Betsy Gidwitx Reports


Recognizing that pursuit of a broad mass of Jewish young adults with stipends as an incentive was likely to attract at least some participants whose motives were inconsistent with Chabad goals, Chabad developed new STARS versions for young people with strong career ambitions and above-average intellectual capacity. One program attracts business students by inviting successful local businessmen to a parallel series of presentations about their businesses. Another program requires a commitment to three years of serious study in single-sex classes; generous stipends are paid throughout the program, a number of coeducational social events are held, and significant monetary prizes are awarded to outstanding students. If participants terminate their involvement with Chabad after completion of any STARS course and receipt of cash awards, Chabad continues to invite them to community programs and events.

 

Notwithstanding the weak retention rate of many STARS students, Mr. Masakovsky is satisfied with successful outcomes among those who do complete their STARS courses. He cites a number of religious marriages among STARS participants;[70] some children of these marriages already are enrolled in the religious sections of Beit Tsindlicht, the Chabad preschool.[71]

 

Mr. Masakovsky has started a new venture, a Youth Club (Молодежный Клуб), that is more inclusive. Recognizing that the overwhelming majority of Jews in Ukraine are products of intermarriage, the Youth Club does not require that its members be halachically Jewish. He plans to start eight such Youth Clubs in different cities and towns in the first phase of the program.

 

 

 

34. Beit Chana Jewish Women’s Pedagogical Institute was established in 1995 to prepare teachers and childcare workers for Chabad-sponsored preschools and elementary schools throughout the post-Soviet states. Initially, it recruited its all-female student enrollment mainly from smaller cities and towns, assuming that Jewish young women in such locales would be eager to escape their often stifling small town environments for associate-degree equivalent programs in a larger city. Beit Chana offered free tuition and free room and board. Over time, Beit Chana has grappled with the consequences of lower educational achievement of girls from such circumstances and with demographic developments that sharply reduced the number of Jewish young women in smaller towns, regardless of their capacity to complete post-secondary education programs. Further, notwithstanding their enthusiasm for relocation to a larger city, many young women were reluctant to commit to residence in an isolated gender-segregated dormitory with a religious lifestyle for the duration of their course of study.

 

Beit Chana never reached its capacity enrollment of between 200 and 250 young women. It achieved its peak of 165 students some years ago, and its 2008-2009 enrollment plummeted to 70. Acknowledging that the institution was unlikely to survive without a “new vision”, Beit Chana made several changes in its curriculum and operational procedures in recent years and intends to evolve further in the future. First, after offering accredited full degrees in collaboration with Crimean Institute of Humanities, Beit Chana became accredited itself and now has the authority to offer full bachelor's degrees in pedagogy and certain related fields. Second, Beit Chana scrapped its residence requirement, opening its program to day/commuter female students from Dnipropetrovsk and environs. Third, it developed a parallel and part-time curriculum of intensive Jewish studies for young women already enrolled in other post-secondary institutions; in return for their participation in this program, Chabad pays 70 percent of the tuition of participating girls at secular colleges and universities. Chabad emissaries with whom the writer spoke freely acknowledge that the major incentive of participants is payment of college tuition, not acquisition of Jewish knowledge.

 

Another change will occur when Beit Chana inhabits new facilities in the center of the city close to the Golden Rose Choral Synagogue and Menorah Center. An individual donor purchased a long-vacant building in a good location and is now reconstructing and expanding it to meet Beit Chana needs.

 

The architectural drawing at right shows the new Beit Chana building. The exist-ing structure is the center section at front. It will be expanded in wings to the right and left that will accommodate classrooms, offices, a small auditorium, fitness center, and premises for the Special Needs Educational Resource Center. The taller building at back is new and will host a student dormitory, dining hall, and library

Drawing: Studio 7, Dnipropetrovsk.

 

Construction on the new facility was scheduled to begin in July 2013. It will be ready for use in the 2015-2016 academic year.

 

Beit Chana enrolled 127 young women during the 2012-2013 academic year, 46 of whom were day students. Eighty-four of these students were pursuing bachelor's degrees in education, early childhood education, psychology, or practical economics; the remainder were registered in certificate programs. A number of active teachers were pursuing graduate degrees conferred by Crimean Institute of the Humanities in collaboration with Beit Chana. Women enrolled in these graduate level programs are required to spend some time at the CIH campus in Crimea.

 

 

35. The International Hasidic Women's Seminary currently enrolls 15 young women in a second-year program for Chabad high school graduates who have completed an intensive first-year religious studies course elsewhere. Students pursue a variety of courses in hassidut, education, and other disciplines, and engage in significant volunteer work in the local Chabad community. Classes are taught by local rabbis and other instructors, and some lessons are transmitted from Israel via Skype. Among the more intensive volunteer experiences during the 2012-2013 academic year was the organization and management of a week-long vacation camp for 45 girls, all of whom are daughters of Chabad emissaries in Ukraine. The Seminary girls also taught English and Hebrew in local Chabad schools (Dnipropetrovsk and Dniprodzerzhinsk) and assisted children enrolled in the Special Needs Educational Resource Center.

 

In its third year of operation, the Seminary is still searching for a definitive program, a way to differentiate itself from other institutions (including one in Moscow) that attempt to provide a post-high school experience for girls from Chabad families that is consistent with Chabad custom. Many such American young women do not pursue university degrees, but may be interested in education at the community college level and in social service experiences. The location of the Seminary in an area of Ukraine that is of great historic significance to Chabad is an attraction in itself, but the rabbinic founders of the institution are still grappling with its academic orientation, that is, whether it should pursue accreditation with an American or Israeli religious college so that interested girls could earn credits for a degree if they decide to pursue one.[72]

 

 

Rabbi Moshe Weber, an Israeli, is one of the founders of the International Seminary and serves as its director.

 

 

Photo: the writer.

 

Seminary students live and take their meals in a small building next to the current Beit Chana dormitory. When Beit Chana moves to its new facility, the Seminary will move with the College, but will continue to occupy separate premises.

 

Tuition, room, and board for the Seminary total $6,000, about half of its real cost per student. Rabbi Moshe Weber, director of the Seminary, is reluctant to raise fees, fearing that greater expense would deter many families from enrolling their daughters in the program.

 

 

36. Tkumah - The All-Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies is the most comprehensive Holocaust research center in Ukraine. Under the leadership of Dr. Igor Schupak, its director, Tkumah opened its nearly 3,000 square meter (approximately 32,000 square feet) Museum of Jewish Memory and Holocaust in Ukraine in October 2012. The Museum is located within the Menorah Center, and the openings of the Center and the Museum occurred concurrently.

 

The Museum consists of four large exhibit halls with movable partitions. As its name suggests, it strives to present a comprehensive history of Jewish life on Ukrainian land, including the Holocaust, but not excluding the more expansive history of Jewish presence in Ukraine. The creators of the Museum, said Dr. Schupak, were very sensitive to broader Ukrainian history and the likelihood that most visitors would be Ukrainians with little knowledge of specifically Jewish history. In fact, as of mid-April, the Museum had already logged 30,000 visitors, of whom 90 percent were not Jewish. Among the guests were many school groups, as well as members of Christian and Moslem congregations. Admission to the Museum is free of charge.

 

Dr. Igor Schupak is a native of nearby Zaporizhzhia. After earning his doctorate at a Canadian university, he was asked by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki to organize Holocaust research in the Dnipropetrovsk area and to develop Holocaust teaching materials and exhibits.

 

Photo: the writer.

 


[70] Mr. Masakovsky noted that parents of some young people object to Chabad ritual in the weddings of their children.

[71] See pages 44-45.

[72] Girls from Israeli Chabad families are much more likely to pursue full academic degrees than are girls from Chabad families in other countries.

 
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