There are certain idiosyncrasies of Jewish Young Adults that withstand the test of time, like their need to not act like their mothers, and then there are idiosyncrasies that are temporary or trendy. One of the more recent fleeting interests of JYAs is their fascination with Eastern Europe. Like other trends, Eastern Europe Revivalism began with the JYA author Jonathan Safran Foer, and his catalyzing book Everything is Illuminated. Since then, countries that were previously under Soviet influence, either directly or indirectly, have become a frequent topic of JYA brunch conversations.
The topical curiosity with the Eastern Bloc has manifested itself in interesting ways, beginning with the revival of Yiddish. JYAs from Seattle to Haifa have been signing up for Yiddish classes, and local Yiddish theater troupes have sprouted across the globe, where enthusiastic JYAs can take their parents to readings of Hershele Ostropolyer with Itzy Friedberg in the leading role.
Secondly, since Foer’s popularity has skyrocketed, JYAs are discovering new authors, both recent and long deceased, to satiate their Eastern European fix. Sales of novels by Malamud and Bashevis Singer are surging, along with lesser known authors like Isaac Babel. More recent, and living, novelists, like Gary Shteyngart or Lara Vapnyar, are also enjoying increased revenue from a wider audience of interested JYAs.
Lastly, the music world has started to sprout a number of JYA driven bands with distinct Slavic/Bolshevik intonations. Bands like Gogol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box are tearing through the underground scene of New York and onto the Shuffle setting of JYAs in Jerusalem.
It could be that JYA fascination with all things Eastern European is fleeting, like their interest in Hip-Hop in the 90’s, or their interest in Wynona Rider in the 80’s. But even if the interest is temporary, Eastern European Revivalism, in all its shapes and forms, is as hot in the JYA community as Lindsey Lohan’s alleged lesbianism on PerezHilton.com.