A Purim celebration in Bryansk, Russia
"Yiddishe Kopf", Jewish Studies and Enrichment
Name of implementing organization:Jewish Community of Bryansk
Date of initial project approval:February 2009
Brief description of the local Jewish community
The Jewish community of the Bryansk region numbers approximately 12,000. The community of Bryansk is served by a Jewish preschool and a day school (68 students enrolled), a Sunday School, a student organization, a women's club, a senior citizens' club, and welfare organizations. Jewish communities also have been re-established in other towns in the Bryansk region. During the past year, 4,000 individuals in the Jewish community have participated in celebrations of Jewish holidays.
Project aims and objectives
To transmit Jewish Tradition and Jewish identity to children and their families, and also to teachers. The project aims to strengthen Jewish knowledge and knowledge of the Zionist heritage, and to further develop the personal Jewish identity of participants.
The project conducts children's enrichment classes during the afternoons, Monday through Wednesday. Classes take place in the rented premises of a local public school. The children are divided into three classes according to their age: grades 1-4; grades 5-8; and grades 9-12. There are a minimum of 10 children per class.
The afternoon program includes four courses: (1) To Live the Tanach teaches Jewish sources and basic concepts, and shows how they are relevant today; (2) Reciting Poetry provides a window into the world of Jewish poetry and prayer; (3) Journey to Our Heritage teaches Jewish history from the time of Joshua, and includes Jewish artistic expression, particularly with objects used for Jewish rituals; (4) Jewish Thought provides an introduction to Jewish philosophy and its relevance in our daily lives. At the request of the parents, Hebrew lessons were added to the curriculum. Each course is taught one day a week. The courses, and all elements of the project, include study of the State of Israel. The project includes celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut.
The course section for each age group meets for 90 minutes. Each class session begins with a 45-minute content-based lesson, followed by a 45-minute practical, "hands on" activity, during which the children apply what they have learned.
The project includes a "Midrash Café", which conducts 90-minute monthly learning sessions for parents and for the educational staff of the Or Avner School. The sessions take place in a local coffee house. Approximately 60 participants attend each session. Topics include: Caring Jewish Education; Children's Nutrition; How to Celebrate the Seder at Home; The Jewish People; The Strength of the Jewish Mother; The Connection Between Man and Nature.
The project also includes a Shabbaton, which provides an opportunity to apply material learned during the course of the project.
Main budget elements
- Project Director
- Teachers' salaries
- Transportation for childrento afternoon classes
- Rent and food for Shabbaton
- Guest lecturer for Shabbaton
- Guest lecturers for Midrash Café
- Rent for Midrash Cafe
- Yom HaAtzmaut celebration
The project's successes
To date, 90 children have participated in the project, and community interest in the project is growing. Children who have attended the afternoon enrichment classes, as well as parents who have taken part in the Midrash Café, have provided very positive feedback about the project. They have strengthened their Jewish knowledge and identity and have learned how to live a traditional Jewish life on a daily basis. They now are much more active in the life of the local Jewish community and much more likely to participate in community events and celebrations. The project has placed Jewish education as the community's top priority. It also has strengthened personal connections between participants, and has acted as a counterbalance to the strong trends toward assimilation.
Difficulties encountered along the way
- Encouraging children to enroll in the project: in order to encourage registration, the project conducted "Open Days", in which children and parents could participate in the activities. Teachers used the opportunity to speak with children and parents and to encourage them to participate in the project.
- Difficulty transporting the children to the classes, from many different points in the city, often in bad weather. This situation improved when we stopped using a single vehicle and divided the pick-up points among a number of small cars.
- The Shabbaton had to be cancelled due to extremely cold weather, and was moved to a later date.
- The staff felt that the children, who came from many different schools, were not forming a cohesive group. A child psychologist was added to the staff to help solve this problem.