Jewish Brothers, Graduates of Yeshiva U., Say Life in Russia Was Dehumanizing

Jewish twin brothers from the Soviet Union who couldn’t speak English when they arrived in the U.S. two years ago, are celebrating their new-found academic and cultural freedom with twin bachelor’s degrees from Yeshiva University prior to entering the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in August. The 23-year-old brothers. Gabriel and Silim Goldberger, who live with their family in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, emigrated from Riga in the spring of 1969. Since then, with the aid of the New York Association for New Americans, a part of HIAS, Yeshiva University faculty and friends, they’ve gone through a crash course on Americanization. Discussing their life in Russia, the twins said, “We were made to feel like strangers in our native land.” They were expelled from the university in Riga after school officials learned they wished to emigrate. “We waited five years for permission to leave the country. Month after month we’d visit the Interior Ministry, whose only reply was ‘you ask, we decide.’ There is no logic to their method of issuing exit permits. Suddenly you are told you can go, and you might have to leave within a few days,” they said. They explained that applying for an exit permit was tantamount to announcing your disloyalty as a citizen, “with the consequences leading to loss of job or being expelled from a university and losing all prospects of life in the USSR.”

They feel the continuing demonstrations, producing a new world awareness of the plight of Soviet Jewry, is one of the major factors in the Soviet government’s relaxation of immigration restrictions. “Soviet policy towards its Jewish population actually hasn’t changed,” they said, “it is the Jews who have changed.” They contrast the current period with that of the 1950′s, when the government sent their father to jail. “He had been elected to head the city’s Jewish community,” they said, “and was soon approached by the KGB (secret police) who demanded that he turn informer against his brethren. He refused, and was sent to jail for eight months.” Today’s Soviet Jewish youth, more active and out spoken, do not relate to the more terrible periods of Soviet history, they said, “They are not heroes, but they realize that for them, deprived of their culture and tradition, schools and synagogues, life for a Jew there is no life at all.” Their life has been altogether different in their adopted land. They’ve worked during the summer for New York’s Urban Corps in a hospital and laboratory, their father is a supervisor of kashruth, and their 24-year-old sister, a pianist, is preparing to graduate from Manhattan School of Music. Their mother is a working housewife. The brothers said they did not hate the Russians. They feel that what is most important about the recent international atmosphere is the new sense of identity that has arisen between American and Soviet Jewry.

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