During the 1980s, waves of Soviet Jews came to America because of persecution in their homeland. The Jewish Family Service Resettlement program has been active for over 15 years, responding to the unique cultural and economic needs of over 370 Jewish refugees. These “New Americans” were welcomed, housed, fed and guided through the socialization an acculturation needs of the Russian senior adults. Many of the New Americans are now volunteers helping with the acculturation process.
Since 1989, Elsa has been teaching groups of refugees two and three times a week to read, write and speak English in preparation for their American citizenship exam. With the help of workbooks, Elsa teaches grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. She reads and discusses appropriate articles from the local newspaper about events in America, Israel and Russia. She plays Bingo to teach her students about numbers. She also discusses Jewish holidays and traditions and has had students over to her house to celebrate these holidays.
In the early days of teaching Elsa acquainted her students with their neighborhood by taking them to nearby hospitals, fast food restaurants, local dinner restaurants and the Botanical Gardens.
Elsa has interviewed her students about their lives in Russia and hopes to put these memoirs in a book.
Elsa understands and is very much aware of difficulties of being in America, sometimes living alone, and being unable to communicate. In Elsa’s classes, students do more than studying. They socialize and make friendships. Although Elsa feels that her students are grateful for her help, she knows that she has received more form her students than she has given them.