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Museum to celebrate Russian immigrants

Brooklyn Daily

A new museum aims to show that Russian immigrants are as American as the Motherland and apple pie.

A theater in Brighton Beach is building a Russian heritage museum to highlight contributions immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union have made to the United States. Organizers want to shape a more positive opinion of Russians, who sometimes get a bad rap because of how they are portrayed in the media, according to one of the museum’s founders.

“We want to change the way many people in Brooklyn look at Russian immigration,” said Sanna Ezri, director of the Master Theater — formerly the Millennium Theater.

The museum will trace the Russian ancestry of Americans who have made a significant contribution to this nation’s culture or history — people like Steven Spielberg, whose ancestors emigrated from the Ukraine, and Leonardo Dicaprio, whose Italian surname belies his maternal grandmother’s Russian origins, Ezri said.

Other subjects include controversial composer Igor Stravinsky, “I Dream of Jeannie” creator Sidney Sheldon, and designer Ralph Lauren.

“They are the people who made the history of the United States,” said Rika Katsov, the museum’s director.

An historian working with the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan is spearheading the research, but genealogists from across the globe are contributing, Katsov said.

Sifting through immigration data and family trees has produced some surprises, she said.

“Who could have thought that the founder of the famous American footwear brand Timberland was an immigrant from Russia, or that the creator of the legendary American muscle car Chevy Corvette is the son of Russian expats?” Katsov said.

In addition to biographical information about famous Americans with Russian roots, the museum will trace emigration from the Motherland around the world.

Construction is expected to begin in the fall, Katsov said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
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Reader Feedback

INGA from Sheeoshead Bay says:
What construction? Where? The most dangerous building on Brighton Beach with an outdated C of O and numerous FDNY violations? Give me a break!
June 24, 3:30 pm
lgjhere from New York says:
. A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook that helps explain the role, struggles, and contributions of immigrants and minorities is "What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It paints a revealing picture of America for anyone who will benefit from a better understanding. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it also informs those who want to learn more about the last remaining superpower and how we compare to other nations on many issues.
As the book points out, immigrants and minorities are a major force in America. Immigrants and the children they bear account for 60 percent of our nation’s population growth and own 11 percent of US businesses and are 60 percent more likely to start a new business than native-born Americans. They represent 17 percent of all new business owners (in some states more than 30 percent). Foreign-born business owners generate nearly one-quarter of all business income in California and nearly one-fifth in New York, Florida, and New Jersey. In fact, forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant, creating 10 million jobs and seven out of ten top brands in our country.
More importantly, they come to improve their lives and create a foundation of success for their children to build upon, as did the author’s grandparents when they landed at Ellis Island in 1899 after losing 2 children to disease on a cramped cattle car-like sailing from Europe to the Land of Opportunity. Many bring skills and a willingness to work hard to make their dreams a reality, something our founders did four hundred years ago. In describing America, chapter after chapter chronicles “foreigners” who became successful in the US and contributed to our society. However, most struggle in their efforts and need guidance in Anytown, USA. Perhaps intelligent immigration reform, White House/Congress and business/labor cooperation, concerned citizens and books like this can extend a helping hand, the same unwavering hand, lest we forget, that has been the anchor and lighthouse of American values for four hundred years.
Here’s a closing quote from the book’s Intro: “With all of our cultural differences though, you’ll be surprised to learn how much…we as human beings have in common on this little third rock from the sun. After all, the song played at our Disneyland parks around the world is ‘It’s A Small World After All.’ Peace.”
June 24, 4:49 pm
D. Geyber from Oceana says:
How could you forget Robert Allen Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan. His grandparents came from Odessa, Ukraine.
The boy did some Rollin' and Tumblin' in this country, didn't he?
July 3, 4:42 pm

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