Tag Archives: immigrants

Can you imagine: to put our life in two suitcases?

4 Jan

This video, “Coming to America: Soviet Jews Reflect on Their Immigration Experiences,” was created by Cat Bell, who was an intern for the Maria Rogers Oral History Program during the fall semester of 2012.

The oral history program has partnered with the University of Colorado Jewish Studies program since 2010 to collect oral histories about Soviet Jewish immigrants who left the Former Soviet Union and relocated in Boulder from 1987 to 1997. This collection includes interviews with both the immigrants themselves and with members of Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry, a group that assisted hundreds of Soviet Jews in both their emigration from the Former Soviet Union and resettlement in Boulder.

Cat Bell conducted new interviews for the collection and reviewed the existing interviews as part of her internship. These interview clips, from interviews with Alla Levy and Anna Nemirovskaya, were chosen for their moving stories about leaving and finding home.

The original interviews were conducted by Shirley Steele, David Shneer, and Brandon Springer. They can be heard in their entirety at www.boulderlibrary.org/oralhistory, the Boulder Library’s online oral history archive (choose “Special Collections,” then choose “Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry”).

When They Come for Us We’ll Be Gone

15 Feb


An Evening with Author Gal Beckerman…

Save the date:

Monday, March 14 @ 7:30 PM
On the CU-Boulder Campus
Center for Community (C4C),  
Flatirons Room 

An event sponsored by the CU Jewish Studies Program and the Maria Rogers Oral History Program of the Boulder Library’s Carnegie Branch Library for Local History

The Soviet Jewry movement is one of the great exodus stories of modern times, as well as one of the most successful human rights campaigns in history. Now, in journalist Gal Beckerman’s When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone, comes the account of the battle to save Jews from Soviet oppression after World War II, a struggle that shaped the world we live in today.  The mass emigration that finally occurred in 1989 has had enormous political, social, and cultural consequences, virtually remaking Israel and forever altering American politics. 

At the end of the war, nearly three million Jews were trapped inside the Soviet Union. They lived a paradox: unwanted by a repressive Stalinist state, yet forbidden to leave. Those who tried were followed by the KGB, often denied jobs and higher education, even forced into menial labor or imprisoned simply for gathering with other Jews. It was illegal to study Hebrew or the Torah, and the punishment was often internal exile—not external exile, which is what they really wanted.   

Gal Beckerman is a reporter at the Forward. He was a longtime editor and staff writer at the Columbia Journalism Review and has also written for the New York Times Book Review, the Jerusalem Post, and Utne Reader, among other publications. He was a fellow at the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Berlin and the recipient of a Pulitzer traveling fellowship from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

The evening will also be a celebration and launch of the Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry Oral History Project.  Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry (BASJ) was a local group featured in Gal Beckerman’s book.  Twenty-four years ago it advocated for and eventually secured the release of more than 250 Soviet refuseniks and refugees.  The work of this group remained largely untold and unpreserved, so in November 2009 a collaboration between veteran BASJ leaders and staff, CU’s Program in Jewish Studies, and the Boulder Public Library’s Maria Rogers Oral History Program began to document the oral histories of organizers, community leaders, host families, and resettled Soviet Jews and their families. This body of oral histories will constitute a comprehensive historical resource for research and understanding of the significance of this human rights and refugee resettlement movement.  

 This event is free and open to the public but  space is limited so RSVP’s are required.   
Please RSVP to Brandon.Springer@colorado.edu
or  call 303.492.7143.  



Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry: The Beginning

9 Nov

By Brandon Springer

AS THE SOVIET UNION BEGAN TO CRUMBLE in the late 1980s, a group of Jews in Boulder organized to aid and resettle Soviet Jews who faced increasing discrimination from the Soviet state and refusal of their requests to emigrate (earning them the label of “refuseniks”). These Jewish Boulderites called themselves Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry.

Listen to the first in a series of podcasts about the history of Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry.

Over the past year, interns and students from the University of Colorado, along with volunteers from the Maria Rogers Oral History Program, collected interviews with volunteers and organizers for BASJ as well as with new Americans resettled by the organization. Nearly 20 interviews have been conducted with these individuals.

Judge Murray Richtel during a trip to the former Soviet Union

The interviews ranged from the original founders of BASJ—attorneys Bill and Sara-Jane Cohen and Judge Murray Richtel—to some of the first board members; from families that served as “anchor families” to Soviet émigrés (providing them with guidance and advice on adapting to American culture and life) to professional and volunteer ESL tutors who taught English to the new Americans. In addition, of course, many of the interviews documented the lives of the Soviet Jewish émigrés themselves. Continue reading

Get Your Red-Hot New Interviews Here!

25 Oct

John Sand III, President of the Gold Hill Club, was interviewed about Gold Hill history by Caitlin McKenna not long before the recent Fourmile Fire.

THIS JUST OUT: our fall newsletter with descriptions of 18 new interviews that have been added to our online archive. You can read the newsletter online. To hear the new interviews, including one with John Sand III who tells about the history of Gold Hill, its community spirit and ongoing efforts at preservation, visit the archive.

The new recordings include a series of interviews conducted by the fourth-grade members of the Whittier Student Historians Club, in which they interviewed people who attended Whittier Elementary School long ago.

Also included are interviews with people from the group Boulder Action for Soviet Jewry (BASJ), which formed twenty years ago to obtain the release of “refuseniks,” Jewish people who had been refused permission to emigrate from the former Soviet Union and suffered severe discrimination as a consequence of both their religion and their desire to leave the country. The interviews record the experiences of BASJ organizers; those who helped with resettlement; and those who immigrated, becoming “New Americans.”  This project is an ongoing one, undertaken in conjunction with former BASJ members and the University of Colorado’s Jewish Studies program. Look for additional interviews in our winter and spring newsletters.

In addition, this edition of our newsletter contains descriptions of interviews about the history of and life in Gold Hill, and interviews with a member of the Boulder Potters Guild, a long-time Boulder attorney, and a former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant administrator who describes working to change the culture of safety at the now-defunct plant.

Lost and Found: A family love story

29 Sep

LATE THIS SUMMER, eight Boulder Library staff members had the honor and pleasure of spending three intensive days learning the methodology of digital storytelling as taught by Daniel Weinshenker and Kayann Short from the Center for Digital Storytelling.  Staff members learned to create short, first-person video narratives by combining recorded voice, still and moving images, and music or other sounds. The experience was deeply moving and meaningful for all involved, not to mention a huge opportunity to improve professional skills.

If you would like to see more about what digital storytelling is all about, I invite you to watch the five-minute video I made during the workshop, which is titled “Lost and Found.” It tells about my own family history in relation to my job as the oral history program manager.

If you’d like to see more digital stories, you can visit www.storiesforchange.net. Continue reading

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