From Moscow to Jerusalem-and Points West
“YOU’RE a strange fellow,” a recent Jewish immigrant from the Soviet Union to Israel observed half-jokingly to me at a gathering in Jerusalem. “You speak Russian as if you were one of us, your Yiddish is that of a Galitzianer rabbi, yet you’re taking notes in English and you teach at an American university.” Thus began my month-long visit to Israel and Western Europe in the company of Russian and Jewish emigre intellectuals, most of whom had been well-known in Russia either for their professional accomplishments or for their rebellion against a Soviet bureaucracy which had allowed them neither to live in peace nor to emigrate.
The distinction between “Russian” and “Jewish” is of some importance here, if only because Soviet authorities insist on maintaining the fiction that anyone who chooses to leave the USSR must be both a Zionist and a Jew. Only a Jewish Zionist, they seem to be saying, would openly declare his preference for a life of exile and uncertainty over the happy existence of a Soviet intellectual. This pretense was observed even in the case of several Russian Orthodox leaders who were forced to leave Russia a few years ago-in effect, deported abroad, as Solzhenitsyn was in 1974. Needless to say, these Russian priests did not regard themselves as Jews and had no intention of settling in the Jewish homeland, any more than did a number of other de facto deportees I was to meet later on in Paris, some of whom came from very old Russian families, and bore names that had been made famous in the novels of Tolstoy.
About the Author