Betsy Gidwitx Reports


The official school day ends at 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., depending on the age of the pupils, stated Ms. Krasnova.  However, various activities are offered until 4:30 p.m. in order to accommodate the work schedules of parents.  Bus transportation is provided to all youngsters.


Ms. Krasnova observed that the school works closely with Beit Tsindlicht and is developing programs that will ease the transition from Beit Tsindlicht to School #144 for both children and parents.  Relations between the school, machon, and yeshiva katana also are very good, said Ms. Krasnova. 



Principal Elena Krasnova came to the Levi Yitzhak Schneerson Ohr Avner Jewish Day School after successful administrative experience in several city schools.


Photo: the writer.


The school is instituting a Bar/Bat Mitzvah program that engages the entire seventh grade, said Ms. Krasnova.  Thus all youngsters are enabled to participate in this ritual, even if their families are not comfortable in synagogue-based programs. 


In response to a question about student plans for education following grade 11, Ms. Krasnova said that many graduates attend various post-secondary institutions in the city.  An increasingly popular option, she stated, is the Lauder Business School in Vienna, a small college established with the assistance of Ronald S. Lauder.  Instruction is in English and financial assistance is available to students who agree to study Jewish subjects along with business courses.  Many remain in Europe after receiving a Lauder degree, said Ms. Krasnova.


The spaciousness of the school, its modernity and cleanliness, and its central location enable it to host many city-wide seminars for teachers, Ms. Krasnova stated proudly. In recent months, School #144 had been the site for seminars in the teaching of science, mathematics, and the Russian language.  Its ORT computer rooms host frequent seminars for teachers of com-puter technology.




A portion of one of the three ORT computer labs at School #144 is seen at right.  Natalia Medvedova, the ORT director in Dnipropet-rovsk, is observing student work.  See also page 8.


Photo: the writer.



In a separate meeting, Zelig Brez, Executive Director (Исполнительный директор) of the Philanthropic Fund of the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish Community (Благотвор-ительный фонд Днепропетровского еврейского общины), which supports Chabad interests in the city, stated that School #144 has achieved measurable academic gains, especially in mathematics and physics, since Ms. Krasnova assumed the role of school principal.  Independent internal testing has been employed to rigorously monitor student progress, and grade inflation had ceased.  He believes that Ms. Krasnova has introduced a "spirit of innovation" into the school.[14]



4.  As noted, the girls' machon and boys' yeshiva katana each enroll about 80 youngsters.  Rabbi Reuven Chupin, dean of the yeshiva, observed that enrollment in the upper grades had decreased because boys from religious homes now attend the residential yeshiva (equivalent to grades 7-10, see below) established last year near the city of Zaporizhzhya.  About 60 percent of the curriculum in the day yeshiva covers secular subjects, he stated, a majority proportion reinforced by the addition of a computer lab with 10 workstations at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.  The yeshiva recognized, he averred at a previous meeting, that IT skills were necessary for all students, including those in religious concentrations.  Also, it was clear that some of the boys would not continue in yeshiva study after eleventh grade; it is essential that they be prepared in computer technology for further education in secular studies or for the labor market.


The writer was unable to observe any classes in the girls' machon or to speak with any senior administrator there.  As in the boys' yeshiva, classes are small and include pupils from both religious and secular homes.   Additionally, youngsters from unstable families who live in residential facilities (see below) sponsored by the Chabad community also attend the yeshiva and machon.



The machon has its own small fitness studio.  Girls in the photo at left practice a form of rhythmic gymnastics.


Photo: the writer.





5.    A residential yeshiva katana opened at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, initially enrolling eight boys (later joined by a ninth boy) in the equivalent of eighth grade.  The yeshiva is adding both younger and older pupils, having established a mechina or preparatory year for seventh graders and advancing the 2013-2014 eighth graders into ninth grade.  The total enrollment during the 2014-2015 academic year was 18, which included six boys in the preparatory, pre-Bar Mitzvah class, three in the equivalent of eighth grade, and nine in ninth grade.


Located in Novoaleksandrovka, a small town close to Zaporizhzhya, the yeshiva occupies a rented property originally designed as a guest house.  Study halls and bedrooms are located in this facility.  Several small trailers/caravans have been placed in its backyard to accommodate classrooms for the non-resident seventh grade boys.  An adjacent small courtyard is used for pick-up basketball games, and a neighboring field accommodates informal soccer games.  Supporters of the yeshiva have financed a small conditioning room in the guest house basement that contains fitness apparatus.  Additionally, boys are taken to a swimming pool in Dnipropetrovsk on a regular schedule.


Five of the six boys in the preparatory class live at home in Dnipropetrovsk and commute to Novoaleksandrovka on a daily basis, said Rabbi Chaim Chazan, director of the yeshiva.  The sixth, a son of a Chabad rabbi in another town, boards with a local Chabad family.  Clearly disappointed with the small size of the eighth grade class, Rabbi Chazan explained that this cohort had been small as it moved through the yeshiva day school in Dnipropetrovsk and that competition from comparable yeshivot in other cities had deterred non-local boys from enrolling.[15]  Additionally, Rabbi Chazan had rejected two applicants whom he and his associates considered unsuitable for intensive religious study in a residential program.



A native of Australia, Rabbi Chaim Chazan attended yeshiva in England and was senior educator at a boys' yeshiva in New York before founding the yeshiva in Novoaleksandrovka.  He was recruited for the Ukraine position by Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, Rabbi Meir Stambler, and Rabbi Rafael Rutman (a British-born businessman in Kyiv).


Photo: the writer.


The purpose of the yeshiva, stated Rabbi Chazan, is to educate boys for a "commitment to religious life".  It does not prepare youngsters for further secular education and, accordingly, offers no general studies classes.  Its main constituency is the Chabad population in Ukraine, most of which is of Israeli origin.  However, when space is available, the yeshiva accepts boys from Chabad families outside Ukraine and even from interested non-Chabad families.  The main teaching language is Hebrew.


Boys are taught as individuals and in small groups so that different learning styles are respected and no youngster is humiliated by being taken aside for special instruction.  Rabbi Chazan and another rabbi are the primary instructors; they are assisted by three younger men between the ages of 20 and 22.  All reside in the yeshiva or in close proximity to it.  The yeshiva might benefit from the addition of several rabbis from the large Chabad community in Dnipropetrovsk as part-time teachers, stated Rabbi Chazan, but the isolation of Novoaleksandrovka makes commuting between jobs in the two locales difficult.


In response to a question, Rabbi Chazan said that he expected enrollment in 2015-2016 to be at least 25 boys.  He was anticipating that all current pupils would return, that a new cohort of local boys would join the mechina class, and that additional boys would enroll in the eighth and ninth grade groups.   He was already considering a number of new applications, he stated.  Prospective non-local students are interviewed by Skype.


In her travels in Ukraine, the writer asked several rabbis whose sons were enrolled in Novoaleksandrovka if they were satisfied with the level of study and the general atmosphere of the yeshiva.  All responded affirmatively, commending Rabbi Chazan's understanding of the intellectual capacity and psychological/social needs of boys in this age group.



6.  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 were previously cared for by aging grandparents unable to cope with the needs of active, growing children. 



Rabbi Yossi Glick, a native of Australia, has been in Dnipropetrovsk for many years as manager of several Chabad children's programs.  He also is the business manager of the Novoaleksandrovka yeshiva.



Photo: the writer.



At their peak some time ago, the boys' dormitory accommodated about 40 boys in very crowded conditions and the girls' residence enrolled about 28 girls; with few exceptions, the youngsters are between six and 17 years of age, that is, ages consistent with the Ukrainian public school system.  Almost all of the children study in the Chabad day school.

[14]   For the remainder of an interview with Mr. Brez, see page 12.

[15]   A yeshiva for the same age group (ages 12 through 15/16) has operated in Moscow for some years and draws boys from Chabad families throughout the post-Soviet states.  Other comparable European yeshivot are located in Antwerp, Paris, Germany, and London.  The Antwerp institution was new and attracted some families that also were considering the Ukraine yeshiva for their sons.  Rabbi Chazan did not mention the possibility that current instability in Ukraine also might have affected parental choice.

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