From an early age, Izakil Goldin’s greatest desire has been to express himself creatively through painting and writing. But the first 23 years of his life in a village 70 miles from Minsk, in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus, followed by 20 years in Minsk, offered little opportunity for him to do so.
His childhood memories include art, music, and literature along with recollections of his mother being an actress and doing voice impersonations.
But the majority of his memories of life in Russia are rife with restrictions indelibly marked in his mind. He describes it as “living on the moon,” with meager and often inedible food, extremely limited employment opportunities, and an “internal passport” that determined where people were allowed to go.
In 1979, when the USSR relaxed its visa policies toward Jews and an era of détente was underway, the Goldins (Izakil, his wife Lora and their 6-year-old son Jay) emigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States and settled in Richmond, Virginia. Years later their son Jay, a writer and assistant history professor, learned through a friend’s research how Soviet Jews were able to leave the Soviet Union legally. They were required to have an invitation or “visov,” a legally attested invitation from a near “relative” to join his or her family members. Few if any Jews had relatives in Israel, and there was no Israeli embassy in the Soviet Union.
Jews throughout greater Russia made lists of those who wanted to leave and took the lists to the Dutch embassy in Moscow, which sent names to the Israeli embassy in the Netherlands. Next, the names were sent to Israel. Then a few months later, the Soviet Jews who wanted to leave would get invitations from their Israeli “relatives.”
Letters from these “relatives” opened up a new world of possibilities for the Goldins. They allowed them to leave Belarus and connect to extended family members in Virginia, educational opportunities, and the assistance of Richmond’s Jewish Family Services. This organization helped emigres become acclimated to their new environment, and they found Izakil Goldin a lab technician job analyzing tobacco for Philip Morris.
Since 2011, the Goldins have lived in Fort Worth near their son Jay. Life in the United States has clearly been a source of numerous blessings for the Goldins. For Izakil, one of the greatest gifts has been his ability to pursue his love of the arts, specifically attending art classes at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Museum of Arts.
Izakil delights in painting realistic landscapes, still lifes, and portraits with vivid colors and evocative details. His son Jay is “very proud of his father’s artistic ability and hopes that as many people as possible will have the opportunity to see his exhibit.”
Selected works will be on display in the Beth-El Board Room from May through August.