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Book details
  • Genre:HISTORY
  • SubGenre:Europe / Eastern
  • Language:English
  • Pages:135
  • eBook ISBN:9781624887185

Collective Memories of a Lost Paradise

Jewish Agricultural Settlements in Ukraine During the 1920s and 1930s

by Robert Belenky

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Overview
Author’s Visits to Ukraine Inform History and Inspire a Memoir In 2011, Robert Belenky set out on a trip for the Ukraine. His goal was to record the memories of Jews who lived through one of the most tumultuous times in history, the era spanning post Revolutionary Russia, the Holocaust, and World War II His interest in the subject is lifelong, an unintentional gift from his father, Max Belenky, a Russian Jew who, barred from the land, wanted to be a farmer. He emigrated to the United States and, after the Revolution returned as a consultant to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. He was instrumental in bringing tractors to Jewish collective farms. And, as head of a tractor team, Max also taught people how to use this new farm equipment.
Description
Author’s Visits to Ukraine Inform History and Inspire a Memoir In April, 2011, Robert Belenky set off on a trip to Ukraine. His goal was to record the memories of Jews who survived the era spanning post-Revolutionary Russia, the Holocaust, and World War II Belenky had a special interest in that period. It began with his father, Max, a Russian Jew who, barred from the land, longed to be a farmer. Max emigrated to the United States early in the 20th Century and, after the Revolution, he helped bring tractors to Jewish collective farms. And, as head of a tractor team, he taught people to use them. “Settlers were for the most part neither Bolsheviks nor Zionists but rather non-ideologically committed poor people seeking a better life ….” Belenky writes in this important book, part memoir, part Jewish history. “These were Jews who wanted most of all to be contributing members of the new Soviet society.” Jews were now encouraged to settle the land. Official anti-Semitism evaporated and optimism flourished. “The focus was on building a new society, having a better life and ultimately a better world. Belenky’s book describes a personal and poignant journey to record stories told by people whom time and history have all but forgotten. A child psychologist, Belenky’s work life has been in schools, communities and institutions. For fifteen years, his office was in a Vermont forest where children and parents would come for a day or so to think through personal or family issues. On retirement in1995, Belenky made frequent visits to Haiti and Russia to learn how young people grow up when natural families are unavailable. He has taught at Harvard, Boston University, and Concordia University and was the founding dean of Goddard College’s individualized master’s degree program.
About the author
I grew up in New York’s Greenwich Village during the frothy 1930s and 1940s. My family, never far from its Russian roots, was, like that of most of my friends, artistically inclined, secular Jewish, and politically on the humanistic left. Before my birth, my father was a consultant to the Soviet Jewish land settlement movement. My mother had been a preschool teacher trained in the Dewey tradition. I was therefore destined to experience several remarkable progressive schools including Bank Street kindergarten, City and Country, the Little Red Schoolhouse and the Elisabeth Irwin High School. Then came the not particularly progressive Cornell University. I received a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia, once a hotbed of Deweyan pedagogy. True to this upbringing, my work life has been with children in schools, communities and institutions. For fifteen years my office was in a Vermont forest where kids and parents would come for a day or so to think through personal or family issues. On retirement in 1995, I began a series of visits to Haiti and Russia in order to learn how young people may be helped to grow up when natural families are unavailable. I have written several books and have taught at Harvard, Boston University and Concordia University. I was the founding dean of Goddard College’s individualized master’s degree program. Recently, I have embarked on a study of my family’s history. The present book reflects that interest.   Mary Field Belenky, a developmental psychologist, and I have been married for well over fifty years. We have two children, Alice Armen and Michael Belenky, and five grandchildren, Sofia, Max, Ella, Oliver, and Simon.
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