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Bagels and Lox, Russian Style

December 13, 2011 | By

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When Jewish immigrants left the Soviet Union and arrived in North America, they experienced huge culture shock. The way Vlada Bilyak tells it in her new documentary, much of her own cultural confusion came from the way her Canadian classmates connected to Judaism–attending religious services or eating bagels. These had nothing to do with what Biyak’s parents had taught her about her religion, back in the USSR.

Her film–the unwieldy-titled Soviet-Jewish Alienation within Bagel-and-Lox Culture–is an exploration of what being Jewish means to her. Shot on handheld cameras and including Skype interviews, Biyak explores her feelings of alienation and her doubts about her Jewish authenticity. “For years,” she says, “I feared being outed as a ‘fake Jew’.”

Biyak interviews friends, other immigrants, and even her mother, who gives her own perspective of the family’s arrival in Canada and her daughter’s difficult adjustment. But the film’s most powerful parts come from Biyak herself, who gives an analytical–yet passionate–perspective on her own life.

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