In this paper we examine and compare the ethnic identity of the Jews in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and the process of change in ethnic identity among the new immigrants from the FSU. This analysis considers the role of the kibbutz as the first experience of Jewish community in their lives, as well as the location of the first phase of their process of absorption and resocialization into new and unfamiliar surroundings. The data are drawn through a longitudinal research design, with a pre- and post-analysis of changes in the ethnicity of migrants studied from their arrival on the Israeli kibbutz until the completion of the five-month kibbutz programme. We found that pre-migration Soviet Jews defined their ethnicity as a discriminated national minority with a weak symbolic ethnicity content. The ambivalent nature of the ethnicity of Jews while in the FSU was expressed in the fact that although a majority were deculturized from traditional dimensions of Jewish life, they nevertheless felt they belonged to a specific ethnic group. Post-migration ethnicity was found to be remarkably altered; the former ambivalence was dissolved. On the macro-level, membership in the economically and politically successful Russian-speaking group of Israeli society is a source of self esteem, rather than a sign of shameful otherness. On the micro-level of ethnicity, the encounter in the initial phase of absorption in Israel, within the kibbutz Jewish community, often demands a reexamination of their private concept of Jewishness, serving as a first step in resolving their ambivalent ethnic identity. Consequently, their new ethnic identity may now well have weaker boundaries, but a more positive (non-alienating) content than that left behind.
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