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Israel, Russia to establish Jewish university by 1998

MOSCOW, March 31 (JTA) — Israeli and Russian officials have reached an agreement to open a new Jewish university here in early 1998 under the auspices of the city’s Jewish community. The university will offer a curriculum combining Jewish and general studies, according to Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt. “We hope that out of the 20,000 to 30,000 Jewish students that are in Moscow we will have a sizable number that will choose to study under the Jewish umbrella,” he said. The agreement was reached during a visit here last week by Zevulun Hammer, Israel’s minister of education and culture, who met with Russian officials to discuss cooperation in those areas. Moscow now has one Jewish university and several other schools offer programs in Jewish studies. The new university will emphasize training students for a variety of professions in shortage here, said Hammer, whose visit was hosted by the local Jewish community. Goldschmidt agreed, saying that the new university would serve the needs of Russian society by training Jewish students in such fields as psychology, social work, business and computer science. The project will be sponsored by the Russian and Israeli education ministries, the Jewish Agency for Israel and by private donors from the United States and Russia. The university’s projected first year budget will be about $1.5 million. Goldschmidt voiced the hope that the university would open its doors next year for a first group of 750 Jewish students, who would pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees in various fields. During his visit, Hammer and his Russian counterparts agreed to set up a joint commission to ensure that school textbooks in their respective countries would be updated to provide students with a deeper understanding of each other’s history, culture and geography. The commission will enable Russian students to “know more about the Jewish people and the Jewish state,” said Hammer. The majority of Russian schoolchildren know very little about Israel or Jewish history. The Holocaust goes virtually unmentioned in their textbooks. Hammer and his Russian counterparts also discussed Russia’s participation in next year’s 50th anniversary celebrations commemorating the founding of the Jewish state. Hammer said it was very important that Russia take an active part in the celebrations, given its staunch support a half-century ago for the creation of the State of Israel. During Hammer’s visit, Israeli officials announced that the Israel Museum would hold its first exhibition in Moscow later this year.