Document 14410547

Going 'Crackers"
Recipes for a
spring Shabbat
Mountain bliss
near Montreal
See Page 14
See Page 16
See Page 17
Day school
leader resigning
Rabbi Joshua Elkin, head of
Partnership for Excellence in
Jewish Education, will step
down in fall.
Established 1902
Vol. 202 No. 20 ■ 16 Iyar 5771 — MAY 20, 2011 ■ ■ $1.50
See Page 2
A different sound
at services
Tales of love and war
Chant sessions are springing
up more and more at synagogues and in homes.
J Street
the cut
JCRC proposal keeps
group in the fold
See Page 3
By Leah Burrows
Advocate Staff
A nerd and
proud of it
A Russian immigrant tells how
she rescued her son from the
clutches of cool.
See Page 11
Striking out
in Israel
A pitcher writes about
Israel's brief experiment
with baseball.
See Page 14
Boycott battle
With exceptions like
Hampshire campus, BDS
movement yet to show
real clout on campus.
See Page 23
Parshat Behukotai
7:45 PM
7:49 PM
7:44 PM
7:46 PM
7:45 PM
7:50 PM
7:48 PM
Dina Kapengut with Mindel, who appears at right with her first husband, Chaim. He was killed at the front in World War II. Though
Mindel remarried, she still holds his memory dear.
Brandeis students interview their Russian-speaking elders
By Leah Burrows
Advocate Staff
At the end of every interview session, whether they
had been talking about love or loss or war, 96-yearold Mindel would look at 18-year-old Dina Kapengut
and say, “You know, that’s life.”
Every time.
“When someone says it over and over again, it becomes more than a phrase,” Kapengut said. “It was
her acceptance. She was very happy with her life.
She’s not resentful toward any part of it. … This was
her way of saying, I’m alive and I have a story, and
that’s my life.”
Kapengut collected and recorded Mindel’s life
story as a project for the Brandeis Genesis Institute
for Russian Jewry at Brandeis University.
Kapengut was among the BGI fellows who partnered with Russian Jewish residents at the Hebrew
Rehabilitation Center in Boston. Over the course of
two semesters, they recorded and transcribed hours
of interviews in Russian.
As the interviews progressed, one theme emerged:
the enormous impact of World War II.
Most of the fellows were born in the former Soviet
Union but grew up in America, speaking Russian with
their parents and English with their friends.
All have strong connections to their Russian heritage. Several had visited or studied in Russia.
But few understood the history, reality and personal tolls of World War II in the Soviet Union, known
in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.
“World War II is covered in American classrooms,
but it doesn’t have the focus on the USSR,” said Irina
Dubinina, the fellows’ advisor and director of the
Russian language program at Brandeis. “The students
know something about it from personal stories from
their grandparents – some of their grandparents have
bullet scars, one student had a grandmother who survived Leningrad. But often we take our own grandparents for granted, and it takes
talking to a stranger to discover
something that is actually part of
your own family.”
The students compiled the stories they collected into a scrapbook which they presented to the
seniors last week to commemorate V-E Day. (Condensed versions
of their stories are on pages 6-7.)
Eli Tukachinsky
This was just one the prowith Olga,
grams sponsored by the Brandeis
who was
Genesis Institute aimed at reachcaptured by
ing out to the broader Russian
the Germans
Jewish Community.
while serving
Funded by the Genesis
at the front
as a nurse.
Continued on Page 5
J Street is still inside Boston’s
Jewish tent – for now.
After reviewing every organization under the JCRC umbrella, the
JCRC membership committee is
recommending that only two organizations be removed from the
tent: B’nai B’rith and the Israel
Histadrut Committee, according
to Alan Ronkin, interim director of
the JCRC. Those groups were singled out because they have little or
no presence in Boston.
The JCRC council – the body of
about 140 community and organizational representatives who oversee the Jewish Community Relations Council – are scheduled to
vote on the recommendations at a
meeting on May 25.
But that might not be the end
of the story. Any member of the
council can submit a formal request to remove another member
Continued on Page 22
Dragon Ball Z yarmulke
Do clothes
make the Jew?
By Elise Kigner
Advocate Staff
Eric Silverman is fascinated by
Among his favorites: the
L.E.D. yarmulke that flashes customized words, and, for the
more politically inclined, the
Obamica and the McCippah. His
kids have Dora the Explorer and
Dragon Ball Z yarmulkes.
“You wear this thing to say I
am Jewish, but it conveys that I
am as totally assimilated into TV
pop culture as anyone else,” said
the cultural anthropologist and
Continued on Page 4
Brandeis project bridges generations
Continued from Page 1
Funded by the Genesis
Philanthropy Group, the two-yearold institute provides scholarships
and programming to Russianspeaking students. It sponsors
events for students and members
of the Russian Jewish community
– presenting everything from art
exhibits to lectures to a professional boxer.
The students who receive BGI
fellowships, graduates and undergraduates, are expected to complete a community service project.
This year, under Dubinina’s guidance, six undergraduate fellows decided to collect oral histories.
Knowing some conversations
could be difficult, Dubinina enlisted the help of Brandeis professor
Cindy Cohen, founding director
of the Oral History Center in Cambridge. She gave the students tips
on how to ask questions and what
kind of body language to use
while Dubinina worked with them
on cultural etiquette. Most importantly, they told the students to listen – really listen.
“It was important for the students to know that these are not
mines to be mined,” Dubinina said.
Staff at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center found residents
healthy and coherent enough to
share their stories.
A nurse recommended that
Brandeis senior Eli Tukachinsky
talk to a woman named Olga. “She
has a story behind her,” Tukachinsky remembered the nurse saying.
Oral histories See pages 6 & 7
The first time the bubbly, talkative, 93-year-old Olga shared her
story with Tukachinsky, she told it
fluently, almost practiced. She
calmly told the 21-year-old about
working as a field nurse on the
front lines of the war, about contemplating suicide after being captured by the Nazis, about the
death of her husband.
“When she spoke, sometimes
she would hesitate a little,”
Tukachinsky recalled. “But mostly,
she would speak in a muted monotone.” Except when she spoke
about her husband. On those occasions, tears welled up in her otherwise bright and clear eyes.
Having never remarried nor
had children, Olga was excited
that at last she had someone to
record her story.
But some residents took a bit of
prodding. Like Olga, 97-year-old
Sofia was alone. She lost her fiancée and both her brothers in the
war. She never married and had no
“She would keep saying, I don’t
know why you want to interview
me, I had such a bad, horrible
life,” BGI fellow Lena Vaynberg,
19, recalled. “And I said, that’s why
I want to interview you. I always
felt the need to say that you’re not
going to be forgotten, your story is
not going to be forgotten.”
Like many of the student-residents partners, Vaynberg and Sofia
did most of the interviews in Sofia’s
room – which was decorated with
pictures of her friend’s children
and a small Chagall painting.
Sofia told Vaynberg that the war
had “shattered her life,” but she
was still able to remain upbeat.
“She always said, ‘that’s life,’”
Vaynberg said. “She knows that life
is ending now and she would say,
‘What else is there to do? I’m not
going to sit here being depressed.’”
Most of the students had never
worked with seniors before. Some
struggled with the realities of the
aging and dying.
Julia Rabkin, a Brandeis senior,
recalled the sadness she would feel
at times visiting her partner’s small
room, decorated
with bright artificial flowers and
family pictures.
had lived such a
rich life and
Julia Rabkin then by the end,
her life comes
down to one room,” Rabkin said.
Rabkin interviewed 88-year-old
Aleksandra, the only non-Jewish
resident interviewed. Stationed at
the front on a hospital train, she
witnessed death on a daily basis.
Her stories were at times painful
for Rabkin to hear, but she came to
realize just how long a shadow the
war had cast.
“It affected the way [our grandparents] raised their children …
our parents, who raised us in a certain way because of that,” Rabkin
said. “Even three generations away
from the war, I still identify with it.
I still feel it. It’s part of my identity.”
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5 lives transformed by war
Here are edited versions of
stories of Russian Jews written
by fellows of the Brandeis Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry.
They are based on interviews
conducted from October through
this month at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale.
Sofia: a love lost
By Lena Vaynberg (’13)
Sofia was born in 1914 in
Donetsk, Ukraine, a city on the
Kalmius River that was her home
until World War II. She was only
4 when her mother died. After
her father remarried, her two
older brothers had to move out
of the house, and Sofia became
the target of her stepmother’s
psychological attacks. Sofia says
her stepmother took away her
entire childhood.
When she turned 14, her father altered her age to 16 on official documents so that she would
be eligible to work. So Sofia had
to balance school and a job. After
high school, Sofia worked as a
cashier before she studied accounting. She worked as an accountant for the remainder of
her life in the Soviet Union.
When the war broke out, Sofia
was 27, and her brothers were 40
and 32. Both brothers volunteered to join the Red Army to
fight the Nazis, feeling a strong
sense of patriotism. Sofia left
Donetsk as part of a massive government evacuation of civilians.
News of losses started coming
soon after the war had started.
First Sofia learned that her oldest
brother was killed at the front
and then that her other brother
had died. She was hoping that
the war would at least spare her
lover. The couple had met before
the war and planned to marry
after he’d graduated from his
university. During the war, he visited Sofia once while on leave.
That was the last time she saw
him. He was killed at the front.
Following the war, Sofia
worked as an accountant at a geological institute in western
Ukraine. Eventually, she rose to
head accountant.
When Sofia was 67, she immigrated to the United States. As
part of her new life, she rediscovered Judaism. Although Sofia remembers celebrating some Jewish holidays when she was a
child, she wasn’t observant as an
adult. In the Soviet Union, she
said, people would practice religion only in secret and tried to
hide their Jewish identity. She
said she was lucky to be born
with light hair and blue eyes: “It
was easier to live this way.” As an
adult, she lived in constant fear
of losing her job as the head accountant because she was Jewish.
In Boston, however, Sophia
goes to a synagogue every Saturday. In 1991, she toured Israel
and was deeply moved by how it
has overcome and continues to
overcome tremendous challenges to its very existence. “Israel is and always will be, even
though it will face hardships,”
Lena Vaynberg with
Sofia, who said she
feared losing her job as
head accountant in the
Soviet Union because
she was Jewish. Sofia
said she was lucky to
have had light hair and
blue eyes (right). “It
was easier to live that way.”
she said. And overcoming hardship is something Sofia knows all
too well.
front line nurse
By Julia Rabkin (’11)
Aleksandra was born in
Moscow in 1923, the youngest of
eight children. She loved to ski,
swim and read, eventually collecting more than 1,500 books of
Russian and French literature.
She excelled in her schoolwork
and graduated from high school
with highest honors.
World War II broke out just
when she would have started college. Her family was split up: the
men went to fight at the front
and the women evacuated from
Moscow to Ufa in Bashkiriya, between the Volga and the Urals.
There, Aleksandra worked as an
administrator in a blood bank
and took nursing classes. After
completing a year-long course in
half the time, she went to work at
a special evacuation hospital. It
was housed in a train that fol-
lowed the Red Army's
advances and retreats. She often
would go night after
night without sleep
to keep up with the
wounded. Supplies
were scarce. She and
other medical staff
had to donate their
blood on a regular
basis. Aleksandra says
that she gave a total
of 6 liters of her
During the war,
Aleksandra married
the head surgeon,
who was 20 years her
senior. After the war,
the couple returned
to a communal apartment in Moscow,
took a three-year
course in English and
qualified to be a
translator. But she
was still hungry for
knowledge. She enrolled at the Lenin
Pedagogical University, taking teaching courses during
the day and history courses at
night. After receiving two degrees, Aleksandra started teaching at a boarding school.
Aleksandra had always wanted
children of her own, but the first
marriage didn’t bring her any
and that led to its end. Shortly
after the divorce, she met her
second husband, Zinoviy, a history teacher at the boarding school.
At age 37, Aleksandra had a son.
After working as a teacher, she
was promoted to school principal. She worked in this position
for 33 years.
Aleksandra and Zinoviy immigrated to the United States in
1996 to be closer to their son,
who had come over a few years
earlier. Zinoviy died shortly after
their 50th anniversary together.
Her health deteriorating, Aleksandra moved to the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. Her son and
grandson visit her often – just the
right medicine for someone who
spent a lifetime working with
Olga: life on the run
in recent
photo and
just after the war
By Eli Tukachinsky (’11)
Olga was born in the city of
Korosten, Ukraine, in 1918. At
the start of World War II – the
Great Patriotic War as the Russians called it – Olga and her husband were drafted into the army
and sent on separate missions.
He would die in Iran, but Olga
would survive, thanks to her own
courage, fateful friendship and
strangers’ compassion.
Olga served as a field nurse in
Ukraine, carrying wounded soldiers off the battlefield to a medical station where they were
treated for their wounds and underwent operations. She became
close friends with one of the surgeons, Natasha. Soon after Olga
arrived at the front, her regiment
was encircled by Nazi troops.
The enemies gathered Olga and
her comrades into a crowd. Olga
knew the fate that awaited her if
the Nazis found out that she was
a Jew and a Soviet officer. But a
fellow Russian lieutenant, whom
she had never met before,
thought quickly on the spot and
tore up her insignia and documents so she could conceal her
identity. She assumed a Ukrainian alias and avoided the fate of
being shot on the spot.
The prisoners were forced to
trek hundreds of kilometers to a
POW camp, enduring frequent
beatings along the way. Those
who couldn’t manage to walk on
their own were shot.
At the POW camp, Olga’s
friend Natasha somehow managed to secure a document that
would allow her to leave the
camp. But she didn’t want to go
without Olga. The women appealed to a Ukrainian guard as
fellow Ukrainians. Olga’s fluency
in Ukrainian (which for her was a
second native language) was
enough to persuade him to let
them go. Once out of the camp,
the two women faced the challenge of finding food and shelter.
Constant bombardment had left
towns and villages in ruins. The
Nazis confiscated much of the
food. And many of the Ukrainian
locals preyed on Jews.
Natasha, who was Russian,
was determined that they stick
together, whatever came their
way. Olga recalled:
“I was so lucky! There are no
kinder, better people in the
world than Natasha. She was
prepared to die with me. … I
didn’t want to be the cause of
Natasha’s demise; I tried to convince her to leave me alone. I
told her, ‘You must leave! I will
die sooner or later. If you are
with me, you’ll die as well. I am
a Yid, a Jew, they are killing
Jews!’ … But Natasha refused to
leave me, so I had to run away
from her. I decided to continue
wandering by myself. I felt sorry
for Natasha; why should she die
with me?”
Olga endured two years of
hiding, starvation and sickness as
she wandered through Nazi-occupied Ukraine.
Many years after the war, Olga
searched for Natasha through
newspapers and Soviet veteran
groups. Finally, they were reunited. The two women remained
friends for the rest of their lives.
Natasha died some years ago.
Olga immigrated to the United
States in 1971.
As the only living survivor of
her family, Olga was eager to tell
her story to me. She would often
say that she might not make it to
my next visit. She suffered a
minor stroke this year. It would
have been a great loss if this history had not been recorded.
a marriage cut short
by Dina Kapengut (’14)
The treasured time I spent
with Mindel this past year has
taught me how much more complex people are than what you
might think on first impression.
While listening to Mindel’s stories, I came to understand that
the effects of the Great Patriotic and the other from the prestiWar, were not temporary; in- gious Leningrad Polytechnic Instead, the trauma has been with stitute. He was the head constructor and then the director of
her ever since.
Mindel met her first husband, the Technical Department in the
Chaim, in 1935. As a professional Ministry of Transport. He was in
military man, he was already charge of developing car diagserving at the beginning of the nostic tools and maintenance rewar. He was killed at the front, quirements.
In addition to his regular job,
leaving Mindel with a son, two
letters from the front and the Moisey continued inventing. He
memories of their brief life to- has one patented invention and
more than 40 inventor’s certifigether.
Some years after the war, Min- cates. He received a gold, a silver
del married Efim, whom she had and five bronze medals at the Exknown since before the war. Efim hibition of National Economic
was a veteran who was left with Achievements in Moscow, a prestwo small daughters after his wife tigious trade show held annually
in the Soviet Union.
died of tuberculosis during the
“My wife’s name was Betty,”
war. Efim had to propose to Minsaid Moisey, with a twinkle in his
del several times before she aceye. “You see, our love story was
cepted, each time coming up not simple.”
with new ways of winning her afBetty’s first love was Moisey’s
brother; she married him just beMindel accepted only after fore the war broke out. The
Efim’s daughters begged her to brother was drafted, fought hero“please, please, please, be their ically at the front and was burned
to death when his tank was hit by
Mindel says that though her the Nazi artillery.
second marriage was also happy,
Because he was an engineer,
she was still haunted by memo- Moisey was not drafted. Instead,
ries of her first love, Chaim. In a he fought on “the labor front,” as
sense, her memories
have kept him alive.
After immigrating
to America, Mindel
and Efim shared an
apartment on Washington
Boston, which they
both loved. A couple
years ago Efim died,
and Mindel’s physical
condition worsened.
She moved to the Hebrew Rehabilitation
Center, where she will
soon be celebrating 30
years in America.
“I don’t regret anything,” said Mindel.
“This is life.… Efim
and I lived a long life
together. No one lives
Karina Gaft presMindel’s life story
ents Moisey with
that was shaped by the scrapbook that
love, war and immigra- the students assembled about the
tion has opened my
eyes and piqued my cu- Russian seniors. In
the Soviet Union,
riosity about my own
family, leading me to Moisey was a highinquire about my ranking engineer.
grandparents’ former
lives in the Soviet
it was called. He worked on improving and developing artillery.
He and his family were evacuated
by the Soviet government to the
always the inventor
East, away from the advancing
Nazis. Betty was evacuated as
By Karina Gaft (’14)
Moisey was born in Kiev, part of Moisey’s family.
When Betty’s husband was
Ukraine. As a child, he was fascikilled,
she and Moisey became
nated by the process of inventing. He loved to experiment with friends. He supported her for a
objects and made his first inven- very long time after his brother’s
tion when he was just 6. It was a death. “And then we had a daughboat that could move on both ter together,” said Moisey in a shy
water and land. Moisey’s work voice. The couple registered
was shown at the Kiev Exhibition their marriage in 1956.
Later in his life, after Betty’s
of Children’s Creative Works.
Then Moisey took on magnets death and already in the United
and energy. He smiled as he re- States, Moisey started writing pomarked, “You know, when you etry. Now Moisey spends his time
don’t know much about a sub- expressing his emotions and
ject, then it’s easy to invent what- memories through his poems.
ever you want.”
He has enough to fill a book. He
Moisey has two degrees: one asked that I not quote his poetry,
from the Leningrad Military but I can say that he writes of the
School (specializing in tanks) war and of love.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
6:45 P.M.
The Boston Public Library, Copley Square, Boston
Anthems: Local students from Newton and Needham
Greetings: Consul Ronit Nudelman Perl,
Consulate General of Israel to New England
Musical presentation:
The City of Jerusalem:
Many Languages, Many Songs fill our mouths with laughter and our tongues with singing
Psalms 126
Cantor Gastón Bogomolni - Voice and Guitar
David Sparr - Piano
Amir Milstein - Flute
Nadav Remez - Guitar
Noam Sender - Percussion and Voice
Reception: Light refreshments will be served
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