Ex-Birobidzhan Rabbi Wants to Increase the Popularity of the Jewish University in Moscow

The former Chief Rabbi of Birobidzhan, Eli Riss, has arrived in Moscow to take up the position of head of the Otradnoye Campus of the Jewish University. His responsibilities will include managing all the educational and administrative processes of the Campus, where about 100 young men from all over Russia study.

“My main goal is to make the University stronger,” says rabbi Riss. “In the next year, I am going to double the number of students. Another important task is “to sell our product,” that is, to make sure that as many people as possible know about the University and that these people want to come to us. I hope that the new marketing program that I am developing now will help us achieve these goals,” he added.

The Jewish University in Moscow was established in 2003 on the initiative of FJC of Russia President, Rabbi Alexander Boroda and Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, to enable young Jewish people to acquire professions in-demand free of charge. The University has two full-fledged campuses in which students can live, study and do sport, observing Jewish traditions. The Otradnoye Сampus is the only higher educational institution in Russia that provides an opportunity for Jewish young men to receive a quality education in economics, computer science, and law.

Now the University is preparing for the new academic year under the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. ”We must use every safety measure,” said the new head of the Campus. Each student will be required to present a document stating that he has no COVID-19. And of course, all classrooms and living rooms will be continuously disinfected. It is essential for us that parents when letting their child go to the University, know that he is safe”.

Rabbi Riss, 30-years-old, led the Jewish community of Birobidzhan for eight years. He was born in Birobidzhan, spent his childhood in Israel, and received his religious education in yeshivas in Moscow and New York. In 2012, he returned to his birthplace as a rabbi.

”An important part of my life was spent in Birobidzhan,” said Eli Riss. ”It was hard for me to leave this city and its community. We have achieved a lot, and I am sure that the new rabbi will be able to do even more for the community”.

Today the Jewish community in Birobidzhan one of the fastest-growing in Russia. Over the years of Rabbi Riss’s work, the first Jewish Youth Center, a mikvah, and a kosher restaurant have appeared in the region. In 2019 Rabbi Riss was awarded the prestigious “Fiddler on the Roof” prize for the development of the Jewish community in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.

Rabbi Efraim Kolpak, a 23-year-old rabbi from Kharkiv, has been appointed the new rabbi of Birobidzhan. He will begin to lead the community at the end of August, shortly before the start of the Jewish New Year.


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