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Leyb Kvitko and the Night of the Murdered Poets

Prominent Soviet Yiddish poet Leyb Kvitko, an editor of the literary magazine Heymland (Homeland) who became the head of the Yiddish Writers Section at the Soviet Writers Union, was born near Odessa on this date in 1890 (some sources say 1893). Kvitko “was welcomed by the [Jewish] urban literary community as a folk talent when he arrived in Kiev wearing […]

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Ilya Ehrenburg and the Black Book

Soviet journalist, novelist, and poet Ilya Ehrenburg (some sources spell it “Ehrenberg”), who with Vasily Grossman created The Black Book, the first book documenting the Holocaust (before the killing had ended), died on this date in 1967. Ehrenburg was a popular communist writer and war correspondent, and an active member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC), organized […]

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The Non-Jewish Jew

Isaac Deutscher, biographer of both Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin, was born near Cracow, Poland on this date in 1907. Raised in a khasidic milieu, he was a child prodigy in Torah and Talmud but at the age of 13 he “tested God” by eating treyf food at the grave of a holy man on […]

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February 25: Khrushchev Denounces Stalin

Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev delivered a speech at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on this date in 1956 in which he denounced the “cult of personality” that had elevated the late Joseph Stalin to the status of “a superman possessing supernatural characteristics, akin to those of a god. […]

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Footprints: Our Communist Past

JEWISH CURRENTS BEGAN ITS LIFE AS A COMMUNIST-ORIENTED MAGAZINE. WHAT SHOULD I MAKE OF THAT HERITAGE TODAY? by Lawrence Bush This article is one of a series reflecting on the history of Jewish Currents on the occasion of our 65th anniversary (2010). You can find the other entries here. When Jewish Currents and the Workmen’s […]

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October 23: Pasternak’s Nobel Prize

Russian novelist Boris Pasternak, the son of artists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on this date in 1958 “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition,” said the Nobel Committee. Pasternak had published Dr. Zhivago, his only prose novel, the year before, […]

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The Uncivil Servant: Birobidzhan Follies

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Where the Jews Aren’t by Masha Gessen. Nextbooks/Schocken, 2016, 170 pages. WHERE THE JEWS Aren’t, Russia-born Masha Gessen’s recounting of “the sad and absurd story of Birobidzhan, the Soviet Union’s “Jewish Autonomous Region,” is the latest addition to the Jewish Encounters series produced jointly by Schocken and Nextbook. […]

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August 26: Lina Stern, Outliving Stalin

Lina Stern, an outstanding medical biochemist who emigrated to the USSR for ideological reasons in 1925, served as a director of the Institute of Physiology of the USSR Academy of Sciences for nearly twenty years, and won the Stalin Prize in 1943, was born in today’s Latvia on this date in 1878. Stern did pioneering work […]

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The Suicide and the Executed Writer

Yefim Ladyzhensky and Isaac Babel at the Yeshiva University Museum by Dan Grossman THERE’S A STRESSFUL poignancy to judging the work of an artist who committed suicide because his paintings were underappreciated. You can frown at a Van Gogh canvas without any guilt, safe in the knowledge that it’ll hang in the best museums for […]

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