Advancing Pluralistic Jewish Education in Ukraine


The Schechter Institutes’ Host 40 Jewish Educators for an intensive learning marathon on June 25-30, 2019  

Some 40 Jewish educators from Kiev, Odessa, Chernowitz, Kharkov, Berdichev, Lvov and Uzhgorod attended a 5-day Learning Marathon for Ukrainian Jewish teachers and informal educators sponsored by Midreshet Yerushlayim, a Ukraine-based educational arm of The Schechter Institutes. Midreshet Yerushalayim has been working in Ukraine since 1990.

The event, previously known as the Teachers’ Seminar, was redesigned this year thanks to a grant from the L.A. Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, to accommodate the growing needs of Jewish education in Ukraine. During the academic year, all participants took part in a long-distance study program offered by Schechter. The program covered the basics of Jewish history, Tanach, and tefillah. Taught by top scholars and master educators, the courses increased the teachers’ Jewish awareness and equipped them to convey Jewish knowledge in the classroom and in summer camps and other educational settings.

With few professional networking platforms available to Jewish educators in Ukraine, the Learning Marathon was the culmination of the year, and offered a rare opportunity for peer-to-peer exchange.

Lena Gribelnaya

Lena Gribelnaya

Lena Gribelnaya, 30, from Chernowitz, has worked as a counselor at Camp Ramah Yachad-Ukraine, also sponsored by Midreshet Yerushalayim, for the past 13 years. At present, she is working as a Hebrew teacher in her native city of Chernowitz. “The Learning Marathon this year gave me a boost of inspiration for my work with teenagers. Both lectures and discussions with colleagues were fascinating. I learnt so much, and reaffirmed my choice of Jewish education as a career.”

Miroslav Greenberg, 43, from Berdichev, a trained psychologist and a Berdichev Jewish Community School teacher, said that the Learning Marathon “provided me with a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues with different points of view from all walks of Jewish education in Ukraine and have fruitful informal discussions with them on our work,” he said.

Participants in the Marathon took part in daily shacharit prayers led by camp counselors, a joyful Friday night service complete with singing on and a Shabbat morning service with egalitarian Torah reading. They attended Hebrew language classes, creative workshops, cultural activities, and studied topics including the history of Jews in the Carpathian Mountains, introduction to Kabbalah, modern Hebrew literature, the status of women in Judaism today and contemporary Jewish identity.

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Midreshet Yerushalayim, a network of schools, communities and family and summer camps, connects Jewish families in Ukraine with Israel, Judaism and each other, serving some 1,000 children, teens and adults of all ages. For 29 years, Midreshet Yerushalayim has been a part of the Schechter Institutes, an educational organization that offers pluralistic Jewish Studies and experiences to 85,000 people in Israel and overseas.