Betsy Gidwitx Reports


 

26. The Chabad machon enrolls 80 girls between the ages of six and 17 in a separate, small building on the School #144 campus. The enrollment during the previous academic year, 2011-2012, was 90. The decline in numbers, said Principal Yalta Barak, is due to the return to Israel of many Israeli families who had lived in Dnipropetrovsk while one or both parents worked in the local Chabad community.

 

Of the current machon census, Ms. Barak stated, most girls now are from local families and from the girls' residential home. (See below.) About 50 percent of the local families represented in the machon, she continued, have become religiously observant in recent years. The level of observance among the other 50 percent varies. Depending on grade level, 50 to 60 percent of the curriculum is secular and 40 to 50 percent is religious, she responded to a question. Machon girls do very well in standardized tests on secular subjects, she aid.

 

Several of the Israeli teachers regularly invite machon girls from local families and the girls' home to their own homes for Shabbat and various holidays so that local girls learn how Jewish family life is observed, Ms. Barak said. Girls from religious homes also go to the girls' residential home to help there. Ms. Barak believes that the mix of girls from religious homes and secular homes is good for both groups, exposing each to populations that they would otherwise not meet.

 

Rabbi Shlomo Tereshkevich, who directs the religious studies program in the day school, and Yael Barak, who directs the machon, personify some of the staff instability that has affected Chabad education in the last few years. Both Israelis, Ms. Barak is returning to Israel with her family in summer 2013 and Rabbi Tereshkevich replaced another rabbi who returned to Israel in summer 2012.

Photo: the writer.

 

In response to a question, Ms. Barak stated that graduates of the machon attend Beit Chana, other local colleges, and Israeli seminaries. One graduate last year went to Israel and entered the Israel Defense Forces, she said.

 

 

27. Rabbi Reuven Chupin is director of the Chabad yeshiva katana, a school for boys that occupies its own building on the campus of School #144. About 80 percent of the 90 boys in the yeshiva (which corresponds to grades one through eleven) are from local homes and from the boys' residential program, said Rabbi Chupin. Some local youngsters are from families that have become religiously observant in recent years, Rabbi Chupin stated, and others live in secular circumstances. Rabbi Chupin described the yeshiva katana as a "public school with a Jewish emphasis," explaining that its curriculum required five class periods of secular studies each day, along with four periods in religious subjects.

 

Rabbi Reuven Chupin directs the yeshiva katana. His wife teaches in the girls' machon.

Photo: the writer.

 

 

Rabbi Chupin stated that the 2012-2013 school year had been very difficult for the yeshiva katana. Reduced funding from the community necessitated painful budget cuts, including limitations on the engagement of rabbis from Israel to teach in the yeshiva. More local people have been hired to teach religious subjects, he said; they are not as well-qualified as Israelis, but the community is not required to pay housing costs, international transportation, and other expenses for them. Another consequence of reduced funding, continued Rabbi Chupin, is the inability of the yeshiva to purchase yeshiva-appropriate clothing for disadvantaged post-Bar Mitzvah boys from the local population; instead of wearing white shirts, dark pants, and dark suit jackets as do most yeshiva pupils in this age cohort, some Dnipropetrovsk yeshiva boys are attired in other styles of clothing.[56]

 

The current economic environment, said Rabbi Chupin, has convinced yeshiva management that the secular curriculum should be expanded to include marketable skills, particularly in the area of information technology. Not all boys would continue their education in regular yeshivas, he said, and some are not prepared to enter post-secondary schools. Therefore, the yeshiva katana is planning to open an IT track in the near future. Even boys intending to continue their yeshiva studies in more advanced yeshivas will find such skills useful, he said.[57]

 

 

28. Planning was well underway during the writer's visit for the opening of a new, more intensive yeshiva katana intended for the sons of Chabad rabbis in fall of 2013. The yeshiva will admit boys between the ages of 13 and 16 (grades eight through ten) and anticipates an enrollment of 15 to 20 boys during its first academic year. In addition to attracting boys from Chabad families in Ukraine and neighboring countries, the yeshiva also will draw boys from North America and, perhaps, other distant locales; for many Chabad families, the appeal of learning in an environment that is rooted in Chabad history is very powerful.

 

Religious studies will dominate the curriculum of the new yeshiva. Perhaps English will be taught because its mastery has become critical to modern life, even for rabbis, said Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, but it is unlikely that any other secular subjects will have a place in the curriculum.

 

The yeshiva will be housed in a large building just outside the city that previously was used as a country hotel. Although boys from other communities will live at the yeshiva, many local boys probably will continue to live at home and will commute to classes, Rabbi Kaminezki said. Two rabbis from Israel have been engaged to administer the yeshiva and teach classes. Rabbi Yossi Glick (see below) is the business manager.

Three funding sources will support the yeshiva, said Rabbi Kaminezki. Two private donors have made commitments, and tuition will be charged to the families of boys in attendance.[58]

 

 

29. Under the sponsorship of Tzivos Hashem (Heb., The Army of G_d), a Chabad children’s organization, Rabbi Yossi Glick manages several children’s programs in the city. The best known of these are separate residential facilities for Jewish boys and girls from troubled home situations. Often referred to as “social orphans,” most of the youngsters are from single-parent homes in which the custodial parent is unable to provide adequate childcare due to substance addiction, impoverishment, or other problems. Some parents are imprisoned. A few youngsters have been cared for by aging grandparents unable to cope with the needs of active, growing children.

 

 

 

Rabbi Yossi Glick, a native of Australia, manages several Chabad children’s programs in Dnipropetrovsk.

 

 

Photo: the writer (in May 2012).

 

The writer spoke with Rabbi Glick and with Hindy Golomb, a native of England, who resides and works in the girls' residence as a counselor and program director. Fourteen girls between the ages of eight and 17 live in the girls' home, said Ms. Golumb. The boys' home, stated Rabbi Glick, accommodates 17 boys between the ages of seven and 16. Supervision in the boys' home is managed by two local young men and two American yeshiva students.[59] In the past, said Rabbi Glick, the census in the boys' home was as high as 40, and the census in the girls home had reached 28. The decline in population is due to general Jewish demographic decline and, to some degree, to 'competition' from similar programs offered by other rabbis in other areas of the country.

 

In response to a question, Ms. Golomb stated that she found the girls in the home to be more physical than are English Jewish girls. The Dnipropetrovsk girls, she continued, are more likely to push and shove their peers, and those who come from severely impoverished homes often are very selfish and "grabby". However, she noted, Rabbi Shlomo Tereshkevich, who lives nearby, often visits the home on Shabbat, bringing his wife and children. The presence of Rabbi Tereshkevich and his family is very helpful, she stated, in teaching girls about Jewish family values, Shabbat, and appropriate behavior.[60] Sometimes, she said, small groups of girls are guests of their Jewish studies teachers on Shabbat.

 

Youngsters in the homes attend the yeshiva katana or the machon. Upon completing these institutions at age 17, they leave the homes and are on their own. Rabbi Glick attempts to assist them in finding opportunities for further education, but acknowledges that placement of such young people in appropriate programs is a "major problem." Neither he nor anyone else in the local Chabad community possesses the skills or resources to accomplish such a task, he admitted, and he conceded that almost no follow-up has occurred for those who have left the home in the past. Beit Chana, he said, is a "fallback" college for girls who have no other opportunities.[61]

 

In response to a question, Rabbi Glick said that declining financial resources have imposed new limitations on social and recreational programs available to youngsters in the homes. Whereas they were able to organize special Pesach camps for residents of the homes in past years, such vacations/celebrations were impossible in 2013. Similarly, routine recreational activities, such as swimming lessons, are no longer possible. The youngsters are not taken to the Menorah Center, said Rabbi Glick, because the Center lacks sports facilities or other programs that might be interesting or beneficial to children and teens.

 


[56] Even more than the regular school, the yeshiva katana attracts at-risk families searching for a sheltered environment for their children. The extended-day curriculum and single-sex enrollment are appealing to many such families. Thus, the yeshiva census includes a disproportionately large number of youngsters from disadvantaged homes. The machon census is similar.

[57] The curriculum of the girls machon offers a full ORT computer curriculum. A team of girls from the machon placed first in an international ORT high school robotics competition held in Israel earlier this year. Yeshiva boys in Dnipropetrovsk currently receive only a very limited exposure to computer technology.

[58] See pages 75-76 for the remainder of the interview with Rabbi Kaminezki.

[59] Supervision continuity from year to year is almost non-existent. Boys or girls who remain in the homes for multiple years have different young adult counselors or supervisors almost every year. Ms. Golumb is a temporary counselor.

[60] See page 48 for a photo of Rabbi Tereshkevich.

[61] See pages 59-60 for further information about Beit Chana.

 
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