Following the Six Day War in 1967, the Soviet Union restricted Jewish emigration. The Soviet government feared that Jewish citizens would share valuable information about the Soviet Union with Israel and the United States. The American Jewish Community galvanized into action. American Jews were still ashamed of their lack of action when Jews were being annihilated by the Nazis in the 1940s. The Soviet Jewry Movement was born.
Ghenady Meirson was born in Odessa, Ukraine. His family desperately wanted to leave the anti-Semitism they encountered in the Soviet Union. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the American Jewish community, his family received permission to emigrate. In 1971, they took a train from Odessa to Vienna. From Vienna, they boarded an El Al flight to Tel Aviv. As the old Israeli joke goes, when Ghenady got off the airplane, he wasn't carrying his violin case because he is a pianist.
This year, Ghenady added something completely different to Philadelphia's cultural scene: Russian Opera Workshop. This is a summer training program, which specializes, in Russian opera. Applicants from all over the world audition via You Tube. The workshop's master classes and opera performances are free and open to the public. In the summer of 2011, his students performed two operas by Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin and Iolanta. In June 2012, there will be free performances of Rachmaninoff's Aleko and Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades.
The American Jewish Community liberated Ghenady Meirson's family. He is repaying this generosity with his creativity. Philadelphia's Russian Opera Workshop is the only program of its kind in the world! It enriches our cultural scene and offers Philadelphia's residents an opportunity to experience something unique!
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