Russian Jews establish roots in Washington community

August 24, 1995

Staff Writer

Natasha Spivack moved here 10 years ago with her Jewish refusenik husband and two children. A year and a half later, her husband died in a car accident.

The Jewish community came to their rescue, she said, despite the fact that she is not Jewish. Friends picked up her younger son, Michael Yudzon, now 12, from day care when she had to work late. Her older son, Alex Yudzon, now 18, cerebrated his bar mitzvah here and is starting college at a New York art school this fall.

In the intervening years, Spivack, who has since remarried another Jewish men, got to know the single Jewish community in suburban Maryland. And she noticed similarities between single life here and in Russia.

Two years ago, Spivack started Encounters International, a marriage service that links American men with Russian and Estonian brides. Men peruse books and watch video tapes of women who want to marry American men. The men pay $1,850 for full membership or $350 to try it out.

When a man finds someone he thinks he likes, he sends a fax to Russia. Correspondence begins; eventually the man travels to Moscow to meet his potential wife. Whether to that woman, or someone else he meets while visiting, the men almost always returns engaged, Spivack said.

Already 62 couples have met and married, and as many as 60 more couples are currently corresponding, she said.

While the service is not limited to Jewish, Spivack noted that some men prefer only Jewish wives. With that in mind, she is planning to open an office in Israel to link American Jewish men with Israeli or Russian Jewish wives.

Spivack still belongs to the Jewish Community Center but has decreased her involvement with the Jewish Community. The generosity of area Jews, however, remains in her mind. "I might offer special rates for Jewish men when we open the office in Israel," she said, "to pay the community back for helping us. (Otherwise, we) would not have survived."

Encounters International
Phone: (301) 530-7759
Fax: (301) 789-2508