A group being trained in informal Jewish education watching a presentation at Melamedia College
Name of implementing organization:Melamedia Center for Informal Jewish Education
Date of initial project approval:October 2007
Date of project renewal:October 2009
Brief description of the local Jewish community
The Jewish population in the FSU and the Baltic States numbers at least 700,000. Half of the Jewish population lives in large cities in Russia and Ukraine. The remainder is distributed throughout more than 200 smaller cities. Approximately 17,000-20,000 children are enrolled in Jewish day schools.
Project aims and objectives
To train teachers to become experts in informal Jewish education in order to staff programs in the FSU, the Baltic States, and Germany
Melamedia College is conducting a series of educational programs aimed at preparing specialists in various spheres of informal Jewish education.
The training program is comprised of seminars, distance learning, and practical work in the periods between the seminars. There are a total of 1,000 course hours. The course prepares professionals to work in informal Jewish education. Graduates will work in schools, community centers, youth groups and after-school programs in the Former Soviet Union and Germany.
Melamedia College views the trainees as emissaries for work with the target audience – Russian- speaking Jewish communities in the FSU, the Baltic countries, and Germany. As an integral part of their studies between seminars, students are required to lead practical activities (between 210 and 216 hours) in their hometown communities. In this way, during the program, which consists of four seminars and three intervals between the seminars, each participant organizes 640 hours of activities in the local community. The activities must engage a minimum of 15 - 50 people.
36 Jewish educators from 6 countries (Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Germany) have graduated from the program. All the graduates received official diplomas recognized by Russian Federation, confirming additional higher education.
In 2009, a second enrollment of 40 participants was accepted to the 3-year course. The program for the second enrollment included additional specialization elements: coaching or mediation (participants were to choose one element, and the majority of participants selected coaching). The program for the second group targeted educators and activists.
In November 2011 the last (fourth) seminar took place for the second group of participants. Alumni of the second group received diplomas of program completion and coaching certificates. Candidates are being admitted for the third cohort group of the project.
Main budget elements
Room and board for seminars
The project's successes
The project has trained 36 specialists in the field of informal Jewish education, a significantly underdeveloped field in the FSU. This has the potential to change the face of local Jewish communal life. Project alumni represent more than 10 Jewish organizations. Many local community leaders recognize the project's importance to the community. Most project alumni have designed innovative projects in informal Jewish education, and continue implementing them after completing the program. 70% of the projects developed by program participants are implemented in local communities. Project staff assist alumni to further promote the best projects, by guiding them in submission of grant applications to various foundations.
Many participants of the second group enrolled in the project have initiated new educational programs in their local communities. Others have changed existing programs in order to introduce innovative elements of informal education. More than 10,000 people have been reached by activities conducted by project participants.
60 applications were submitted for participation in the third round of the project, even before the admission process was formally announced. 70% of these applications were the result of successful local activities implemented by project alumni.
The project has gathered participants representing different Jewish organizations, and attracted to its staff the best specialists in informal Jewish education and development of social projects.
Difficulties encountered along the way
Several Jewish organizations had a somewhat suspicious attitude toward the innovative methods of informal education used in this project. As a result, some participants encountered difficulties in carrying out their projects, and were forced to fit their methods to existing forms of practice. This problem should be solved by disseminating the advantages of informal Jewish education. Melamedia College is taking significant steps in this direction, by publishing materials about informal Jewish education, and organizing discussions and conferences.
A second problem encountered was related to the general financial crisis. During the process of recruiting students for the second cohort group, the project was forced to waive the requirement that program participants make a partial financial contribution. Instead, the contract signed with the participants obligated them to work a certain amount of hours in their local communities.