Deborah Yalen // The Soviet Shtetl: A Glimpse of Jewish History through Russian Eyes


Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies

The shtetl is a powerful symbol of Jewish identity. For many American Jews, it represents “the old country”: a pure, lost Jewish world, separated from us by a gulf of geography and history. But how was it perceived before it was destroyed? And what has it meant to neighboring non-Jews? This eye-opening lecture examines several depictions of the shtetl in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia. What can these examples—in state-sponsored Soviet Yiddish scholarship, in a 1939 museum exhibit on the Jews of the USSR, and in a lavishly funded Jewish history museum that opened in Moscow in 2012—tell us about how the Jewish experience has served as a lens through which non-Jews might view themselves?

Deborah Yalen

Deborah Yalen is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Colorado State University. She received her doctorate from UC Berkeley, and as a leading expert in Soviet-era Jewish studies, she has published her work in East European Jewish Affairs, Science in Context, and the Moscow-based Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie (New Literary Observer) as well as the online edition of the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm

The Gershman Y

401 S. Broad St. (at Pine), Philadelphia, PA 19147

Reserve your tickets now at or call 215-545-4400

Event Location: 

The Gershman Y, Philadelphia, PA

Event Date and Time: 
April 21, 2015 7:30pm
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