The table in the Genesis Program Center was set festively. The aroma from the homemade dishes was enticing. The guests at this special gathering greeted one another warmly – after all, they had known one another for two decades. Most of the attendees at this Hanukkah luncheon had emigrated from the former Soviet Union in the early ’90s. Now several times each year, they come together for celebrations. They are often joined by some of the most important people in their lives: those who helped them settle in this country years ago. Among those attending this party was Ellen Bloch, who directed the Resettlement Program and Jewish Family Service of Metrowest; and Arnold Roth and Judith and Alan Bernstein who served as volunteers for this effort.
Judith, who also serves as a member of JCHE’s Board, described the work that she, Alan and Arnold did. “We were really teaching aculturation, American and Jewish, and teaching English through this vehicle. The focus was language in the beginning, but our goal was to let them see how Americans think and feel. The concepts of choice and possibilities were what we hoped to impart.” This was tremendously challenging, at least initially, since the recent arrivals did not know English and the volunteers did not speak Russian!
Overall,the resettlement effort helped thousands of Russians settle in the Boston area and make the United States their home.
According to Polina Volovich, the resettlement efforts were invaluable. “We anticipated a very difficult move to the United States,” she said. “We imagined ourselves alone and lonely. But instead we made wonderful friends and they helped us every step of the way.”
Polina and her husband are among those in this group who now live at JCHE’s Brighton campus. They enjoy their new home and are pleased that their neighbors include some who they’ve come to know so well.
As this was a Hanukkah party, Polina was reflective about the meaning of the holiday. Pointing to her friends she commented that they are all living a miracle. This is a poignant connection at this season as the story of the Hanukkah miracle is retold.