Zelina Iskanderovafacecommjan17.JPG


North York

Please tell us about your career.

By profession I am a physicist and researcher in the field of interaction of atomic particles. I am Associate Professor of the Institute of Aerospace Studies, University of Toronto, and Head of the Department of Space Materials Integrity Testing Laboratory.

Where is your family from?

My mother, grandmother, and her three brothers - Wolfe and Jacob Hirsch - were born in Mogilev (Belarus). Their parents were originally from Belarus, too. My grandfather Azriel Machevsky, passed away at age 41, and was a native of Breslov, like the rest of his family, and they later moved to Odessa. My parents, two young engineers who lived in Moscow, were evacuated to Tashkent in 1941, early in the war. In Tashkent during the war eleven people from our family were rescued. After the war, no one could return, as everything was destroyed - and so it stays in Tashkent. I was born after the war, and as a child had the good fortune to live close to my grandmother Leah, and my two grandfathers, Nohim and Mendel. I owe them my knowledge of Yiddish and the basics of Jewish tradition. We always celebrated Jewish holidays together, and as a result from childhood I developed a deep Jewish identity.

How long ago did you emigrate? Why did you choose North York?

This is the area where many immigrants from the former Soviet Union moved to. It was easier to integrate into a new life in a place where we all knew and understood each other. In those years, North York became a kind of modern "borough", "shtetl in the city" for Russian-speaking Jewish families who immigrated in the nineties.

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

Surprisingly, with age my spare time disappeared! Ah, if only there were thirty hours in a day… I continue with my professional life part-time, as well as lead the program "Evening of Jewish Culture", dedicated to the outstanding talents of the Russian and Soviet Jews, focusing on their creative activity and its impact on the culture on a global scale. Plus, I have been actively cooperating with well-known Jewish scholars, artists, journalists and writers around the world, including: The Yiddish writer Boris Sandler, the former editor for many years of Yiddish “Vorwärts" publication in New York; Alexander Gorodnitsky, whose film "In Search of Yiddish," I represented to the Toronto Jewish Film Festival; Irina Gorovets, the wife of the late singer Emil Gorovets, producer of the film "I was your son, Russia», which I helped introduce to the Ashkenaz Festival in 2013; and well-known journalist Leonid Makhlis, with whom we prepared a presentation in Toronto about his wonderful book on the outstanding tenor, singer and cantor Mikhail Alexandrovich, as well as the movie based on it. Plus, I have a family, two adult daughters, Liliana and Svetlana, four granddaughters and a grandson and two great-grandsons, and a great-granddaughter! What kind of free time are we talking about?

Given the opportunity to meet anyone, who would you choose?

This is a very good question ... Sholem Aleichem, Solomon Mikhoels and Arkady Raikin - that's probably who I would be very interested to meet today.

When did you start to participate in JRCC programs?

What do they mean to you and your family? Our family is very grateful to the JRCC, especially Rabbi Zaltzman, for many years of warmth, for everything that is being done for the community, in times of joy and in sorrow. Our family participated in the holiday services, and observes the Yahrzeits(anniversary of passing for parents and grandparents) in the JRCC synagogue. We are happy to know that the JRCC is here for us. It is gratifying to see how JRCC programs have expanded over the years, bringing joy and benefiting an increasing number of people. Exodus Magazine, for example, is a modern, interesting, informative and useful publication. As my daughter Svetlana recently told me, “I look forward to each issue of Exodus, because it brings the light of Jewish thought in our house!" It's also nice to receive e-mails from JRCC rabbis about upcoming festivals, stories and parables that make you think about yourself and the world around you.

What are your future plans?

My main goal is to bring the joy of knowledge, light to others, and to surround myself with interesting people! I cannot live only for myself...