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Old Lives, New Lives: Soviet Jewish Women in Minnesota

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Why do people decide to leave the land of their birth and start over? What was life like for Jews in the Soviet Union and specifically for Jewish women? What did it mean to be a grandmother? What was school like? What were friendships like? What did mothers want for their children? How did it feel to be labeled “Jew” in the Soviet Union and “Russian” in America? What do American Jews expect of newcomers and how realistic are these expectations? These were among the questions put to a group of women who entered the St. Paul Jewish community beginning in 1978. In the course of lengthy oral history interviews, the women-ranging in age and background-talked candidly about their lives, past and present. Photography by Betty Globus Goodman.

It is easy to say we are a “nation of immigrants” but harder to understand how difficult the process of becoming an American truly is. This process may be particularly true for Jews who are expected to assume a double identity, that of American and that of American Jew. We hope this exhibit will help viewers understand the circumstances that shaped these women’s lives in the Soviet Union and how they have proceeded to build their lives anew in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Old Lives, New Lives

Jewish Identity
Decision to Leave
Starting Over

Old Lives, New Lives

Anti-Semitism
Working
Starting Over

New Lives

War
Anti-Semitism

Old Lives, New Lives

Childhood
War
Working

Old Lives, New Lives

Working
Childhood
Anti-Semitism

Old Lives, New Lives

Childhood
Relationship

New Lives

Anti-Semitism
Relationship
Decision to Leave
Starting Over

New Lives

Relationship
Jewish Identity
Decision to Leave

New Lives
Jewish Identity
War
Relationship

Click here to view JHSUM’s pathfinder for more Soviet Jewish history resources.

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