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October 26, 1990 - Image 102

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-10-26

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

EDUCATION

Kids With A Cause

Students at Hillel Day School spend
their lunch time helping Soviet Jews.

ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM

Assistant Editor

he lizard's eyes
bulge out and his
slimy green fingers
hold on for dear life.
"He's mine," a boy
says, proudly holding up the
creature in his small fist.
The boy is on his way to
science class: "Brought him
from home."
Three boys, wearing dark
jackets and high-top tennis
shoes, throw books in their
overcrowded lockers. If only
they could bottle that look:
Teen-age Cool. New Kids on
the Block, eat your hearts
out.
Giggling non-stop, a
gaggle of girls — their hair
all pulled atop their heads (if

T

Madonna does it, you know
it's got to be s0000 hot) —
watch the boys around them.
The girls carry pink and
violet lunch boxes.
Devra Wanetik, running
down the hall of Hillel Day
School, sees none of this. She
zooms past the Cool Trio,
pushes into the Madonna
wanna-bes and doesn't even
notice the lizard.
That's because Devra, a
sixth-grader, has to tell her
friend the greatest news in
the whole world.
"Our Soviet family is get-
ting out!" she screams with
delight.
Devra is one of some 60
second- through sixth-
grade students who regular-
ly participate in a Soviet
Jewry education class at

Hillel. The class is optional,
offered as an alternative to
lunch time and recess. But if
such a program sounds like a
recipe for failure, think
again.
On a typical day in Judy
Grant Granader's Soviet
Jewry class for fifth-graders,
the room is packed. In fact,
the course is so popular —
most participants are girls
— that all available desks
have been filled. A handful
of students stand against the
back wall.
The fourth-grade Soviet
Jewry class is a similar
story. At first, one class was
held for the 9-year-olds. It
became so crowded that a se-
cond fourth-grade Soviet
Jewry class was created.
The big news of the day is

that the classes' adopted
refusenik family —Valery,
Ludmilla and Vladimir
Zelichenok of Siberia —
have received permission to
emigrate.
The first Exodus, when
Jews were led out of Egypt,
was one miracle, Mrs.
Granader tells the students.
"Now it's another Exodus.
Again we are seeing a God-
made miracle with all the
Soviet Jews being allowed to
leave."
With the Zelichenoks'
release, the students adopt
another Soviet Jewish fami-
ly: Roman and Svetlana
Sorkin and their children
Igor, Renata and Khanna,
who were refused permission
to emigrate because of their

alleged access to "state
secrets."
Fourth-grade students
munch on bologna sand-
wiches and apples and pop-
corn. One fourth-grader,
hearing of the Zelichenoks'
release, announces, "My
great uncle just got out of
Russia, too. He's 91."
Another student is wor-
ried. "But what happens
when they get to Israel?
What if there's a war?"
Leah Weiss, a fellow stu-
dent sitting in the front row,
offers reassurance. "People
in Israel know how to handle
it," she says. Israelis have
learned to live with the
kinds of things that terrify
Americans, like the constant
threat of war, she says.
Leah is a longtime Soviet
Jewry activist. She has
written letters to the
Zelichenoks and other
refuseniks, even sending
small toys to the families'
children.
When she hears that the
Zelichenoks will emigrate,
she is delighted. "I feel good

"I feel good
because I'm just a
kid but I could do
something, even if
it was just a little."

— Leah Weiss

Olga Flomin: "In Moscow, you stand in line hours to get ice cream."

102

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 1990

Lavie Golenberg with a letter to his "adopted" refusenik.

because I'm just a kid but I
could do something, even if
it was just a little," she says.
Mrs. Granader, who has
been teaching the class for
five years, speaks to the
students about the
challenges of Israel absorb-
ing hundreds of thousands of
new Soviet Jewish immi-
grants. She reminds them
how difficult it can be for the
refuseniks to leave, despite
Soviet leader Mikhail Gor-
bachev's decision to allow
increased emigration.
Student Olga Flomin, sipp-
ing from a carton of Tang,
understands this difficulty.
She and her family left the

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