Ary Rotman

Like many Soviet Jews of his generation, Ary Rotman was eager to leave the Soviet Union but was repeatedly denied the right to do so. It was not until the early 1970s that he, his wife, and their young son were finally able to leave the country. They eventually settled in Boston where he worked in a department store before taking a job at an insurance company. As emigration from the Soviet Union grew in the 1980s and 1990s, he became the founding president of a new organization in Boston—the Russian Jewish Community Foundation.

Scope and Content Note

Ary Rotman talks about when he learned learns for the first time about an “official” way to leave the USSR and get to Israel.  He describes waiting for an invitation to leave that never arrives.  He later learned that his grandmother threw it away.  He then further elaborates on his process for securing a visa and describes the rejection of his visa and becoming a refusenik. He became involved in protests to leave the Soviet Union, was followed by KGB agents on the subway, and eventually captured.  Rotman explains he was being watched and followed, and he knew he would be arrested.  He discusses his arrest and what he faced during his first time in jail. His peers did not know that Ary had applied to leave the USSR. This wasn’t popular, as people who tried to leave were labeled as traitors.  Ary talks about facing antisemitism in the USSR. He describes an incident where he was quickly eating in a restaurant and saw many agents stand up at the same time he finished. He talks more about demonstrations and his arrests. Finally, Ary receives a visa and is able to leave the Soviet Union. He discusses his move to Boston and adjusting to life in the United States.  Rotman becomes involved with the Boston Jewish community and the Russian Jewish Community Foundation. He reflects on Jewish identity in the Soviet Union and the differences between Russians and Jews. Finally, Mr. Rotman talks about how he experienced a lack of religious practice growing up. 

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Ary Rotman. 25 October 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 26, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/rotman-ary>.

Oral History of Ary Rotman by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.