Elissa Bemporad is the author of Becoming Soviet Jews: The Bolshevik Experiment in Minsk (Indiana University Press, 2013), winner of the National Jewish Book Award and of the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History, and finalist of the Jordan Schnitzer Prize in Modern Jewish History. The Russian edition was published with ROSSPEN, in the History of Stalinism Series. Her new book, entitled Legacy of Blood: Jews, Pogroms, and Ritual Murder in the Lands of the Soviets, was be published with Oxford University Press in fall 2019. Elissa is also the co-editor of two volumes: Women and Genocide: Survivors, Victims, Perpetrators (Indiana University Press, 2018, with Joyce Warren), which is a collection of studies on the roles played by women in different genocidal contexts during the twentieth century; and Pogroms: A Documentary History of Anti-Jewish Violence (forthcoming with Oxford University Press, with Gene Avrutin), which is an essential source reader for anyone teaching in the fields of modern Jewish history and Jewish studies. She has recently been a recipient of an NEH Fellowship and a Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. Elissa's projects in progress include research for a biography of Ester Frumkin, the most prominent Jewish female political activist and public figure in late Imperial Russia and in the early Soviet Union; and the first volume of the six-volume history entitled A Comprehensive History of the Jews in the Soviet Union, which will be published with NYU Press.
Legacy of Blood: Jews, Pogroms, and Ritual Murder in the Lands of the Soviets (Oxford University Press, 2019)
The most extreme legacies of tsarist antisemitism were pogroms and blood libels. These events were central to the Jewish experience in late tsarist Russia, the only country with widespread anti-Jewish violence in the early twentieth century. After the Soviets came to power, they claimed that they had eliminated both these phenomena. In this revealatory book, Elissa Bemporad demonstrates that the Soviets’ claim was part propaganda, part reality.
In the fifty-year-span from the Bolshevik Revolution to the early years of Krushchev, a living generation of Jews and non-Jews alike vividly remembered the violence of the prerevolutionary years, including the Beilis Affair (the 1913 trial of Mendel Beilis on charges of murdering a Ukrainian child for ritual purposes), and the horrific pogroms of the Russian civil war of 1917-1921 (which led to the death of as many as 150,000 Jews). Bemporad examines the ways in which Jews reacted to and remembered the unprecedented violence of the pogroms, and the strategies they adopted to confront accusations of ritual murder.
Contrary to official Soviet claims, there were numerous blood libel accusations against Jews in the USSR, and the response to them by local authorities ranged from indifference to endorsement to fierce condemnation. Soviet pogroms were indeed a rarity, and for decades Jews acknowledged the Red Army as their saviors from the pogroms of the civil war. But pogroms spiked in the USSR in the immediate aftermath of World War II.
By tracing the "afterlife" of pogroms and blood libels in the USSR, Legacy of Blood sheds light on the broader question of the changing position of Jews in Soviet society. In doing so, Bemporad tells the story of the ever-changing and at times ambivalent relationship between the Soviet state and the Jewish minority group. It also addresses questions of hatred against Jews, questions that help us better understand contemporary antisemitism in Europe and the United States.
Women and Genocide: Survivors, Victims, Perpetrators (Indiana University Press, 2018, with Joyce Warren)
Becoming Soviet Jews: The Bolshevik Experiment in Minsk (Indiana University Press, 2013)
Itskhok Leybush Peretz: Il Tempo del Messia e altri racconti, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Roma, 2014 (Elissa Bemporad & Margherita Pascucci eds.)
Step by Step: Contemporary Yiddish Poetry, Verbarium, Quodlibet, Firenze, 2009 (Elissa Bemporad & Margherita Pascucci eds.)