The “Song Searcher” of Jewish Ukraine

In the 1930s and 40s, Moyshe Beregovsky, a Jewish folklorist and musicologist, traveled through his native Ukraine carrying primitive recording equipment from shtetl to shtetl. The recordings, writes Andrew Silow-Carroll, can be heard “on 1,017 scratchy wax cylinders that for a long time many feared were lost.” A new documentary, Song Searcher, explores the history of these recordings and the culture they helped to preserve.

Various klezmer musicians are seen in the film, playing the songs that Beregovsky collected. Many of the songs reflect the misery of the Jewish experience under the Soviets, the Nazis, and the Soviets again. Even a so-called “humorous” song—sung here by Psoy Korolenko, a puckish Yiddish singer from Russia—is a revenge fantasy about confronting Hitler after the war.

There are also rare color photographs of the slaughter at Babyn Yar, one of many moments when the pictures and stories of trapped civilians and desperate refugees blur with this morning’s headlines out of Ukraine.

But the history, like today’s headlines, is head-swirling as you try to keep track of the shifting occupations and the various degrees of villainy. The Soviets are celebrated as the liberators of Auschwitz, but almost immediately turn on the Jews. Their targets included Beregovsky, who by this time had founded or led a slew of important and perfectly legal academic institutions in Russia and Ukraine.

By 1949, such Jewish ethnic activities were considered “cosmopolitan” by the Soviets, and Beregovsky was shipped off to Siberia, where he joined other slave laborers in building a railroad. Already a grandfather, he found some solace in leading the prison camp’s choir, and the film includes snippets of letters he wrote home to his wife Sara in Kyiv, asking her to send—what else?—sheet music.

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Read more at JTA

More about: East European Jewry, Jewish music, Soviet Jewry, Ukrainian Jews

 

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy