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December 10, 1993 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-12-10

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Edith Gertsmark
owns Papillon in
West Bloomfield.



Jeff Levy owns
Lincoln Center
Barber Shop.


Of The Guard

hen Jeff Levy immigrated from
the former Soviet Union to De-
troit, he already was 29 years
old. "But it was like I started life
from the beginning," he says.
Mr. Levy, who now owns the
Lincoln Center Barber Shop in
Oak Park, says adjusting to life
in the United States was a chal-
lenge. It meant learning how to
prosper in an economic system
that requires initiative — one
less cushy, but far more re-
warding, than communism.
The journey from commu-
nism to capitalism, from pre-de-
termination to self-determin-
ation, is tough on many of De-
troit's 5,000 emigres, says
Sandy Hyman, director of Re-
settlement Service.
"It is very difficult for them
to make the adjustment to what
freedom means — self-reliance.
It's confusing. They'll say to
me,`Jewish Vocational Service
didn't get me that great job.' But
the fact is that JVS is trying to
develop skills for that client to
find his or her own job," Ms. Hy-
man says.
"When I first began to hire
Russian-speaking staff, I would
ask them the question, 'Why
should I hire you? What do you
have to offer?' But the idea of
talking about their own merit

New Americans are learning to cope
with changes in their working lives as they
move from communism to capitalism.


was just incomprehensible,"
Ms. Hyman says. "They lived
in a society where they were
taught to go along with the
"It was not a positive to stand
out," she said.
Edith Gertsmark is the own-
er of Papillon, a West Bloom-
field beauty salon. She says
most emigres to the United
States dream of being their own
bosses, but they don't anticipate
the vast amounts of work in-
volved in achieving that goal.
Many of them, she says, have
poor attitudes.
"I tell people they have to
change. You can't live here with
your old attitudes. It takes hard
work, lots of learning, patience
and time. Don't take things for
granted and don't expect a prof-
it the next day," Ms. Gertsmark
She speaks from experience.

Ms. Gertsmark started prepar-
ing for her new career before
she left Latvia 17 years ago. She
learned about the beauty trade,
even though she had been
trained formally as a civic plan-
Shortly after her family
moved to Detroit, Ms. Gerts-
mark started working. Eight
years ago, she bought the salon
by pooling money that she and
her husband had saved and
borrowing from friends.
Since its inception, Pappillon
has expanded to include eight
manicurists and twice as many
hair dressers.
Ray Genick of the Wayne
State University Small Busi-
ness Development Center says
emigres like Ms. Gertsmark
have a burning desire to suc-
ceed. "That means long, hard
hours (as well as) accepting and
moving past failures," he said.

Restaurateur Michael Kuch-
ersky wouldn't let an economic
downturn snuff out his dream.
He learned the lessons of U.S.
business cycles the hard way
when he opted to ride out a fi-
nancial storm.
"A lot of people told me, 'Just
give up, close down, sell, go
work for somebody.' I said, No
way.' So I struggled. I borrowed
money from one company to
pay for another one," he says.
Mr. Kuchersky's efforts paid
off. He now owns five Sunrise
Cafe restaurants.
Emigres say they learn by
making mistakes. One of the
major changes they must make
is in the arena of customer re-
lations. Old-World etiquette, or
lack thereof, must fall by the
wayside, they say.
"Customer service does not
exist in Russia," Ms. Gertsmark
CHANGING page 32

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