P. 248

about 400,000 Jews made Aliya from the Soviet Union in the final four years of Yitzhak Shamir's tenure as Prime Minister, from 1988 to 1992. Many of those who arrived were scientists, musicians, technicians and specialists, including no less then 11,000 physicians and tens of thousands of engineers and teachers – and they changed the face of the State of Israel and fortified its strength.
Jewish Education and Jewish Culture in Former Soviet Countries
One of the ironies of history is that the Communist regime, which from the Twenties and onward had aggressively trampled upon the Jewish education and culture in the Soviet Union, had on the eve of its collapse begun to permit and even encourage the establishment of dozens of Jewish educational and cultural frameworks. On February 2, 1988, an agreement was signed, on a series of Jewish educational and cultural issues, between the Jewish Agency and the World Jewish Congress on the one hand and the government of the Soviet Union on the other.
The agreement included the establishment of centers for Jewish culture; the establishment of a Jewish museum in Moscow; the publication of a journal reviewing the religious and cultural lives of the Soviet Jews and the happenings in Israel and the other communities in the diaspora; the development of means for intensifying Jewish education in the Soviet Union, and more.
That same year – as a private initiative – the first Jewish Sunday School named "Snunit" was established in Moscow. Some forty students studied there and it had eight teachers. This school was a harbinger of things to come as four similar schools were established in Moscow in 1989. In the late Eighties, Jewish schools were also opened in Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn. It was then that the journal "Yehudi Daber Ivrit" (Jew, speak Hebrew) also began to appear, under the publication of the Union of Hebrew Teachers in the Soviet Union and with the support of the World Zionist Organization. By 1991, three editions of this journal were published, all of which were dedicated to the teaching of the Hebrew Language. In 1990 and 1991, about a hundred (!) Jewish kindergartens, twenty day schools, dozens of youth clubs, hundreds of Ulpans for Hebrew and a series of diverse Jewish cultural and religious educational frameworks were established in the Soviet Union.
All the Jewish institutions and all the educational and cultural programs could not have existed without considerable financial support from the Israeli Government, the Jewish Agency, the Jewish welfare organizations in Israel and the world (such as the JDC) and several Jewish religious entities (such as Chabad). From the early Nineties, the Agency began sending dozens of teachers and emissaries throughout the Soviet Union for short and long periods. In the last month of the Gorbachev era, i.e. December 1991, at least 50 thousand Jews – primarily children and teenagers – were being taught and educated in the Jewish institutions in the Soviet Union. The overwhelming majority made Aliya with their parents in the Nineties.

   246   247   248   249   250