News and Reflections

The Jewish Advocate article - Tales of love and war...Read More

Oral History

Personal reflections by BGI Fellow Eleazar Jacobs.  

As undergraduate fellows of the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry, we hold a commitment to the preservation and continuation of the Russian Jewish culture.

One of the best ways to understand a culture is through its history, and history is best understood through the experiences and accounts of those individuals who have lived through it themselves.  We are the generation that is fortunate enough to hear witness accounts of life in the Soviet Union from former Soviet Jews themselves...Read More

group photo

Left to right: This scrapbook is a product of creativity and dedication of Dina Kapengut, Alexandra Dashevskaya - Manager, Bilingual Services Program (HRC), Avraham (Eli) Tukachinsky, Professor Irina Dubinina, Karina Gaft, Julia Rabkin.

BGI Fellows create and publish a unique scrapbook "Individual Lives, Common Story"

From October 2010 to May 2011 6 BGI fellows spent time at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (Roslindale, MA) doing volunteer work with the Russian-speaking elderly residents, collecting their life stories for the Oral History project.  The residents painted the picture of the Soviet epoch by sharing the tales of love and death, of human tragedy in the war, of difficulties they had to overcome, of the brotherhood and sisterhood at the frontlines, of anti-Semitism in the USSR and of great friendships that literally saved lives during the war.  What became obvious from these stories is that World War II (the Great Patriotic War or simply "the war" in Russian) interweaves the stories of five strangers into one: a story of a generation of people, whose lives were scorched by the war in one way or another. 

The scrapbook created by the fellows, attempts to preserve the memories of people who witnessed the war, survived it, lived through the ups and downs of the Soviet regime and have come to the United States in their later years for a new chapter in their life.

Eleazar Jacobs, BGI fellow reflects on his experience:

"The fact that I had heard similar stories about my own grandparents and great-grandparents added to my personal experience with the project.  My mother's grandfather was killed in World War II, and my paternal grandfather had bullet scars on his body (which he showed to my siblings when they were young) from the very war these people were telling me about.  When some of our partner-residents shared stories of how they celebrated Jewish holidays in the USSR, these were not just random foreign rituals and traditions to me. These were experiences that I and my fellow students can personally relate to because our parents have told us about them and because some of us had these experiences as well.  As the frequency of our trips increased, we developed relationships with our interviewees who stopped being random strangers to us; they became friends with whom we had shared a history and now a part of the present."

This scrapbook is a product of creativity and dedication of Dina Kapengut, Julia Rabkin, Avraham (Eli) Tukachinsky, Karina Gaft, Lena Vaynberg and Eleazar Jacobs.

Scrap book