Imagining Russian Jewry

Memory, History, Identity

Steven J. Zipperstein

  • Published: 1999. Paperback 2015
  • Subject Listing: Jewish Studies; History
  • Bibliographic information: 152 pp., 5.5 x 8.5 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies
  • Contents

This subtle, unusual book explores the many, often overlapping ways in which the Russian Jewish past has been remembered in history, in literature, and in popular culture. Drawing on a wide range of sources-including novels, plays, and archival material-Imagining Russian Jewry is a reflection on reading, collective memory, and the often uneasy, and also uncomfortably intimate, relationships that exist between seemingly incompatible ways of seeing the past. The book also explores what it means to produce scholarship on topics that are deeply personal: its anxieties, its evasions, and its pleasures.

Zipperstein, a leading expert in modern Jewish history, explores the imprint left by the Russian Jewish past on American Jews starting from the turn of the twentieth century, considering literature ranging from immigrant novels to Fiddler on the Roof. In Russia, he finds nostalgia in turn-of-the-century East European Jewry itself, in novels contrasting Jewish life in acculturated Odessa with the more traditional shtetls. The book closes with a provocative call for a greater awareness regarding how the Holocaust has influenced scholarship produced since the Shoah.
Steven J. Zipperstein is Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History and the Taube Director of Jewish Studies at Stanford University. Among his previous publications are the award-winning books The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History and Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha'am and the Origins of Zionism. He is the editor of Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society.

"This splendid book consists of a sustained, and self-consciously personal, reflection on the themes of memory, nostalgia, and forgetting as they relate to narratives of Jewish life in Russia that have been produced both here and in Europe since the era of the great migrations."
-Hillel J. Kieval, Gloria M. Goldstein Professor of Jewish History and Thought, Washington University in St. Louis

"This remarkably insightful work . . . takes us, with stylistic clarity and scholarly self-control, into a startlingly new and challenging landscape of Jewish history and history writing."
-Chaim Potok


1. Shtetls There and Here: Imagining Russia in America
2. Reinventing Heders
3. Remapping Odessa
4. On the Holocaust in the Writing of the East European Jewish Past