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Moshe Meshchaninov

Oral history interview conducted by Aviva Segall

August 18, 1993

Call number: 1994.006.18

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AVIVA SEGALL: Moshe, where were you born?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I was born in Russia, in Leningrad.

AVIVA SEGALL: In what year?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I was born in the Soviet Union, which doesn't exist, and in Leningrad, which doesn't exist; in 1954.

AVIVA SEGALL: Can you tell me if you have any brothers and sisters?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Yes, I have one younger brother.

AVIVA SEGALL: In Leningrad, What did your father do as an occupation?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: My father was an engineer.

AVIVA SEGALL: And your mother?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: She was a lawyer.

AVIVA SEGALL: Did you have or maintain much of a Jewish identity when you were 1:00in Leningrad; in your home?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Originally, not so much, but closer to immigration, the level of Jewish identity increased to a very big degree and in fact, this was the major reason for our immigration. This level didn't go according to the general standards and the authorities didn't allow us to maintain the desirable level. That's why we immigrated.

AVIVA SEGALL: So as a youngster, there wasn't much of a Jewish atmosphere in your home?


AVIVA SEGALL: Were you accepting of the general communist culture and society as a child?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: No, I wasn't. In our family, we never, never went along with 2:00the general communist culture as you call it. Whatever official attitudes to whatever was happening never were really accepted in our house. We were like free thinkers kind of people, not really rebellious, but I would say silently disobedient and criticizing everything. This probably gave a push to our search and finding of Jewish values, but it just took time.

AVIVA SEGALL: At what point in your life did you find those Jewish values? How old were you?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I think I started to be interested in this when I was about 21 or 22 and it was really slow process for me. When I left country, I was 27 3:00and I was ready to become an observant Jew at that time, and I became an observant Jew when I came to the United States. It took me around 4 or 5 years to progress.

AVIVA SEGALL: In those beginning years, did you identify more with Israel as a Zionist, or did you identify with some kind of Jewish culture?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Rather Jewish culture.

AVIVA SEGALL: How were you introduced to Jewish culture? What kinds of things did you do?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Jewish history essentially because first of all, the amount of information which was available was very limited and I was attracted to 4:00Israel and those patriotic things were kind of attractive to me but I've never been overly excited about it. I just was interested in the more essential things and that's why I was attracted more to history and to ideal Jewish philosophy, rather past than present, for some reason

AVIVA SEGALL: Was your family supportive of this?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Yeah they definitely were, but I just want to emphasize on fact: that I am the older brother but my younger brother was definitely the leading force in this process in our family. He was the first one who started to 5:00move in this direction. It's not like he was leading me, but he was the first one. That is a fact. It was definitely helpful because he introduced me to his friends. He brought the books into the house and so on. Our parents were definitely supportive, as they were to any kind of serious and positive activity from our side, no matter whether it was sports or anything. If they saw that we were serious and it was something that was worthwhile, they were very supportive of us. In this case, they were as well, but they were very much afraid and rightly so, because it was dangerous. They never, ever, ever; we never felt that 6:00they were internally against anything. They were with supportive.

AVIVA SEGALL: Did you ever experience that danger?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Absolutely, every day, every minute, every time we would go to any kind of gathering or any kind of [inaudible] or lecture or anything.

AVIVA SEGALL: What was the threat?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Everything was a threat -to lose your job, to be arrested, to be in prison, to be beaten up, you name it. Whatever kinds of things state 7:00does to persecute and hurt people, they were a threat and they were happening.

AVIVA SEGALL: Did you or anyone in your family experience the actual impact of that threat?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: In fact, we were very lucky. We really haven't been, because we were very lucky and very careful at the same time. Somehow, we've always been maneuvering on the edge. We definitely experienced all the time the experience of being watched. From this being watched all the time and people hanging around our entrance to our house and this feeling of being simply closely escorted is 8:00very threatening by itself. It drives you crazy, but somehow my brother and I had never been actually arrested.

AVIVA SEGALL: Was there any final action that took place that preceded you and your family making that final decision to immigrate?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Like anything specific?


MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Not really. I mean, it was such a logical and such a deep 9:00and well thought decision. There was no spent [unintelligible]. It wasn't like "OK I don't like you guys, goodbye." It's not. It was just a result of everybody's lives, like it was very, very well thought decision and it was the ending of our lives over there, with all their connections, and with all their I would say well integrated, good positions and their relations and everything else which human being's life is about, but that was the decision, to cut it all 10:00off and go to nowhere with four suitcases, which we did, to the United States, where we had nobody.

AVIVA SEGALL: How long was it before you got a visa, from the time that you applied to immigrate till you were permitted by the authorities to leave.

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: It was a very short period of time. We were very lucky. It took us, I would say, about three months, three and a half months.

AVIVA SEGALL: That's really unusual. Do you attribute it to anything?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I don't know. It's not so much unusual. This is a usual quick situation. There were people who were getting their answers quicker, like in two weeks. This was unusual. That was the average for people who were get 11:00their answers quicker. I would say 20 to 25% of the people were getting their answers quick.

AVIVA SEGALL: What made you decided to come to the United States?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: We were coming together, me, my. brother and my parents, and mostly our decision to come to the United States was influenced by the fact that our parents wanted to come here and we felt that we were obligated to do anything to make their life most comfortable. The reason for this was that we 12:00knew that we cut off their lives, interrupted their lives, their careers, their relationships and considering their age, our process of adaptation and acclimation is supposed to be difficult. They felt that here in New York in Russian community and a Jewish community, in the cultural atmosphere of New York, the way they saw it from Russia -they will adapt quicker and feel more comfortable and that was their pre-concept at the time of making the decision, 13:00and they were very definite about it. We definitely wanted to give them this chance to choose because we felt that they made a tremendous sacrifice for us by leaving together, and we didn't want to go separately, but even objectively, we only could go together. The authorities wouldn't let us go separately. At this time, it was very definite rule, if you want to go, just get out all of you. We don't want any of you. To split up, and then visit each other and write to each other and exchange information. But when they said, "Yes, we will go," for us on our turn, we have to give them whatever they ask if they go. On our side, we were really open. We would go to Israel or to United States. It really matter to 14:00us that much. As I said, we didn't have to make this decision. We didn't have to think about it. It was clear. Our parents wanted to go to the United States. We would go with them

AVIVA SEGALL: What expectations did you have of the United States?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I didn't have any and it was now, after twelve years of living here, I understand that this is the best kind of attitude for the immigrant. Nothing can be more helpful than this. You come in, and you take everything the way how it comes and be grateful for it. It really helps, because you are not disappointed by anything just by definition because you don't have expectations and you're happy with whatever you get because you get it. It was 15:00the right attitude at the beginning

AVIVA SEGALL: Do you have any regrets about leaving?


AVIVA SEGALL: You didn't need any sponsorship in the United States?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: We did, we got sponsorship with everybody else. Almost everybody who is coming here for the first month or month and a half, when you come in and you don't know anything. Imagine, you don't know where to go and what it is. You don't even have documents. It takes some time until you get like 16:00your social security and you find an apartment and you don't have a job, so you can't pay for that, so you need at least some time for somebody to tell you what to do and where to go. So it's very helpful. There is the Jewish organization [unintelligible] which helps for the first several weeks and in fact, it helps longer. For some people it takes longer to adapt to live here

AVIVA SEGALL: What kind of assistance did they give you?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: They were giving us some money. Then they were giving us some English courses and some advice. They have some social workers who can help 17:00you to find work and at least try to help. We came at a very bad time, in the middle '80s. It was a bad time, workwise. They give you a free course of English. For a couple of weeks you go to school and study English. It is a minimum help, but it is very helpful. I am very grateful. I think they were giving food stamps.

AVIVA SEGALL: How did you find an apartment? Where was the apartment?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: We found our apartment in Borough Park. It was very simple, I asked somebody where the religious Jews lived and somebody told me in Borough Park, so I took the subway map, saw where Borough Park is, and took subway to 18:00Borough Park. Then I… I remember this very well, together with my brother, we arrived on 13th Avenue, looked around, saw a lot of Jews. 13th Avenue looked really crazy for us, being so busy and everybody was pushing. So we brought "The Jewish Press" on the newsstand, opened it, and looked for the apartment listings there, and we started to walk around and ask for apartments. It took us several hours maybe four or five hours until we came to this apartment on 44th Street, 19:00between 8th and 9th Avenues and living the for 11 years. First, we were living all four of us in this apartment. Then my brother got married and moved out. Then I got married and moved out. My parents were living there until just a couple of months ago. For 11 years they were staying in the same apartment. Became very close friends with our landlords who happen to be Satmar Hasidim, who happen to be wonderful people, who became very close to us and we became very close to them.

AVIVA SEGALL: You mentioned that when you came here, you became an observant Jew. Can you tell me how that came about?


MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: When we were in the process of immigration, we were waiting for entry visas to the United States, we were living in Italy for several months. And over there in Italy, Lubavitch have, used to have their representative. His name was Hirsch [unintelligible]. He was living there with his family and working with the Russian Jewish emigrants who were in this transition period, moving from Russia to the United States and waiting for their visas in Italy. We really became very friendly with him, really very close. In 21:00general, this situation of being in transition, moving, changing your life, it's very conducive to changing your lifestyle, in case if you are ready, because you are changing anyway. There are so many things which are changing. It's much easier, rather than trying to change something without the situation of moving. So I was ready, and he was very convincing and supportive of power in my 22:00transformation and because of our closeness, I felt secure and normal just to follow his lifestyle. Ideologically, I already was agreeing with him. I knew that a person has to keep mitzvot and knew more or less how, but somehow I just wasn't doing it, actually doing it. Somehow, seeing him doing it convinced me that it's doable. I started to do it. I first put tefillin over there and I started to wear a yarmulke all the time, not only in synagogue, and I started to Kosher over there. I remember the first time-- I was trying to eat Kosher food 23:00in general but I wasn't strict about it, so when we came to Vienna first, the first thing I did was I went to McDonald's because I heard so much about it, so I decided to see what it was. It was not a culinary experience; it was just a little sip of the Western life, so we came to the West, so let's see what McDonald's was about. It was like a first day thing. After a couple of weeks, when I was already in Italy, I had seriously decided to be a Jew, so I do go there. That's where it started, in Italy. When I came here to the United States, 24:00I already stepped on this land and I decided that's it. This is my new identity. I am here and I am an observant Jew. I started to do everything that the other observant Jews were doing.

AVIVA SEGALL: Was part of that being an observant Jew, did that automatically make you a part of the Lubavitch community?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: No, it didn't make me a member of the Lubavitch community. First of all, because I wasn't living in Crown Heights, I was living in Borough Park. It pushed me to think…when I was leaving Italy Hirsch told me that there 25:00was a place called 770, and I should just go there and see what is going on. So I think it was one of my first subway trips together with my brother. We went here to take a look, and it was interesting for us. Then a whole period of years, we were very frequent guests here. We were spending Shabbos here. We got friendly with many people. In spite of the fact that we didn't reside here, but we were spending a lot of time here and having a lot of friends here. That allowed us later on to move in and became residents.

AVIVA SEGALL: How did you meet the people that you first came into contact with 26:00in Crown Heights that drew you into the community?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I don't really remember how. I think it may have been in 770. The thing is that when we came here to Crown Heights, we felt ourselves definitely, very, very clearly as the schluchim, as representatives, and we were in fact of those numerous Jews who left Russia and who needed, at this time especially, a tremendous amount of help and didn't really have that much communication with the Western world because of the Iron Curtain. Especially with the United States, they didn't. They needed to and wanted to communicate, to exchange information, to get literature, to get all other Jewish articles 27:00from abroad, because they simply didn't have them in Russia. We were kind of sent for this purpose because in general, we were almost the first ones among the Baal Teshuvahs who came to the United States. Mostly, everybody was going to Israel, so there was nobody else who could come here and really tell all the story of exactly how it is over there. First of all, it was dangerous and you didn't want to tell this information to anybody, so we could tell the Lubavitch community, the people who were involved in helping Russians; what exactly was happening there, what they need, with whom to speak about, how to do it. We had 28:00this very specific goal. When we came here, we right away started to look for the people who were involved in this kind of activity here. We found them. It was Ezra Sarhim and there were a couple of other people but it was mostly Ezra. In fact, we when we were living in Russia, we were getting the literature; we were even getting the parcels from Ezra Sarhim. We already knew those name. We knew Moshe Levitov, we knew people, even being there. We were reading Rabbi Seehurst. We heard about the Rebbe. We heard about the Lubavitch, the Lubavitch were helping us when we were there, so that was another reason why we came here to Crown Heights. That's what we want to do, that was our goal. We wanted to 29:00help our dear friends who were there, to help them to do What they were doing, and that's what we started to do right away.

AVIVA SEGALL: So why did you move to Borough Park instead of Crown Heights?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I didn't care really. At that point, it was our very definite position, not to care about who is who and what is what. I could easily have ended up in Crown Heights, but somebody told me that Borough Park was where the Jews lived, so I got there.

AVIVA SEGALL: How did you start your work life? How long did it take until you got a job?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: It was a kind of funny story. I think it took me about two months before I started to work. What happened is that I tried to find a job 30:00according to my profession, which was aircraft engineer, at this time. I was trying for maybe a couple of weeks, sending my resumes and so on. But I found out very quickly that I can't find a job in those times here in the United States as a recent immigrant from Eastern Europe. I got very definite answers from personnel departments, from recruiting people. I was applying for a job which was exactly in my specialization; I was fitting perfectly and I was told, "No way, before you get, even formally take you before you have the American citizenship, which is five years ahead. Don't even think about it." So I didn't really waste any of my time. I said, "That's it. I am finished with my aircraft 31:00career." I was kind of hesitant about what to do and I decided I would probably have to do some other kind of engineering. At this time, it happened that through friend of mine put me together with somebody, and this somebody had somebody who had an air conditioning company, and he needed somebody to work for him. So I went over there and he interviewed me. I didn't like this place. It was pretty dark and unpainted in a lousy place and I really didn't like it. I 32:00wasn't thrilled about this man who interviewed me. But… and I wasn't thrilled about the money that he suggested to me, but somehow I decided to take this job temporarily. For me, it was much lower than my qualifications were. Anyway, I took this temporarily and it became my future profession. I stayed at this company for two years. I learned by myself about the air conditioning and the construction, and this product mechanical engineering, which was related to 33:00this. After two years of working in this company and doing all kinds of work, I felt confident enough to apply to a real engineering job in another air conditioning company, and I started to work there as Project Engineer. I worked there for five years and then went into another air conditioning company and I worked there as a civil engineer for another four years. Then I went to work as the Director of Construction to the big chain of stores and I oversee all the 34:00construction of the new stores.

AVIVA SEGALL: How did you come into Crown Heights? How did you move here?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: My wife, when I got married, wanted to live here in Crown Heights.

AVIVA SEGALL: How did you meet your wife?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I met my wife here in Crown Heights.

AVIVA SEGALL: Who introduced you?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: My friends Mayer and Miriam Rhodes. I met my wife in their house. They introduced us. In fact, it was my sister-in-law who first met my wife. She met her in Minnesota and then she told me about her. I think she 35:00somehow invited her to Mayer and Miriam's house, where I met her.

AVIVA SEGALL: How long did you know here before you married her?


AVIVA SEGALL: That's unusual, isn't it, in this community?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Yeah, it is unusual, but that's the way it happened with us.

AVIVA SEGALL: Is she from Crown Heights?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: No, she is from Los Angeles.

AVIVA SEGALL: How long had she been living in Crown Heights?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Before we got married, I think she had been living here for almost two years.

AVIVA SEGALL: And she only wanted to live in Crown Heights?



AVIVA SEGALL: How did you feel about that?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: It's not like I was pulling her to Borough Park. I didn't say that I had such a tremendous attachment to Borough Park. She wanted to live in Crown Heights, fine. I had no problem moving here. In fact, I was happy to move here. I didn't like it so much in Borough Park and I would say I probably have an equal amount of friends here and in Borough Park. Plus my wife wanted to live here. I didn't think twice about living here.

AVIVA SEGALL: What did you like about Crown Heights?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: It's a really special place and special climate, and the presence of the Lubavitcher Rebbe I think is the major factor that makes it so special. There are wonderful people living here and plenty of friends. That's 37:00basically what makes the place; people, friends.

AVIVA SEGALL: Where did you live when you moved here?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I was very lucky. I found a very good apartment at 706 Eastern Parkway. I lived in the same apartment all this time, almost five years.

AVIVA SEGALL: What don't you like about Crown Heights?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: What I don't like basically applies to, I would say all urban environments. The fact that you don't have a yard where your children can 38:00play, the fact that I have to live in an apartment building. Even though it is a good apartment, you have to go to the fifth floor with the strollers and the kids and it's difficult. There are a couple of other things. I'm not so sure about the education system for the children. I can't say that I dislike it, 39:00because I didn't experience it, but for some reasons, I have some reservations. I'm not sure that it's the best for my children. As far as the ability to choose and the openness to different views in Judaism, I'm not sure that that's an optimum.

AVIVA SEGALL: What about the different ethnic groups with whom people in Crown 40:00Heights live? Do you have any contact with the Blacks in the neighborhood?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: No, I don't have any contact with Blacks in the neighborhood, but I think it's pretty much a standard situation for New York overall. I don't really think that it's different.

AVIVA SEGALL: What is that?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: That's two different races who live next to each other and who, for some reason, might have some tensions. I don't see it as a tragic. It's just a reality which, if you live in this kind of situation, you have to face it 41:00and deal with. I don't feel desperate about it. It's difficult. It's happening. What can you do? That's what New York is about, all different races, mixing their characters. That's what it is.

AVIVA SEGALL: Do you feel that these tensions are aggravated?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: They are, to an extent, but I don't think it has anything to do with Crown Heights. You can put both Blacks and Jews on the moon or Mars or wherever. It has nothing to do with Crown Heights. It's just human nature.


AVIVA SEGALL: Do you think that there is any resolution to these tensions, that anything can be improved or changed?



MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I think it's very general and it can apply to Jews and it can be applied to non-Jews. People have to see another human being as a human being, not as like a black spot or a white spot and try to understand that other human being and relate to whatever extent you can relate. Then you have a relationship. If you live close to each other, you have to have a certain 43:00relationship. If you build a wall, this is an artificial wall, which wouldn't do any good because it wouldn't protect you because you are too close to each other and it doesn't allow you to understand the other party, so what's the sense. Create a relationship and work on this. I'm not saying make those relationships like loving relationships, but it has to be working relationships. You don't have embrace and kiss another party. Another party doesn't need it, but you have to relate to the other party, understand him, work with him and live, with him. It's just a cliché, but I have my experience of trying to live my life together 44:00with Russians. That's how I learned, by being beaten up in my childhood on everyday basis and persecuted and being a minority. I learned my hard lesson. I know that in any kind of situation, people can live together, as long as they face it and they work on this, and I'm sure it can be done over here.

AVIVA SEGALL: Is there anything that you would want people from outside of the Hasidic community in Crown Heights; you know, the Black Americans or the West 45:00Indians, that you feel it would be important for them to know about you as a Jew or other Hasidim in the neighborhood as Jews, that would help this relationship move along in a positive way?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: About me specifically?

AVIVA SEGALL: You specifically, yeah let's start with you specifically, that's good?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I don't know. It's a difficult question. What can they know about me specifically which can help the relationship?

AVIVA SEGALL: What about the Jews in the neighborhood, either one?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: The Jews in the neighborhood; in other words what kind of advice to the Jews.

AVIVA SEGALL: What would advise to the Blacks? Let's start with the Blacks. If 46:00you saw, like these kids who are here playing in the street. If you had an opportunity to go up to them and sit with them and talk to them, and try to resolve some of this tension, what would you want them to know about you as a Jewish person that would help them understand a little bit more.

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I would like them to see me as their friend, because I am and I wish I could help those people to find their place in this society and in this life and in this New York and in this Crown Heights. The help is very 47:00simple, to find a way to education, whatever it is, minimum, maximum, middle and the next step is the work opportunities. I would tell them in, my professional life, I've met a lot of African Americans, Hispanic people, all kinds of people with whom I work together who are wonderful people, great professionals, pleasure to work with and if I could share this experience with those guys, this I think would be very helpful in my relationship to them. I would show that I believe in them and I personally see the way for them to succeed in this life 48:00because I saw the examples of their people who did succeed and I experienced a relationship with them. I wish the same to those guys who are playing over there on the street, playing ball

AVIVA SEGALL: How many years have you lived in Crown Heights?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Almost five years, without one month.

AVIVA SEGALL: I understand that you recently bought a house in Monsey, New York and you'll be living there, for now on. Could you please tell me for what reasons you decided to leave Crown Heights and move to Muncie?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: A couple of reason. Some of them we already briefly touched, but I will summarize them. The first reason is that our apartment where we live 49:00presently became a little bit too tight for us after the birth of our third child. Our children are growing and they really don't fit so well. We don't have a yard so people don't have a place to run and play. They can't play on the street. It's not safe and it's not right. The real estate situation in Crown Heights is not good. In other words, the houses here are not available or if 50:00they are available they are overpriced, so I couldn't see myself buying anything in Crown Heights.

AVIVA SEGALL: How much are we looking at? When you say overpriced, you're looking at a two bedroom house, a three bedroom house?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Even half bedroom house, it doesn't matter how many bedrooms. The cost of real estate, in my opinion, here is higher than it really costs.

AVIVA SEGALL: Just for example, one of the homes that you might have looked at in Crown Heights, how much were they asking for it?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: There is no real market over here at this point. There are some condominiums available on the outskirts of Crown Heights.

AVIVA SEGALL: Where is that? Where are the outskirts of Crown Heights?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Lefferts and this one near police station.


AVIVA SEGALL: New York Avenue.

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV Those areas are, I consider too far away from the place where I would like to live.

AVIVA SEGALL: There were no single family homes?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: Maybe three or four. That's why they are overpriced because there is no real market and no real competition. If there were hundreds of houses available, then of course the price would be according to their market value. But that's the whole trick. They are artificially overpriced, because there are none available. There are no houses on the market.

AVIVA SEGALL: Okay, so that was the third reason--


MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: No the second reason. The other reason was, I was in a situation where I had to buy a house, because my family is growing. The other reason I would mention is my children's future. My children are little and I'm not so happy about the way that I can choose for education for my children. I don't feel there is really any choice. It's predetermined. I don't feel comfortable with it.

AVIVA SEGALL: What is it that you will miss about Crown Heights?

MOSHE MESHCHANINOV: I won't miss anything because I will be coming here very often. I will probably be here twice a week because I am going to continue my 53:00studies [unintelligible] here, so hopefully I will miss very little. My friends are still here so I will be able to see them. I will be in at 770, so I will hopefully see the Rebbe in good health and he will encourage us and help us. I'm not cutting off those contacts. That's for sure.

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Moshe Meshchaninov

Moshe Meshchaninov was born in Leningrad, Russia in the former Soviet Union in 1954. Influenced by his younger brother, as a young engineer Moshe began exploring religious Judaism. This led to the family immigrating to the United States in the early 1980s. He discovered the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights and the Lubavitch community in the late 1980s. A Jew who's returned to Orthodoxy, he met and married his wife Yehudis Chana, who's also a baal teshuvah. A resident of the Lubavitch community of Monsey, New York, he was a principal of a heating, ventilation and air conditioning corporation in 2015.

In the interview, Meshchaninov discusses life as a Jew in Russia; his conversion to Orthodoxy; the family's immigration to the United States; and the Hasidic community. He suggests resolutions to the tensions in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Interview conducted by Aviva Segall.

This collection contains oral history recordings and transcripts, as well as exhibit materials, from Brooklyn Historical Society's Crown Heights History Project, also known as "Bridging Eastern Parkway." Crown Heights History Project oral histories include audio and transcripts created and collected within the context of an exhibition project undertaken in part by BHS in 1993 and 1994. Three interviewers recorded conversations with over forty narrators. In addition to exhibition product value, the oral histories were conducted as life history and community anthropology interviews; topics of discussion include family and heritage, immigration and relocation, cultural and racial relations, occupations and professions, education and religion, housing and gentrification, civil unrest and reconciliation, media representation and portrayal, and activism. The series of exhibition research materials document the outreach efforts for interviews and materials from the community as well as exhibit scripts and curatorial notes.


Meshchaninov, Moshe, Oral history interview conducted by Aviva Segall, August 18, 1993, Crown Heights History Project collection, 1994.006.18; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Congregation Lubavitch (Crown Heights, New York, N.Y.)
  • Meshchaninov, Moshe


  • Conversion
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family life
  • Hasidim
  • Jews
  • Jews, Russian
  • Judaism
  • Persecution
  • Race relations


  • Borough Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Monsey (N.Y.)
  • Russia
  • Soviet Union


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Finding Aid

Crown Heights History Project collection