Journal of Modern History

"Jewish Life in Belarus is an important contribution to the understanding of the multilayered shades and complexities of postwar Jewish life and identity under Stalin through a regional approach. The book examines Soviet policy toward the Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture from 1944 to 1953 in the cities and towns of Belarus. It focuses on the regime’s attempt to supervise and restrict Jewish religious and cultural life and provides new evidence about the struggle that many Jews carried out as they strove to establish synagogues, keep the laws of kashrut, uphold Jewish rituals, and perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust and its victims. Exploring Jewish legal and underground religious institutions, private and public religious and cultural activities, Smilovitsky challenges the notion of a “silent” and submissive Jewry in the postwar years of Stalinism. By drawing on exceptional archival data—including documents from the Central Archives of the KGB of the Republic of Belarus and the Council for the Affairs of Religious Cults (CARC)—as well as on correspondence from former residents of Belarus, Smilovitsky reveals the degree of resilience and agency exerted by Soviet Jews at the time. His work allows us to understand some of the dynamics that would characterize the revival of Jewish national identity and the emergence of the liberation movement of the 1960s."
Reviewed book: 
Author: 
Leonid Smilovitsky
ISBN: 
978-963-386-025-0
cloth
$85.00 / €75.00 / £67.00
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