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North York

How long have you lived in Ontario, and why did you choose North York?

I have lived in Ontario for 12 years. When we arrived, we settled in the region of North York – first, at Bathurst and Sheppard, and then we moved to the Bathurst and Lawrence area. My daughter guided me there, because there are a lot of Russian-speaking Jews in the area, as well as the fact that there are numerous Jewish organizations. Immediately after my arrival, I got involved in various activities of these organizations, including visits to Jewish clubs and language courses. They helped me to adapt to a new country, and most importantly I found Jewish friends, who are my friends with to this day.

Where does your family come from?

After my grandparents were married, they were forced to flee from a pogrom. They were warned: "Tomorrow will be a massacre.” They ran to the train station and fled to Central Asia, where it was easier to hide. My grandfather miraculously started working on the railroad, and my grandmother, even with many children – there were nine in the family – engaged in farming and education. My father was in the military and served in the military traffic police so I grew up in a military town and I remember very well that no matter where we lived, we are united with the few Jews who lived there. We were always surrounded by Jewish friends. This quality of the Jews – to stick together – has helped me throughout my life.

What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?

My interests are wide and varied: I love to dance and play sports. In a typical week, I go to dance classes twice, engage in sports twice a week, and am at rehearsal at the inspiration theater-studio at Bernard Betel Centre. Last year we performed the play "All is not lost," and are preparing to begin performing "Odessa Courtyard", which the Prime Minister is expected to attend in April.

If you were given the opportunity to meet anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose, and why?

I would chose two people. Firstly, my grandmother Anna, who lived in Kazakhstan. We, her grandchildren, were sent to stay with her for the summers. Every Friday, we cooked a delicious dinner, baked challah, and gathered together to light the Shabbat candles. These are the most precious memories of my life. The other person would be the Lubavitcher  Rebbe. When I first heard about him, I wanted to know more about this man and I started reading about him online. It struck me that this man was special, having an engineering degree at the same time being a Jewish leader who united the people. And until now, thanks to the network of Chabad centers and educational institutions established by the Rebbe, hundreds of thousands of people are returning to Jewish traditions, to their roots.

When did you begin participating in JRCC programs?

As soon as I arrived, I was invited to various events. There is a JRCC location in the building where I live, but closest to my heart is the center of Rabbi Levi and Nechama Dina Jacobson [JRCC West Thornhill, on Centre Street], which is my spiritual home. I really like all of the programs that are held at their center. Rabbi Levi is a very knowledgeable, educated man, who is sensitive, careful and sincere in the way he relates to people.

What is the most important thing about the JRCC to you?

For me, it is very important to participate in JRCC programs, something that cannot be taken for granted. In Tashkent, there were two so-called "underground" synagogues, the activities of which were under the watchful eye of the KGB. Going there was tantamount to loss of employment. And here in Canada I am comfortable and confident attending programs in complete freedom, without fear. I also appreciate that the JRCC sends a lot of useful information, so I am always up to date about everything that is happening in our community: I attend lectures, Tanya classes, bake challah, join Shabbatons and attend classes for women. All of this for me is not just important, but invaluable since in the Soviet Union we were deprived of this knowledge. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the creators of Exodus Magazine, through which we receive content and information about everything that happens in the Jewish world.

What are your future plans?

Continue an active and healthy lifestyle, and constantly learn new things.