A Community in Spite of Itself: Soviet Jewish Emigres in New York

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though somewhat dated, this survey is a readable mix of reportage and sociological analysis. Markowitz, an anthropologist at Israel's Ben-Gurion University, lived in Brighton Beach, the heart of the Russian emigre community in New York City, in the mid 1980s, aiming to track the individual and cultural changes among immigrants who had arrived in the previous four to 10 years. Markowitz argues that Russian Jews have formed a community here, despite the fact that they are geographically dispersed, do not occupy the same occupational niche and have not formed unifying organizations. Markowitz examines how the immigrants, for the most part members of an urban intelligentsia, were surprised to feel like aliens in their new home. Frequently using excerpts from interviews, she analyzes the role of money and easily available goods in weakening previously dominant bonds of friendship, and studies the immigrants' evolving sense of Jewish identity. Though their experiences in the Soviet Union make them wary of joining organizations, the immigrants, argues Markowitz, form a ``postmodern community'' through regular conversation with each other as they navigate the difficulties of their new lives. (Apr.)
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Product Details

Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration
1 The Nature of the Study 1
Why Soviet Jewish Immigrants? 7
Fieldwork among Soviet Jewish Immigrants 13
2 Historical Background 17
Jews in Russia: An Overview 19
The Sovietization of Jewish Life 27
3 Community as Social Relations 53
Boundaries: Defining the "We" 54
Social Status: Hierarchies of Here and There 64
Friendship Networks 74
Secondary Relationships 81
4 The Moral Community 89
Friendship and Hospitality 91
The Collective, Privacy, and Gossip 106
Etiquette, Politesse, and Being Cultured 114
The Meaning of Intelligentsiia 125
5 Community as History and Destiny 137
Evreistvo: Jewishness 139
Politics 164
6 The Rhythm of Daily Life: Community as Life Cycle 177
Female, Male, and Marriage 178
Parents and Children 197
Old Age and Death 213
7 The Elusive Shapes of Community 225
Community without Organizations 225
Community as Symbol, the Symbols of Community 236
8 A Postmodern Community 247
Talk: Cement and Substance 247
Community and Beyond 256
Appendix A: The Mechanics of Emigration and Resettlement 265
Appendix B: Profiles of Key Informants 269
Notes 275
Bibliography 301
Index 315
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