Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

A New Kind of Jew

Today on Tablet

Print Email

Liel Leibovitz’s article today in Tablet Magazine is nearly as much about the similarities between two groups of American Jews—those born in Israel and those born in the former Soviet Union—as about the differences between those groups and the rest of American Jewry. His provocative point is that the Israeli and Russia Jews have made an outsize contribution to American culture, yet only uneasily fit the American Jewish mainstream’s idea of what it is to be an American Jew. Something, in other words, has got to give.

Those Israeli- and Russian-born immigrants who choose to stay in the United States, however, are challenging the community’s existing infrastructures. Primarily constructed around religious denominations, much of the organized American Jewish community has little place for people who, like Israelis, have grown up divorcing Jewish identity from religious practice, or who, like Russians, have grown up in societies that forbade the study and practice of religion. But the strongest apparent explanation for the gap between the recent immigrants and the established American Jewish community has little to do with institutions and a lot with intuitions: for American Jews, being Jewish is a complicated undertaking woven into a long history of fear and pride and doubt and desire. For Israelis, and for Russians, it’s simply something that you are, something that you do, something that requires less thought than action.

My favorite part is the comparison, toward the end, of the novels of typical American Jews and the novels of Russian-born American Jews. Some of us are still stuck in the shtetls, and it is not those of us who are the least far removed from them.

Eastern Front

Print Email
2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Be a Mensch. Support Tablet.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

A New Kind of Jew

Today on Tablet

More on Tablet:

Rediscovering the First Woman Rabbi

By Laura Geller — Ordained in 1935, Regina Jonas died at Auschwitz. Now, she’s being honored.