Main Events

Gary Shteyngart

Irene Nezhinski, former Russian
Division chair, presents Community
Leadership Award to Anna and
Gene Rachmansky

UJA-Federation of New York executive
vice president and CEO John Ruskay
and wife Robin with author
Gary Shteyngart

Rabbi Aryeh Katzin recites the Motzi,
blessing over the bread

Russian Young Leadership
Honors Acclaimed Author

By Tim Boxer

N his native Leningrad Gary Shteyngart started writing fairy tales at age four. Three years later he came to the U.S. and hasn’t stopped writing, even while working for several agencies affiliated with UJA-Federation of New York.

While working at the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) – an agency that helped his family upon their arrival from the Soviet Union – Gary spent nights working on his first book.

After five years he completed his debut novel, which Riverhead/Penguin Putnam published as “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook.”

For his accomplishment Gary, 30, was guest of honor at the UJA-Federation of New York Russian Division’s dinner last week at the Harmonie Club where attorney Alexander Goldin served as young leadership co-chair.

Rabbi Aryeh Katzin, of Sinai Academy in Brooklyn, told of the time he left Moscow with other Jewish activists, then returned on a visit, only to have the NKVD phone him.

“We want to talk to you,” the officer said.

“Okay,” Katzin replied. “When and where?”

“Right now. Come downstairs.”

Katzin met with the secret police who said, “All activists will be jailed.”

“Why?” he asked.

“You occupied Arab territories.”

“But I’m in Moscow!”

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