Soviet Union They went back to Birobidzhan, hoping against all odds that it would be a place where they could live freely under Soviet supervision But it didn t work out that way, of course Another round of arrests and persecutions drove the rest of the idealistic, desperate survivors of the pogroms and the Holocaust were forced to give up and or make other arrangements, mostly involving emigration It was a sad story, concentrated too much on one of the deluded cultural icons of the Jewish community, who became a flack for the Russians for a time and lost his should and his reputation


  3. Elliot Ratzman Elliot Ratzman says:

    Gessen s book is the easiest intro to the worst best idea ever a homeland for the Jews the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan in the Easternmost part of the Soviet Union Jews could become farmers, live off the land, speak and create in Yiddish, and not be part of the reactionary nationalist project of Zionism Tens of thousands of Jews from all over the world including Depression era USA flocked to Stalin s Zion Problem was, the land lacked resources except for bad weather, mud and m Gessen s book is the easiest intro to the worst best idea ever a homeland for the Jews the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan in the Easternmost part of the Soviet Union Jews could become farmers, live off the land, speak and create in Yiddish, and not be part of the reactionary nationalist project of Zionism Tens of thousands of Jews from all over the world including Depression era USA flocked to Stalin s Zion Problem was, the land lacked resources except for bad weather, mud and mosquitos most Jews who made the difficult trek left and overall, Stalinism was a horror show of anti Semitism and mismanagement, terrorizing its own best citizens through absurd show trials and mass murder As the ideological winds shifted near the end of Stalin s life the Sholem Aleichem Library of the Jewish Autonomous Region staged a book burning in its courtyard, to destroy every Yiddish language book that had been found in the region The experiment in Yiddish national autonomy fizzled


  4. Lada Moskalets Lada Moskalets says:

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  5. Kitty Kitty says:

    It could be hard to focus on this meandering book sometimes, but I m glad I read it, and that I learned the history of this sad and absurd attempt at creating a Jewish autonomous region of the Soviet Union The terrors and show trials of the USSR are always fascinating in their cruelty and injustice, but they seem especially poignant in the context of a people hounded to the ends of the earth, only to be further persecuted when they got there I enjoyed Gessen s personal take on BirobidzhanIt could be hard to focus on this meandering book sometimes, but I m glad I read it, and that I learned the history of this sad and absurd attempt at creating a Jewish autonomous region of the Soviet Union The terrors and show trials of the USSR are always fascinating in their cruelty and injustice, but they seem especially poignant in the context of a people hounded to the ends of the earth, only to be further persecuted when they got there I enjoyed Gessen s personal take on Birobidzhanthan her historical account of it, which could get a bit tedious at times


  6. Cropredy Cropredy says:

    I have actually been to Birobidjian 2000 for three weeks and had the opportunity to learn something about the Jewish Autonomous Region All of the places mentioned by the author in the final chapter she was there in 2009 were places my wife and I visited as well So, it w as with personal interest that I picked up this slim volume First of all, this is not really a history as would be written by a historian It isan elegy to the Jewish poets who bought into a vision of a place where Y I have actually been to Birobidjian 2000 for three weeks and had the opportunity to learn something about the Jewish Autonomous Region All of the places mentioned by the author in the final chapter she was there in 2009 were places my wife and I visited as well So, it w as with personal interest that I picked up this slim volume First of all, this is not really a history as would be written by a historian It isan elegy to the Jewish poets who bought into a vision of a place where Yiddish could thrive as a written language and where Russian Jews could escape from the daily tyrannies of the Soviet system Readerssteeped in 1930 s Yiddish culture may getout of this book than I did Same would be true for readers interested in the Jewish experience during the time of Stalin Given the numbers of Jews who emigrated to the J.A.R 20,000 , this is a footnote In the history of world Jewry Gessen tells the storyor less chronologically, relating it to her own family s decision to leave the USSR in the 1980s There are many quotes from the writers and poets who lived or espoused the homeland And of course, the endeavor and the promoters were doomed as all such things were in paranoiac post war Russia One is left to wonder why the place was not abandoned once the settlers realized nothing would grow, that the mosquitos made life miserable during the brief summer, and that otherwise it was cold and windy But, a city did arise One didn t give up on Stalin s Russia but plugged on This part of the story is not told There also appeared to be considerable American aid from US Jewish communities but the scale of this versus Soviet aid is never revealed A quick read 90 minutes


  7. Kristin Kristin says:

    This was written very well, from my point of view as someone who enjoys nonfiction but usually can t read it because it s written so dryly The tone comes through clearly and engagingly, like a TED talk on paper However, a certain point was reached maybe halfway through where it started to veerinto the dry academic paper tone, and it seemed to me that it lost its direction and became, uncertainly, a kind of biography of David Bergelson And I wasn t really interested in reading a kind of This was written very well, from my point of view as someone who enjoys nonfiction but usually can t read it because it s written so dryly The tone comes through clearly and engagingly, like a TED talk on paper However, a certain point was reached maybe halfway through where it started to veerinto the dry academic paper tone, and it seemed to me that it lost its direction and became, uncertainly, a kind of biography of David Bergelson And I wasn t really interested in reading a kind of biography of David Bergelson A companion fiction text to this book is The Yid by Paul Goldberg, which explores essentially this exact scene Anyway, it s an important, readable, and slim book for those looking for a good introductory run down of the worldwide events in this time period that led imminently to the situation of Israel s existence


  8. Umar Lee Umar Lee says:

    Fascinating book about a group of Soviet Jews I ve heard about for years and never read into I love the way Masha Gessen intertwines her own family history into this narrative She was coming of age in a Soviet Union full of anti semitic practice and policy Her parents saw the only option for her future in coming to America which in and of itself was a difficult task as the movement of Soviet Jews was limited The only other option was Israel, which the young Masha preferred, her logic was Fascinating book about a group of Soviet Jews I ve heard about for years and never read into I love the way Masha Gessen intertwines her own family history into this narrative She was coming of age in a Soviet Union full of anti semitic practice and policy Her parents saw the only option for her future in coming to America which in and of itself was a difficult task as the movement of Soviet Jews was limited The only other option was Israel, which the young Masha preferred, her logic was why leave a place where Jews are a minority for another place Jews are a minority This sets up the premise of the book There was once, for a brief period of time, another option for Soviet and other Jews An autonomous Jewish region within the USSR where Yiddish was to be the official language In the 1930 s this movement was seen as a preferable option to many given the anti semitism in the USSR, the question of assimilation, the fascist threat from Germany to the west, and the belief that Zionism had both a reactionary nationalist element while simultaneously being a pipe dream with not a lot of chance success This book paints a picture in tragic detail of how this Jewish project fell victim to the violent and paranoid schizophrenia of the Stalinist era and the repercussions that had for further generations of Soviet Jews This time period coincided with the holocaust and the theft of the property and land of Jewish holocaust survivors by their former gentile neighbors Thus paving the way for immigration both to North America and British Mandate Palestine and then Israel The book exposes the reader to a number of interesting Jewish writers of the era and the intellectual and political debates of the time along with the outright political insanity of the Soviet system I highly recommend


  9. Alvin Alvin says:

    A fascinating and highly readable history detailing one of the Jewish people sbizarre misadventures Gessen spends a bit too long on the convoluted intellectual, political, and personal histories of Birobidzhan s founders and champions and not quite long enough on the place itself Still, it s a fascinating story as is Gessen s own tale of emigration, with which she opens and closes the book.


  10. Paul Paul says:

    How can I have never heard about this The Autonomous Jewish Region of the USSR started in the 20 s It sounded a little bit like the Matanuska Colony settlement in Alaska Lots of great plans, but things went badly I recommend it.


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Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region [Epub] ➞ Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region Author Masha Gessen – Thomashillier.co.uk From the acclaimed author of The Man Without a Face,the previously untold story of the Jews in twentieth century Russia that reveals the complex, strange, and heart wrenching truth behind the familiar From Jews Aren't: The Sad Kindle - the acclaimed Jews Aren't: PDF/EPUB ✓ author of The Man Without a Face,the previously untold story of the Jews in twentieth century Russia that reveals the complex, strange, and heart wrenching truth behind the familiar narrative that begins with pogroms and ends with emigrationIn , the Soviet government set aside a sparsely populated area in the Soviet Far East for settlement by Jews The place was Where the PDF/EPUB or called BirobidzhanThe idea of an autonomous Jewish region was championed by Jewish Communists, Yiddishists, and intellectuals, who envisioned a haven of post oppression Jewish culture By the mid s tens of thousands of Soviet Jews, as well as about a thousand Jews from abroad, had moved there The state building ended quickly, in the late s, with arrests and purges instigated by Stalin But the Jews Aren't: ePUB ´ after the Second World War, Birobidzhan received another influx of Jews those who had been dispossessed by the war In the late s a second wave of arrests and imprisonments swept through the area, traumatizing Birobidzhan s Jews into silence and effectively shutting down most of the Jewish cultural enterprises that had been created Where the Jews Aren t is a haunting account of the dream of Birobidzhan and how it became the cracked and crooked mirror in which we can see the true story of the Jews in twentieth century RussiaPart of the Jewish Encounters series.