Whitney Levine 22: Russian Strong Man

“My whole family left Russia at the turn of the eighteenth century. My whole family was Jewish during the super anti semitic Minsk Russia. He’s really strong and has this long beard. A Russian cossack comes up to him, calls him an anti semitic slur and pulls his beard. My relative replies, thank you for putting me in my place. When the man puts his hand out to shake his hand, he broke his hand from shaking so hard.”

Context: This is the performance of a family legend by Whitney Levine. Though she is American, her family comes from Russia and is very proud of this legend. She learned it from various family members, the tell the story at holidays and family get togethers, especially from her father who always retells the story to various family members. This legend is a testament to her family’s strength and tradition. In an era of avid anti-Semitism, it is extremely empowering to hear that a family member fought back against injustice. She told it to me during our folklore class discussion, in which we were collecting folklore.
“It’s a story my dad always would tell me and would always tell the whole family the story. He’s not sure if it’s true but it’s a family legend that everyone knows now.”

Analysis: I think the story is inspirational, and depicts a man willing to fight against a bigoted establishment. In a time when so many Jews were oppressed, it is heartwarming to see someone fight back against injustice. That is probably why the story has been passed down through so many generations.