Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News January 2002

January 28, 2002

The Association of Jewish Schools and Principals in the CIS and Baltic States

The seventeenth seminar of the Association of Jewish Schools and Principals in the CIS and Baltic States was organized by the Memorial Foundation in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine on January 7-10. The Association, which was organized immediately after Glasnost with six schools, now has a membership of close to fifty schools, serving more than 30,000 students.

The seminar was especially noteworthy, because in addition to crystallizing everything the Association has accomplished over the last decade, at this meeting the Association crossed the threshold onto a new plateau of activity

The Jewish school in Dnepropetrovsk, where the meeting took place, can serve as a model institution of what can be accomplished in the former Soviet Union. Under the leadership of Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky, it consists of an elementary and high school serving more than 630 students. Its most striking components are the program for exceptional children, one of the first of its kind in Eastern Europe and Machon Chana, a teacher-training program with almost two hundred student teachers.

The practice of the Association is to rotate the site of its meetings among its member agencies, so that the principals can expand their perception of what can be accomplished by local schools under creative leadership. Previous seminars have been held in Moscow, Riga, St. Petersburg, Kiev, Kishinev, New York and Jerusalem.

The first day of the seminar was dedicated to an intensive visit to the community's educational institutions. The most critical achievement of the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community is that its educational institutions serve as the nucleus of the community. On a wall in the center corridor of its central school is a large map of all the variegated communal institutions of Dnepropetrovsk, all radiating out from the school. The centrality of the Jewish school in the CIS is one of the major goals of the Association, which we hope we can achieve with all the member schools.


Plans for the Future

Finally, after a decade together, the famous sociological maxim of the French Jewish sociologist Emile Durkheim that the sum is greater than the total of all its parts, was also clearly evident. It was represented in their collective spirit and their sense of empowerment, but most significantly, in their first steps toward collective action which the principals adopted unanimously.

The Association voted to organize annual seminars, not only for the principals, but for the deputy principals as well, in the areas of informal education and Jewish studies; organizing a pilot project for in-service training for the regular teachers of their schools; and operating regional events for the most talented and active student leaders in their schools around the CIS.

At the seminar, Chana Rotman, a noted Russian-Jewish educator, gave a preliminary report of a study, sponsored by the Association, of the teachers' evaluations of all the books and educational materials being used in their schools in the field of Jewish studies, including Hebrew, Jewish tradition and Jewish history. It is a pioneering study, the first of its kind, which will hopefully point to the specific areas where educational materials need upgrading.

This study is not only relevant to the quality of the educational materials being currently used in the Jewish studies programs of the schools. It is the most potent demonstration of how, in one decade, the Association has become an educational catalyst. May it grow in strength and stature.

We at the Foundation are committed to nourishing its continuing evolution as the transforming institution in the revitalization of Jewish life in the CIS.

Warm regards.
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President