It was really surprising to see the photograph with COJECO name on the front page of the Aug. 5 issue (“Young Russian Jews In Assimilation Bind”) and the caption: “Young Russian Jews wear orange while older community members wear traditional white and blue.” The truth is that this year for the first time all Russian Jewish grass-roots organizations decided to march together in support of Israel as one contingent — young and old, religious and secular, Sephardi and Ashkenazi. COJECO and AFRJ (American Forum of Russian-speaking Jewry) organized the contingent.
Russian American Jews are a sophisticated, diverse and vibrant community. The reporter demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of complexities of this community and paints a rather primitive picture. The statement that older Russian Jews are part of the mainstream community while younger Russian Jews are not integrating couldn’t be further from the truth. To imply that the younger Russian Jews are more hawkish in their views on Israel than the older members of the community is just wrong.
Israel is at the core of Russian Jewish identity. While political views may differ, support for Israel remains a unifying rather than a dividing factor in the relationship between the mainstream and the Russian Jewish communities.
It was shocking to see an article on Russian Jewish integration without any mentioning of COJECO-Council of Jewish Emigre Community Organizations, the central coordinating body in the Russian Jewish community of New York that works toward successful integration into the mainstream community and is funded by UJA-Federation of New York.
Its work is absolutely crucial. Thanks to its educational and cultural programs (BluePrint Fellowship for young adults, Center Without Walls Initiative that helps JCCs and Ys develop culturally sensitive and appropriate programs, the informal Jewish educational initiative Project Gesher), thousands of Russian Jews who otherwise would never step foot in any Jewish organization, are engaged in a truly meaningful way. Both organizations mentioned in the article — RAJE and Ezra — are members of COJECO.
I invite you to engage in a meaningful conversation about the Russian Jewish community and its role in New York Jewish life.
Executive Director, COJECO