Voices of the Russian-Jewish Diaspora

This project seeks to create community among retired Russian-speakers by calling on them to write their autobiographies together. The sources they produce will serve scholars interested in Jewish life in the former Soviet Union as well as post-Soviet Jewish life in the age of global migration.
Location: New York , New York
Year founded: 2008


This project will run an autobiography contest for elderly members of the Russian Jewish immigrant community as it calls on those over 60 in the most recent wave of Russian immigrants to write about the real-life challenges they faced in the Soviet Union and in their new homes as immigrants in the late-20th century.  The contest, which I ran a trial run in 2008, encourages Russian-speaking Jews to engage with one another as they write their life stories.  A short window of opportunity exists to conduct such a project since the passing away of the generation born in the 1920s to 1940s is about to close.  I do not want to lose the opportunity to collect materials from these people whose lives span almost the entire era of the Soviet empire, and whose experiences can shed considerable light on the myths and realities of Jewish life in the Soviet Union and the Soviet Jewish encounter with America and Germany.  The contest I ran in 2008 only reached out to Russian Jews in North America. I now am seeking funding for my research assistant, travel expenses and advertisements to expand the portrait offered by these accounts by calling on additional members of the new Russian émigré diaspora scattered throughout Germany and the United States to narrate their lives. The original collection of autobiographies I have already amassed from Russian immigrants in the United States was funded through a grant supported by the Harriman Institute. They are no longer interested in working with the Russian Jewish emigre community.  So I am hoping to collect autobiographies through new partnerships I have forged in the past few years with organizations in the Russian immigrant community in the United States (primarily COJECO) and the Ernst Ludwig Erlich Student Fund, or ELES in Germany.  I believe that each émigré has a crucial story to tell; each of their stories must be given a chance to stand on their own, if historians, sociologists and political scientists hope to make sense of the realities of the dynamics animating Russian-Jewish migration over the course of the late-twentieth century

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