Researching Jewish Luck led Leslie and me down many academic paths as we pieced together the Jewish world of Vera and Alla. If you glance at our extensive bibliography, you’ll discover that we investigated newer academic findings as well as checking sources written before the opening of the Soviet archives in the early 1990s.
When I began to read Yaacov Ro’i’s compilation of 14 scholarly articles in The Jewish Movement in the Soviet Union, I felt like the actor in the V-8 juice commercial—“I shoulda had access to this volume before we began researching!”
I enjoy a good novel, a thrilling mystery and a compelling memoir but I revel in an academic work that clarifies and explains. I raced through the articles soaking in the data and analysis and checking the footnotes to see if Leslie and I had read the same sources. About halfway through the volume, I began to wonder what...
[This blog is back by popular demand.]
"The title is too Jewish." "It's insulting." "Is there such a thing as Jewish Luck?" "Do you want to appeal only to Jewish audiences?"
Everyone had an opinion, but no one ever forgot the title. We brainstormed titles until Jewish Luck leapt up to win the competition. Meryll counted over 100 ideas from Women of Steel to USSR: Love It or Leave it.
Vera was the one to introduce us to the Russian phrase "You don't know what my Jewish luck brought me next" as she prefaced each incredible episode in her life. Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, they did. But then, in the end, the actor, usually Vera, would work through those misfortunes to a positive conclusion. Vera is a strong devotée of the role of irony in life. And she finds "Jewish Luck" perfectly ironic. The phrase makes...
How did you learn what it meant to be Jewish?
What obstacles did you encounter because you were Jewish?
If all Jewish institutions were illegal and Jewish books, culture and practice were banned as they were in the former Soviet Union, how would that have affected the development of your Jewish identity?
What if beiing Jewish was so widely accepted that you didn't have to give it much thought?
Meryll and I have been traveling across the United States speaking to groups in San Diego, Phoenix, Omaha, Columbus, and Princeton. We are inspired and grateful for the conversations that our book, Jewish Luck, engenders. Some of the East Coast crowd described being raised in an American shtetl in NYC. An older women in Encinitas recalled childhood experiences in wartime Vienna when she had to be silent about her identity and blend in. Stories connect us and make our common history come...
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.