Israel, which has won only six Olympic medals ever — its first gold, in sailing, came at Athens in 2004 — is sending 41 athletes to the Beijing Games, which open Aug. 8. Israel’s Olympic delegation attended a recent two-day seminar in Tel Aviv where members were briefed on everything from security to Chinese culture. Past Israeli Olympians discussed their experiences with this year’s athletes, most of them first-time Olympians.
The gesture of recognition came very late in the day, but when a major American Jewish organization last week honored Yuri Fedorov — a non-Jewish human rights activist who served 15 years in Soviet prison camps for his contribution to the cause of freeing Soviet Jews — late certainly felt better than never.
How is it possible, Robert Ivker thought, that in a city as affluent as New York, Holocaust survivors from the former Soviet Union can live in such grinding poverty? This despite efforts by agencies like the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst (JCH) to provide hot meals, transportation to doctors, and free English-language instruction.
An estimated two and a half million Jews were killed in the republics of the former Soviet Union during the Holocaust, over 40 percent of the total. Yet Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Museum, presently has less than half a million of their names in its database.
That’s why the museum has launched the Shoah Victims Names Recovery Project in the FSU. In late March, Boris Maftsir, manager of the project, held a series of meetings in the Russian-speaking Jewish communities of New York and Chicago to solicit evidence of lost loved ones to Yad Vashem.
As the summer Olympics in Beijing draw to a close, it seems like a good time to reflect on the goings-on of past few weeks. The big news (other than the Herculean feats of Michael Phelps and others), as reported by the people who determine what makes the news, seems to be that people actually watched, and in record numbers.
Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom is head of the Joint Conversion Institute, a network of study centers aimed at helping immigrants, including the estimated 300,000 people from the former Soviet Union, convert to Judaism. The Institute, which represents Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews, was established by the Israeli government and the Jewish agency following the Ne’eman Commission’s recommendations in April 1998.
Working as a bouncer at an East Side bar with a predominantly black and Latino clientele, Michael Isaacs was surprised one night this fall to notice a predominantly Jewish crowd entering the club.
To show his "solidarity," Isaacs (a burly, chain-smoking Long Island native who recently completed a two-year stint as a combat medic in the U.S. Army) took out his chai pendant, the Jewish symbol of life.
Within minutes, a stranger with an Israeli accent approached Isaacs, 26, asking him if he was Jewish and if he wanted to go to Israel for free.
Leonid Bereslavskiy asks every day, “Where’s Papa?” Yulia Bereslavskiy gets “kind of jealous when I see other kids talking with their fathers.”Riva Bereslavskiy, their grandmother, just cries.Leonid, 5, and Yulia, 9, are brother and sister.
The Schneider family of Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester is running out of shelf space. The bookcase in their living room is packed with the chess books, in Russian, that Dimitri brought from his native Riga, and the ones in English he bought after the family immigrated to the United States eight years ago.There are the chess sets that Dimitri likes to buy. And the trophies he keeps winning.Dimitri, 14, is the top-ranked player in the country in the U.S.