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Soviet Jewish Settlers in Israel, Organized As. Ensemble, in the U.S. for a Cross-country Tour

A group of Soviet Jewish settlers in Israel, organized as the “We Are Here” ensemble, has arrived in the United States for a cross-country tour “to say thank you to all the people here who helped in our struggle to emigrate.” The “here” in the name of the troupe refers to Israel, according to Galia Druker, a director of the troupe.

“It was the purpose of our life to come to Israel and at last we can say it, ‘we are here'” she added. She expressed the hope of the troupe that “our visit may help those of our people” still in Russia who want to emigrate.

The troupe will present five performances at Madison Square Garden next month, offering songs and folk dances in a musical exploration of the past 100 years of East European Jewish life. More than half of the proceeds of the tour will go to the Association of New Emigrants from Russia to Israel, according to Joe Bernes and Elias Dishi, the American producers of the show Mrs. Druker said that in the first part of the program, “we remember the Jews still in Russia who can’t get out and then we added a theme of life in Israel.”

JEWS HAVE THEIR OWN CULTURE

The troupe was organized by Shmuel Ben-Zvi, 27, a dancer who settled in Israel in 1972 and traveled around Israel finding Soviet Jewish migrants who had performed together in Russia, mostly in Lithuania in two troupes organized in Vilna and Kovno in 1956 “to show Jews they have their own culture,” Mrs. Druker, 28, said many Russian Jewish parents brought their children to the performances “so they could learn to become Jews.” The singers and dancers were not professional performers but skilled amateurs who rehearsed after work.

Mrs. Ben-Zvi was dismissed from a dance school in Vilna for applying to emigrate to Israel. After she was arrested, she said, she and her family unexpectedly obtained exit visas in 1971. Ben-Zvi said Soviet authorities allowed the two troupes to perform “as propaganda to show the world there is Jewish life in Russia” but, he added, they were forbidden to sing songs in Hebrew.

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