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The Challenges of Immigration

Dan Kaplan's story posted on August 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm. Dan emigrated from Kiev, Ukraine to Los Angeles, United States in 1992

My family decided to immigrate for several reasons.  First of all, my parents and grandparents were all keenly aware of the attitude towards Jews in the Soviet Union that affected their progress at work, choice of schools (some schools and employers suddenly turned out to be unavailable after reading the  5th line in passport that stated nationality as “Jew”) and the overall environment that was affecting the daily life (occasional commentaries, rumors of new pogroms, etc.).  We knew that it was not the Germans that did most of hunting for Jews during World War II but it was the local Ukrainians.  The locals’ attitude towards Jews had not improved much since then.  Second, my grandmother’s sister and her husband immigrated in late 1970s to Los Angeles.  My grandparents and parents were close to them and wanted to reunite.

My parents missed the immigration window in the 1970’s and when immigration became possible again, that question came up.  We delayed a bit because my grandfather would not have been allowed to immigrate under the old regime due to his design work on torpedo gyroscopes.  We started the process in 1989 after he passed away and in February of 1992 we moved to Los Angeles.  There was a bit of a cliff hanger related to immigration because my father used to have security clearance as his factory worked on military satellites, but for the five previous years, he had not renewed the security clearance.  Yet, he did not receive an official permission to leave, so it was possible that he would not be allowed out of the country.  Luckily Soviet Union had passed away a couple of months before this moment at the customs, and nobody asked for any permissions. Prior to moving to the U.S. I was aware of some Jewish customs, although those were just slivers of what was practiced by the previous generations.  For instance, I found out that I was a Jew when I was 9 or 10 years old.  One of my grandfathers was fluent in Yiddish, but he did not teach the language to me.  We were aware of some of the holidays, although did not celebrate them.  My grandmother cooked traditional Jewish recipes.  Finally, my parents tried to get me to play the violin (until the 3rd grade) as did all the young boys on my mother’s side of the family.  Last and not least, was an interest in Israel and a keen awareness of the official Soviet rhetoric’s bias against Israel and the Western countries. We are much more aware of the culture now, both know and celebrate the Jewish holidays.  Although religion is still not an important consideration for me or for my parents, I do have a sense of belonging to the community and trying to become part of it and help it.  I am also trying to learn more about the Jewish customs as I believe they are part of the history of my people and hence I should be more aware of the culture.

I think the biggest challenge that I faced in immigration to the U.S. was lack of information.  Yet, I was lucky to arrive at the age where I went to 9th grade and had enough time to learn the educational system before making further choices.  Alternatively I would have ended up in a different undergraduate institution and that would have forced my career in an alternate direction.

Professionally, I am an investment analyst and a trader in a fund with a wide strategy and industry mandate.   I would like to continue in the same field with an aspiration of managing my own fund at some point in the future.  I am also a board member of my business school’s Los Angeles Alumni Club and an active participant in several Jewish organizations.  I would like to play a greater role in the Jewish community and would like to help form the Russian Jewish community in the area.  My main goal would be to make sure people have sufficient information to make informed career and cultural choices.