In addition to our work with families, we also organize seminars for Jewish educators, both from secular and religious organizations. During the pilot year, JDC organized three educational seminars attended by some 60 representatives from dozens of Jewish schools, kindergartens, and cultural and community centers in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Bryansk,Voronezh, Saratov, Samara, and Kazan.
The seminars have concluded, but the learning continues. We are thrilled that all of our educational materials are available for free download on the PJ Library in Russian website, so that communities around Russia can use these resources. Best of all, these materials are inspirational, catalyzing educators in the communities to create their own classes or adopt and transform our materials to meet their community’s needs.
Among these are Andrei Borovsky’s materials for the book Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, which combines menorah-making tips, facts on Hanukkah around the world, and the history of the holiday. Another tremendous resource is Andrei Usachev’s Hebrew ABC, which helps children learn the Hebrew alphabet through activities like assembling paper bricks with Hebrew letters, and spelling the names of animals and celebrities (Elvis Presley is a favorite).
One year after the program was launched, we’re proud of the impact that each book and set of provided activities has had on local families and community organizations.We are motivated every day knowing that Jewish children across Russia now have access to and are reading the same Jewish books at the same time.
In this simple act, they are united by the same values and traditions. The materials enrich their lives with knowledge; knowledge they then take and apply to their families, friends, and wider community. In this, the community develops, affiliation is increased, and the desire for involvement in Jewish life is intensified. The wonderful news is that as a result of the success of the program, PJ Library books are now available to families in communities in eight regions around Russia! At JDC, we continue to be driven by the notion that the very Jews who had their formative Jewish identity shaped by Jewish family camps, holiday celebrations, and other Jewish educational opportunities we created more than twenty years ago can robustly engage their families in Jewish life and impart Jewish tradition to their children. And for those who remain unaffiliated, we can offer a return to their roots through the PJ Library in Russian program and ensure that they find their place in our communities and among the Jewish people.
The PJ Library model afforded us another opportunity to meet that goal in a creative and overwhelmingly positive way that utilized the talents and acumen of Russian Jews to contribute to the building of Russian Jewish life.
You can learn more about JDC’s wide-ranging Jewish community development work in the former Soviet Union—through its network of JCCs, social welfare centers, youth clubs, Jewish educator’s conferences, and family camps—at jdc.org.