The Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowships offer funded independent research in the humanities. We're highlighting the research of this year's fellows in a series of online profiles.
Hope Jones '20, History
"Ben Zion Goldberg: Jewish National and Religious Identity in the Soviet Union"
Abstract: During the late 1940s, Stalin intensified the persecution of Jewish intellectuals, including members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAFC). The JAFC, based in Moscow and headed by Solomon Mikhoels and Itzik Fefer, aimed to eliminate the fascist and antisemitic ideologies present in countries previously occupied by Nazis. The JAFC maintained strong connections with prominent Jews all over the world. One of these persons was Ben Zion Goldberg, an editor and columnist for a New York City Yiddish newspaper Der Tog. When Goldberg visited the Soviet Union in 1946, the JAFC influenced his plans and Goldberg grew close to Mikhoels and Fefer. After Goldberg’s trip to the Soviet Union he continued to correspond with JAFC members. When JAFC members went missing, were tried, and executed, Goldberg tried to contact and help the JAFC members. In this paper, I ask: How did Goldberg contribute to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee’s aim to bolster Jewish nationality within the Soviet Union and internationally? In what ways did Goldberg help the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and Soviet Jews connect to other Jews around the world?
Was there anything surprising about the work you did for your project?
Originally, in my Hanna Holborn Gray research proposal, I was not looking at the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee at all for my project. I focused on Goldberg and his relationship with Birobidzhan, a Jewish autonomous region in Siberia created by the Soviet government in 1934. As I read books about Birobidzhan and Goldberg, they introduced me to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, and its remarkable and complicated relationship to Goldberg and the Soviet Union. I had never heard of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee before, and it was a fascinating organization with a devastating end.
What was the highlight of your work?
I worked with the Ben Zion Goldberg Papers last summer during my internship with the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. I appreciated that I could continue to work on this collection this summer. I also enjoyed looking through the pamphlets Goldberg collected, and the articles or cables he wrote to people in America from the Soviet Union. After college I want to work in the archives of a library, university, or museum, so I appreciated the opportunity to once again work with archival material for this research project.
How will you use your research in future studies?
I am continuing the research I conducted over the summer to write my thesis. I hope to go back to the Ben Zion Goldberg Papers and examine a box which could contain important information for my research questions. I also hope to use the research I conducted this summer as a basis for future research in graduate school. Perhaps, looking very far into the future, I would like to use this research to write an article on Ben Zion Goldberg and the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, because their relationship, and B. Z. Goldberg himself, is not well known in most historical research circles or to the wider public.
The Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowships offer funded independent research in the humanities. Each summer, Bryn Mawr College awards up to 15 students a summer fellowship of $4,500 to undertake an independent research project in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. The research may either be the beginning of the senior thesis or a project that stands alone, but is relevant to their intellectual interests and must be supported by a faculty advisor.