This subtle, unusual book explores the many, often overlapping ways in which the Russian Jewish past has been remembered in history, in literature, and in popular culture. Drawing on a wide range of sources-including novels, plays, and archival material-Imagining Russian Jewry is a reflection on reading, collective memory, and the often uneasy, and also uncomfortably intimate, relationships that exist between seemingly incompatible ways of seeing the past. The book also explores what it means to produce scholarship on topics that are deeply personal: its anxieties, its evasions, and its pleasures.
Zipperstein, a leading expert in modern Jewish history, explores the imprint left by the Russian Jewish past on American Jews starting from the turn of the twentieth century, considering literature ranging from immigrant novels to Fiddler on the Roof. In Russia, he finds nostalgia in turn-of-the-century East European Jewry itself, in novels contrasting Jewish life in acculturated Odessa with the more traditional shtetls. The book closes with a provocative call for a greater awareness regarding how the Holocaust has influenced scholarship produced since the Shoah.