Choosing One or Being Both: The Identity Dilemmas of Russian-Jewish Mixed Ethnics Living in Russia and in Israel

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Abstract

A large share of Russian/Soviet Jews, especially among younger cohorts, are descendants of intermarriage. In this essay, I reflect on the implications of the built-in ambivalence of these mixed ethnics, comparing their identity qualms and social strategies in their native Russia and after migration to Israel. My analysis draws upon participant observation and interviews conducted in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and across Israel over the last 20 years. My theoretical anchors are recent discussions on the evolving nature of Jewish identity, formed at the intersection of religion, ethnicity, and culture, in the context of ongoing intermarriage and assimilation. The comparison between the (ex-)Soviet and Israeli context underscores the role of local social constructions of ethno-religious belonging, nationalism, and citizenship as synergistic forces in shaping social locations of mixed ethnics. It also sheds light on the tactics of adjustment and “passing” among individuals with ambivalent ethnic identities who experience rapid social transformation or migration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-138
Number of pages21
JournalEast European Jewish Affairs
Volume48
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 4 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Israel
  • Russia
  • ethnic ambivalence
  • migration
  • mixed ethnicity

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