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Book Reviews 193 would have liked to see some discussion of the immigrant children's adaptations to their educational and social experiences. Rita J. Simon Department ofJustice, Law and Society The American University How Things Were Done in Odessa: Cultural and Intellectual Pursuits in a Soviet City, by Maurice Friedberg. Boulder, co: Westview Press, 1991. 145 pp. $35.00. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the demise of Eastern European communism, basic questions are being raised about the quality of our knowledge as well as about explanations for the surprising speed with which those systems came apart. Moreover, while it was common knowledge that "things were not good for the Jews," the focus of information about Jewish life until recently was on the heroic Jewish "refuseniks," on the plight of resisters and preservers of Jewish identity. But systematic studies of the insti~tional contexts of Soviet antisemitism were lacking which related everyday life to the larger official patterns of oppression. Conceivably had such information been available it might have shed light on the more centrifugal weaknesses in the society which contributed to its dissolution. Maurice Fried,?erg and his co-workers in the Soviet Interview Project at the, University of Illinois have helped to fill this gap and have done it remarkably well. Jewish experience, relationships, the variations in Jewish identity, and the residues of Judaism are considered in the context of Odessa's social institutions, with special focus on the workings of the Communist Party agencies. The book is a summarydescription and analysis of interviews with 102 Jews who had emigrated in the late 1970s. Generally they were intellectuals, including professionals such as engineers and physicians as well as writers and art administrtors. Friedberg, a literary specialist and culture historian, focused on knowledge production and the arts as well as on ethnicity and religion. However, the detailed information provided about the administrtion of museums, schools, concerts, lectures, publishing agencies, and theaters and about cultural processes in general offers a side-view of the political economics of knowledge production in an ideologically driven command society. This work is most valuable in showing in the details how Soviet censorship in practice was tied to the 194 SHOFAR Winter 1993 Vol. 11, No.2 specific Party agencies and often imposed by a nomenklatura system which brought the least sensitive people to cultural policy positions. Literally, How Things Were Done in Odessa is a case study-and Friedberg acknowledges this. No claims are made that things were done the same throughout the former Soviet Union. A brief introductory chapter provides an account of the special character of Odessa, its almost Mediterranean quality and its literary-artistic traditions. The rich Jewish cultural past is noted in passing. (The title of the book itse~is from a short story of Isaac Babel.) A chapter on ethnicity and religion underscores the very multi-ethnic patterns ofthe city, including the occasionally ambiguous and cross-cutting status relationships between Ukrainian and Russian language productions. Such ethnic diversity appeared not to dampen antagonism to Jews. "Anti-Semitic discrimination and popular ,antiSemitism constituted the most pervasive form of bigotry in Odessa and affected the largest number of people . . . ," although, as Friedberg notes, such a finding may be qualified by the Jewish ethnicity of his informants. Among other things, detailed descriptions are given of the severe job quotas limiting access ofJews to many of the professions. Combined with sharp restrictions on the number of Jews allowed to receive higher education (especially professional training), the result was limited and declining social mobility. At the level of personal experience Friedberg's informants provide many reports of anti-Jewish behavior, attitudes, values. The emergent pattern ofinstitutional and personal anti-Semitism, oflinked policy and mass collective effects, may have made it improbable for a viable Jewish community to survive had the Soviet system remained in place. Individual efforts to endure, to find a small niche a bit more secure from the pervasive bigotry are described, but the words often convey a deep sense of futility. As much, or even more, is given about Odessa in general as about Jewish life. For example, the large number of colleges, trade schools, adult education centers and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 193-195
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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