I applaud Ben Sales’ article, (“Young Russian Jews In Assimilation Bind,” Aug. 2) for pinpointing the distinctive impact of the young Russian Jewish community on Israel advocacy. Though this generation did not grow up in the former Soviet Union, young Russian Jews are raised in households filled with memories of anti-Jewish discrimination, which led to their deep support for Israel. Young Russian Jews’ unique perspective means that though they may integrate into the American Jewish community, they also have the capacity to change it.
Having emigrated to the U.S. in 1991 from Kiev and been raised in a pro-Israel Russian Jewish household in Brooklyn, I was the first person in my family to travel to Israel with Birthright. As hard work, education and success are emphasized in Russian Jewish homes, I did not know how I would return for a longer period of time until I discovered Masa Israel Journey’s five-month professional internship program. This was the perfect opportunity after Birthright because it took me off the tour bus and enabled me to be a temporary resident able to experience firsthand the joys and challenges of living in Israel.
As more young Russian Jews shed their parents’ fears and embrace Judaism after growing up in a free country, I hope that a greater number will participate in such programs in Israel. These programs can only strengthen their personal Jewish identities and make them even more effective advocates for Israel.