“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” (William Butler Yeats)
The list of Soviet Jews who have made their international mark on the arts, science and society is boundless, with at least nine Nobel Prizes stressing the claim. Unfortunately, years of institutional restraint have reflected on academia, and the Former Soviet Union nowadays suffers from chronic “brain drain”.
With restrictions lifted and people free to follow their religious convictions, however, the Federation of Jewish Communities has established several accredited institutions of higher learning throughout the region to help reverse the trend. More than 500 Jewish students receive quality academic and professional training, supplemented by Hebrew classes and Jewish studies. The mandate of these university-level institutions is to combine successful career training with a sense of civic responsibility and ethical behavior – all within a positive context of Jewish identity.
In Moscow, students from 15 countries attend two such institutions, living in comfortable dorms and studying for undergraduate degrees in business, accounting, psychology or languages. Two others operate as night schools where students can earn their degrees while working full-time and living at home. In Ukraine, the Beit Chana teachers college grants education degrees to students, many of whom go on to work at the Federation’s expanding network of more than 150 Jewish day schools, kindergartens and high schools.