Jewish Identities in Postcommunist Russia and Ukraine: An Uncertain Ethnicity

Overview

Before the USSR collapsed, ethnic identities were imposed by the state. This book analyzes how and why Jews decided what being Jewish meant to them after the state dissolved and describes the historical evolution of Jewish identities. Surveys of more than 6,000 Jews in the early and late 1990s reveal that Russian and Ukrainian Jews have a deep sense of their Jewishness but are uncertain what it means. They see little connection between Judaism and being Jewish. Their attitudes toward Judaism, intermarriage, and ...

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Jewish Identities in Postcommunist Russia and Ukraine

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Overview

Before the USSR collapsed, ethnic identities were imposed by the state. This book analyzes how and why Jews decided what being Jewish meant to them after the state dissolved and describes the historical evolution of Jewish identities. Surveys of more than 6,000 Jews in the early and late 1990s reveal that Russian and Ukrainian Jews have a deep sense of their Jewishness but are uncertain what it means. They see little connection between Judaism and being Jewish. Their attitudes toward Judaism, intermarriage, and Jewish nationhood differ dramatically from those of Jews elsewhere. Many think Jews can believe in Christianity and do not condemn marrying non-Jews. This complicates their connections with other Jews and their resettlement in Israel, the United States, and Germany, as well as the rebuilding of public Jewish life in Russia and Ukraine. Nonetheless, post-Communist Jews, especially the young, are transforming religious-based practices into ethnic traditions and increasingly manifesting their Jewishness in public.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a learned and thought-provoking book, written by the foremost scholar on Soviet and post-Soviet Jewry. In it, Gitelman argues that the identity of post-Soviet Jews is purely ethnic and is divorced from the Jewish religion, Hebrew and Yiddish language, and Jewish 'thick culture.' As such, it is a form of Jewish identity unprecedented in history, and radically different from that of American Jews. Based on painstaking fieldwork, and buttressed by Soviet Jewish history, social theory, and comparative studies, Gitelman probes the challenges that post-Soviet Jewish identity both poses and faces." - David E. Fishman, Jewish Theological Seminary of America

"Measuring ethnicity and identity are difficult tasks for social scientists, and in the case of the Jews of the former Soviet Union it is a particularly daunting task because of the efforts of the Soviet government to change the identity of Soviet Jews from one that was religiously based to one that was based on ethnicity. Zvi Gitelman has done a masterful job of dealing with this issue, and his book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the fate of the Jews of the former Soviet Union." - Robert O. Freedman, Johns Hopkins University

"Zvi Gitelman has produced yet another definitive monograph. Based on an impressive number of surveys, in-depth interviews, and statistical data, Jewish Identities in Postcommunist Russia and Ukraine uncovers the process of many transitions and transformations of the Soviet Jews after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Meticulous analysis, wide scope of research, and far-reaching conclusions ultimately make this study a must-read for everyone in the field of Soviet and post-Soviet studies, and contemporary Jewish politics." - Anna Shternshis, University of Toronto

"Gitelman's book goes much beyond in-depth historical and contemporary accounts of Jewish identities in postcommunist Russia and Ukraine. Its comparative perspective turns it into a broader study of Jewish identities worldwide, especially in the United States and Israel. It touches on the nature, fate, and future of the Jewish people. Gitelman sets a model for a scholarly analysis of ethnic identity, Jewish and non-Jewish. His book is a must-read for anyone interested in minority identity and ethnicity." - Sammy Smooha, University of Haifa

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107608733
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Zvi Gitelman is Professor of Political Science and Preston R. Tisch Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan, where he has been director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies and of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies. Gitelman has been awarded fellowships by the Guggenheim, Ford and Rockefeller Foundations; the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton; and the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard. He has been a research fellow at Oxford and a visiting professor at Tel Aviv and Hebrew Universities, Central European University (Budapest) and the Russian State University for the Humanities. Gitelman is a summa cum laude graduate of Columbia University where he also received his doctorate. He is the author or editor of 14 books and more than 100 articles in scholarly journals. His book A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union since 1881 was translated into Japanese and Russian. His most recent edited volume is Ethnicity or Religion? The Evolution of Jewish Identities. Gitelman is a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Council and has been active in many academic and civic organizations.

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Table of Contents

1. Ethnicity and identity; 2. The evolution of Jewish identities; 3. Soviet policies and the Jewish nationality; 4. Constructing Jewishness in Russia and Ukraine; 5. Judaism and Jewishness: religion and ethnicity in Russia and Ukraine; 6. Becoming Soviet Jews: friendship patterns; 7. Acting Jewish; 8. Anti-Semitism and Jewish identity; 9. Identity, Israel, and immigration; 10. Ethnicity and marriage; 11. Polities, affect, affiliation, and alienation; 12. Conclusion.

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