Why They Left
Why They Left: Why did the Jews flee Eastern Europe for America?
"After viewing these photos of the Russian pogroms, and hearing the lectures, my students told me, without exception, that they had never learned anything about this topic in their history classes. A Jewish student told me that all she had been told about her ancestors is that they were 'from Russia,' with no further details. For this student, the presentation was a window into the untold history of her own family."
Joseph Spoerl, Ph.D
St. Anselm College
As a Jewish artist who also works with a political focus, I found this exhibit compelling. It sheds light on some of the important issues of our time including genocide, dislocation and the plight of refugees. It is very moving and should not be missed.
I have heard many accounts of pogroms, including some family histories, but to see the photographs of actual atrocities with my own eyes brought it to a totally new level. I never imagined that there was photographic documentation of pogroms and that it survived the time. I am grateful that these events are documented and are captured for posterity.
Diana Fayngersh Lee
“ This riveting exhibit is a profound gift arisen from the nearly forgotten. The photographs are as important as they are shattering. They demand that we never forget; that in our grief we hold the humanity of lost lives as significant and meaningful as our own. "
Why They Left is a portrait of a world not lost, but expunged. These images are documentary evidence of Jewish life in Ukraine and Belarus during Russian Civil War period: the communities and the homes, the synagogues and workplaces. They also record atrocities almost impossibly cruel to believe. And yet, there they are, the faces of the victims, in life and in death. These are photographs of victims and survivors of genocide, one which has been overshadowed by the Holocaust which followed less than a generation later.
The horrific images of victims of pogroms, and the destruction brought to the now-vanished world of the Jewish shtetl, is a powerful and grave reminder of early 20th century Russian history, when Russian Jewry was often under attack by many and various antisemitic villains. It was started by the Black Hundred and alike, picked up by the hoodlums of the Russian Revolutions and Civil War, and culminated some twenty years later by the Final Solution at the hands of Nazis and their collaborators. Unfortunately, the evil forces of antisemitism are present throughout the world, even today. This exhibition is a poignant attempt to keep our contemporaries aware of the morbid horrors of antisemitism.
I have grandparents on my mother and father’s side of the family who left Russia because of the persecution/pogroms. My mother’s mother came from the Ukraine where at the age of three years old she was subjected to a pogrom. She stood with a statue of Mary a neighbor had told her to hold as the Cossacks came through her village. My father’s father came to the U.S. at nineteen years old to escape Russian persecution. In all the years that I knew my grandfather I never heard him speak a word in Russian. When, as a child, I asked him why he left Russia, he never answered. It is important to view the pogrom exhibit to understand why our grandparents came to America and what they lived through.