Before we published Jewish Luck, a memoir about two Soviet born Jewish women and their struggle to break free of the Soviet system, we read as many memoirs as we could find written by Soviet Jews. We arrived at two conclusions.
#1. There was no memoir we could find that was similar to the one we were writing about Vera and Alla.
#2 Memoirs by Soviet Jews and others from the USSR are compelling.
For your May perusal, we’re listing six of the memoirs we read during our research along with a brief summary of our impressions. Each of these memoirists writes with honesty and in his or her unique style. For each of these writers, English is not their first language but you will forget that fact as you read their works.
Azbel, Mark Ya. Refusenik: Trapped in the Soviet Union. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981.
For readers who want...
Why did I buy Halloween trick or treat candy? We have not seen trick or treaters for years in our neighborhood.Saturday night I faced a small mound of Twix and then the mound became smaller.Sunday morning, November 1, I awoke with a sugar-guilt hangover and in a time warp from the switch back to standard time.My addled brain was further ...
The Ukraine and now the murder of Boris Nemtsov? What’s happening in Russia?
Everyday we read the news from Russia, we are very relieved for Vera that she has left Russia for good and we’re certain Alisa feels vindicated in her move many times over.
For me, the murder of Nemtsov(photo on the left) brought back memories of Sergey Kirov’s (photo on the right) 1934 murder. In December 1934, Pravda (Truth) alleged it was a young man named Nikolaev who was guilty of killing Kirov and the organs of state successfully captured, tried, and convicted him. But, when Soviet archives were opened in 1994, the truth was not so clear. Nikolaev may have pulled the trigger, but it seems Stalin and the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) were behind the plot. After playing the role of chief mourner at Kirov’s funeral, Stalin initiated new laws and orders that launched the purges...
Masha Gessen’s book, Esther and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler’s War and Stalin’s Peace (New York: Dial Press, 2004), cropped up in our research while I was scouring the literature for memoirs of Russian Jews. I wanted to ensure our narrative was not a repeat of another tale. (It’s not). Gessen’s beautifully written tribute to her grandmothers was a model of honest writing and a how-to sample for weaving two biographies in one book. Later, when we focused on the Putin regime, we found Gessen’s newly released book, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. (New York: Riverhead Books, 2012). Gessen captured Putin with her sparkling prose and insightful analysis. She offers the reader an opportunity to understand a man who seems incomprehensible. The third book by Masha Gessen that we read as background before writing Jewish Luck was Half a Revolution: Contemporary Fiction by Russian...
I snapped up the invitation to speak at a zoom meeting for the Jewish Affinity Group from Columbus School for Girls. Self-quarantining for almost a year has made me hungry to talk about Jewish Luck. It's certainly clear from the news that Vera and Alla's perceptions about the "New" Russia are just as relevant now as they were when Vera first encountered Putin in Leningrad.More than the intellectua...
What I learned from American Kompromat by Craig Unger (2021) Dutton: NYC has prompted me to write a blog.
Trigger Warning: This book contains potentially distressing content that could trigger trauma that we have experienced regarding the previous US President.
I whisper this mantra to myself: "We're safe now. He's gone. We're safe now." The purpose of this exercise is to reduce my blood pre...
"Faster than a speeding bullet." .Organized anti-government rallies in 109 cities across Russia from jail for January 23 and January 30, 2021. Watch each weekend.
"More powerful than a locomotive." Able to make a miraculous recovery from Novichok poisoning on Aug. 20, 2020 after remaining in a coma for nearly a month. His is the only known case of survival of that strain of Novichok.
We were featured speakers at Hadassah Brandeis Institute and Levy Summer Series. Our speaking engagements include JCCs, synagogues, libraries, book groups, retirement communities, schools, and organizations (e.g. ORT, Hadassah, and Women's League). References are available.
"I was very fortunate to be able to hear Meryll and Leslie speak at a Hadassah event in Israel. Each of the ~50 participants really enjoyed the event because Meryll and Leslie were so engaging. While they had a natural rapport with the audience, you could also tell they had prepared well so they could connect with our particular group's interests. I learned a lot from listening to them, and I found their sisterly interaction unique and fun. If you want an enlightening and uplifting experience, attend one of their book talks." Lisa Shimoni, Modiin Israel
"Truly, you have written a story that makes accessible the reality of existence in Russia, through the eyes of individuals who lived through the various regimes and dictates. It is fascinating and very well told. As I read Vera and Alla's story, I learned more Russian history than I had known from a textbook. That's a big deal, women! You tell the tale with vivid detail and hook us on the two women and their stories, then weave in the history to illuminate their journeys. It is such a necessary book. I am thrilled that the two of you collaborated, as I can see the uniqueness of your personalities come through in the stories, and that, too, makes the book a gem." Margaret Leibfried, Danielson Group consultant
Buy the Book
Click here to order your copy of Jewish Luck: A True Story of Friendship, Deception, and Risky Business on Amazon.com.
Make a donation to Sholom Home and enjoy Jewish Luck at the same time. Jewish Luck is now available at the Sholom Home West gift store. Meryll and Leslie will donate 50% of the proceeds back to Sholom Home. Enjoy!
Nourish mind, body, and soul with Meryll's Tasting Torah, which will bring oneg (joy) and limmud (learning) to your Shabbat, broaden your culinary horizons, and draw your Shabbat guests closer together.