Natan Sharansky 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Jewish education system in the former Soviet Union is on the verge of
collapse and needs immediate financial assistance, a charity warned at a
conference dedicated to Jewish education in the region, held in Jerusalem on
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Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the Fellowship of Christians and Jews said at the event that unless the Israeli government helped come up with a plan for the cash-strapped Jewish schools across the former Soviet Union, many will have to close.
“The fellowship is called in from time to
time to help organizations in crisis,” he said. “I call on the Israeli
government to come up with a long-term strategic plan to promise the
continuation of the Jewish education system in the FSU and the continued help to
Jews in need. Heads of the Jewish communities in the US and elsewhere should
also join the efforts.”
In recent years, private contributions, the
mainstay of the budgets of Jewish schools throughout the former Soviet Union,
have dwindled considerably, especially after the recession of 2008, which
strongly impacted the markets in Russia. In response, Jewish schools have
struggled to find alternative sources of income to maintain their
The Fellowship of Christians and Jews is one group that has
stepped in to fill in the void left by philanthropists who have had to cut their
donations because of the financial downturn. The group, which raises most of its
money from evangelical Christians in the US, plans to give NIS 70 million to
Jewish causes in the FSU in 2011.Some Jewish education systems are faring worse than others.
Heftziba schools, for example, are in dire need of funds. Others, like
Or Avner, are much better off. While the latter's finances have been
better in the past, its financial situation is stable with new branches
continuing to open and no expected closures, sources said.
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky,
who also attended the event in Jerusalem, said it was important to find funds to
help assimilated Jews in the region return to the fold of Judaism.
Ostrin, who runs the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee programs in
the FSU, also spoke of the importance of having a strong Jewish education system
in the region.
“There are some 25,000 Jewish youth at risk who come from
families afflicted by problems like alcoholism and violence and need our help,”