Public Relations, Education & Assimilation
JANUARY 22, 2012 2:38 AM 0 COMMENTS
Natan Sharansky. Photo: Andrew Ratto.
While recently reading The Jewish Week, I saw posters that I recognized, “Let My People Go,” a commemoration of past protests to let Soviet Jews leave the Former USSR. I grew up in Rabbi Avi Weiss’ synagogue, The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and vividly remember when Natan (then known as Anatoly) Sharansky, visited the synagogue right after his release from Russia. I recall from an even younger age seeing Natan’s wife, Avital Sharansky, sitting on the steps of the synagogue. My mom, Penny Waga explained to at the time that Avital’s husband was in jail in the USSR, just because he was a Jew. Those scenes are etched in my childhood memories.
Fast-forward to today. The Russian American Jewish community is one of those most getting lost to assimilation, and it’s such a shame. I am on the board of RAJE (Russian American Jewish Experience), one of the few groups actually penetrating the Russian American Jewish community – a community that is so hungry for Yiddishkeit (Jewishness), but so few are reaching out to them.