Review: A Visit to Moscow
Growing up, the plight of the Soviet Jew was at the forefront of my Jewish education. Natan Sharansky was likely the most notable refusenik; the “face” of the Soviet Jew who was denied the right to practice his religion and imprisoned for the crime of applying for a visa to leave the country. While readers may be familiar with the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews were murdered, not many are aware that in the era of Communism, a different type of Holocaust, a spiritual Holocaust, was also happening in the USSR.
A Visit to Moscow
Adapted by Anna Olswanger from a story by Rabbi Rafael Grossman
Illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg
West Margin Press, May 2022
In 1965 Rabbi Grossman was part of a delegation of American rabbis who went to the USSR to investigate whether or not it was true that Soviet Jews were being denied the right to practice religion publicly. During his visit, Rabbi Grossman, on behalf of someone he met near his home, snuck away from the delegation to check on the brother of this woman. To his surprise, he found that the brother was hiding a child, Zev. Zev’s parents were afraid to let him out in the world, where he would be discriminated against, taunted, and denied the right to practice Judaism. Rabbi Grossman left the family and used his connections to help the family leave the USSR.
This briefly told story is compelling and will provoke curiosity about a topic that isn’t often told or taught. But the story is very brief and glosses over what happens to the family once the American politicians get involved and the family is waiting for their visas. That in itself is likely another story. Some of Zev’s story is told in an abstract, dream-like manner, which could be attributed to the fading memory of an adult as he tries to recount his childhood.
The artwork is beautifully rendered with lush colors and a fine mix of abstract and concrete to match the tone of the storytelling. This is a worthy read and hopefully will jump-start the discussion of Soviet Jews who lived behind what was known as the “iron curtain.”
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at William E. Grady CTE HS in Brooklyn, NY. In addition, she curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics and worked in the same middle school library for 20 years.
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