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Jewish Identities in Postcommunist Russia and Ukraine

An Uncertain Ethnicity

byZvi Gitelman
published by: Cambridge University Press
pp: 379
ISBN: 9781107608733
price: £21.99 paperback

Book's frontpage

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, resettlement in Israel, the United States and Germany, and the rebuilding of public Jewish life in Russia and Ukraine. Post-Communist Jews, especially the young, are transforming religious-based practices into ethnic traditions and increasingly manifesting their Jewishness in public.


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.

Author Bio

Zvi Gitelman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
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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