A Chanukah celebration, Katoskova
Adult Education Program in Katoskova, Ukraine
Name of implementing organization:Ohr Sameyach / Tikva Ohr Dessa
Date of initial project approval:November 2008
Brief description of the local Jewish community
The suburb of Katoskovais located 22 kilometers from central Odessa. The Jewish community of Katoskova numbers approximately 20,000. Until recently, the community offered minimal opportunities for participation in Jewish life. However, the opening of a Jewish elementary school established by the Ohr Sameach School Charitable Organization in 2005, significantly strengthened the local Jewish infrastructure. Families of students have expressed interest in Jewish involvement, and Ohr Sameach has begun to conduct monthly Shabbat services, as well as Jewish cultural and social programs which meet twice weekly in the school.
The Ohr Sameach School Charitable Organization operates 7 educational institutions in and around Odessa, which reach 1,200 children. These institutions include: a pre-school program; an elementary school with satellite schools in the suburbs of Tairova and Katoskova; both a boys' and a girls' high school; a 5-year accredited Jewish University program; and a 5-month study program in Israel which provides one semester of academic credits at the Jewish University of Odessa. The Ohr Sameach School Charitable Organization also conducts a range of educational, cultural, and social welfare programs which have helped revitalize Jewish life in Odessa.
Project aims and objectives
To establish a comprehensive adult education program with regular courses, Shabbat study, and an annual learning retreat. The project aims to increase Jewish knowledge and strengthen Jewish identity.
The Adult Education Program in Katoskova, Ukraine was successfully implemented in 2008 by Aaron and Racheli Fogel. This couple previously had worked as teachers in central Odessa. They relocated to serve as Head Educators for this project, and carried out the early initiatives of community building in Katoskova (including monthly Shabbat programs and mid-week cultural activities). As part of the project, the couple organized a more comprehensive version of adult education and community building activities in Katoskova. In addition, they conducted a survey to determine the initial level of Jewish knowledge for each of the participants in the program. A variation of the survey was conducted every three months thereafter.
The Head Educators worked in partnership with the Chief Rabbi of Odessa, who was responsible for overseeing the project. The curriculum was based on adult education classes which were successfully conducted in Odessa. The program met for two hours, twice weekly. Topics included: Foundations of Belief, Chumash and Rashi, Jewish Holidays, Honoring Parents,the Laws of Shabbat, Women's Role in Judaism, The Holocaust, The Land of Israel, Prayer, Understanding the Jewish Holidays, Parenting, Torah, and the Laws of Kashrut. Over 150 students participated and were divided into 10 classes of 15 students each. Classes met for 40 weeks each year. Participants who attended at least 90% of classes received a modest monthly stipend.
In addition, a Shabbat Study program was conducted twice each month over the two year grant period. The program included festive Shabbat meals, prayers, Jewish lectures of contemporary relevance, and community building activities. An average of 100 participants attended each program.
The final component of the project was three-day Jewish Communal Retreats, which two times annually over two years. Each retreat extended from Thursday to Motzei Shabbat. Over 100 family members attended, and enjoyed Shabbat meals, meaningful prayer services, informal discussions on Jewish issues, and a range of formal lectures touching on a variety of topics. Each retreat included six local lecturers and a guest lecturer from Israel. The guest lecturer from Israel brought a fresh perspective and encouraged aliyah and general exploration of the issues affecting the state of Israel today.
The project has helped participants deepen their interest in Judaism, and their level of personal commitment and communal involvement.
Main budget elements
Local lecturers for Adult Education Classes and Communal Learning Retreat
Guest lecturer from Israel
Shabbat meals for Shabbat Study Program
Hotel accommodations for Jewish Communal Retreats
The project's successes
The project has proved to be very successful. It has reached many participants, who increased their level of Jewish knowledge and observance. Most participants reported that their knowledge of Shabbat and Jewish subjects increased dramatically through their participation in this project.
Difficulties encountered along the way
The major difficulties encountered involved recruitment of participants to enroll in the program. Although many parents of children in the Ohr Sameyach Tikva School demonstrated interest, it was necessary to branch out and recruit additional participants, primarily through word of mouth.