Yad Vashem to remedy 'underdeveloped' Holocaust education among Russian-speakers

Yad Vashem is launching a new $4 million program aimed at raising awareness of the Holocaust among the global Russian-speaking community. The four-year grant, donated by the Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), a foundation committed to promoting Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews, will promote formal and informal educational projects, research, archival documentation, Internet outreach, exhibitions and Righteous Among the Nations - non-Jews who saved Jews - from the former Soviet Union. Holocaust education in the former Soviet Union is "underdeveloped" due to historical circumstances, Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, which is why the initiative is specifically targeted at the Russian community. "We have a special target group who have been cut off for years from objective knowledge about the Holocaust because of the communist regime," said Shalev. "As you go eastwards, you have less and less names of Jews because of the history of those places and we need those resources to build up our ability. It's a huge challenge and we're glad to establish this [initiative] to foster and build this Jewish identity." One forthcoming program, due to take place annually through Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies, will focus on two Israeli cities with large Russian-speaking populations. It will conduct seminars for educators and students, activities in community centers and work with Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans. "The Holocaust is a key issue that touches every Jew, even those who never experienced it within their own families," said Stan Polovets, CEO and one of the founders of GPG. "This tragedy, with all the attached sorrow, gives a deeper insight into Jewish history, teaches us about the wider perspective of Judaism, helping to strengthen Jewish identity among the Russian-speaking Jews and the sense of belonging to the Jewish people." The initiative will also support the development of the Russian language online interactive portal that will contain documents, images, educational units and the interactive program "Children in the Ghetto," which was designed for children and describes ghetto life from a child's viewpoint. In addition, a special chair dedicated to advancing Holocaust research in the former Soviet Union will be established within the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem.