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This Year in America – Russian Jews Are Joyous

By Joan Shepard

Hundreds of eyes, glistened with tears when the huge silver Chanukah candelabra was lit at the Brooklyn Jewish Center, 667 Eastern Parkway.

For most of them, refugees from Russia, it was the first time in their lives they have been able to witness the lighting of the sacred Menorah. In Russia, religious rites are banned.

“Many of them,” said Rabbi Shmuel Butman, “have only had Chanukah and the Menorah in their hearts.”

As soon as the Eli Lipsker Orchestra started a rousing Russian folk son-, dozens of people got up, clapped their hands and danced. One did not have to speak Russian to know how they felt.

The party, ‘which brought together Russian-Jewish emigres from all five boroughs, was sponsored by Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe (FREE). The organization at 1383 President St. his been helping Russian Jews settle in the United States for nine-and-a-half years.

On hand at the party was Rabbi Jscob Goldstein, a special liaison officer to the Jewish community from the mayor’s office. “There are about 4,000 Russian Jews in Crown Heights,” explained Goldstein, “and of course many more in Coney Island.”

The mayor’s office helps the Russian refugees work their way through the city bureaucracy. Language, of course, is a problem. Very few of the Russian emigres at the party spoke any English at all.

One obviously happy woman was Nina Motba with her 3-year-old son, Igor. They had been in the United States for just five weeks and were throughly enjoying themselves.

The Motba family which came from Bobroysk, Russia, told through an interpreter of their happiness in being in Brooklyn and at the Chanukah party.

A bearded man with small penetrating eyes, Velvl Nissnesitch from Moscow, an artist, said through an interpreter that the “joy of life is to be free.”

According to Goldstein, jobs, are the first major problem. “But Many find work,” said Goldstein. “They don’t want public assistance, they are very proud.”

As the afternoon faded into darkness, the party got livelier. And although much of the music was Russian, it was obvious they were not homesick for their homeland.

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