Growing Up Soviet

by Tina Grimberg

In 1979, at the age of 17, the author immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union. She is now a rabbi at a synagogue affiliated with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. Her description of her daily life and her family's life in the Soviet Union enables us to understand the abstractions we have all been told about life under communism: the corruption, the poverty, and the fear of government. Her book is not an anti-communist screed. Rabbi Grimberg praised the system of childcare and tells how her grandmother was exonerated from a false accusation of corruption. She had a happy childhood.

One of the most poignant scenes in the book is when the 10-year old Tina ordered her beloved grandmother not to speak Yiddish in public again. The grown-up rabbi tells this story in a way that shows she has not forgiven herself. Indeed, forgiveness is oriented to the past and has no meaning for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. They are concerned only with the future, not realizing there is no future if there is no past. We can forgive ourselves because God forgives us. As an added benefit, we all have someone we can express our gratitude to for whatever happiness He has given us.