I read with much interest Ben Sales’ article (“Young Russian Jews In Assimilation Bind, Aug. 5), which contains some valuable observations. However, the community it discusses is way more complex and richly textured than suggested by this article and similar commentaries that often set up two ill-defined groups against each other (“young” vs. “old”) and then generalize about them on the basis of anecdotal evidence.
These juxtapositions are frequently misleading as they tend to ignore important subgroups within the community, including quite a few young Russian Jews in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are fluent in English and came to the United States as adults over the past decade, whether from the FSU or from Israel. They may be fewer in numbers than the other two groups, but they have their distinct views, interests and concerns.
In a similar vein, what the article describes as “the Russian community’s hard-line conservatism on Israel” is a generalization that blurs the complexity of both the issue and the Russian Jewish views about it. Is concern about the safety and security of the people that have lived through many years of rocket attacks and suicide bombings “hard-line conservatism?”
Many Russian Jews are quite simply more sensitive to these concerns than most American Jews, because many more of them either lived in Israel on their way to America or have relatives there.
If, however, “hard-line conservatism” describes more specific stands on particular policy issues, there is simply not enough evidence to prove that these views are actually shared by the majority of Russian Jews, rather than merely accepted as the party line of the Russian media establishment, for lack of an alternative.
To capture better the complexity of our largest minority within the American Jewish world, journalists may want to take the risk of going beyond a bunch of familiar names and organizations — there is a world waiting to be discovered.
Executive Director, American Association of Jews from the Former USSR