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In Search of Milk and Honey

The Theater of "Soviet Jewish Statehood" (1934-49)


Publication Year: 2009

Published by: Slavica Publishers

Series: New Approaches to Russian and East European Jewish Culture

Title Page, Copyright, Quotes

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pp. xi

I take this opportunity to thank all those who helped me in one way or another in writing this work, including the Yiddish writers Hirsh Dobin z"l and Maks Riant from Bnei-'Ayish, as well as Mairum Arones from Bnei-Brak, son of the actor Faivish Arones; the "Habima" actor Israel Beker z"l; Raia Kulbak from...

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About the Method of Translation and Transliteration

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pp. xii

All the sources cited in the bibliographical references in this book are spelled out in the original language and orthography. Yiddish words are given using the system of Latin transliteration of the YIVO Institute. In order to make recognition simpler, capital letters in titles and personal names absent in Yiddish are entered...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-25

The partially collapsed walls in the very center of the city of Birobidzhan always held a secret for me. It would surface in the words of my mother as we hurried by the ruins at the end of the 1970s. There used to be a big auditorium in this old House of the Pioneer Youth Movement, she would say, with a rotating...

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pp. 26-36

The year 1932 became a major turning point for the Soviet Union. 1932 witnessed the rapid completion of the first Five-Year Plan, which laid the foundations for socialist industry, the virtual completion of the collectivization of agriculture, which put an end to the independent peasantry, and the reorganization and centralization...

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Act I

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pp. 37-68

The troupe formed in Moscow arrived in Birobidzhan on May 6, 1934, a day before the official declaration establishing the Jewish Autonomous Region The actors' arrival on the eve of this event was highly symbolic. The national theater now had the possibility of becoming visible proof of the fact that from the very beginning...

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Act II

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pp. 69-112

Beginning in the fall of 1936, the repressive measures taken against Birobidzhan's regional political leadership, headed by Liberberg, gradually moved on to ensnare ordinary new settlers, especially those who had come from foreign countries. Shifra Lifshits, who had emigrated from Poland and become a teacher at the...

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pp. 113-120

Having found at the beginning of 1937 a capable and receptive theatrical collective in Birobidzhan, and also having received enthusiastic reactions to his work, Goldblat undoubtedly felt that he was on the right path. His programmatic article "The Birobidzhan Yiddish State Theater" appeared in the summer of 1937 in the...

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pp. 121-162

Goldblat's departure became another of the signs of the deepening crisis being experienced, not only by the theater, but by the whole Birobidzhan project. No one mentioned any more the previous grandiose plans for resettlement. Beginning in 1938 official statistics on Jewish resettlement in Birobidzhan ceased being...

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Act IV

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pp. 163-188

Even though the prospect of resettling tens of thousands of "western" Jews in Birobidzhan had become a theoretical possibility, the future of the Birobidzhan project was still enveloped in extreme uncertainty. The local authorities had learned from the bitter experience of their predecessors that the best thing was to take...

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Act V

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pp. 189-217

In April 1943 Aleksandr Bakhmutski was appointed First Secretary of the Jewish Autonomous Region Party Regional Committee. Bakhmutski was a rapidly advancing party regular from an assimilated Jewish family who had never before been involved in so called "Jewish work." In just a few years he had moved with dizzying...

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Act VI

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pp. 218-240

On January 16, 1948 Birobidzhan said goodbye to Shloime Mikhoels. A memorial service was held in the theater building. It was opened by Buzi Miller, Secretary of the Writers' Organization. Mikhoels's pupils, Chaim Helfand, Buzi Shilman, Maks Reingold, Faivish Arones, and Mikhl Fridman, delivered reminiscences. The...

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pp. 241-246

After the closure of BirGOSET in November 1949, some of the actors, mainly members of the Russian troupe, formed an amateur theatrical collective under the management of an inexperienced director, Golovatskii. This troupe fell apart at the beginning of May 1950. The Birobidzhan political leadership, discovering that the...

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pp. 247-251

The national theater in Birobidzhan was organized at the same time as the declaration of Jewish autonomy. The important propaganda and representational functions assigned to the theater turned it into the most active participant in the cultural life of Birobidzhan during the years of its existence. The role assigned to...

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pp. 252-258

At the end of January 1956 all the persons prosecuted in the "Birobidzhan case" in Moscow were released, except for Levitin, who died in the camps. In spite of having received full rehabilitation, Bakhmutski could not recover from the trials he had undergone and soon died. The poet Chaim Maltinski settled in the...

Image Plates

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Repertoire of BirGOSET

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pp. 259-270


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pp. 271-284

Index of Names, Places, and Terms

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pp. 285-298

Index of Dramatic Productions and Stagings

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pp. 299-302

About the Author

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pp. 303

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780893578473
E-ISBN-10: 0893578479
Print-ISBN-13: 9780893573478
Print-ISBN-10: 0893573477

Page Count: 318
Illustrations: 81
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: New Approaches to Russian and East European Jewish Culture

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Birobidzhan (Russia) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Theater, Yiddish -- Ukraine -- History.
  • Theater, Yiddish -- Russia (Federation) -- Birobidzhan -- History -- 20th century.
  • Jewish theater -- Russia (Federation) -- Birobidzhan -- History -- 20th century.
  • Birobidzhan State Yiddish Theater.
  • Jewish theater -- Soviet Union -- History.
  • Jewish actors -- Soviet Union.
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