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August 31, 1990 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-08-31

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volunteers who have welcomed the
newcomers. A dinner to honor the vol-
unteers last year attracted 600 honorees,
immigrants and community members.
In Kansas City, • where a number of
community agencies and volunteers pro-
vide services, the approach considers the
need to acculturate to America, too.
-"We're much more adept at what we're
providing than we were 10 years ago,"
says Rabbi Michael Zedek of Temple
B'nai Jehudah. "We realize the immi-
grants come here to breathe American
air, not Jewish air. So we have to very
carefully reach out to them and teach
them about our religion."
That statement could also apply to the
programs offered for the burgeoning
number of immigrants in Columbus,
Ohio. The keys words are "Family Ties,"
the name for a program that pairs Soviet
families with Americans who host
Shabbat dinners, take the Soviets to the
Social Security offices and assist them in
numerous other ways. Another program
pairs day-school youths with American
students for outings, holiday observances
and other youth activities.
Additional acculturation takes place in
English-as-a-second-language classes at


Be'er Hagolah (A well to drink from in the
Diaspora) Institutes sprawl over four
campuses, where 500 immigrant children
are in an almost womb-to-adult welfare
state learning about Judaism.
From kindergarten to senior high
school and beyond, the instruction — in
English — of Jewish customs and a
regular diet of general, courses is free for
those who can't afford it. The byword is
English. There are no Russian-speaking
teachers on the faculty so the students
have no crutches.
Families also receive free synagogue
memberships, scholarships to Hebrew
summer camps, even free weddings. Pro-
grams pair Soviet Be'er Hagolah students
and American youngsters at Jewish day
schools. Also field trips are scheduled so
students can better understand their new
It's not uncommon on Friday to see
students carrying overnight bags on their
way to spend Sabbath with Jewish
families as far away as Toronto, Canada.
A special skills program uses audio-
visual and other media to individualize
instruction. Wherever possible, teachers
develop correlations between Jewish
values and American ethics. For example,
one class uses a text explaining how an
individual is responsible to others and to
society — in the context of the American
system of criminal and civil justice.
The result of all these approaches, in
the words of director Pearl Kaufman, is
"magnificent. They've become very Jew-
The program is operated by the Fund
for Jewish Education, about 10 percent of
whose dollars come from the United Jew-
ish Appeal and the balance from private
individuals. It has a $2 million budget. In
one year, a tree-lined campus in Starrett
City, on the Brooklyn-Queens border, will
also open. According to Ms. Kaufman,
"our only problem is that we can't ac-
commodate more students. There should
be more schools like ours."
Near Boston, the North Shore Jewish
Federation in Massachusetts offers an-
other model program. It provides services
to immigrants ranging from English-as-a-
second-language classes, to free syn-
agogue memberships, to pairing new im-
migrants with an "old" (from one decade
ago) Soviet family already coupled with
an American sponsoring family.
The federation ; which services 22 cities
and towns, has assisted 1,200 immigrants
since the late 1970s. In the Boston area,
success is measured by the hundreds of

At an English class for Soviet immigrants run by the Jewish Vocational Service at Chicago's Temple Menorah, students learn about the Jewish
holidays and hear the blasts of the shofar for the first time.



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