With such a lukewarm response from the Soviets [to observant Jews’ attempts to teach and outreach to them], tempers flared among older Brighton immigrants. […] Their resentment was openly expressed. You could hear it on the streets, on the boardwalk, in the synagogues, in the stores: “Why did we fight to bring them here? Why did they want to come here? They’re not even Jews. They don’t want to be Jews.” The Soviets irked Brighton residents for a host of reasons, but the oldtimers’ anger often took the form of a single rebuff: The newcomers were not really Jews.
Some strongly Jewish-identified members of the immigrant community tried to mediate. Alexander Sirotin formed the Jewish Union of Russian Immigrants to sponsor activities with a Jewish theme among the new arrivals. Through the 1980s he was host of “Gorizont” (Horizon), a Russian-language radio show on the Lyubavitch Hasidic radio network. The message of Sirotin and other Jewish-identified community leaders in Brighton was: Let the Soviet immigrants nourish their Jewish identities in their own ways, in their own time. As examples, he pointed to an emigre Yiddish theatre troupe and to gatherings of senior citizens at which Yiddish songs and poems were sung and recited by recent Soviet immigrants.
By contrast, many American Jewish attempts at outreach were perceived by newcomers as somehow threatening, no matter how well intentioned. Several days after he arrived from Moscow in 1974, Victor Rashkovsky awoke to find two young men whom he did not know, and who spoke no Russian, praying and nailing a mezuzah (decorated case containing a holy scoll) to his doorpost: “All I understood was that they wanted to proceed with some ritual they considered to be important.” He thought that he recognized them from a local synagogue and so he let them proceed but he had no idea what they were doing. “Only later did I learn this custom.”Annelise Orleck, The Soviet Jewish Americans (via sovietjewry)