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March 30, 1979 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1979-03-30

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64 Friday, March 30,1919


Resettlement Service, Other Agencies Aid Soviet Immigrants

new arrivals in their home caseworker takes them to
if we can't find an apart- the bank and shows them
Resettlement Service will ment for them in time, and how to cash it. The immig-
we ask them to help us look rants also fill out applica-
be busy this year.
The service, a member for housing and provide a tions for Social Security
agency of the Jewish Wel- security deposit. Even those cards. -
Finally, the newcomers
fare Federation supported who have only been here a
by the Allied Jewish Cam- year or less can usually pro- are taken to their apart-
ment and shown how all the
paign - Israel Emergency vide a lot of help."
Resettlement Service appliances work.
Fund, has the overall re-
They're also shown where
sponsibility for settling gets only five days' notice
immigrants to the Detroit of the new family's arri- to catch the bus to take
them to the Jewish Com-
"That's not much time to munity Center, where they
This year, about 25,000
Soviet Jews are expected to get the apartment fur- 'are expected to start
arrive in the U.S., more nished and stocked with English classes the very
than double the number ab- food and to make all the ar- next day. The bus is pro-
sorbed last year. The De- rangements for utilities and vided by the Center.
Children also start
troit Jewish community telephone," Ms. Karr said.
will welcome 500 of these "And the immigrants have school immediately. If
no credit ratings and we the family arrives in late
Once a family receives want to have the .bills from spring or summer, they
its exit visa from the utilities and other services may sttend the Fresh Air
USSR — frequently after in their names, even though Society's Camp
years of waiting — it must the money comes from Re- Tamarack or a Jewish,
leave within two to four settlement Service in the Community Center day
weeks, said Alicia Karr, first months. Luckily, the camp program.
"The camp is an excellent
Resettlement Service's utility and phone com-
casework supervisor. panies have been very way for them to become ac-
culturated," Ms. Karr said.
The Joint Distribution cooperative."
Finding suitable housing "There are other Russian
Committee helps the
families leave the Soviet is a continuing problem, kids there and they can
Union and travel to Vie- since the agency likes to learn English without the
place the immigrant pressures of a school set-
In Vienna the immig- families in neighborhoods ting."
"Teenagers have a lot of
rants spend a short interval close to Jewish institutions
and declare their intentions and services. A new Jewish social problems, as well as
to go to Israel or to another Welfare Federation com- language problems," Ms.
' country. Those wanting to mittee, headed by Stanley Karr said. "In our schools,
come to the U.S. are sent to L. Berger and Maurice S. kids have a lot more free-
Rome, where they stay two Cohen, has been formed to dom than in Russian
to three months. In Rome deal with the housing prob- schools. The immigrants
are often overwhelmed by
the -U.S. Immigration and lem.
There is a dire need for this. On the other hand,
Naturalization Service in-
terviews the immigrants two-bedroom apartments in they want to - conform to
and clears their travel to the Oak Park and Southfield their parents' expecta-
-4 U.S. HIAS (Hebrew Immig- which have a modest rental
Along with the diffi-
. rant Aid Society), which - rate and accept children.
Relatives already liv- culty of learning a new
.-.: helps the immigrants dur-
ing their stay in Rome, also ing here or Russian- language and adjusting
interviews them and de- speaking volunteers to a new way of life, the
cides where in the U.S. they greet the new immigrants Russians often have a
at the airport and bring problem with transporta-
will go.
The Allied Jewish Cam- them to Resettlement tion, Ms. Karr said. In-
paign - Israel Emergency Service's Southfield deed, their lack of mobil-
ity hampers their ability
Fund supports the Joint office.
There, a caseworker tells to socialize and learn
Distribution Committee
and HIAS, whose local arm them about. the agency, about the American lifes-
about their new home and tyle.
is Resettlement Service.
"We get information community and about the
"They feel somewhat so-
about the families coming to English classes they will cially isolated because- it's
Detroit while they're in attend. The immigrants are
hard for them to get
Rome," Ms. Karr said. "Al- given lists of emergency around," she said. "In the
most all of the new arrivals telephone numbers in Rus-
beginning they don't have
have relatives here, and we sian and English.
cars, and bus transportation
The family receives a
ask them to help us in the
in the suburbs is not very
resettlement process. check to cover immediate
efficient. The Jewish Fam-
They're asked to put up the expenses; then the
ily Service provides volun-
teer drivers to take them to
job interviews and to medi-
cal and dental appoint-
ments at Shiffman Clinic
and Sinai Hospital, but they
can't just decide to go to a
movie or lecture or similar
activity like most people
can because they lack
transportation." -
For the first months after
arrival, the immigrants
meet with their caseworker
every other week. "We take
them through an on-going
acculturation program dis-
cussing the American life-
style — political system,
Resettlement Service helps Jewish immigrants from
religion, jobs, family mat-
the Soviet Union adjust to life in Detroit.


Jewish Welfare Federation


ters and other issues," Ms.
Karr said.
"The Russians often find
it hard to adjust to our life-
style. The culture they came
from is very passive, in the
sense that jobs and apart-
ments are assigned to
people; they don't have to
take the initiative," she
"It's hard for them to
understand the fluidity of
jobs and upward mobil-
ity, since in the USSR
they stay in one job a lot
longer than people gen-
erally do here " she said.
"They're reluctant to
take a job that doesn't
pay as well or isn't as
prestigious as the one
they had in Russia be-
cause they're afraid
they'll get stuck in it."
About two to six weeks
after their arrival here, Ms.
Karr siad, many of the im-
migrants experience feel-
ings of depression.
"It's really a delayed reac-
tion to the stress of immi-
gration," she said. "Until
that point, they'd been deal-
ing with survival problems
— getting their visas, pack-
ing their belongings, mak-
ing the trip. Now, after
they're somewhat
stabilized, the emotional
problems catch up. This is a
difficult phase, and it usu.;
ally lasts a few weeks. Often
the end of this stressful
period coincides with their
job placement."
Jewish Vocational Serv-
ice starts trying to place the
immigrants soon after their
arrival, but most need at
least a few months of
English classes before they
are able to start working.
A city-wide employ-
ment committee to help
the new immigrants is
being set up by Jewish
Welfare Federation Vice
President Irwin Green in
conjunction with leader-
ship of the Jewish Voca-
tional Service.
"When they get a job,
they're just thrilled," Ms.
Karr said. "But they're also
frightened. Most of them
haven't worked for a long
time, since they usually lose
their jobs as soon as they
apply for an exit visa. The
anxiety they feel about not
having worked for so long
compounds the anxiety
most of us feel when we
start a new job."
As an immigrant group,
the Soviet Jews do very
well, Ms. Karr said. "Two or
three years after they ar-
rive, many are living the
typical American middle-
class life, with a house and a
"Maybe it's a product of
living in the Russian Com-
munist culture, but they are
incredibly resourceful," she
said. "If there's a way of
doing something, they'll
find it. They're a strong
people. They're survivors."
* * *

This year's Passover
Seder will be a special one
for the Trakhman and Imas
They won't have to
strain their imaginations
to feel that they, person-

- The Trakhman and Imas families, recent immig-
rants from the Soviet Union, get together frequently.
Shown are, from left, Zina and Idel Trakhman, Grig-
ory and Leah Trakhman with aon Artur, Mikhail and
Bella Imas with son Sasha.

* * *

ally, have been brought
from bondage. The
words, "last year we were
slaves, now we are free"
will have special mean-
ing for them.
Since their arrival here
last May, the Trakhmans
and Imases are at last able
to openly celebrate their
Jewish heritage without
fear of reprisal. The families
formerly lived-in Kishinev,
capital of the Moldavian
Soviet Socialist Republic
and the site of two vicious
anti-Jewish pogroms in
1903 and 1905.
"In Russia my mother
would make a Seder but it
had to be a big secret," said
Bella Imas. "Here- every-
thing is free. You can be-
lieve in God, you can go to
the synagogue, you can do
what you want. You an
even buy matzot in the
stores; in Russia we had to
make our own."
Bella, with her husband
Mikhail and son Sasha,
made the long trip from
Kishinev with her parents,
Idel and Zina Trakhman,
and her brother Grigory
Trakhman, his wife Leah
and their son Artur.
The families had to
wait only four months for
permission to leave the
USSR. They had the
further good fortune to
be able to keep their jobs
after they asked to leave.
But their journey was far
from easy. After a long train
trip through Russia and
Czechoslovakia, they had to
wait several months in
Rome while their entry to
the U.S. was arranged.
They arrived in Detroit
knowing no one, and know-
ing no English.
"Our social worker from
Resettlement Service met
us at the airport and
brought us right here," said
Leah Trakhman in her
modestly-furnished South-
field apartment.
"We were very sur-
prised. You never see an
apartment like this in
Russia. _Everything -was
as it is now: Resettlement
Service gave us the furni-
ture, food, and paid the
rent until we could do it
"If they hadn't helped us,
it would have been terrible
for us," said Mikhail Imas,
who lives next door to Grig-
ory and Leah Trakhrhan.
The elder Trakhmans live a
short distance away.
• Grigory and Mikhail,
both university-trained
engineers, had a hard time
finding jobs. With the help •

of the Jewish Vocatic, Ill
Service, a member agency
the Jewish Welfare Federa-
tion, both secured positions
as draftsmen. When they
become more proficient in
English and learn more
about American technol-
ogy, they hope to work as
engineers again.
Bella works as an ac-
countant for a retail carpet
store. Leah, who taught
Russian language and lit-
erature at a - teacher-
training college, is still
looking for a job.
One of the first things
they noticed when they ar-
rived in Detroit was the
number of synagogues.
"We never saw so many
synagogues in Russia,"
said Mikhail. "In
Kishinev, a city of half a
million, there was one
synagogue, a very old
building. Only old people
would go there. The
young people were afraid
to go, because if anyone
found out, they could lose
their jobs."
Jewish children in Russia
are often unaware of their
heritage because there are
no Jewish schools and the
parents are afraid to teach
them, he said. "If the other
children know they are
Jewish it will be bad."
The Imases had a Brit
Mila for their son Sasha,
now eight, "but it had to be a
big secret," he .said. The
Trakhmans waited until
they reached the U.S. to cir-
cumcise Artur, now three.
"We didn't know any-
thing about Jewish history
or Jewish law," Mikhail
said. "We only knew it was
not good to be a Jew in Rus-
sia. We couldn't hide it
either, because our nation-
ality is listed as Jewish on
our documents."
Jews are often dis-
criminated against, he
said. "You could apply
for a job, and after t
found out you we
Jew, they would say, 1,
yesterday I had a job for
you; today I don't' "
Sasha is now learning
Hebrew, as well as English,
at Hillel Day School. He, in
turn, teaches his parents,
aunt and uncle what he
learns about Jewish history
and customs.
The Trakhmans and Im-
ases are now waiting for
additional family members
to come from Russia.
"One thing we learned
here is that Jewish people
help each other," Mikhail
said. "We didn't expect such



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