Ex-Soviet Immigrants Praise Reagan

Ex-Soviet Immigrants Praise Reagan

The Associated Press
06/09/04 05:47 EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Rabbi Velvel Tsikman remembers a time when the only
link he had to his Jewish heritage was a line in his Soviet passport
that read “Nationality: Jewish.”

Now, he watches over a vibrant Russian Jewish community in West
Hollywood from his office at the Chabad Russian Jewish Community

Tsikman says he credits his spiritual freedom to the late Ronald
Reagan, whose anti-missile program drew the Soviets into a costly
arms race, helping lead to the collapse of what Reagan called the
“evil empire.”

Reagan’s 1987 demand to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the
Berlin Wall – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” – was the ultimate
challenge of the Cold War.

Tsikman recalled with emotion the first time a Jewish synagogue opened
in the Ukraine after years of religious oppression. He began to wear
a yarmulke openly and grow his beard. He soon veered from a career
in computers to the spiritual life of a rabbi.

“It was like going from the basement to the street and seeing the
light,” Tsikman said. “(Reagan’s) doctrine, what he did, was very
helpful to destroy the monster that was there in Europe.”

Those sentiments were echoed across southern California, home to
large Russian and Eastern European immigrant communities. They also
were reflected in poignant signs and flags placed outside the Santa
Monica mortuary where Reagan’s body was taken after his death Saturday
at age 93.

Lithuanian and Polish flags sprouted from the grass. Posters paying
homage to Reagan sat propped against a fountain alongside flowers
and balloons.

“Sir – You told Gorbachev to ‘Take down this wall.’ We helped.
Thanks for your courage and leadership,” read one sign that was
affixed with two quarter-sized bits of the Berlin Wall.

Another said: “Solidarnosc! With love from Poland,” a reference to
Reagan’s efforts to promote the Solidarity labor movement in Poland
in the 1980s.

In West Hollywood, Tsikman has watched over the Russian Jewish
community center for 12 years, an anchor for up to 50,000 Soviet bloc
immigrants in greater Los Angeles. The neighborhood is dotted with
Russian, Ukranian and Armenian groceries, pharmacies and video stores,
and people speak more Russian than English.

At the community center, Tsikman brushed his finger against his
yarmulke and watched contentedly as dozens of elderly people ate at
long tables, laughing and chatting in Russian.

“They are living in a paradise here. It’s like God is paying them for
a terrible life in Russia,” Tsikman said. “These people were sitting
home waiting to die. When they came here, they came alive again.”

Down the street, Armenian grocer Paul Khostikyan paused from unloading
fresh fruit to remember the man he called “the best president in U.S.

Khostikyan, 54, who immigrated in 1990, said he remembered being
moved by Reagan’s bold words.

“I liked how he talked about freedom,” said Khostikyan, now a U.S.
citizen. “He really meant it, not like other presidents. He will be
in history much more than Clinton or Bush.”

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS