Groundbreaking videoconference brings Jewish education from Tel Aviv to Moscow


8 April 2005 World ORT has joined forces with Bar-Ilan Universitys Lookstein Centre to provide Jewish studies teachers in Moscow with a videoconference featuring renowned Israeli educationalist Dr Zeev Dashevsky. Dr Dashevsky, who is on the faculty of Bar-Ilan as well as being President of the Machanaim Jewish Heritage Centre for Russian-speaking Jews in Jerusalem, lectured on the role of tradition and literature in education and study in Jewish schools of the former Soviet Union. This, ORTs first educational videoconference with Russia, was made possible thanks to the generosity of David Gradel, the owner and chairman of London-based property investment and development company UK Estates. Some 50 Jewish studies teachers in Moscow for a five-day training seminar participated in the videoconference, which was hosted by the ORT Technology Centre at National Jewish School No 1311. Cameras there and in Israel allowed interaction between the teachers and Dr Dashevsky, who were connected using internet technology. The beauty of this encounters is that it was interactive, said World ORTs Acting Head of Education and Technology Judah Harstein. Its success opens up new possibilities for teaching Jewish education in the former Soviet Union. This is a region which doesnt have enough quality Jewish education teachers, so videoconferencing gives us a chance to bring the best people in the world to their classrooms in a very cost effective way. One of the participating teachers, Natalya Kameneva, said that having access to such videoconferences would provide a unique opportunity to improve the quality of her work. Her colleague, Zalman Vishnevsky, added: This type of interaction is fast, efficient and inexpensive. The possibility of personal communication makes for an exciting atmosphere. It would be very good to have such videoconferences on a regular basis, perhaps twice a month. Mr Harstein said the next step would be to use the method to teach pupils as well as for teacher training. In the long term, World ORT may introduce videoconferencing at Londons planned Jewish Community Secondary School. World ORT is due to provide an advanced science programme for what will be Britains first cross-communal Jewish secondary school when it opens in 2009. Mr Gradel already funds educational videoconferencing between the Lookstein Centre and five British Jewish high schools. He said he was delighted with the success of the ORT project. This is just the beginning of the beginning, he said. Its very exciting because the potential is enormous and the need is immense. Mr Gradel, who is a trustee of Bar-Ilan University, said he wanted to extend the videoconferencing links with Israel to benefit North American Jewish schools and, in conjunction with World ORT, to Jewish schools in the former Soviet Union and Latin America. I want to reinforce to Jewish communities around the world that they are not alone they are part of something bigger, he said. Esther Feldman, Information Technology Services Director at the Lookstein Centre, which is part of Bar-Ilans Department of Education, said: Were very excited with the opportunity to work with ORT in Moscow. This is just one way that Bar-Ilan is expanding its provision of Jewish education to Jewish communities around the world in its Jubilee year.