Red star over Birobidzhan



Title Red star over Birobidzhan: Canadian Jewish communists and the "Jewish autonomous region" in the Soviet Union
Author(s) Henry F. Srebrnik
Date 1999
Issue 44
Start page 129
End page 147
Abstract On 7 May 1934, when Mikhail Kalinin officially declared Birobidzhan the Jewish Autonomous Region, [Reuben Brainin] recalled that the ICOR was the first organization outside the USSR to provide aid. "Long live the Leninist national policy of the Soviet Union!" proclaimed rapturous ICOR members. Brainin related an encounter with former friends, still anti-Soviet, who were dumbstruck by the news. For them, he said, it was "Tisha B'Av," and they could only denigrate the wonderful news and try to make of little worth ["ash und bloteh"] the "great gift which the Soviet government has granted the Jews in the far east." But for the ICOR, which had helped build Birobidzhan by contributing modern machinery and techniques, it was a great "yontev."(f.49) At a rally held on 2 June in Madison Square Garden, New York, which included among its speakers Earl Browder, general secretary of the American Communist Party, Brainin called it a world event of the greatest historical significance. For the first time, a great power had of its own volition given Jews an area to call their own; the fact that it had been effected by a Communist state was no coincidence. "It is the logic of the whole construction of the Soviet Union, in which every nation has the right to its own territory, to its own language and culture." And, he added, Birobidzhan "now becomes the first fortress against the growing hordes of fascism, which infest the neighboring countries." Brainin called upon every Jew to help in the task of building Birobidzhan, so that "hopefully not too much time will elapse" before it would become a Jewish socialist republic. The ICOR deserved to be congratulated for its material and moral help, "which was the result of the sympathy of the Jewish workers of America with the workers' republic in the Soviet Union."(f.50) Leninist ideology allowed those Jews who wished to pursue a collective destiny to create a socialist state of their own. Birobidzhan, declared Brainin, provided "a shining example to the whole world [which] will show what Jews can create when they are set free. It must work, when one thinks of the new pioneering spirit of the Jewish youth in the Soviet Union."(f.51) Brainin noted that "the just treatment of nationalities under the Bolshevik regime is the highest joy for the Jews in the Soviet Union."(f.52) (f.39) Minutes of Hamilton ICOR meetings of 2 February, 1 March, and 19 April, 1936, "Minute Book of Hamilton Chapter of ICOR"; "Editoryale Notitzn," Kanader "Icor," 11 (February 1936), 3-4 [Yiddish]; [A. Shek], "Mit di Icor-Brenches iber Kanada," Kanader "Icor," 11 (February 1936), 10-11 [Yiddish]; Front cover, Kanader "Icor," 1 (May 1936); [Harry Price], "Der 'Icor' in-Hamilton Gayt Foroys," Kanader "Icor," 1 (May 1936),2 [Yiddish]; A. Shek, "Foroys, tsu a Brayter Folks-Organizatsye fun dem 'Icor' in [Iber Kanada]!," Kanader "Icor," 1 (May 1936), 5-7 [Yiddish] (emphasis in original); A. Zeilig, "Der Icor in Winnipeg Fartsaykhent Groyse Dergraykhungen," Kanader "Icor," 1 (May 1936), 8 [Yiddish]; A. Trachimofsky, "Nor Nisht Kayn Falshe Oystaytshungen!," Kanader "Icor," 1 (May 1936), 9-10 [Yiddish]; S. Wine, "Oykh in Edmonton Shlogn Hertser mit Libe far Birobidzhan," Kanader "Icor," 1 (May 1936), 10 [Yiddish]; M. Speisman, "Unzer Idea Vortslt zikh ayn Tsvishn di Yidishe Masn," Kanader "Icor," 1 (May 1936), 10 [Yiddish]; A. Epstein, "'Icor'-Arbet in Toronto," Kanader "Icor," 1 (May 1936), 14 [Yiddish]; Toronto ICOR Youth Club ad in Nailebn-New Life 11, 11 (November 1937): 90 [Yiddish]; "No. 808: Weekly Summary Report on Revolutionary Organizations and Agitators in Canada, 27th May, 1936," in [Gregory S. Kealey] and [Reg Whitaker], eds., R.C.M.P. Security Bulletins: The Depression Years, Part III, 1936 (St. John's, Nfld. 1996), 221. For more on Victor's Russian excursion, see B.A. [Abe Victor], "The Soviet Union Takes Great Care of the Health of its People," Nailebn-New Life, 11 (November 1937), 8-9 [English].

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