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#5 - JRL 7235
New York Daily News
June 22, 2003
More Russian spoken here

Brooklyn is home to the largest community of Russian-speaking Jews in the United States, according to a new study.

Of a total of 202,000 immigrants from Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc and Eastern European countries in New York City and three neighboring New York counties, 124,000 - or 62% - live in Brooklyn, according to the study published by the UJA-Federation of New York.

"It's the largest Russian-speaking [Jewish] community in the United States," said Ron Miller, a principal investigator on the study.

The study's investigators estimated that the number of Russian-speaking Jews from the former USSR now living in Brooklyn has doubled in the last decade.

The spike in migration came in the early 1990s. Brooklyn communities such as Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay became destinations because they are near Brighton Beach and its established Russian center.

Olga German, 52, said she came to New York from Odessa, Ukraine, in 1993 with her husband and two daughters. The family first moved to the Bronx but ultimately preferred Brooklyn because of Brighton Beach, she said.

"There are a lot of Russian people," she said.

"Russian people like the beach," she added, noting that she grew up on the Black Sea.

Titled "The Jewish Community Study of New York: 2002," the report documents the number of Jewish people in New York City and Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties. The federation conducts its head count every 10 years.

After Brooklyn, the largest settlement of Russian-speaking Jews in the metropolitan area is in Queens, with 39,000. Third is Staten Island, with 11,000.

Los Angeles ranks second

The second-largest concentration of Russian-speaking Jews in the country is believed to be in Los Angeles, where a different organization counted 70,000 adults in 1997.

"This study confirms the importance of the Russian Jewish community," said John Ruskay, CEO of the federation. "They are an important component of Brooklyn, and like all immigrant groups, they're facing significant socioeconomic challenges."

Some of the bleakest numbers in the study document a high rate of poverty.

According to the report, Jewish poverty in the city has doubled, from 10.5% in 1991 to 21.2 percent in 2002. And, in 2002, 53% of Russian-speaking Jewish households in New York City were considered to be living below the poverty line.

In Brooklyn, that number is 59%, Miller said.

When asked about getting her feet on the ground, German, who began as a volunteer and is now a paid social worker at the Bensonhurst Council of Jewish Organizations, said simply, "It was so hard."

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