True Stories of Soviet Jewish Life
and Immigration

WHO: Soviet émigré Bena Shklyanoy and FirstHand Theatrical‘s Kevin Olson.

WHAT: Invite you and your organization to produce two new plays about the life experiences of one Jewish family living through the tumultuous years of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and their ultimate journey to the United States as part of the Save Soviet Jewry movement.

The plays are created by Soviet émigré Bena Shklyanoy and FirstHand Theatrical’s Artistic Director Kevin Olson.

And Then What? 

debuted to critical acclaim in Providence, RI in 2017 and was presented again at the Piven Theatre in Evanston, Il. in August 2018. It tells the story of a Russian Jewish family in the context of the tumultuous sweep of Pre-Bolshevik through Soviet history. Bena’s ancestors closed ranks in the face of cruel history and ultimately defeated it.

How Many Bushels Am I Worth? 

had its World Premiere at the Piven Theatre in Evanston, Il. in August 2018 and a successful and acclaimed 3-week run in Providence and Brooklyn in January 2020. Painting a picture of her life in the Soviet Union, the play captures Bena and her family’s agonizing decision to flee the USSR. Facing the edge of the world they closed their eyes and jumped, arriving to the US in the 1970’s with the help of the Save the Soviet Jewry movement.

WHY: To commemorate 50-plus years of Soviet emigration. In Soon after the Six-Day War of 1967, the Iron Curtain opened for Soviet Jews. Families made agonizing decisions on whether to stay or go. With the help of many organizations and the dedication of the Save Soviet Jewry effort, thousands immigrated to the United States in the first wave in the 1970s.

The Shklyanoys – a grandmother, mother, father, and their daughters (ages 18 months and 8 years) – were in that first group.

Those daughters, now assimilated and pursuing their own families and careers, don’t remember life in the Soviet Union: the communal apartments, the long lines for food, or when being Jewish was a stamp on a passport or a reason to get beat-up by a classmate. They want to know their history to tell their children.

HOW: Bena Shklyanoy spent 11 years tracing her family’s story, and documented it in a website, Bena partnered with Kevin Olson, Artistic Director of FirstHand Theatrical, to create these plays that capture the story of life for Jews under the Soviet empire and the large scale immigration of Soviet Jews to the U.S.

Both plays are available for $10 from Amazon. To order a copy, click here.

Contact us for information about securing the rights to produce these plays, ordering a copy of these plays, or discussing the possibility of bringing a fully-mounted production to your community.

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The film Cultural Inheritance: Stories of Grandchildren of Soviet-Jewish Immigrants is a JUF Russian Jewish Division’s Tikkun Fellowship project by Abigail Matz, funded by Genesis Philanthropy Group