Russia's New Jews
To the Editor:
I read with interest your recent article, “‘There Go Our Little Jews’” by David G. Roskies [April]. . . . Both the American and the Russian Jewish communities know little about each other’s real lives. Only recently, with the increased openness in Soviet-American relations, has there been a certain amount of progress in this area. One indicator of such progress was the visit to Kiev this past January of the two American Jewish educators, David G. Roskies and Peysach Fiszman, which is so vividly described by Mr. Roskies in his article. I would like to look at that remarkable event from the perspective not of New York but of Moscow.
For the past twenty years the American view of the problems of Soviet Jews (a view which more or less corresponded to the real situation) has been rather one-dimensional: a small group of heroes fighting the Communist leviathan for the right to emigrate, since only through emigration could they maintain their Jewish identity; all Jews who remained in Russia were doomed, sooner or later, to disappear as a national group. There was no question what Jewish identity meant; it would manifest itself in one of the ways familiar to Western Jewry. Soviet Jewish activists therefore strove to adopt one of the Western models of such identity, either religious or secular. . .
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