Monday, June 07, 2010

Does Helen Thomas Know About This?

I won't rehash the Helen Thomas debacle. Her theory that Jews should leave Palastine and "return"to their "real" countries (e.g. Germany, Poland, and the United States) is . . . interesting. Interesting that she expressed it to a rabbi with a video camera. I guess it is safe to say that she is either off her meds, or didn't recognize why people would find that offensive.

Except. Except that the Christian Science Monitor has an article about just such a spot for Jews to "return" to. Apparently, in order to counter the Zionist project in Palastine (as it was then), Stalin created the Jewish Autonomous Zone on the Chinese border. It was growing in the 1930s, until Stalin turned on the Jews and ground the whole thing to a halt. Apparently there were never more than 18,000 or so Jews in the region, and now there are between 2,000 and 6,000.

So, why are we even talking about this? Well, first, the locals say that while 80 Jewish families left the region last year, 120 arrived. Some of this is reverse migration from Israel. Russian Jews who did not feel at home in Israel have come back to the Jewishest Russia they could find. Second, the Zone is a haven for Yiddish culture and heritage. Israel and the Zionists who founded it were, to some extent, anti-Yiddish. However, Yiddish has its partisans, and they may see this area as the only place where Yiddish isn't under extreme pressure from the local language (as in the U.S.) or official disapproval (as in Israel). Two very interesting reasons to think that the Zone might have an interesting future.

By the way, the official web page is here. Dig that crazy font! Looks very ethnic.


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