Seventy-five years ago, 600 Jews from Ukraine and Belarus traveled across Siberia to be the first settlers of Birobidzhan, a Jewish autonomous region 50 miles short of the Chinese border. To research a book she’s writing on the would-be homeland for Nextbook Press, journalist Masha Gessen retraced their path across Russia. She arrived at a train station marked by “two signs, one in Hebrew letters and one in Russian,” she writes on Slate. “The Hebrew faces the tracks, and though it is a fair bet that virtually no one on the Trans-Siberian can read it, it communicates all the necessary information. (I assume it says Birobidzhan, but I can’t read it, either.)” The mountainous region is by turns rocky, wet, and crowded with insects, all factors which made the establishment of Birobidzhan no less than “the worst good idea ever.”

Jewish Mother Russia [Slate]