Jewish Identity, Decision to Leave,
Starting Over

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“We were not very religious, our family. Mom’s family was quite religious and she said that her mother would light candles on Friday, but for some reason, I don’t know why, my mother did not. But even though we weren’t religious, we were always Jewish. And religion, in my mind, was not, you know, a way to show that you are Jewish. It was more the way you were born, and you were a Jew by birth, and it was something special, and it was a good feeling, which we kids suffered, but we would never give!

“I intend to work until I can’t walk. So the attitude about life I like here more. I found that women here look much better in age than women in Russia. Over 50 you are an old woman there. You are-period-old. You’ve done it; that’s it. Your life is gone. And here I think that women look after themselves and so on. And I like it. see American women and I say, ‘That’s how I want to be.’ I look at some older women at 70, how they sparkle, fit, their intonation. An old lady, you would see her dressed with a hat. She was beautiful. And I said, ‘That’s how I want to be.”’

- Celia Perelman

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“When I was a little girl, about eight, maybe seven, I remember my relatives always talked about Israel, about emigration, because some of their friends and family had already gone. They received letters from them, and this theme-leaving-was always on their tongUes. They talked a lot about it, but never did anything. It was like the favorite topic in our family, but nobody would ever leave! Then, when I grew up and got married and started to meet with other Jewish people, I began to understand more, and my husband and I made the decision to leave the country.”

 

For me, to be Jewish was…mostly nationality. I felt that I was Jewish but it didn’t connect with any religion. My parents had a lot of Jewish friends, so I was growing up with this…! can’t tell when I was interested more or less in Jewish people …it was always with me.”

- Lyubov Royzenfeld