Most of the recipients of scholarship awards from HIAS are college-age. Most have been in the United States for about five years. Most come to the award ceremony with their parents or grandparents.
Naomi Grodsky brought her daughter Eliana, age 14 months.
Grodsky, 34, who came to the U.S. from Moscow with the help of HIAS14 years ago, was among 216 immigrants — mostly from Iran and the former Soviet Union — who received nearly $350,000 in grants recently from the international immigration agency of the American Jewish community. Some live in Israel, others in the Los Angeles area.
About 20 of the local recipients came to the HIAS event at UJA-Federation headquarters in Manhattan; most, understandably were in school.
Keynote speakers at the event were Uzbekistan-born Adam Smolyar, senior vice president for strategic marketing and communications of United Jewish Communities, and Guillermo Linares, a Dominican immigrant who heads the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
HIAS began its annual scholarship program in 1974, so far assisting more than 3,000 newcomers. The money for the scholarships, which are based on academic achievements, financial need and community service, is raised through private donations.
Grodsky, a Flatbush resident and a senior at Touro College, has taught English to students, mostly fellow immigrants, in yeshiva elementary schools.
“I’m a little bit of a linguist,” says Grodsky, who started learning the language while living in Russia. “You have to speak correctly.
“Don’t look at it as a mandatory, boring, ‘who-needs-this?’ kind of class,” she tells her young students. “Unfortunately, there are too many people who do not use the language properly.”
Eliana, the first infant brought to a HIAS scholarship award ceremony, captured the hearts of the several hundred people in attendance. When they clapped for her, she clapped back.
Unlike her bilingual mother, Eliana is monolingual. “For now, she speaks Russian. She speaks a couple of words,” Grodsky says. English will come in a few years, in school.