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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 27, 2012 PAGE 19A Mark From page 13A early 30s, most from nearby southern Brooklyn, came to RAJE's worship services and meals and lectures that Shabbat. Young Russian Jews here have "more connection to their Jewish roots than the previous generation," said Mark Gold Shneidman, a member of a Moidovan fam- ily who works as a marketing manager and serves as RAJE volunteer. "It's a matter of maturing of the community," said CO- JECO's Shmulenson. "This generation is no longer Rus- sian-it's Russian-Ameri- can." Young Russian Jews say they are more American than their parents, yet more Russian than theirAmerican- born peers. And they tend to be more conservative and more pro-Israel than most non-Orthodox American Jews, less likely to intermarry, more likely to provide their children's Jewish education at a JCC Sunday program than at a synagogue Hebrew school, less likely to identify themselves in traditional de- nominational terms. They prefer, many members of the community say, to socialize within their migr circles, which may partially explain the popularity of programs like RAJE and Lira- mud FSU. "Even though--perhaps because--many Russian- speaking Jews were deprived foryears of a Jewish education or the ability to affiliate with other Jews, the strong emo- tional connection that many Russian-speaking Jews have with their Jewishness and to Israel and the Jewish world at large is tribal," Odessa-born Misha Galperin, president of international development at the Jewish Agency for Israel, wrote recently in a JTA op-ed. "This stands in contrast to the majority of North American Jews who define their Jewish- ness as a religious identity." About 80 percent of FSU- born American Jews who have participated in Birthright trips to Israel--often with Russian-speaking groups-- identify themselves as "Just Jewish," a figure nearly four times a high as among Birth- right participants with no Russian roots, according to a study issued last year by Brandeis University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. The emerging generation of Russian Jews, most of whom came here as children and at- tended school here, speak flu- ent, often accent-free English and have become, from the perspective of many Ameri- can Jews, "Americanized," familiar with such typically Western, Jewish-American values as tzedakah (charity) and volunteerism. Nonetheless, Russian- speaking Jews, especially in the 20- to 40-year-old age group, have started to form Jewish organizations for their peers, they say, be- cause well-meaning Jewish organizations that coordi- nated the emigr s' settlement here didn't understand the newcomers' unique way of thinking. They also struck out on their own because the new generation of college- educated Russian Jews has gained sufficient organiza- tional skills, and because they simply like being around like-minded people who speak (but don't necessarily read) the same language and share a common background. While few Russian Jews attend the standard Limmud conferences held in many American cities, the Princ- eton gathering was standing room only. The attendees schmoozed in Russian be- tween sessions, danced to Russian music until the wee hours of Sunday morning and attended sessions like "Social Entrepreneurship as a Jewish Value, in Russia and Beyond" and "Russian Jews and the American Jewish Community." But the culture they are creating may last just one generation. Like the immigrants who came to the United States a century ago and founded self-help organizations for fellow newcomers, the cur- rent generation of young Russian Jews may find that their distinct organizations will not be needed in a few decades, many Russian Jews say. Their children, who will be increasingly unfamiliar with the Russian language or Russia, will feel less need to socialize among other members of migr families. With time, the distinctions between the children of~rnigr~ familiesandJewswithlongtime American roots may disappear. "When we have kids," Biana Shilshtut said, "the kids will be fully American." Fraud From page 14A fraud on their watch, and why they did not even apologize to the survivor community," Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants and a frequent critic of the Claims Confer- ence, told JTA in late 2011, a few months before his death from cancer inApril."I simply have had no answer for them." Berman, who has been chairman of the conference for the last decade or so, says there's no reason for him to step aside. "I feel no fault at all," he said. "Whether I'm a lay chairman or a CEO, it's the kind of pro- cess that I had nothing what- soever to do with instituting." Calling the controls that the Claims Conference had in place to prevent fraud "reasonably adequate," Berman said the deception was as impossible to anticipate as the attacks of 9/11. "Until it happens once," he added. "Then you're on no- tice that something you never foresaw can happen." Schneider's predecessor, Gideon Taylor, under whose 10-year tenure the fraud ran undetected, declined to be interviewed on the subject. "The day I left I made a de- cision: I'm not going to speak publicly about the Claims Conference because I've moved on," Taylor told JTA. "It is what it is." Taylor is now CO0 of pro- grams at the American Jewish JointDistribution Committee, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in Jew- ish aid annually around the world--approximately $110 million of which comes from the Claims Conference. The money, designated for aid programs to Jews in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, constitutes slightly less than one-third of the JDC's total annual budget. Schneider, who was CO0 of the Claims Conference when the fraudwas happeningbefore he became the organization's chief executive, said the no- tion that he should be the one to resign is misplaced and counterproductive. Schneider, whose formal title is execu- tive vice president, says he's indispensable and that nobody is more committed or better suited to rooting out the fraud. "There's too much at stake here," Schneider told JTA. "It would be detrimental to the organization. It would be detrimental to survivors. The results are more important than the symbolism of a res- ignation." Schneider appears to have the confidence of the U.S. Attorney's Office, which at practically every news confer- ence related to the fraud makes a point of hailing the Claims Conference's "extraordinary continued cooperation in this investigation." "We again thank the Claims Conference for their outstand- ing ongoing assistance in identifying the participants in this scheme," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said last Oct. 12 at a news conference announcing the most recent arrests in the case--eight additional people. Perhaps most important, the Germans seem to trust Schneider. As evidence, Schneider and others point out that since the fraud was discovered, the German government actually has increased its allocations through the Claims Confer- ence--most notably for home care for infirm survivors. In 2009, Germany's home care funding amounted to 30 mil- lion euro. In 2012, the figure will be 126 euro--approxi- mately $168 million--and Germany has committed to additional funding at least through 2014. German officials declined to be interviewed for this story. But Stuart Eizenstat, a former U.S. undersecretary of state who has been a key player in negotiatinga number of Holocaust-related deals and is a regular at the negotiations between the Claims Confer- ence and the German Finance Ministry, says the organiza- tion's relationship with the Germans has weathered the fraud crisis because of confi- dence and trust built up over decades. Also, he says, because of the steps that Schneider put in place upon discovering the fraud: better internal auditing, improved internal controls and greater transparency vis-a-vis Germany. Germany, however, has added its own auditors, who now also oversee the flow of funds from Germany through the Claims Conference and on to survivors. Eizenstat credits the Ger- mans for not using the fraud as a pretext to decrease the financial assistance for Jewish victims of the Nazis. "Greg is an extremely strong operational person, and that has helped a lot," Eizenstat said. "But it's not just on the Claims Conference. It is the Germans' continued willing- ness to live up to their obliga- tions and not using excuses to diminish it." Though the German Fi- nance Ministry has been loath to discuss the fraud publicly, a ministry spokesman released a brief statement in response to JTA's inquiries suggesting that Germany is satisfied with how the Claims Conference is addressing the theft. "The Federal Finance Minis- try very much regrets the de- lays Holocaust survivors may have experienced in receiving financial assistance from the German Federal Government owing to the irregularities at the New York office of the JCC"--the Jewish Claims Con- ference, the statement said. "The JCC has been system- atically researching its records for signs of irregularities and has taken appropriate steps to reclaim the misappropriated funds. The JCC has also taken disciplinary measures against the employees involved in the irregularities," the statement said. "The JCC's internal processes regarding financial assistance to Holocaust sur- vivors have undergone a sub- stantial overhaul. An external consultant has been reviewing these changes to ensure that they provide adequate protec- tion against criminal misap- propriations in the future. "The Ministry, the General Consulate in New York City and the German embassy in Washington are being in- formed about the progress of the investigations and will not comment any further on these cases." The question of legacy When I first met Schneider in 2003, it was clear he had greater ambitions than serving as an operational man. It wasn't so much that Schneider wanted to run the show--though he did--but that he wanted a place at the table in Berlin, fighting for res- titution ofadebt that Germany could never repay to survivors and 6 million murdered Jews even if it had all the money in the world. In away, Schneider gotwhat he wanted. He flies to Europe more often than he visits his parents on the Connecticut farm, his BlackBerry never stops buzzing and he plays a unique role in setting the agenda at one of the Jewish world's most moneyed orga- nizations. Yet he still doesn't look the part of a Jewish leader. When we met late one evening at a Starbucks in Riverdale, N,Y the heavily Jewish Bronx neighborhood where Sch- neider lives with his wife and kids, he showed up in sneakers and a backward-facing baseball cap. The coffee shop wasn't far from the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, the Orthodox synagogue where Schneider and his family worship on the Sabbath. Every week at the end of services, Schneider and the other congregants line up for hugs from the rabbi,AviWeiss. When Schneider became the Claims Conference's chief in July 2009, I visited him in his first week on the job to ask what his priorities were for the survivors' twilight years. "Home care, so survivors can remain in their own homes," he said. "Pensions for 8,000 concentration camp sur- vivors who do not receive any. Payment for nearly 100,000 Nazi victims in Eastern Eu- rope and the former Soviet Union who do not qualify for the Hardship Fund because they never left their home countries. More money for social welfare services that for some survivors will mean the difference between a hot meal and no meal, between seeing a doctor and not seeing a doctor." Three years on, Schneider's record on those goals is mostly positive. Annual home care funding has increased more than four- fold, with about 55,000 Jewish survivors worldwide now re- ceiving subsidized home care. The Claims Conference has managed to gain recognition and funding by the German government for new classes of survivors, from ghetto survivors who worked as "non- forced, laborers to thousands of Jews who fled the Nazis as they swept through Europe and then settled behind the Iron Curtain. Any Jew who spent time in a concentration camp and has a special hardship is now entitled to a German government pen- sion; until recently, only those who were in the camps for six months or more qualified. The pension amount also has risen slightly. But then, of course, there's the fraud. For ayear-and-a-halfafter it was discovered, not a day went by that Schneider or a member of his staff did not talk with the FBI. Ten full-time staffers were hired to review and reprocess claims dating back a decade- and-a-half. Always a magnet for disgruntled survivors, the Claims Conference became even more of a lightning rod for criticism. And media attention, which has focused more on the theft than on the Claims Confer- ence's accomplishments, has been a source of great frustra- tion for Schneider. "I don't want to talk about the fraud anymore," Schneider said. "I would like this chapter to be over." But investigators are still reviewing claims to separate the fictitious ones from the real ones, and when the re- maining defendants go on trial nextyear, the fraudwill be back in the headlines. In the long run, Schneider says the fraud will be but a footnote of history, with the real story of the Claims Con- ference--and Schneider's own legacy there--the money and assistance it was able to get to aging survivors in their final years. "There are a huge amount of distractions that could take us offcourse, but despite the fraud and issues of governance and 15 other things, I feel it is my job to align people back to our core mission," Schneider said. "This is the last moment of the last generation of survivors. We have to give them the dignity they deserve. We only have a few years leftwhenwe can still make a difference." Last week, Schneider met in Washington with German government representatives to demand more money for survivors. Even though it was malfeasance by the Claims Conference's own employees that resulted in more than $57 million being defrauded from Germany, Schneider is unrelenting when it comes to occupying the moral high ground in negotiations with the Germans. "The Germans say, when will it ever end? Hasn't it been enough already?" Schneider said of restitution for Nazi crimes against the Jews. "The suffering hasn't end- ed. The nightmares haven't ended," he said of the sur- vivors. "How can you pos- sibly say enough? It won't be enough until the very last survivor, and even then it won't be enough." Center for Counseling and Consulting 407.388.4738 Perry Klein, MC, LMHC, NCC, CCMHC Psychotherapist, License # MH9964 Tncare Provider We are uour source for', Invitations Brochures Letterheads Erwek:o~ Busir'~.=~s Cards Program8 - Fquers Poet Cards Forms Digital Photographu - Labels Direct Mail 407.767.7110 North Street Longwood, FL 32750 HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960