Bookshelf of old copies of J. Previous names of this publication have included Emanu-El and Jewish Bulletin. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)
Previous names of this publication have included Emanu-El and The Jewish Bulletin. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

Soviet emigres reunited (1989); Reform biennial in S.F. (1929)

Feb. 19, 1929

Regarding the Union of American Hebrew Congregations convention held in S.F.

Another day or so, and the thirty-first biennial convention of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and its constituent organizations will be relegated to the pages of American Jewish history.

It was a fascinating experience for most of those who attended the various sessions and social functions. It provided rich food for thought and contemplation for those who never before knew of the existence of this great religious organization of progressive Judaism in America. If they did at all, we may be sure that they were totally unfamiliar with the scope of its wide and varied activities.

Incidentally, our people here behaved toward our guests in truly Jewish and California fashion. Nothing was left undone to make their all but too brief stay here pleasant and comfortable; while beautiful Nature, anxious as it were to help entertain our guests, arrayed itself in holiday garb in honor of the occasion.

Those of our brethren who still look upon Reform Judaism with suspicion and mistrust should read the brilliant essay, “Judaism and the Modern World,” by Dr. Julian Morgenstern, president of Hebrew Union College. And if they were fortunate enough to have listened to the several eloquent addresses during the convention by visiting rabbis of outstanding ability in amplification of Dr. Morgenstern’s main thesis, these suspicions and mistrusts as to the aims of Reform Judaism must have been disarmed.

Feb. 17, 1989

Resettling of the emigres: A mixture of joy and relief

Vladimir Gelman’s eyes feverishly scan the faces of passengers on the exit ramp at San Francisco International Airport. Minutes stretch into an eternity. Somewhere out there, he knows, his sister and their family will walk off that plane.

He has been waiting for this moment 10 years.

It all telescopes into microseconds. The joint decision in 1979 to leave the Soviet Union. The years as refuseniks. The death of their parents and his sister’s husband. His marriage. And his own permission to emigrate to the Bay Area a year ago.

Soon, he thinks, our family will be reunited, free to be Jews in a new land.

Suddenly, he spots her. Wearing a three-quarter length canary yellow parka. Close-cropped, swept-back hair. She is flanked by four others — her two daughters, a son-in-law, and an 11-month-old granddaughter.

Brother and sister embrace in a passionate bear hug. Vladimir Gelman lifts her off the ground. “I am high on this land!” she exclaims.

Somebody squeals. Another shouts joyously. Gelman’s family and his sister’s quickly merge in little knots of hugging. Their terminal gate is deluged in a rush of words, tears and laughter.

The 36-year-old Gelman can’t stop grinning. His family has come home.

J. Staff