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September 25, 1987 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-09-25

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Continued from Page 26

slave mentality? "There
were always rebels," Julie
answers. "We're one of
them. They always exist in
every society. America was
built by them."
"In the Soviet Union
[these Jews] were liberals,
radicals: Here, they're arch-
conservatives," Dr. Luba
Berton observes. One of the
distinguishing traits of the
Soviet Jews is their delight
in exploiting opportunities
for individual freedom.
Many take this to the point
of abhorrence of any govern-
ment involvement in the
welfare of the people.
Alex Goldis is a self-made
man who peppers his con-
versation with words
like "entrepreneur" and "go-
getter!' A go-getter himself
and an early ,riser, by 6:30
a.m. he is doing his daily
workout at the Jewish
Center. Goldis bemoans
those who either do not
understand or do not work
to preserve "individual
rights" and "laissez-faire
capitalism!' He feels that
personal opportunity in the
U.S. "is in a downward trend
because of government con-
How different would the
story of Soviet Jews in
America have been if their
arrival had not intersected
with the Reagan Era? No
other recent president has
so extolled individual ac-
complishment. And many
Russians, like Goldis and
Sam Valk, have embraced
that philosophy
"Russians are an extreme-
ly ambitious people," Sam
Valk. notes. Most of them are
willing to work overtime at
hard jobs to get what they
want. In Russia there was
nothing to lose or to gain.
Here, it's 'my house is my
castle! "
"A lot of Americans resent
us," says Ina Sushin, a
beautician at Papillon beau-
ty salon. "We work hard. We
don't mind working Satur-
days. We don't mind the
pressures. We lived well in
Russia. Here we started
with nothing. You want it
back. You want more for
your children!'
Many Russian women
work at beauty salons.
Several salons, including
Papillon, are Russian own-
ed. "It was natural for a
woman who had language
problems to go into the
beauty business, because it
wasn't hard to get a
diploma," Valk explains.
"The service needed people.
It still does?'
With the exception of the
Kovalskys, all the Russian

Jews interviewed for this ar-
ticle spoke of making it in
America solely in terms of
material attainment. When
pushed a little further, they
said their prosperity could
be used toward the educa-
tion of their children. Only
the Kovalskys, who are
musicians, spoke of a desire
for spiritual accomplish-
Not all the Russians have
found success in America.
Many who were in their 50s
and older when they came
found the job market closed
to them. Others who never
managed to conquer the
language barrier took jobs
as drivers, maintenance
workers and as bakery
employees, according to
Valk. When Detroit plunged

"A couple of
months after we
applied, we got a
call saying we'd
better leave a
certain amount of
money in a certain
place if we wanted
to get outs"


into a recession in the early
1980s, some left town for
other parts of the U.S. Valk
says he knows of only one
case where a local Russian
gave up entirely and return-
ed to the Soviet Union.
Those who work closely
with the community say the
Russians are more affected
by their upbringing than
they are willing to admit.
"They have been totally
shaped by this ugly system,"
Lydia Kuniaysky argues.
"In practical terms they
are apprehensive,
withholding, and are used to
being told what to do," she
continues. "They like order
and they don't understand
democracy. They don't
understand tolerance and
acceptance. They like to
have a strong leader even
though they themselves suf-
fered from these leaders in
the past!'
"They practically fell in
love with 011ie North," says
a bemused Dr. Luba Berton
of the White House staffer
who took U.S. policy into his
own hands. "I had to explain
to them this is a country of
laws, not men.
"They're brainwashed
forever. Even the young ones
believe that the U.S. is going
to founder on its liberalism.
Some of them forget what it
was like over there!"
"Some are going back to

Continued on Page 30

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