Did you read the NY Times story about Sergey Brin's $1MM donation to the organization that saved him and other Jews from death at the hands of Russian anti-semites? Maybe the money I sent to Bolislav Vainman, my "Russian Twin," in 1986, did find its way to him, after all. Maybe my mom was wrong, maybe Bolislav, like Sergey, did, as I predicted, use my Bar Mitzvah money to move to Israel, start a tech company, sell it to Sun Microsystems or something, and live happily ever after while I toil in Times Square? Before Sergey Brin co-founded Google, he was a little Jewboy getting beat up in Russia. This is what he looked like... Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is going to use Sergey's donation to digitize their records. That might mean they'll help us in our search for Bolislav Vainman. But as of tonight, when I search for Bolislav, I am left feeling like a hungry Russian dog, cold and alone in the Siberian desert:
Last week, my mom tried to convince me that the Russian government took my freakin' Bar Mitzvah money. Today, my friend and colleague Greg Clayman, EVP of Digital Distribution & Business Development at MTV Networks, weighs in on my search for my "Russian twin," Bolislav Vainman. Greg has already begun looking for Bolislav, which I appreciate, given his many responsibilities at work and in life. He is a true friend, and an expert at the interweb and cell phones. Plus, Greg knows everybody, so it's likely he has met Bolislav Vainman at a conference, or been a panelist with him at an industry event, and just forgotten. That's ok. I know, in the end, Greg's thoughtful research will only help bring us closer to the real Bolislav Vainman... From Greg Clayman: "You know, Ross, it's likely that the issue you're having finding him on Google may be the transliteration of his name from Cyrillic into English. There are lots of different ways to spell a name like Bolislav Vainman. And when you take into account diminutives and/or shortening of the name should Bolislav have immigrated somewhere it expands the pool. "This, for example, could be your guy: "Of course if he actually did emigrate to Israel he could be Shmuley Nimrod for all we know." Thank you, Greg. Bolislav? You out there? Hello?
My mother weighs in on the post about my search for the kid I gave half my Bar Mitzvah money to... "Actually, Ross, I don't think Bolislav has any idea who you are or what you did. The Russians intercepted your letters, and he never received anything. It was all in vain. Like his name. You like that rhyme? "Don't you remember we put special stamps on it? They were supposed to tell us when he got the money. We got the return-receipt back, but he hadn't signed it. "The Russians took your money, Ross." I love my mom.
Twenty-two years ago, I gave half my Bar Mitzvah money to a Russian Jew I didn't even know. At the synagogue, I made a poster with his name on it, drew some six-pointed stars with a red sharpie, threw a tallis over the top, and propped up the poster on its own chair on the bima, as I read from the Torah in front of everyone in the congregation. Bolislav Vainman wasn't just a celebrity at the center of my coming-of-age party, he was my very own international call for justice. At the party, when I did the limbo, I pictured Bolislav diving under a barbed wire fence, fleeing brutal Russian tormentors. When my friends made me a "memory glass," filled with whatever glittery stuff they found in the party's catering hall, I dedicated it to Bolislav. When we lit the candles and said the prayers, I said an extra one for Bolislav's safe emigration to Israel. Bolislav Vainman and I are the same age. The non-profit program that paired us up when we were 13, called such a match your "Russian Twin." In the weeks following my Bar Mitzvah, I dreamt nightly of the ways in which my money would save Bolislav's family from the Russian pogroms. Because of me, I told myself, Bolislav Vainman would live freely in Israel, and begin a new life with his parents and his brothers and sisters. He'd go to school, he'd learn to speak English. He'd' meet a woman from the Israeli army, and he'd marry her. His Israeli tech start-up would be funded with my cash and the cash his Russian emigree friends also got from American kids like me. He'd probably find a way to honor us by combining all our names to form the name of their company. They'd sell the company to AOL, probably around 2001. Bolislav would take a few years off, enjoy his wealth. Then he'd get bored and start a night club in Tel Aviv. If Bolislav Vainman used my money wisely, if he avoided the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he's doing pretty well right about now. Here's the thing: I have no idea. And that's annoying. Damn it, Bolislav--how come you haven't even tried to Facebook me? No tweets, no emails, no nothin'. It's like I don't even exist. --Or you don't. Do you? I can't find you. My friends think I should make my search for you into a documentary. Or a book. And when I find you? One of my friends suggests I collect some interest. But that would be an asshole thing to do. I don't want the money back, dude. I just want to make sure it actually got to you, and wasn't intercepted by some bogus charity capitalizing on the early 80's Jewish guilt of families like mine. Maybe I'll post this on my blog. My mom thinks you probably work at Goldman Sachs, or something. So if you are reading this, call me. In the meantime, here's a photo of a Bolislav, but not the Bolislav I am looking for...