September 2 , 2010
Source: World Ort
As summer was drawing to a close, 26 principals from the three Jewish education networks in the Former Soviet Union came together for an eight-day seminar in Jerusalem to strengthen their managerial and other skills.
The program, designed and implemented by the Melton Center for Jewish Education at Hebrew University in conjunction with Israel’s Ministry of Public Affairs and the Diaspora, brought together the heads of 11 Orthodox schools belonging to the Shema Yisrael and Ohr Avner networks along with 15 heads of ORT schools.
"This represents the first time in many years that the State of Israel has recognised the importance of Jewish schools in the FSU," said Avi Ganon, World ORT Representative in Russia. "The principals are the right people to create an awareness and understanding of the State of Israel among their respective communities. By increasing their knowledge of Jewish cultural and historical subjects they develop a greater understanding of Israel's role in contemporary Jewish life."
The entire program comprises three stages – the initial seminar that has been successfully completed, a distance learning component, and a 12-day seminar back in Jerusalem in December.
Topics explored during the seminar included Jewish history and tradition, the development of Jewish identity in the FSU, educational approaches to Jewish Studies including comparisons between Israeli and Diaspora schools, and the development of managerial and leadership skills.
The seminar was an opportunity for the networks, which have enjoyed cooperative relations at a senior level for many years, to form closer relationships at a grass roots level.
Dan Brown of eJewish Philanthropy writes of meeting with the principals representing both Ohr Avner and ORT during their Jerusalem stay:
"… the financial problems I learned about on a late-spring visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg continue to plague the system. The difficulties are the same for all three networks – they just do not have ample financial resources to meet current needs. Cutbacks over the past few years have forced the elimination of Jewish studies teachers along with the elimination of transportation and hot meals in most schools. Despite promises made by the Israeli government, there is no money available for Israeli teachers for the current school year. Both the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the Jewish Federations of North America have reduced allocations. It is unlikely either organization will step-up with new monies in the near future. A recent gift by the The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) helps – but this is not a solution.
Simply put, the financial shortfall puts the work of the past decade in jeopardy."