Alexander Dolitsky: You'll find narrow-minded people anywhere, but America is not an anti-Semitic country - Must Read Alaska
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Alexander Dolitsky: You’ll find narrow-minded people anywhere, but America is not an anti-Semitic country

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By ALEXANDER DOLITSKY

As a little Jewish boy in Kiev, Ukraine in the 1950s and 1960s, I often questioned myself for the reasons of the anti-Jewish attitude by many of my countryman—young or old, educated or ignorant. My parents could not give me an adequate answer either. “It is what it is,” my mother kept repeating to me. “Stay in your circle, because sooner or later ‘they’[outsiders] will betray you and call you ‘zhid’— a ‘dirty Jew.’”

My mother’s fear for the safety of her children, as well as many other Jewish mothers in the post-WWII Ukraine, was perfectly justified. Her father (my grandfather), Roman Umansky, was captured by German Nazis and brutally killed in Nazi-occupied Kiev in 1941. He was betrayed by the Ukrainian woman who worked for him in his barber shop before the war erupted; she called the German SS on him for the reward of a small ration of food. 

Residents of Kiev also were well aware that nearly 34,000 Jews were massacred on Sept. 29-30, 1941 by the German SS in Babiy Yar—a ravine in Kiev, about a 5-minute walk from the K–11 Secondary School where my mother taught K–4 students.  This was also a school that I attended for 4 years in the early 1960s. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 150,000 people, mostly Jews, were killed at Babi Yar during the German occupation of Kiev from September 1941 until its liberation in November of 1943.

Anti-Semitism is a hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group.  The term anti-Semitism was coined in 1879 by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr to designate the anti-Jewish campaigns under way in central Europe during the unification of Germany at that time.

On May 26, 2016, the 31-member countries of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance adopted the practical, legally non-binding definition of anti-Semitism: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews that can be expressed as hatred of Jews. The physical and rhetorical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed at Jewish or non-Jewish persons and/or their property, the institutions of the Jewish communities and their places of worship.”

In short, anti-Semitism is the belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. For instance, it may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them physically or psychologically. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews—their cultural traditions, appearance, language, physical characteristics, etc.

Nevertheless, an institutional or dictionary definition of anti-Semitism does not adequately reflect or explain the feelings of those Jews who have experienced and been subjected to daily anti-Semitic mistreatment, discrimination and prejudice by the society at large and radical groups of people with whom they have been coexisting.

Certainly, I can conceptualize what ethnic minorities, including Black Americans, experience by socio-economic pressure of the dominant culture, but  I will never know for certain how Black Americans feel when they are stopped by law enforcement authorities; as non-Jews, most likely, will never know how Jews feel in the anti-Semitic social environment or being subjected to anti-Semitic attacks and mistreatment.

Historically, anti-Semitism in Russia has been manifested in numerous ways: direct attacks at Jewish settlements (pogroms), denial of employment and admission to schools of high education, denial of residency in large cities before 1917 pre-revolutionary Russia, hatred by certain radical groups or ignorant individuals, fear for Jewish identity, and the list goes on. 

Indeed, Jewish mothers in the post-WWII period in the former Soviet Union, witnessing a Holocaust and extermination of Jews during the war, were especially protective of their sons; often deciding against circumcising them (religious Jewish practice/ritual for newborn boys) in order to hide their Jewish identity—just in case the tragic history of Holocaust may repeat itself.

After eruption of the October Socialist Revolution of 1917 in Russia, religion of all denominations was proclaimed an “enemy of the people and opium of the masses.” Most churches and religious institutions were abolished and theological teaching in schools was banned through the entire country. 

Instead, Marxist-Leninist teaching/propaganda became an ideological foundation of the country with “Scientific Atheism” and “Scientific Communism” as required disciplines to be instructed in all educational institutions of the former Soviet Union. Practicing Judaism (religion of Jewish people) was subjected to harsh punishment by the Soviet government and the word God should not be mentioned at all or only with a great caution in private.

Occasionally, for the High Jewish Holidays, my nuclear family would gather in my grandfather Aron Dolitsky’s (my father’s father) house for a traditional celebration. He lived in the rusty communal house on Vorovskiy Street in a small two-room apartment, together with five members of his immediate family, sharing kitchen and bathroom on the same floor with a non-Jewish family.

Despite these inconveniences, five distinct attributes were always present in this tiny apartment: faith, peace, love, delicious food and non-stop musical rehearsals by my cousins—Vova and Mila. When grandpa’s voice would rise a little high during his prayer, my grandma Pulya would gently touch his arm and caution him, “Aron, not so loud, our neighbors can hear you.”

One time, after the prayer, I approached my grandpa and asked him sheepishly, “Grandpa, tell me, is He there?” Grandpa nodded sympathetically then hesitated a moment, “For those who believe in Him, He is; and for those who do not, He is not,” he answered with a slightly put-upon sigh.

The main reason that so many Soviet Jews immigrated to the United States from the 1970s through 1980s was to escape anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union and have an ability to exercise their religious freedom and practice their cultural traditions in America. Unfortunately, there are anti-Semites in America, too—they are ignorant and narrow-minded people. But today America is not an anti-Semitic or racist country. Period!

Nevertheless, today in our country, after all historic struggles of Jewish people, I, and many other Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, are subjected to “white privilege” and “critical race theory” nonsense.

So, progressive left advocates for social change and justice in our country, how do you think I feel when I am called “white-privilege oppressor” of ethnic minorities in America? Given my ancestry, past experiences, and struggles, try to put yourself in my shoes.

Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1977; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see www.aksrc.homestead.com) from 1990 to present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.

Read: Old believers preserving faith in the New World

Read: Duke Ellington and the effects of Cold War in Soviet Union on intellectual curiosity

Read: My first days in America as a Soviet immigrant

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  • Interesting article. However, I would like to contribute facts. Soviet state did not reserve its persecution to Jews only. Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc were all persecuted similarly. As you effectively stated, the political system subsumed all religion.
    .
    As to why Jews are persecuted; again, its something they have no franchise on. As you know, Jews are Yahweh’s chosen people (through whom he chose to communicate to the world). However, since Abraham’s covenant, their relationship with Yahweh has been on again-off again… falling in and out of favor with Him. Eventually, He sent His Son, Yeshuah, to earth as a man to save both Jews and Gentiles from their sins. Those Jews who refuse to accept and follow the Savior are among the many who suffer as He is reaches to them. In fact, I dare say Jews may be held to higher accounting due to their insight and knowledge of Yahweh’s word.
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    Moreover, the world has witnessed how Yahweh blessed America so profusely and abundantly as a result of her birth as a Christian nation “under God.” The world also sees today how America has collectively turned her back on Yahweh in favor of detestable and reprehensible ideologies… and how she is now a nation unravelling and declining into chaos as Yahweh withdraws His protective hand. As America’s faith diminishes, so does her blessings.

  • Morrigan had written excellent and well-thought-out comments, as usual. They weren’t rude and narrow-minded. I know what rudeness and narrow-mindedness looks like. I’d like to see that essay after being thoughtfully researched, writing an essay addressing “What unites Americans, appreciating our united country?”
    In this country we spent decades since the 1950s focusing on what and who insults us instead of what is common about us and what makes us an American in the eyes of people outside of America.

    I remember hearing a year and half ago, Japanese people don’t even recognize an Japanese person who now lives in America as Japanese. To them they are American. I was like Wow! that changes the ball game about multiculturalism. American immigrants can’t maintain their birth roots among the people they grew up around and left for a freer country. They aren’t Russian, Chinese, Filipino, Sudanese, South African, Nigerian, Iranian, Turkish, Israelite, Romanian, Japanese, etc. They are looked at as just an American living in America. Wow!

  • I was raised by my adoptive family in Oregon. A Norwegian-German father, and an Oregon Indian mother. I once asked my mom why she kept the house so spotless. I mean literally spotless, 24/7. A speck of dust had a survival rating of less than ten seconds.
    She said that she didn’t want the (white) neighbors to be able to call us “dirty Indians”.
    While I was attending an “all white, red neck, mill town” school, there were six of the bigger boys who beat up on me regularly. There were maybe a dozen white parents who wouldn’t let me date their daughters. This was out of a town of 5000 pop.
    Yes, there’s racism in America. Yes, it is a very small minority. Few object or voice opposition because they don’t want to get on the target list. That’s how they get away with it, by being violently aggressive about it, while most people are just trying to stay out of the line of fire.
    They’re even proactive in getting the laws bent in their favor, so that it becomes a hate crime to fight back at the haters.

  • Alexander, clearly by your words and your picture, you APPEAR to be white. One time when I was much younger, my picture appeared on the front page of a newspaper with no mention of my religion or ethnicity. Yet for a week afterwards my office was flooded with calls from Jewish mothers trying to hook me up with their unmarried Jewish daughters!

    Some of us, Alexander, have “Jew” written on our faces! I have an audio recording made by the Alaska State Troopers in 2008. Three Troopers are ripping apart my house in a futile attempt to find something, anything, to justify their being there! You know sort of like the Soviets might do! They bring up the fact that I am a Jew and laugh about it! I can be heard to ask them; “Why did you bring up that I’m a Jew”? I ask them three times and as the kids say, “crickets”. They couldn’t say anything cause we all knew why they were here. When I complained, I was attacked some more! Government attacking someone because they are a Jew. “Soviets” ring a bell Alexander?

    I talked to Alaska’s Rabbi, Rabbi Greenberg, about this blatant display of Antisemitism. His reply was: “This is the reason we stay together”. Sound familiar Alexander? Sounds like the ‘Stay in your circle’ of your childhood…EXCEPT HERE IN AMERICA! That wasn’t an acceptable answer for me, so I talked to the Rabbi at my ‘home’ Synagogue (Beachwood, Ohio). That Rabbi Greenberg(!) didn’t know what Alaska Greenberg said, and yet the same EXACT words came out of his mouth! Ohio is a part of America, you know?

    I have an audio recording of the current Trooper Sergeant where I live, not from 12 years ago, but from October. Though he never mentions “Jew” you can hear the hatred coming out of him when says the laws that protect everybody else’s civil rights, don’t apply to me! You know how it goes Alexander…today it’s me, tomorrow it’s you. Your ‘white suit’ will only fool them for so long!

    I’m trying to respect your impressive resume’, but I just have to be plain…you don’t know what you’re talking about when you say there is no Antisemitism in Alaska or America. Me, and Rabbis Greenbergs are calling “bull” on you! There is State-sponsored anti-Semitism right now, I have audio recordings attesting to that fact.

    I suggest you’re still inside mama’s “circle” and I would advise you against putting a big Magen David on your car and driving around my town. Actually he has a Trooper friend somewhere that feels just the same about Jews, so maybe you should hide any Star of David, Torah, or Yamaka…they have guns you know, and the backing of the great State of Alaska.

    Personally, I don’t go anywhere without a body guard/witness or at least a lot of recording devices! You’d feel very much at home here Alexander, and by home I mean Kiev under the Soviets. Please stop spouting BS!

  • We have a perfect union under our US Constitution. We have the right to freedom of conscience (worship as we would like). Right now the homogeneous groups outside the US desire to reach in and relieve us of our values and valuables. Let’s tell them thanks but no thanks. WE don’t desire communism. Everything is great and getting better in the United States.

  • After the Bolshevik revolution one of the first laws passed made anti Semitism punishable by death. Lennin, Trotsky, and Yagoda (who oversaw the forced starvations in Ukraine 31-33) we’re all atheist Jews.

  • To Nat: This is a quote from Wikipedia: “The 1917 Russian Revolution overthrew a centuries-old regime of official anti-Semitism in the Russian Empire, including its Pale of Settlement. However, the previous legacy of antisemitism was continued by the Soviet state, especially under Joseph Stalin. Antisemitism in the Soviet Union reached new heights after 1948 during the campaign against the “rootless cosmopolitan,” in which numerous Yiddish-writing poets, writers, painters and sculptors were killed or arrested. This culminated in the so-called Doctors’ plot, in which a group of doctors (almost all of whom were Jewish) were subjected to a show trial for supposedly having plotted to assassinate Stalin.” Please read and learn.

  • To Antonio Jordan: Antonio, I did not say that: “there is no anti-Semitism in Alaska or America.” These are your words, not mine. I wrote that: “There are anti-Semites in America–they are narrow-minded and ignorant people, but America is not an anti-Semitic and racist country.” Do you understand the difference between these two? In fact, this is a title of my piece. What are you reading?

  • Alexander Dolitsky…So, I tell you OUR house is on fire and the ONLY thing you get out of it is that I have not been exactly accurate about the size of the fire?!!! Really? No concern for my safety? No, ‘maybe we should do something about this before it spreads’? How about a; ‘I know a good civil rights lawyer I’ll put you in touch with’? No? Not even that? All you have is ‘the fire is not that big’?! You wrote: “But today America is not an anti-Semitic or racist country. Period”. You ARE in fact saying there is NO anti-Semitism! Otherwise, how much anti-Semitism is allowable under your “not an anti-Semitic and racist country”??? A Synagogue shooting a year, is that allowable? How about a dozen Jews being beaten a year? Twelve isn’t that much, so we can just round down to zero! Then technically you’d be right, America is not an anti-Semitic country. Ooops, wait, what are we going to do about the time the locals were burning a cross on the black family’s lawn? The black guy was a Trooper Sergeant and so there’s official records. Kind of hard to round that down to zero! I saw that with my own eyes. I, because I’m not like you Alex, couldn’t look the other way. I stopped and told them to knock it off. The ring leader told me if I didn’t move along they’d be burning the Jew on the cross! No danger in that as the rest of the gang knew me since they were children and to them I’m ‘the voice crying in the wilderness’, the one God loves. Doesn’t change the fact that they’re racist and they got away with it. I also have an 2007 Trooper audio recording where I’m called the “boogieman” because I’m a Jew…and the Troopers laugh and laugh! You can’t round my PERSONAL experiences down to “not” Alexander. I just won’t let you do it.

  • Mr. Dolitsky, As to your question to Antonio Jordan, “what are you reading?” As you can see, most people are read into text what they want it to say.

  • To Wayne D. Coogan: True, but a little courtesy would be nice, too.

  • Suzanne, I ask you to kindly correct my grammar typo above…. most people read into text… rather than most people are read into text….

  • Alexander Dolitsky…I WAS being courteous! As for reading into what you have written: My ancestors are from the infamous “Ghettos” of Florence and Genoa. During one of the many “inquisitions”, they converted to Roman Catholicism and were allowed to move out. That was hundreds of years ago so details are non-existent. However, one thing that was made clear to each generation was…NEVER GO BACK! So, when I hear Rabbis Greenberg and Greenberg tell me; “This is why we stay together”, I AM hearing a reference to “ghettos”, a place where Jews were required to live. Similar to your “circle”! Despite being different words; “stay together”, “circle”, and “ghetto” ARE varying degrees of the same thing! I’m surprised that with your education/experiences you don’t see that! Therefore I shouldn’t be surprised that you don’t see your words; “..America is not an anti-Semitic or racist country. Period”, as DENIALISM!!! I will again make the valid point that you ARE walking around in a ‘white suit’ and therefore are probably the last person who should be commenting on the state of anti-Semitism in America. Somewhere in my many travels I walked into a McDonalds…nice safe McD’s. I slowly realize that it was noisy lunch hour full, and now it’s real quiet! I look around and everybody in there is clearly Pakistani or Afghani…and they’ve made me out as a Jew! That ever happen to you Alexander? Of course not. How about you’re in line at Wallmart and the guy ahead of you ‘makes’ you as a Jew and you can see the hatred flash behind his eyes. As you push your cart you see him walking towards you from across the parking lot. He believes you to be a stupid Jew, so you let him think that and pretend to be unaware. Now where did I park that car, and you change course. He changes course slightly too, so you’re not imagining it. Oooh, here’s my car right here…and instead of him surprising you, it’s the other way around. Guess he never heard, ‘don’t bring a bat to a gun fight’! Ever happen to you? Thought NOT! Did I mention the three audio recordings and the cross burning? Let’s get something straight, The Father loves me very much. I don’t know why, especially after all the wild redheads I’ve “known”! But the fact is that He does. The proper response was to say; “How can I help you?” Instead you take umbrage over my not sugar coating my words!

  • Antonio, you don’t know anything about my personality, appearance and experiences. So, this is not appropriate for you, and other readers as well, to make any assumptions regarding these matters. Certainly, you have all rights to disagree with my writing and exercise your First Amendment rights—we still live in a free country. But there is no place in this public forum (MRA) for the personal attacks and impolite expressions.

    It is important to distinguish three different categories of discrimination against Jews: (1) anti-Semitism, (2) anti-Semites, and (3) anti-Semitic countries, institutions and public policies.

    Anti-Semitism is a concept that describes hostility and hatred against Jews by anti-Semites. I defined this term in my article. Anti-Semites are idiots who hate us; they are everywhere—on the left, right and center.

    Anti-Semitic country is an entity that legally exercise and recognize anti-Semitism via constitution, public policies, segregation, organized attacks on Jews (pogroms), etc. If you believe that the U.S. is anti-Semitic country, then you have to be more specific—where, what and how. Is this the U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Legislature, Alaska Constitution, Anchorage Police Department, or any other public or private U.S. institution?

    Recently, Systemic Racism Committee was formed in Juneau to investigate institutional racism in Alaska, including anti-Semitism. So far, to my knowledge, they had no success in their discoveries. But if you feel and know for certain that there is an INSTITUTIONAL anti-Semitism in Alaska, then refer this information to this committee, or any other relevant committees.

    Again, it is undeniable that there are anti-Semites and racists in our country, but our country, as a whole, is not an anti-Semitic or racist. For centuries, Jews from all over the world would immigrate to the United States, our God-blessed country, in order to escape anti-Semitism, repression and persecution in their own homeland. Why would they come from one anti-Semitic country to another? If you believe that our country is anti-Semitic, then the entire world, with an exception of Israel, is anti-Semitic.

    The cry of the poor is not always just. The best defense against anti-Semites is living well to prove them wrong.

  • I can share my experiences as one who has heard ignorant people foster anti-Semitism in all the places I’ve lived in America. It comes in many forms – overt, like the stickers we experienced in Anchorage last month or passive like the telling of jokes because the teller didn’t realize there was a Jew in the room. It’s come directly from US elected officials to natives on reservations in South Dakota. But, like Dolinsky, I don’t believe we’re an anti-Semitic country, just a country with anti-Semitic people in it.

    Also, like Dolinsky, my family came from the area near Kiev (then Czarist Russia) and my relatives who stayed died at Babi Yar and other WWII sites.

    Yet 10O years after my family fled anti-Semitism there, this years experiences here in Alaska were shocking. For example, a religious conservative who knew I was Jewish sat down at my table in a restaurant and shared that there is no Judeo-Christian ethic, only a Christian ethic for the past 2000 years, the the Old Testament was just the basis for the real Bible – the list went on including that I needed to accept Christ as my Savior or I can never be a Conservative. My dining companions, who are not Jewish, were as surprised as I was.

    Yet, in that moment off being confronted for my belief in God, I saw something systemically larger than anti-Semitism – I saw intolerance.

    Intolerance of ideas, intolerance of forms of worship, of other cultures and traditions. Is it limited to Jews? I find that folks like this man are also ill-informed about beliefs and cultures of Native Alaskans, Old Believers, Bahai and other faiths.

    So, I ask, what does intolerance really mask – is it fear of what one don’t know and makes them uncomfortable? Is that why they can’t respect other traditions besides their own?

    Do they understand their words are divisive and not inclusive?

    Just the musings of one of Alaska’s Frozen Chosen . . . and in closing it brings to mind the the words of a German Luthern Minister at the end of WWII

    First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    I suggest we, as Alaskans, not let history repeat itself. As Conservatives, let’s increase the size of our ‘tent’ by inviting folks in, not shutting out those who may worship or be culturally different.

    Be inclusive and not divisive!

  • To Nona Safra: Thank you for a thoughtful and well-written comment. Yes, we need to be inclusive and tolerant to all cultures, ethnicities, religious beliefs and world views. Alexander B. Dolitsky.

  • To Alexander may we say, todah rabah.
    .
    “Despite these inconveniences, five distinct attributes were always present in this tiny apartment: faith, peace, love, delicious food and non-stop musical rehearsals by my cousins.”
    .
    Who can say better what holds America together at its very core?
    .
    Add a bit of patriotic gratitude to those who went before, who made our America possible, these attributes give us strength to keep our country intact, despite the best efforts of others to do otherwise.

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