Confronting the languages of statehood
Theoretical and historical frameworks for the analysis of the multilingual identity of the Russian Jewish intelligentsia in Isra
This paper reviews sociological analysis of the transformation of the link between language and identity among Soviet Jewish immigrants in Israel, focusing on their common desire for Russian language maintenance after their immigration to the State of Israel. The authors argue that although the immigrants acquire Hebrew quite fast, which improves their occupational perspectives and enriches their social life, the former Soviet Jewish intelligentsia’s perception of the dominant Israeli policy of language shift to Hebrew is extremely negative: in their view it resembles the Soviet policy of language shift to Russian. However, because of the success of Soviet language policy in suppressing Yiddish and Hebrew, the contemporary cultural world of Russian Jews has been mediated mostly in Russian. Furthermore, the self-identification of today’s post-Soviet Jewish intelligentsia combines the Jewish (mostly Yiddish) legacy and the heritage of Russian culture, which has been created partly by Jewish writers. Therefore, Russian Jews tend to consider Russian a more important channel than Hebrew for conveying their cultural values. The Soviet Jewish intelligentsia in Israel is striving to retain a multilingual identity: while they do appreciate Hebrew and the cultural values it conveys, they share a strong feeling that their own cultural-linguistic identity is of great value to them.
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