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Chapter 2.Positive reaction of JAFI to the Appeal “Hebrew SOS from Russia”

In October 2002 Boris Altshuler (“Movement without Frontiers” NGO of the Russian Center for Human Rights, Moscow), Felix Fainberg and Grigory Levin (Ulpan “Halom”, Sanct-Petersburg) and Edward Alexeev (The Jewish cultural — educational centre "Haverim", town Borovichy, Novgorod region) directed an Appeal to the world Jewish community called “Hebrew SOS from Russia” where:

1) They expressed their belief that organization of wide studying of Hebrew in Russia will permit to channel the growing historical process of de-assimilation and national self-identification of Russian Jews to the ways of Alia, and it will make real the “dream” of Is-rael Prime-Minister Ariel Sharon (said during his Summit in Moscow in September 2002) about “one million more” Jews coming from Russia to Israel.

2) They strongly criticized Jewish Agency for improper organization of studying Hebrew in Russia during last decade, and in particular underlined that Ulpan “Halom”, which 12 thou-sands pupils repatriated to Israel and had no problems there with language absorption, had no support from Jewish Agency during all 12 years of its existence.

3) Formulated wide Program “Hebrew for Russia”. The gist of the proposed Program “Hebrew for Russia” is in its wide scope – it supposes teaching Hebrew not only of those Jews who plan to Go to Israel (which is direct task of Jewish Agency). Language of Bible, which be-ing renovated is also the State language of modern Israel, is an essential component of Jew-ish culture and Jewish national self-consciousness. The goal of the Program “Hebrew for Russia” is to make it possible to study Hebrew for every Russian Jew. It is also evident that knowledge of Hebrew eliminates psychological “language barrier” in making one’s personal decision to Go.

Fortunately this Appeal met positive reaction of highest leadership of Jewish Agency: already in November 2002 Mr. Amos Lahat, Chief of Jewish Agency’s Former Soviet Union Department, came in contact with Felix Fainberg and Grigory Levin, and soon after that Jewish Agency in Sanct-Petersburg and North-West of Russia concluded with Ulpan “Halom” an Agreement on the Jewish Agency’s payments for teachers and offices of Ulpan “Halom” (which proved to be salutary because Ulpan “Halom” was then on a brink of being closed because of lack of financial resources), and also long-term program of cooperation of Jewish Agency with Ulpan “Halom” was elaborated. In January 2003 Professor Alan Hoffmann, Director General of the Jewish Agency’s Zionist Jew-ish Education Department, visited Ulpan “Halom”.

However this positive evaluation does not mean that more wide Program “Hebrew for Rusia”, pro-posed in the Appeal, have lost its significance. It is evident however that proposed theses of the Program need development and clarification (for example Ulpan “Halom” by no means claims for monopoly in preparation of teachers of Hebrew in Russia; the most natural bodies for wide prepara-tion of teachers of Hebrew all over Russia must be perhaps the High Schools, Universities etc.).

We believe that positive reaction of the JAFI leadership to the Appeal “Hebrew SOS from Russia” reflects the new JAFI general approach to the work with Jews in Diaspora, to organizing of teaching of Hebrew in particular, which may be only welcomed.

Boris Altshuler,

Head of the “Movement without Frontiers”, Moscow

March 2003