Recently granted a third year of funding by the Pincus Fund, the project aims to improve the skills and professionalism of educational staff in the local Jewish community centers in the Kharkov region, which includes the cities of Sumy, Mirgorod, Lubny, Shostka, Konotop and Poltava, in addition to Kharkov.
To that end, two teachers from each community participate in two 3-day seminars a year that focus on professional practice topics such as teaching methodologies, new methods for working in informal Jewish education and working with different age groups, as well as Jewish content topics such as the cycle of Jewish life, Jewish heroes and the journey through Jewish time. Educators participate in a two-day training session once a year and five full-day master classes provide teachers with in-depth learning and resources pertaining to the major Jewish holidays and other religious practices, as well as on modern Israel and Jewish communities round the world.
The project has developed and implemented a Jewish Sunday school program in each of the participating cities with separate classes – each with a minimum of eight participants – for children and adults. Classes take place once a month either on Fridays or Sundays and run between 1.5-2.5 hours, depending on the community. In addition to the regular session, students meet a second time each month to celebrate Shabbat or Jewish holidays. As part of the extended program, arts, such as sand animation, have been introduced to assist in studying Jewish texts.
In each city, one of the two educators takes on the role of the ‘coordinator’ – responsible for coordinating the educational programs, distributing education materials and organizing Shabbat and holiday activities. The project also employs an educational counselor, who conducts educational workshops for the teachers and also visits each participating community at least once during the year.