“Jewish Russians: Upheavals in a Moscow Synagogue”

“Jewish Russians: Upheavals in a Moscow Synagogue”

Sascha L. Goluboff
224 pages, 6 illustrations, $19.95 paper

Based on extensive fieldwork, “Jewish Russians” is an in-depth examination of a single Jewish community in post-Soviet Moscow and the conflicts and struggles—sometimes physically violent ones—over control of its synagogue. Sascha Goluboff, a cultural anthropologist at Washington and Lee University, charts the demise of this elderly Russian Jewish community and the rise of a transnational one consisting of Jews from all regions of the former Soviet empire.

Combining ethnography with archival research, this contemporary study documents the changing face of the historically dominant Russian Jewish community in the mid-1990s. Goluboff focuses on a Moscow synagogue, headed by a Western rabbi and consisting of Jews from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Dagestan and Central Asia, as a nexus from which to explore issues of identity creation and negotiation. Following the rapid rise of this transnational congregation, she evaluates the process that created this diverse gathering and offers an intimate sense of individual interactions in the context of the synagogue’s congregation.

Challenging earlier research claims that Russian and Jewish identities are mutually exclusive, Goluboff illustrates how post-Soviet Jews use Russian and Jewish ethnic labels and racial categories to describe themselves. Ambivalent about emerging class distinctions, Georgian, Russian, Mountain, and Bukharan Jews evaluated one another based on each group’s supposed success or failure in the new market economy. Goluboff argues that post-Soviet Jewry is based on perceived racial, class, and ethnic differences as they emerge within discourses of belonging to the Jewish people and the new Russian nation.

—University of Pennsylvania Press

Originally published on February 27, 2003