"In the Soviet Union, Judaism was a matter of ethnic identity devoid of any synagogue affiliation, and it appears to have stayed that way for immigrants after they immigrated.... For many American Jews, the complete ignorance of Judaism among the newcomers, along with other cultural differences, came as a rude jolt.The fact is, none of these immigrants had any experience at all of Jewish community life. Many of them, I would add, were also used to receiving from the State, and because they didn't exactly understand what a community was, expected the community to help them out financially as a state would, and resented it when they didn't. This was a particularly common criticism, I found, from Russian immigrants who came through Israel (a large percentage, in Toronto at least). The North American community never understood any of this, at least until very recently, leading to complete cross-wires.
Among the immigrants, the ways of the Jewish community were mystifying. The notion of paying dues or volunteering time was not something they were familiar with, nor was either of the languages — English and Hebrew — spoken at the synagogues."
According to the Forward article, many of the professionals in the field are now giving up and abandoning their outreach efforts. What a tragedy; just when we are beginning to understand why we've failed so far.