The hidden tragedy: the Jews of the CIS (former Soviet Union)

Ami Isseroff

An article in Ha’aretz draws attention to an all but forgotten corner and neglected tragedy of Jewish history. It is history that is happening right now, history that we can change. It is, in my opinion, as a largely ignorant bystander, a failure of the Zionist movement, the Israeli government, and the Jews of the United States and Western Europe.

The Jewish community of Greater Russia, which became the USSR and is now the C.I.S. (Confederation of (not-very) Independent States) was once the heart of the Jewish world, and the original mainspring of Zionism. At one time, it numbered over 5 million. Its people were the engine of the Zionist revival. Achad Ha’am, Ben-Gurion, Bialik, A.D. Gordon, Jabotinsky, Pinsker, Weizmann… the list is endless. This is the world that my grandparents and my great grand-parents, and those of many other Israelis left behind to come to “Eretz Yisroel” as it was known before 1917. These were the people who clamored most insistently for a Jewish National Home, and who were most insistent that that home had to be the land of Israel. Unlike the Jews of Germany or France, they had few illusions about a rosy future for Jews in the Diaspora, except for the communists among them. Confined to the pale of settlement, living in abject poverty, they knew that time was running out for them. Large numbers emigrated to the United States and a smaller number to Palestine, but most of the Jews of Russia were trapped inside the Soviet Union soon after 1917.
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June 3, 2007 | 2 Comments »

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