Building a diaspora: Russian Jews in Israel, Germany, and the USA


Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign

Paul Harris, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science
Augusta State Univesity

Paul (left) and I in Berlin: August, 2005

In 2005, Paul Harris and I completed the U.S. portion of an international research project titled "Building a diaspora: Russian Jews in Israel, Germany, and the USA". The project was funded by a generous grant from the Volkswagen Foundation to the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European Jewish Studies in Potsdam, Germany. It was jointly conducted with Eliezer Ben-Rafael at the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University and Olaf Glockner at the Moses Mendelssohm Center.

The purpose of this research was to measure the social and linguistic integration of Russian speaking Jews in the United States, Israel, and Germany and to investigate which factors were most associated with immigrant engagement in the host country's Jewish community.

The first phase of the project consisted of gathering survey data on preferences (e.g., food, music) attitudes (e.g., child rearing), language usage, and demographics from approximately 300-500 Russian-Jewish immigrants in each country. These data were collected using a revised version of the Soviet-Jewish Acculturation Measure (SAM), which we developed for this study. The second phase consisted of qualitative interviews with Russian-Jewish leaders focusing on community life, cultural institutions, political structures, and spiritual involvement. The third and last phase consisted of content analysis of Russian-language and mainstream Jewish media's coverage pertaining to Russian-speaking immigrants in each of the three countries. All of these data, along with a historical and political analyses of the immigration group's experience in each of the three countries can be found in our 2006 book published by Brill Academic Publishers (order copy from Amazon / Brill).

In 2012, we published a follow up paper in a German sociology anthology. The full reference is:

Lyubansky, M. & Harris, P. (2012). A Reform Synagogue, an Orthodox Rabbi and a Christmas Tree. The Complex Identity of Russian-Speaking Jews in the United States. In Irene A. Diekmann et al. (eds.): "...und handle mit Vernunft!" Beiträge zur europäisch-jüdischen Geistesgeschichte. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim/Zurich/New York, pp. 486-505.