The People of the Book inthe World of Books isaRussian bimonthly publication for serious readers with Jewish interests. Our English website includes only thesummaries of thepublished articles. Toaccess the complete text of them, please visit the Russian version of this website.


June 2017

This issue of the magazine includes:

• History: A Letter from Birobidzhan in the Late 1950s

The magazine features the Russian translation of a unique historical document of the early Thaw period: a letter written in excellent literary Hebrew in June 1958 and sent from Birobidzhan, the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region in the Soviet Far East, to Moscow. The addressee was Joseph Cherniak (1896–1975), a distinguished scholar of Yiddish folklore and ex-Gulag inmate. The letter’s author was a modest resident of Birobidzhan named Yehuda Helfman, a native of the Belarusian town of Lahoysk and graduate of the Minsk Yeshiva. He exemplified a quite peculiar type of Jewish intellectual who had nothing to do with official Soviet Jewish culture. In his letter, he discusses Talmudic literature, the books of medieval Jewish philosophers, such as The Kuzari by Judah Halevi, and the works of Soviet writers, such as Ilya Ehrenburg and Mikhail Sholokhov. At the same time, Helfman was not naïve at all. He tried to persuade his Moscow correspondent that hopes for Jewish cultural renaissance in the remote Far Eastern town were groundless. “There are very few Jews here in Birobidzhanwho understand Hebrew: no more than five people. And there are not many people who read Yiddish books,” Helfman wrote.

• Response: A Stain on the Tablecloth

The author of this brief review discusses the preface to the last book in the series TheHistory of the Jews in Russia, published this year in Russian by Gesharim Publishing House, based in Moscow and Jerusalem. Strongly criticizing the preface for its non‑academic style and pungent Zionist propaganda, the reviewer figuratively compares the preface to a greasy stain on a tablecloth that ruins the reader’s appetite for the intellectual feast awaiting him.

• Looking through Russian Literary Magazines: Novels and Articles of Jewish Interest

• Jewish Calendar of Significant Dates: July–August 2017

• Bibliography: 80 New Books