Page 56 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

Basic HTML Version

50
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
vations and in terpre tation s.” 9T h e ed ito rs ’ optimistic ecclecticism
— which also reveals their relative ignorance o f the complexity
and depth o f Jew ish tradition — accounts fo r the num erou s
categories and genre s. Indeed , the number o f subdivisions in­
creased from fou r in the first issue to eleven by the twelfth.
As o f Jan u a ry 1982, twenty issues o f Jews in the USSR were
already repub lished in the West. Space does not perm it a detailed
analysis o f the fa sc in a ting mosaic o f essays, fiction, poetry ,
memoirs, interviews, documents and translations included in
these vo lum es.10 A rap id glance at the contents reveals the m a jor
theme — Jew ish identity, what it means on the individual and
national level. A round this problem cluster related issues o f im­
po rtan ce to Soviet Jew s — a ss im ila tion , an ti-Sem itism , the
Holocaust, Russian culture and language versus a Jew ish culture
and language.
Th e section “Who Am I ? ” confron ts the question o f identity
directly. Contribu tors include a broad cross-section ran g in g from
noted dissidents such as Larissa Bogoraz (vol. 4, no. 1, p. 39), who
identifies emotionally with the Russian intelligentsia but not with
the Jew ish nation, to private individuals such as Mikhail Kliachkin
(vol. 4, no. 1, p. 43), Vitalii Milet (vol. 4, no. 2, p. 78), and Zhanna
Dolgopolova (vol. 10, no. 7, p. 104), who from childhood felt that
their Jew ishness separated them from their contemporaries. Vik­
tor Lerm an in “Two Generations” (vol. 10, no. 7, p. 105) traces his
Zionist asp irations to his own and his fa th er ’s experience. Al­
though both were exper t doctors, they were unable, desp ite their
skill and dedication, to fulfill themselves professionally because o f
anti-Semitic persecution.
Many contributors define their Jew ish identity in relationship
to the Russian intelligentsia. Increasing alienation deepen ed their
Jew ish national consciousness. Noteworthy are the essays by A.
Voronel (“T rem o r o f Ju d a ic Anxiety,” vol. 12, nos. 1.0 and 11), I.
9 “Ot sostavitelei,” Evrei v SSSR , no. 1, inEvreiskiisamizdat, vol. 4, Jerusalem, 1974,
p. 1. Further references, listing first the volume o f the Hebrew University
samizdat series and then the issue number o f the journal, will be included in the
text.
10 Regrettably, very little o f this material is available in English translation.Jews in
the USSR, no. 1, appeared in English as I am a Jew: Essays onJewish Identity in the
Soviet Union, New York, 1973. The second issue was published in English as
Jewishness Rediscovered; Jewish Identity in the Soviet Union, New York, 1974.