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June 07, 1991 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-06-07

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




For the Fast Track


Staff Writer

Photo by Glenn Triest

JVS' Galina Drits
discusses job
prospects with a
Soviet man.

INAI arty Benson
believes 90
days behind
the counter
will prepare
immigrants for the American
job market more effectively than
any class.
So in the past few years,
the cash registers at his
West Bloomfield American
Bulk Food store have been
manned by many Soviet pro-
fessionals. Among them are
engineers, bookkeepers,
jewelers, biologists and com-
puter programmers who fled
persecution in the Soviet
Union to find freedom in the
United States.
"The initial problem that
they face is getting comfor-
table with language, learn-
ing how we handle problems,
what are the expectations
and how do we do business,"


FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 1991

Mr. Benson says. "That real-
ly is the most important
thing. You can learn a lot
from books, but the counter
is the best place to learn.
"At first, it is frustrating;
they are forced into learn-
ing," Mr. Benson says.
"They are slow. Then they
get used to it, and they pick
up the language. They all
help each other and it
reminds me of family."
Still, starting at the
bottom is not so attractive to
the highly trained, college-
educated Soviet masses
entering the country at a
rate of 40,000 a year. Last
year, Detroit resettled
almost 800 Soviet Jews. Al-
ready this year, 140 Soviet
immigrants arrived, and an-
other 60 are expected this
They arrive in droves —
ready and able to work. Ac-
companying them are skills
that are not always
transferable. And they bring
along expectations.
"I want a house, a car and
some money — enough to
have a full life," says Larisa
Peysin, a wife, mother of
two, and a draftsman by
trade who became a
seamstress after im-
migrating here a year ago.
"I want a good, professional
job for myself and for my
husband and a good future
for my kids.
"I want a job in any profes-
sion," Mrs. Peysin. says. "I
don't want to be a seam-
Despite Soviet Jews' high-
level skills, many do start
over in the United States.
No matter how talented or
educated, some jobs — like
those of economists or ac-
countants — do not translate
without retraining. Some
doctors are being re-trained
as lab assistants. Engineers
often opt for careers in
repair. Many women are op-
ting for work as
cosmetologists and seam-

Leonid Neveleva, an elec-
tronics engineer in the
Soviet Union, immigrated
here a year ago and has
since become a technician
for Inatech in Troy.
"His job is close," says
Leonid's wife, Olga
Neveleva, a bookkeeper who
can't find work. "But it is
not satisfying. He can do
more. He was a good engi-
neer and he knows some
Mrs. Peysin, who has lived
in Oak Park for a year,
thinks the situation will
change. Her husband, an art
designer who took a factory
job, was laid off four months
"We like it here much
better," she says. "We have
difficulty with the language.
I've had a few interviews.
Maybe my English is not
By anyone's standards, the
first order of business on the
newcomer checklist is learn-
ing the language.
"Language is the big prob-
lem," says Galina Drits, co-
ordinator for refugee
employment for Jewish
Vocational Service. "People
who come here prepared to
speak English will find jobs
more easily."
JVS' refugee program has
grown in the past 15 years.
A few years ago, a staff of
one and a part-time inter-
preter made up the depart-
ment. Today, refugee ser-
vices employs nine, in-
cluding a part-time
"The economy has chang-
ed so drastically," says
Karol Moxley, refugee pro-
gram supervisor. "Americans
are competing for jobs, so it is
tougher now for the Soviets.
People who have recently ar-
rived have a more difficult
time getting in. The com-
munity needs to help us by
calling us and giving us refer-
JVS provides skills
retraining. To retool Soviets

for the American job market,
the agencies receive
government and private
funds to upgrade business,
clerical, bookkeeping and
computer skills.
Services available to each
Soviet are: assessment of
work-related skills, job
placement assistance, job
readiness training, previous
skills analysis and resume
writing and interviewing
"Our goal at JVS is to
assist the client in becoming
self-sufficient in the
speediest time possible,"
Mrs. Drits says.
JVS officials say they keep
no placement statistics, but
estimate that 60 percent of
their clients are Soviets.
Soviets are referred to the
agency through Jewish
Family Service. Placement,
they say, is somewhat slower
than it was during the im-
migration wave 12 years
Barbara Nurenberg, JVS
assistant executive director,
says that Soviets typically
remain on the active case
file for six months, when
they get their first job
placement. Some jobs don't
work out; and then they
come back, she says.
"The concept of worker ex-
pectation is different in this
country," Ms. Nurenberg
says. "But this wave is
better prepared than the
immigrants who arrived
here 12 years ago."
Ms. Nurenberg reiterates
the main employment prob-
lem: English. "One of the
quickest ways to learn is to
get out into the working
world. English improves
more rapidly among those
who are working than
among those in classes all
Mrs. Nurenberg says 22
percent of the Soviet clients
opt for extended training; 55
percent of their caseloads
are closed within 90 days
due to job placement.

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