In late January – early February, the Third Pedagogical Conference of Reform Educators brought together 30 educators from Reform congregations in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine to Gomel, Belarus for three days of learning and sharing best practices in early childhood education and Jewish education. Along with the children of the Hatikva kindergarten in Gomel and their parents, the conference hosted more than 170 individuals for Jewish text study, Hebrew lessons, and Israel workshops. The Jewish community of Gomel, the Kadima Reform congregation, the local Jewish community, Keshet women’s organization, Hesed, Netzer, the global Zionist Reform Youth movement, also took active roles in leading experiential activities as well as representatives of the education department of the city.
The conference focused on the subject of the “Jewish home” and the role of education at home, in families, and between generations. Participants studied Jewish texts with Rabbi Grisha Abramovich, explored the links between programs in Jewish communities, participated in art workshops, and enjoyed a musical presentation on “My home and my family.” Master classes, led by the talented teachers of the local “Atikva” kindergarten, addressed how to talk about Shabbat at home and baked Jewish deserts such as ponchikes, lekach, rugelach and teiglach.
Natalia Kravchenko, Principal of “Atikva,” and Michael Kemerov, Executive Director of the Religious Union for Progressive Judaism, opened a concurrent art exhibition entitled, “Following the Heart”, which was created with Yad VaShem and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, and printed with the generous support of the UN in Belarus.
Reflecting on the impact of the conference, local Jewish educator, Irina Belskaia, said, “I am grateful to Rita Fruman, Director of Programs and Operations across the Former Soviet Union for the World Union, for supporting this educational conference in Gomel. In order to be successful in creating holistic Jewish life, we, as educators, have to support and develop strong connections between Reform communities, programs, families and, yes, Klal Israel.”
All photographs: Courtesy (c) Dorofeev Andrey.