Posted by Ellen Ogintz Fishman

Holocaust survivors from the former Soviet Union clapped their hands, bobbed their heads to the rhythm, and yelled, "Bravo." They were responding to the extraordinary talent of Elina Karokhina, balalaika player, and her accompanist and singer, Mikhail Smirnov, who were performing traditional music from their native country at B'nai Moshe in Brighton on Thursday, October 7.

Elina is the daughter of the 2003 Pushkin Prize-winning author and jazz (saxophone) musician L'ev Fyodorovich Karokhin and Galina Savich. She completed her education in Saint Petersburg, earning a Doctor of Musical Art degree in the balalaika. She's toured all over the world as a balalaika soloist and is one of only three people in the United States playing balalaika.

Mikhail Smirnov has been in the business of Russian folk dance and music for more than 25 years. As a child, he was a member of the famous "Moscow Boys Chorus," one of the most prestigious all-male choirs in Russia. Before coming to the United States in 1991, Mikhail was a soloist in several Russian folk dance and music groups.

This event, specifically for Russian speaking Holocaust survivors, was sponsored by Legacies of Schechter Holocaust Services. Last year, Ellen Krechmer, coordinator of Legacies, organized a very successful pilot program for Russian speaking Holocaust survivors. As an outgrowth of that, Legacies applied for and received a CJP Jewish Innovation and Engagement Grant to create four programs for the coming year for this population, modeled after Café Hakalah, which meets monthly in Coolidge Corner and generally attracts English speaking survivors. This unique and captivating performance was a terrific beginning.

Ellen Ogintz Fishman is the Director of JF&CS Schechter Holocaust Services.