The Birobidzhan Paradox

Jewish Autonomous Oblast

 

 

Originally designated by Soviet authorities as a ‘safe refuge’ for Jews fleeing persecution in Europe (also as an attempt to anticipate Japanese regime’s attempt to expand  its puppet state Manchukuo’s territory and to gain endorsement from overseas Jews already influenced by NAZI’s anti-Semitic sentiments and American financial support), Jewish Autonomous Oblast – a once promised land compatible with Israel largely favored by numerous Zionists – instead suffers from more melee imposed by its own contrivers.

These Jews’ aspiration, as hardly as it seems, largely depend on the deviser’s, Joseph Stalin, mood. In the beginning of 1930s, tens of thousands of Jews were given opportunities to settle in the oblast (pictured above, in stark red), with relative freedom and slightly better economic latitude. Nevertheless, nearing 1940, Jews were again subject to suppression imposed by the authorities when their leaders were captured for ‘ideological treason’. During the peak periods of World War II, again the leader favored evacuating European Jews into this region from the perils of Holocaust, and the exodus climaxed until 1948, when Israel proclaimed its independence and fully supported United States. That was a hard blow for virtually all the Jews already living a stable life in the oblast. Since then, the Jews again fell prey into Soviet’s harsh oppression. The situation even deteriorated after Stalin’s death in 1953.

Albeit its name is, as yet, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Jews no longer constitute a majority of the population. Once climaxing to 30,000 in 1948, the figure has fallen very steeply to no more than 2000, only one percent of the oblast’s total citizens. It is, in conclusion, a by-product of a dictator’s voluptuous mood, combined with global policies gone awry and last but not least, once-in-a-lifetime contretemps.

 

Read the full version here.

Who says there aren’t Jews here?

Many people might never know that despite strong sentiment of anti-Semitism in Indonesia, especially by majority of the Muslims, there are still an infinitesimal number of Jews living here. Numbered at no more than a mere thousand, they dwell in particularly Christian-majority urban areas, such as Manado. What’s more, a few hundred Jews are also found to have lived in Surabaya, East Java (as a matter of fact, there is even one – and only one – synagogue in this Indonesia’s third largest city). Nevertheless, this very microscopic minority group is facing another serious challenge beyond the strong anti-Semitism: formal recognition by the government. So far, it is only government of a regency in North Sulawesi to do so (they even helped erecting a torah for the community). In your opinion, do you think it’s time for the government to recognize them as an official religious community, no matter how tiny they are?

Read more at The New York Times.