Russian Students Complete New Jewish Studies Program

The first 17 students to complete Project Judaica, a Jewish studies program, graduated last week at a ceremony at the Russian State University for Humanities.

Project Judaica is a collaborative effort of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the Russian university, located in Moscow.

Graduates receive a master’s degree after completing five years of study in Moscow, New York and Jerusalem.

In addition to their general curriculum at the university’s Historical-Archival Institute, the Russian students took courses in Jewish history and literature, biblical studies, Yiddish and Hebrew.

Project Judaica was launched in 1991 on the initiative of David Fishman, a JTS professor of Jewish history.

The program marks a historical change in Russian society.

Allan Nadler, director of YIVO, was impressed by a Russian professor who had urged one of the Project Judaica graduates to turn to the KGB archives while doing research on the 1970s Jewish underground movement in the Soviet Union.

Five years ago, one could only dream about “a professor at the Russian university advising a young Jewish student to utilize holdings of the KGB archives in his research of the dissident movement,” Nadler said.

More than half the graduates will enter this fall schools in Russia, United States, England and Israel to pursue doctoral degrees.

In a related development, JTS Chancellor Ismar Schorsch, who attended the graduation, signed an agreement to establish a Center for Biblical and Judaic Studies at the university.

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