From Red State to Golden State: Soviet Jewish Immigration to the City of Angels

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From communism to democracy, follow several Jewish families as they recount their immigrant experience from Russia to the United States

The Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War is producing an oral history documentary, directed by Mark Hayes, about the Soviet Jewish immigrant experience in Los Angeles.

The project will follow several Jewish families who left the Soviet Union to settle in Los Angeles during the 1970s and 1980s. Since 1973, Los Angeles has welcomed and absorbed more than 25,500 Jewish refugees, 80% of whom are of Soviet descent. The oral histories in the film demonstrate the myriad of obstacles Soviet Jews faced in Cold War communist society and the process of rebuilding their lives and adapting to new cultural norms in Southern California.

Fairfax Avenue in West Los Angeles is home to many Soviet Jewish families and a number of small Russian shops and eateries.
Fairfax Avenue in West Los Angeles is home to many Soviet Jewish families and a number of small Russian shops and eateries.

Plummer Park in West Hollywood has become a gathering place for Soviet Jewish emigres.
Plummer Park in West Hollywood has become a gathering place for Soviet Jewish emigres.

Eugene Alper, a Soviet émigré himself, serves as the film's host.
Eugene Alper, a Soviet émigré himself, serves as the film's host.

The film's host, Eugene Alper, is well-integrated in the Soviet emigre community by way of a career in Russian community outreach with the City of West Hollywood, which has the second largest concentration of Soviet Jewish immigrants outside of New York City. Eugene interviews émigrés and their American-born children as they share personal stories of persecution in the Soviet Union, the challenges of adapting to life in the US and how they identify with their cultural heritage.

By revealing these personal cross-generational testimonies, the Wende Museum realizes its own mission to preserve not only the official history and materials of the Cold War, but also to document the lived experiences beneath the ideological battles and geopolitical struggles of the era. This documentary will provide important insights and give context to the immigrant experience that is the cornerstone of American society.

A behind-the-scenes look at one of the interviews in the film.
A behind-the-scenes look at one of the interviews in the film.