Building a Sustainable Model for Russian-speaking Families in Brooklyn

from The (London) Jewish Chronicle:

In heart of Brooklyn, a slice of living history

On a recent sunlit morning in Brooklyn, Leonard Petlakh drove me on a tour of the synagogues that pepper the heavily Russian-speaking neighbourhoods of south Brooklyn.

“Another congregation, happily dying,” Mr Petlakh said, pulling up outside the Conservative Congregation Beth Shalom, where he was married 11 years ago.

“If you go down any street around here most of the homes are Russian,” he continued. “But the synagogue’s boards aren’t interested in outreach to Russians.”

It has been 20 years since the last great wave of Russian-speaking Jews – about 300,000 people, says Mr Petlakh – began to arrive in New York. Yet, for the most part, they have failed to fit in.

Though the barriers to assimilation, such as language and socio-economic divisions, have fallen, there is still a gap between American and former Soviet Jews.

The gap can be discerned in the separate events put on to attract Russian-speaking Jews, such as New York’s Limmud FSU. And in the fact that many struggling New York synagogues can be found at the centre of large, Russian-speaking populations.