A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka
2017-2018 Resource Guide
This year's book suggests a wide array of themes and topics that can serve as jumping off points for your program.
Here are just a few to get you started:
- Soviet Jewry movement/Former Soviet Union
- The emigration/immigration experience in general
- Family history and storytelling
- The Russian speaking Jewish community in the USA today
- Developing a sense of self and identity (especially for kids/teens)
- Cold War politics and its relevancy to today’s world (current events in Russia and the Ukraine)
- Russian or Soviet food/culture
- The value and impact of “repairing the world”/tikkun olam
- The value and impact of “all Jews are responsible one for the other”/kol Yisrael areivim zeh lbazeh
- How the public (politics/world events) impacts the private (religious identity and expression, for example)
- The use of humor to address difficult subjects
- The eternal link between politics and religion
Book Discussion Questions
- What did you learn about anti-Semitism in the Ukraine in the 1990s?
- Explain the Golinkin family dynamics while in the Ukraine and how these dynamics changed along the family’s journey.
- As a coming of age story, what were the experiences that most influenced Lev in a positive or negative way?
- When the Golinkin familycrossed the Russian border they felt terror. Why? How did they overcome it?
- The work “zhid” has a profoundly influence on Lev. (How) does he make peace with it?
- What did Lev’s Boston College advisor Kilcoyne mean when he tells Lev, “If you want a meaningful future...then you must root yourself, reach out, and understand” (pg. 285)?
- What ways can our Jewish community reach out to those in our midst who were born Jewish but who have not yet been exposed to Jewish education, traditions, culture?
- Did the book change or influence your thinking about the way(s) your synagogue outreaches to families? If so, how?
- What aspects of your Jewish identity do you feel proud of? Ashamed of?
- How has your family history been a source of pride for you or a challenge to your Jewish identity? Were you involved with or do you remember the Refusenik movement? What was similar or different about Lev’s experience?
- Did reading this book change or reinforce your opinion about current immigration to the USA?
- What prayer(s) or famous quotations from Jewish thinkers/text might we site to offer similar sentiments?
- Why does Lev end the book with the Prayer of Oscar Romero*?
*Oscar Arnulfo Romero was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador on February 22, 1977. At that time, a military government that violently repressed the people ruled the country of El Salvador; widespread social and political tension was growing. Romero became an outspoken voice of the impoverished and persecuted of the country; he became a well-known critic of violence and injustice. On March 24, 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated as he was celebrating Mass.
History of the Soviet Jewry Movement- Online Resources
History and Museums
- the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States as the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954.
- “Backpack” projects –Gather backpack/school supplies for those in need
- Backpack Challenge: You’re leaving your home/country, and you can only bring with you what will fit into a backpack. What would you choose and why?
- Family emigration/immigration stories -trace your family’s history, compare Jewish culture and experiences across different lands
- General emigration/immigration history-especially Former Soviet Union
- Do a “teddy bear” drive for children in need. One option: Bears from Bergenfield/Claire’s Bears
- “Tikkun olam” projects of various kinds (Lev’s experience with Appalachia Volunteers/Habitat for Humanity was lifechanging, and touches on key Jewish values)
- Panel discussion on immigration. What does it mean to be an immigrant? Emigrant? Emotional, financial and psychological implications
- Compare and contrast Russian immigration to the USA in the 1970s versus the 1990s
- Panel discussion with former leaders of the “Free Soviet Jews” movement.
- Russian Jewish cuisine. Cook and taste. Invite a local chef to talk about the culture of food.
References: A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: Program Resource Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2017, from http://jewishlearningventure.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/OBOJC-Resource-Guide-2015-16-UPDATED.pdf