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Podcast: David Rozenson on How His Family Escaped the Soviet Union and Why He Chose to Return

June 18, 2021 | By: David Rozenson

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The Soviet Union was deeply against religion, and deeply against Judaism in particular, so that the full embrace of Jewish religious observance, or the study of Hebrew, or the slightest approval of Zionism were often seen as criminal offenses against the state. Some Jews, like Natan Sharansky, resisted—brave refuseniks who wouldn’t give in to enforced secularization and who organized underground networks of Jewish life. Eventually, through American and international pressure, the Soviets allowed those desperate Jews to leave. But what of the Jews who didn’t flee, who remained in Russia even after the demise of the Soviet Union? What is their story?

David Rozenson, the executive director of Beit Avi Chai, a Jewish cultural center in Jerusalem, was born in the Soviet Union before his family escaped to the United States. Years later, as an adult, he returned to Russia and stayed there for years. On this week’s podcast, in conversation with Mosaic Editor Jonathan Silver, he tells his family story and explains why, despite his parents having risked so much to leave, he chose to go back and serve the Jews of the former Soviet bloc.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.


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