Growing up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Vladimir Ronin knew he was Jewish, but not what that meant.
“There weren’t channels for me to develop any kind of Jewish identity,” said Ronin, 29, an associate analyst at Moody’s Investors Service and an MBA student at NYU’s Stern School of Business. “That changed when I was 10, and my family came to America.”
Ronin, whose family made its home in New Jersey, attended the Orthodox all-boys Rav Teitz Yeshiva Academy (RTMA). Ronin called it a shock to his system. “I was grappling with learning English and Hebrew and with fitting into an Orthodox environment, which was foreign for a young boy from the former Soviet Union,” he explained.
He adjusted better when he switched to public high school and attended Rutgers University, where he majored in history and finance — but he credited RTMA with instilling a strong Jewish identity within him. After Ronin attended a Birthright trip to Israel with a Russian-speaking organization, he decided to get further involved with the Russian Jewish community and, in 2008, he joined the Brooklyn-based Russian American Jewish Experience (RAJE).
“I was taken aback to learn that most of my peers in RAJE had little, if any, exposure to anything Jewish, despite living in a major Jewish community,” recalled Ronin “I realized how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to learn in a yeshiva and develop a Jewish identity, and I felt a responsibility to help provide that for my fellow Russian Jews.”
This responsibility was magnified by Ronin’s observation of the lengths his parents and grandparents went to in order to preserve their Jewishness over decades in the Soviet Union, and his mother’s courage in leaving her homeland, at 48, to give her son a Jewish education and a better life in the U.S.
Since becoming closely involved with RAJE, Ronin has served on its Young Leadership Board, and was recognized last year with RAJE’s Young Leadership Award. He is also a member of COJIR’s Jewish Community Development Task Force of the UJA-Federation of New York, and has spent the past year as a Shapiro Family Fellow, a UJA program that cultivates future Jewish leaders.
Night runner: A marathoner, Ronin often runs in Central Park at 11 p.m.; he’s usually the only runner there that late.