Review by Choice Review
How did the movement to free Soviet Jews, despite overwhelming geopolitical odds and fractious communal and international Jewish disagreements over strategy and goals, succeed so remarkably? Demonstrating intriguing parallels to early-20th-century US and US Jewish engagement with Russian Jewish travails, distinguished US Jewish history scholar Feingold (emer., CUNY) disentangles and fully fleshes out the essential forces and intersecting variables that eventually opened Soviet doors for Jewish emigration. They include Israeli initiatives and contacts with Soviet Jews in the 1950s-60s; Soviet Jews' aroused public Jewish identification and establishment of their own emigration movement; US Jews, burdened by guilt over perceived inaction during the Holocaust, adopting Soviet Jewry emigration into its communal agenda; US Jewry's successful political engagement of Congress; the Cold War, providing the framework and intellectual impetus for integrating Soviet Jews into an evolving international human rights political agenda from the 1970s on; and the Soviet Union's consistent errors of judgment in response to public pressure, and its ultimate implosion. In this astute, probing, richly nuanced study of the US Jewish Soviet Jewry movement, Feingold tells the tale with deft political, institutional, and historical understanding, revealing his own profound wonder at how unanticipated historical forces coalesced to produce an unforeseen victory for a just cause. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. B. Kraut CUNY Queens College
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