Teaching of Hebrew in Soviet Union Grows with Opening of New School

In the very recent past, teaching Hebrew in the Soviet Union, even in the privacy of one’s home, was risking arrest and a possible jail sentence.

Now the Hebrew language, religion and Jewish studies are openly taught in Moscow in both secular and Orthodox religious contexts.

The first Talmud Torah in recent history in the Soviet Union has just opened, and seems to be flourishing under the auspices of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement.

At about the same time, Israeli teachers have begun classes in the first open seminar for Hebrew studies in the heart of the Soviet capital, under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress.

The three instructors from Tel Aviv University are conducting classes for some 300 pupils in a cooperative arrangement with the Solomon Mikhoels Jewish Cultural Center.

Chabad’s new day school, adjacent to the movement’s Tomchei Temimim Yeshiva in Moscow, now has 25 pupils, ages 6 to 12, according to Berke Wolf, spokesman for the Israel Chabad.

According to the headmaster, Rabbi Ze’ev Koravsky, there are also about 70 children who attend classes at least once a week — after regular school hours — for religious studies.

Pupils at the Talmud Torah devote the morning to religious studies and the afternoon to secular subjects. The teachers of religion are all graduates of Chabad yeshivot on missions to the Soviet Union.

(JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum contributed to this report.)

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