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June 08, 1990 - Image 83

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-06-08

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Staff Writer

I n a darkened room of


the Jimmy Prentis Mor-
ris Jewish Community
Center, 11 senior
citizens examine the faded
slides showing the grandeur
of Leningrad's Hermitage
For seniors like Oscar
Schwartz, the slides offer a
glimpse into another cul-
t ur e . But for Nikolay
Klemptner, who brought the
slides from the Soviet Union,
the pictures bring back
memories of the country he
left behind almost 10 years
The seniors have come
together to form a study
group as part of Institute of
Retired Professionals. It is
one of 23 discussion groups
in the institute which allows
any retired individual inter-
ested in learning to discuss
topics of their choosing.
This IRP group, which is
open to any retired Jewish
Community Center member,
first met last fall every other

Frida Kivin:
"I have made friends."

week. After a winter hiatus,
it resumed a few months
The discussion group has
no teacher, no set topic and
operates under no rules ex-

Sidney Krause listens to the

cept one — only English is
spoken. For the Soviets in
the room, following that rule
isn't always easy.
Although Nikolay and
Alice Klemptner left their
native Riga almost 10 years
ago and are American
citizens, they still find it
easier to speak in Russian
than English. While the
Klemptners can speak Eng-
lish fluently, many of their
friends and neighbors speak
Russian so they don't often
have a chance to use it.
The conversation flows
easily from topic to topic.
While watching the slide
show, the viewers turn their
talk to the excesses of Rus-
sian aristocrats before the
Communist revolution. One
room of the Winter Palace
seems filled with statues
from ancient Greece and
Rome, while glass cases in
the hallways contain jewel-
ry, pottery and other
treasures from 18th century
France. Numerous famous
paintings from different
periods hang on almost
every wall.
Lee Schwartz, an Ameri-
can who once traveled to the
Soviet Union, says, "After I
saw the Winter Palace, I
understood why there was a
The discussion turns to the

influence France had on
Russia in the 18th and 19th
centuries. It weaves around
to World War II. The room
gets suddenly quiet when
Alex Alshever talks about
the hunger and death he saw
during the 900-day siege of
There is a brief silence
after Alshever speaks. But
the conversation picks up
again as the subject turns
from death to the art world,
to international politics and
finally to American televi-
No one seems to mind the
twists and turns. In fact, the
discussion group rarely ex-
pects to remain on the same
subject for the hour it meets
every other Friday morning
at the JPM.
Oscar Schwartz, who acts
as the group facilitator, said
the topic isn't important.
The whole idea of the get-



Klemptner turns to speak in
Russian with Frida Kivin.
Both women agree they feel
more comfortable speaking
in their native language.
But Klemptner says the
discussion group is helpful.

Rae Sugarman talks about life in
the Soviet Union.

Oscar Schwartz acts as facilitator,
but the group has no leader.

"I'm glad to have the op-
portunity to speak English,"
she says.
Kivin, a former teacher
who moved to America
almost 10 years ago, can't
watch television because her
eyesight is failing and she
doesn't often leave her
apartment. But with this
group she gets to hear what
is going on in the world and
something even more impor-
"I have made friends with
these people," she says. ❑

Nikolay Klemptner brought in
slides of Leningrad to show the

togethers is to help the
Soviets use their English
"They need to get out into
the greater community. It's
tempting to stay in their
own group, but . . . ," says
Lee Schwartz who sees her
role as helping the Soviets
adjust to America.
As the discussion ends and
the group disperses, Alice



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