Your front-page story (“Young Russian Jews In Assimilation Bind,” Aug. 5) on integrating the Russian Jewish community “into the American Jewish mainstream” gave the impression that their political views seem to leave them outside of the mainstream. It suggested that “Jewish education will bring integration in its wake.”
Having worked with the Brighton Beach community for 25 years, as founder of Project Neshama, a leading Chabad-affiliated outreach program for Russian Jewish families, I have come to recognize the need of members of this unique community to express themselves in their own way. We must recognize that although they may have a different worldview, shaped by the pain of persecution and having experienced the failure of socialistic ideas, they are in fact part of the Jewish community. The American Jewish “mainstream” should be more inclusive, reflecting a collective rainbow of different colors, rather than the fusing melting pot of yesteryear.
Dozens of Chabad Neshama teens are doing volunteer work for the benefit of seniors. Their parents are slowly joining the ranks of the local synagogues. Russian-speaking business leaders have become the primary supporters of our Jewish outreach efforts. These people, who have assumed Jewish communal responsibility notwithstanding 70 years of communism, are indeed mainstreaming even though they may be marching to the beat of a different drummer.
The real “assimilation bind” that challenges young Russian-American Jews is the same risk of assimilation faced by Jews everywhere. Most American Jews need more Jewish education almost as much as their Russian neighbors. Only Jewish education and observance will preserve Jewish life for all American Jews, whether they reside in Brighton Beach, Miami Beach or the Hamptons.
Seabreeze Jewish Center Brooklyn