Tanya and Eli Pozniansky’s families both re-located, by coincidence, in 1990 from Moscow to Israel, when Tanya was 10 years old and Eli just a bit older. They met and married in Israel before coming to the Bay Area in 2003 for four years, then returned to Israel for three years, and have been continuously working and living in the South Bay since 2010.
When you ask Tanya and Eli whether they are Russian Jews or Israeli Jews, they reply, “We’re neither. We’re Russian-Israeli Jews!” Maintaining their Russian-Israeli Jewish identity for themselves and their three children – Tim, 10 years old and their six-year-old twins, Dan and Ron – is a touchstone priority for them. How do they do that, here in America in the South Bay?
The Poznianskys are not alone. Tanya relates, “Of the 100 people who are our friends and wider circle of social acquaintances, all of whom are here in the South Bay, 85% are Russian-Israeli Jewish. We speak Russian all the time at home because that is the language of our parents and grandparents, but we, ourselves, identify with being both Russian and Israeli.”
Unlike in Israel where they led secular lives yet felt Jewish, in America they and their friends observe more of Jewish traditions in order to preserve for their children the feeling of being Jewish. “We started to do Shabbat every Friday and practice some basic traditions. We have Jewish artifacts around our home.” But perhaps the single most important aspect of maintaining their Russian-Israeli Jewish identity is the fact that being together with like-background people has given the Poznianskys “a community we feel we belong in, and where our kids can meet others more like them.”
When Rabbi Ilana reached out to the Poznianskys 1-1/2 years ago, they learned about the Heder program that was created for 4-9-year-old Russian-speaking Jewish youth, which interested them for their children. Then a friend of Tanya’s encouraged Tanya and Eli and their children to all become involved with the Russian-speaking Jewish community at APJCC, which they did.
That wasn’t enough for Tanya. She explains, “I am social. I like having people around me. I also have the example of my mother, who contributed to community life where we lived in Israel. So, I joined Ilana’s Russian-speaking Jewish Advisory Committee, and when I was asked a few months ago by Marina Salzman and Lilia Gorshteyn to co-chair the committee with them, I readily agreed.”
Having started from zero four years ago, the Russian-speaking Jewish programs at APJCC has grown to over 100 activities and events every year, with a Facebook following of more than 1,200. Sustaining that success is of paramount importance for Tanya and her family.