Fostering intergenerational connections is key to the work that we do at Commonpoint Queens. This has never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people are feeling isolated and we are pivoting to the virtual space to find community. In the first interview of our Intergenerational Connections series, we were able to connect Evan Rothstein and Daniella Mullokandov who bonded over their shared Russian Jewish identity and playing/coaching basketball at Central Queens!
“I was born in Russia in 2003, and adopted by a Jewish-American family in 2006. I converted to Judaism, however I did not identify much with my Jewish peers at a young age. I began to seriously explore Judaism when I attended a Jewish summer camp and bonded with Israeli and other Jewish teens. Soon after, I started teaching myself basic Hebrew and began to seek opportunities to actively participate in the Jewish community. Interviewing Russian Jewish members of Commonpoint Queens like Daniella Mullokandov was a natural next step in my discovery process. It was important for me to learn from Daniella, that if your Jewishness is an important part of your identity you can integrate it
successfully with being an American and an immigrant or child of immigrant parents.”
Daniella’s Story As Told by Evan:
Ms. Daniella Mullokandov is from a tight knit Bukharian Jewish community in Forest Hills, New York. Both of her parents are Bukhariann Jews born in Tajikistan, which was formerly part of the Soviet Union. Daniella was born in the U.S. and faced the cross currents of being a member of both the Bukharian Jewish and American communities. Judaism was a very important part of her early life and played a key role in her education and upbringing. She lives in Queens and went to a yeshiva for seven years up until High School, where she had a rigorous education in Judaism alongside primarily other Bukharian Jewish girls. The yeshiva primarily focused on providing religious education and less on secular studies, which was one of the primary reasons she preferred public high school to yeshiva. Her high school, Forest Hills High School, offered Hebrew language education, so she thought it best to go there rather than a primarily Jewish high school, since it combined the secular education she wanted with the opportunity to continue learning Hebrew.
She got a job at Commonpoint Queens in the Health and Wellness department as a result of her strong desire to pursue medicine, and the large and welcoming Jewish community was an important bonus. She created a friendship with Adam, a basketball coach at Commonpoint, who got her a job as a coach as well. From there, she was able to work her way up to an instructor and then camp nurse, which was a perfect fit for her because she loved kids and medicine. Under the heading of “it’s a small world”, I was also a member of the youth basketball league coached by Adam. Following high school, she chose to go to SUNY Old Westbury with her friends and pursue education in medicine. She and her friends were some of the only Jews at Old Westbury, and they took it upon themselves to start a Jewish club so that they could spread their community to the other Jews at school.
Throughout her entire life, she was connected to the Jewish community in a way that she described simply as natural, completely normal to her and part of her identity. She had no trouble finding her place within the community, which granted her a social foundation on which she was able to grow both as a student and as a person. While she is not the most religious person, the impact of her involvement in this community on her has been great. Her desire to be with her people was a key determinant of where she went to school, her jobs, and ultimately has started her on the path to a successful medical career. She really demonstrated to me that the NY Jewish community is everywhere, and very welcoming. She also demonstrated that regardless of where you are, you can find ways to connect with other Jews.
If you are interested in participating in an Intergenerational Connections project, please reach out to Judy Vladimir at [email protected].