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From Russia With Love of Learning

TIMES STAFF WRITER

David Soloveichik is the kind of kid who makes adults believe they are looking at the next Einstein.

Despite coming to the United States from Eastern Europe only seven years ago, the 18-year-old senior at Milken Community High School of Stephen Wise Temple, received 1,600--the highest score possible--on his college entrance exams. College, no doubt, will mean Harvard, MIT, Stanford, or one of the other elite schools.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Apr. 08, 1998 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 8, 1998 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 17 words Type of Material: Correction
Milken School-Bruce Powell’s title was incorrect in an article Monday. He is president of Milken Community High School.

“He’s the kind of child who will create or invent something for the good of humanity,” said Bruce Powell, headmaster at the high school.

But just as impressive as David’s brain power is the community support and sponsorship he has received.

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The Soloveichiks left Kiev in 1989. The family of four--parents Boris and Sofia, young David, and the boy’s maternal grandmother Natalia--each carried one suitcase.

Yet the family made it to California with the help of strangers. The Soloveichiks said they owe much to Valley Beth Shalom, a synagogue in Encino, which did more than sponsor a family in need, they adopted one.

“It was amazing what the people in the congregation have done for us,” Boris Soloveichik said.

Merrill Alpert, youth director at Valley Beth Shalom, was among the members of a volunteer committee at the synagogue who sponsored Russian Jews to come to the United States.

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The committee members collected information on families waiting in Europe for documents that would allow them to immigrate. They coordinated with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a nonprofit group, to help the Soloveichiks, who did not have any close relatives to sponsor their trip.

Members of the committee met the family at LAX, rented and furnished an apartment in Encino, filled its refrigerator with food and helped Boris find a job as a laborer at an air conditioning company.

They helped him find a second job as a sheet metal fabricator when the air-conditioning company he worked for folded.

The committee also arranged for David to attend private Jewish schools in the Valley on a combination of scholarships and grants. Yearly tuition at Milken Community High School is close to $13,000.

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“We and David’s family wanted David to have a good education but also one that nurtured his Jewish roots,” Alpert said. “It was really a community effort that helped this family, especially David, become a success.”

Still, the cultural surroundings could not protect him from everything.

In sixth grade David was teased for being shy and unable to speak English well. Once, a group of boys surrounded David calling him “stupid Russian.”

“I felt a little self-conscious about speaking which made people think I’m shy,” he said, “but I’m just thinking about what to say.”

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Now David, who plans to study genetics and biology in college, seems to be doing fine.

According to a spokesman with the Educational Testing Service, the organization that administers the Scholastic Achievement Test, only 47 students in California scored a perfect 1,600 during the 1996-97 school year. This year’s complete results, which include David, were not yet available.

Alpert said the family was determined to see their only son succeed in a new country.

“They set such a wonderful example for David to follow by sacrificing and working hard and by always trying to better themselves,” she said.

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The boy’s mother, Sofia, 41, recently became a registered nurse and works daily at a convalescent home in Van Nuys. She said that when she heard about David’s score she couldn’t believe it.

“My first thought was ‘Don’t tell anyone. What if it’s wrong?’ ” she said. “I didn’t want David to be embarrassed.”

But these days David most often hears praise.

“David is one of the most modest people I know,” said Robin Nourmand, 17, a schoolmate. “He never told anyone about his score. I found out from someone else.”

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