Russians coming to a radio station near you

By Carolyn Dryer Glendale Star Nov 13, 2003

Russian Radio Arizona will make its debut in the Valley after the first of the year, if fundraising is successful. Last Friday night, a fundraiser was held at Irene's Happy Day Child Care on 27th Avenue just south of Northern Avenue.

Behind the fundraising effort are two local residents, Andy Conovaloff of Sun City, and Tamara Babekov, a Buchorian Russian Jew, who immigrated to the United States more than 25 years ago. Babekov has a brother who also lives in Glendale.

Babekov said the Buchorian Russian Jewish community wants to help the community grow and raise money for the Russian radio station.

Conovaloff said, "There's no Russian language communication about what's going on in Arizona."

Conovaloff , a Molokan Russian, whose family settled in the Glendale-Tolleson area in the early 1900s, said of all the Russian-born people in Arizona, half are of the Buchorian community. Most Molokans, Conovaloff said, still follow the traditions of the Russian culture; they use the Russian language and bible.

But the airwaves have yet to offer a Russian alternative.

Babekov said there are four Russian radio stations in New York City. So, she approached the manager for radio station 1190 AM in the Valley and asked about the possibility of providing an outlet here. The manager is a member of the Glendale Community College Russian Club.

"He gave a good price," Babekov said.

"We're hoping to blend all the Russians on the radio," Conovaloff said, as well as educate American Jews on the Russian language.

The radio show would be featured for one hour every Sunday morning. It would include news and commentary, reports and interviews, programs about politics and society themes, music and scientific programs and sports reports.

Arizona is second only to New York City in the numbers of Buchorian Russian Jews, Babekov said. She said the climate in Arizona is "the same" as that of Uzbekistan and that is the main reason so many of her countrymen are making the move to this state.

Babekov remembers December and January in Uzbekistan, when many of her community members were in the cotton fields.

The rabbi sent by a non-profit Jewish organization in Israel is from Uzbekistan, the same province where Babekov was born. Rabbi Boruch Kocehn serves almost 500 families scattered throughout Arizona. About 20 families live in Tucson. At the last holiday, Yom Kippur on Oct. 5, about 500 people attended. At the Celebration of Torah Oct. 26 at Hebrew Academy on Bethany Home Road at Fifth Street, almost 350 participated, Babekov said.

Although the Israel non-profit organization pays for the rabbi's services, he will be leaving after a six-month stay. During his time here, the rabbi conducts a prayer service every Friday night, Saturday morning and evening and each day. In addition, Kocehn offers lessons for kids and adults, and for boys preparing for Bar Mitzvah. He also speaks to adults about how to lead their family lives and how to "raise kids in this society," Babekov said.

Babekov is leading the effort to find sponsors for the radio program, which would be hosted by Russian journalists based in Arizona. In the West Valley, call (623) 972-7828 (English language); Central Valley (602) 987-5915 (Russian and English); and East Valley (602) 396-3312 (Russian and English).

The group also has a Website, www.RussianAZ.org/radio , and e-mail addresses: russkii@RussianAZ.org.

To contact Rabbi Kochen, call (602) 348-7968. He speaks Russian only. To reach the Phoenix Buchori Jewish Community Center, call (602) 870-1075.

The Glendale Community College Russian Club can be reached at http://gecko.gc.maricopa.edu/clubs/russian
[New website: www.RussianAZ.org/GCCRussianClub]

The advisor is Alevtiva Moore, (602) 845-. 

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