Russian Students Connecting With Their Jewish History


An engaging opportunity to learn more about the history of their Jewish community has grabbed the attention of ORT students in Russia following a collaboration with the world’s largest Jewish museum.

Students at Secondary School #42, ORT “Gesher”, in Samara are participating in the “Treasuring Communities” initiative developed by the ANU Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv in co-operation with the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Hephzibah education project.

Educators and students explore and document the history of Jewish communities, preserving the rich culture of global Jewry while developing skills and building intergenerational connections. By collecting significant data, both past and present, young participants connect with their communities and enrich the leading databases in the Jewish world.

ORT schools are the primary source of Jewish affiliation for many students and their families – providing a direct connection to our religion, history and culture.

At the Samara school, Grade 6 students are participating in the communities project by studying locations around the city associated with Jewish history. They have spent time looking at the archives of the Samara Jewish community foundation, studying the history of synagogues in Samara, and learning about the Jewish contribution to the development of the city’s culture.

Samara historian Stanislav Repinetsky encouraged the young participants to create an interactive map, giving a guide to Jewish sites of interest in Samara in both Russian and Hebrew.

To complete the task the students tried their hand at journalism, interviewing people who have contributed to the local community, as well as taking part in virtual sessions with former residents who now live in Israel.

Students have shared experiences with older community members

Anna, a Grade 9 student, said: “As part of the project we met Jewish cultural figures and eyewitnesses of the Holocaust by video conference. These meetings gave us lots of useful and important information.

“I was amazed to learn that one of the heroes of the meetings turned out to be my distant relative. I also interviewed representatives of our Jewish community and our article was published on the Beit Hatfutsot Museum website. I am very proud of our involvement in the project.”

To engage the children in a spirit of connection between generations, they have also visited older members of the Jewish community to share memories, photographs and other documents from family archives. This engagement has benefited young and old alike and has proven a popular feature of the project.

The children share their research, interviews and findings with the museum, which publishes the information on its website. Students are also using their findings to develop activities in the school about the city’s Jewish heritage.

The project covers a wide array of Jewish experiences

Julya Gengut, Gesher School Principal, said: “In addition to praising the participation of the schoolchildren in this project, I would like to highlight the work of our Israeli teacher, Alina Shamailov.

“Despite not being able to travel to Samara this year, and coping with the most difficult working conditions, she continues to work with students, teachers and community members remotely to organize international projects such as this.”

Last year students travelled to Moscow to learn more the history of Jews in Russia as part of the project.