The Jews of St. Petersburg by Mikhail Beizer
FEATURED BOOK FOR NOVEMBER:
Beizer, Mikhail. The Jews of St. Petersburg. Excursions through a Noble Past. Translated by Michael Sherbourne. Maps by Sir Martin Gilbert. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.
Summary: This book deserves its own story of origin. It begins with Mikhail Beizer’s passionate compulsion to capture the history of Jewish St. Petersburg/Leningrad from 1880-1930. Under the Soviets, the history was hidden and Beizer uncovered people, documents, and buildings that all bear witness to the lively Jewish presence that existed in St. Petersburg/Leningrad. He was, in turn, encouraged by one of my all-time favorite authors, Sir Martin Gilbert, who met him in Leningrad in 1983. The book includes Sir Martin’s cartography and introduction.
Why you might be interested: If you are traveling to St. Petersburg, this book can serve as a travel guide unlike any other. The six excursions through the past are actual walking tours that allow you to peel back layers of history from the streets and canals and visualize the Jewish life that was integral to St. Petersburg/Leningrad from 1880-1930. Much of our knowledge of the Preobrazhensky Cemetery as well as our understanding of Alla’s neighborhood was gleaned from Beizer’s work. Sir Martin’s twelve maps illustrate and guide a reader through the walking tours. Although their families were part of this world, Vera and Alla knew little of this information.
For those of you who read Russian or Hebrew, you can access Mikhail Beizer’s authoritative work, Evrei Leningrada 1917-1939, or 1939-1917 נינגרדליהודי. For a summary of the history of Leningrad’s Jews in the interwar period, see http://pluto.huji.ac.il/~beizer/files/The%20Jews%20of%20Soviet%20Metropolis.pdf