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May 15, 1987 - Image 94

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-05-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BACKGROUND

Detroiters Join Soviet Jews
In Russia For Purim

HOWARD B. SHERIZEN
DR. BRUCE S. SHERIZEN

Special to The Jewish News

D

ADELE FABER and
ELAINE MAZLISH

(Authors of "How To Talk So
Your Kids Will Listen")

Will Autograph

"Siblings Without Rivalry"

FRI., MAY 15
12:30 p.m.

Orchard. Mall: 851-9150

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94

Friday, May 15, 1987

Exp. 6-20-87

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

espite Soviet repres-
sion, many Russian
Jews still practice
Judaism, although not as
freely as their American coun-
terparts. We were surprised to
see just how observant many
are.
While traveling on a busi-
ness tour of the Soviet Union
recently, we had the experi-
ence of celebrating the Purim
holiday together with Soviet
Jews in Leningrad.
Modern Russian Jews who
we met live according to Torah,
studying its ideals and closely
following its observances. All
this, in spite of the pressures of
a society hostile to their newly
adopted life style.
We were advised to meet
Saturday night in the cramped
quarters of Aviv and Emma's
apartment one hour after
Shabbat. Avi serves as Leilin-
grad's shochet. Following the
Maariv service the Megillah
was read. Young, newly reli-
gious community leaders
wanted to hear every word of
the Megillah text, as required
by Halacha. Nine other men
were present. With our
presence there was now a mi-
nyan. Kaddish was recited.
The mood was subdued and
mellow. The sole stirring of two
greggers was muted, so as not
to disturb the neighbors.
Usually young returnees to
Judaism shy away from the
synagogue, which is a
government-run institution,
like all houses of worship in the
Soviet Union. However, this
Sunday morning was different.
Notwithstanding attempts to
isolate Jews from their heri-
tage, several hundred young
people from throughout met-
ropolitan Leningrad (as well as
areas as remote as Yerevan,
capital city of Armenia, a 1,700
mile, three-day trip by rail),
flocked to the synagogue at 2
Lermantovski Prospekt.
University students and pro-
fessionals, those well-
accomplished in the arts and
sciences, as well as craftsmen
and computer programmers,
crowded into the Leningrad
shul. It is the only synagogue
for a Jewish population more
than twice that of metro De-
troit.
We were moved by the tre-
mendous outpouring of people
entering the synagogue. They
came in defiance of all efforts to
make their heritage an object
worthy of scorn. Perhaps be-
cause it is extremely difficult
to be observant in Russia, that
Jewish observance has ironi-
cally started to blossom..

The Leningrad Synagogue is a government-run institution.
Howard Sherizen is a Farmington Hills-based
insuranceprofessionarfinancial planner.
Dr. Bruce Sherizen is a Southfield-based dentist.

On the other hand, we
noticed several individuals in
the synagogues nervously eye-
ing us up and down. The people
ignored these government
planted observers.
Many Soviet senior citizens
in the shul displayed the Rus-
sian military medals which
they had earned. The older
generation, like most Soviets,
strike one as fervently patrio-
tic towards the Motherland.
The younger generation also
displayed a deep loyalty, but of
a different sort entirely. Men
sported beards, kippot and tzit-
ziot. Women wore chai
necklaces and Jewish stars. If
married, a woman wore a
colorful head scarf or sheitel.
The men and women virtually
all spoke Hebrew. Their
toddlers, too, spoke fluent He-
brew. In the synagogue we ex-
changed shalach ma7,1,ot pack-
ages. Whether it was disorder
or spontaneity, several
minyanim were held simul-
taneously next to the main
sanctuary.
Xeroxing in the Soviet
Union is unavailable to Soviet
citizens. Today, many Jewish
books are actually photo-
graphed. This painstaking
'process of individually photo-
graphing literally thousands of
pages is both time consuming
and exorbitantly expensive.

These books are then distrib-
uted among the private study
groups throughout the Soviet
Union. In one Leningrad
apartment we were shown a
recently published treatise on
Maimonides' principles
brought in by another recent
visitor from Detroit. Every
page was photographed.
Since apartments are as-
signed by the government, the
autherities have insured that
there are no Jewish neighbor-
hoods in the Soviet Union; like
Haman's allegation to King
Ahasueres in the Book of
Esther, "There is a certain
people scattered and dis-
persed."

Yet, one refusenik, was able
to find humor, despite his sad
plight. "You probably have
only one Jewish Community
Center in your city. We have
many Jewish Community Cen-
ters. Wherever you have a few
Jews together, you have a
Jewish Center." The closest re-
semblance to a Jewish
neighborhood was one huge
apartment complex which
housed four refusenik families.
Nonetheless, the feeling of
community togetherness was
intense.
People, young and old alike,
were extremely anxious to
know what Jewish life in the

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