The End of the New Jew

Unlike earlier waves of immigrants, the million East Europeans who made their way to the Jewish state in the 1990s managed to escape the cultural strip-mining that awaited them.

Russian immigrants to Israel temporarily housed in a hotel in 1989. David Rubinger/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images.

Russian immigrants to Israel temporarily housed in a hotel in 1989. David Rubinger/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images.

Response
Nov. 9 2020
About the authors

Natan Sharansky was a political prisoner in the Soviet Union and a minister in four Israeli governments. He is the author of Fear No Evil, The Case for Democracy, and Defending Identity.

Gil Troy is distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of  nine books on the American presidency and three books on Zionism, including, most recently, The Zionist Ideas.

The final line—“Israel can no longer be understood without its Russian component, and Israel’s ‘Russians’ can only be understood as a type of Israeli”—of Matti Friedman’s fascinating essay about Israel’s Russian immigrants and their children captures how much they changed Israel, and how much they didn’t. An impressive storyteller, Friedman examines “popular culture as a window into the broader spirit of what’s happened.” But there’s an important ideological tale to tell too, one that he touches on lightly but that deserves full exploration. As Israeli society experienced one Russian revolution after another in the 1990s, one of the nation’s core, founding myths was transformed—even, it’s not too strong to say, rejected.

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More about: Aliyah, Israel & Zionism, Russian Jewry