Students in Former Soviet Union Will Learn Judaism on Computers

A collaboration among Israel, the Russian government and Jewish philanthropy is producing high-tech centers in eight Jewish schools in the former Soviet Union.

The schools, which accept Jewish and non-Jewish students, are being equipped with technology centers that will help teach Jewish studies with computers.

The schools are run by the Russian government; Israel is providing the Jewish curriculum and teachers.

All eight of the centers, which are being established by the ORT network with $1.6 million in funding from U.S. philanthropists, will be operating within the next year, according to Gideon Meyer, deputy director general of the World ORT Union.

The project, called Regeneration 2000, marks a collaboration between those who wish to contribute to the ongoing Jewish renaissance in the former Soviet Union and those, particularly in Israel, who argue that Jews there should be encouraged to leave.

“There is no contradiction between helping those Jews who wish to leave as well as those Jews who see a future in these countries,” said Mark Levin, executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia.

The schools hope to enroll 10,000 students by the end of 2001, Meyer said.

“They won’t come because it’s a Jewish school. They come to a good school because it’s a good school,” he said.

Some 90 percent of the students in these schools are Jewish, according to Women’s American ORT, the group’s American arm.

ORT currently operates four schools in the former Soviet Union. The organization, which was founded in Russia in 1880, also works with 22 other Jewish schools there.

The lead philanthropist for the project said the possibility of revitalizing Jewish life among previously unaffiliated youth in the former Soviet Union interested him in the project.

“This is a relatively unexplored core of Jewish leadership and Jewish life,” said Milton Gralla, also a member of JTA’s board of directors.

Other philanthropists involved in the project include Rita and Stanley Kaplan, Ronald Lauder and Harry and Jeanette Weinberg.

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