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Camp RSM @ Sunapee Counselor

Aaron Chernin's story posted on June 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm. Aaron emigrated from Dnepropetrovsk, Soviet Union (USSR) to Boston, United States in 1983

Growing up Jewish in the USSR was exceptionally difficult for my parents. Being Jewish was viewed as a taboo; it wasn't something to be shared with anyone, or something to be displayed publically. My parents had to work twice as hard at everything they did, because their religion was a cripple to them, whether it was in Kaunus, Lithuania for my mom or in Dnepropetrovsok, Ukraine for my dad. Their grandparents were the only thing keeping the religion alive to them, but those grandparents instilled an identity in them, an identity that would follow them to the United States.

My parents met through a friend when my dad went to Lithuania on vacation. Both were young and rebelious, and both had a strong distaste for the Soviet Union. My parents didn't like being told what to do, and when to do it. They wanted the freedom to do what they wanted, even if that meant giving up everything they knew in their old country. To nobody's surprise, they were a perfect match, and they were wed in Lithuania, at which point they were already seeking emigration. This proved to be harder than it sounded, as my dad lost his job for being a "traitor to the country". He then almost went to prison for being unemployed, when no company would take him despite his fantastic resume. After a while, they finally got what they desired, and after a six-moth layover in Italy, they reached Logan International Airport in Boston, on October 27st, 1983, with my mom's sister and her husband. They came with no money, no English, and no  posessions (their possessions had been confiscated by the Russian government prior to their departure), but they worked hard, learned the language, and now they are the successful owners of a Russian Math School. They also gave birth to two beautiful American twins.

If there's one thing my parents never lost, it was their Jewish identity. After being embarrassed by it throughout their whole lives, they now keep a kosher home, celebrate the holidays, and raise their kids to be Jewish. My sister and I were both sent through Hebrew School and both had our Bar Mitzvahs, something neither of our parents enjoyed.

I am now an 18 year old man, freshly graduated and looking forward to college and beyond. But my Russian-Jewish background has never left me. I am constanly surrounded by the presence of the Russian-Jewish community in Boston, and many of my best friends have similar backgrounds. I know that being a Russian-Jew has helped me become the person I am today, by instilling me with the right morals I need to succeed. I have also began repay the community myself, having traveled to Israel and volunteering at a camp for the Russian-Jewish children of Sderot. I am also planning to be a counselor at a Russian-Jewish camp, where I will try to set an example for my campers to follow.

As well as the Russian Jewish community surrounding me with love, my Jewish identity has always been prevailant no matter where I've been. I, unlike my parents, do not need to hide my faith, and I am frequently known as "my Jewish friend" to all my classmate's mothers. I fully plan to keep this faith alive, and continue doing all the things my parents have done to help me get here, but with my own kids.