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The Moscow Winter School on Jewish Studies - 2011

The 2011 Sefer Winter School on Jewish Studies was held in the Moscow Region recreation center "Pushkino” from January 27 to 31. These schools (mini-universities) are held annually in the days of the student’s winter vacation.

Traditionally the School was organized in close cooperation with the Chais Center for the development of Jewish Studies in Russian (Hebrew University of Jerusalem): due to the support of several Israeli organizations, among them – the Israeli Cultural Center in Moscow, part of the lectures at the school were delivered by the Israeli professors – Cyril Aslanov, a known and recognized linguist (course "Linguistic otherness of the Jews throughout the ages"), Uri Gershovich, Semyon Goldin, Ilya Lurie, Shaul Stampfer (plenary lecture on the geography of early Ashkenazi Jewish settlement in Eastern Europe).

The Israeli cultural and educational institutions were represented widely as never before: Arkadi Zeltser, director of the Center for the Study of Soviet Jews at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, presented to the course aspects of the history of Soviet Jews in the interwar period and their fates during the Shoah, Uri Gershovich, professor at the Open University of Israel not only gave his own lectures, but also organized a Beit Midrash (parsing and text analysis) conducted in the form of an intellectual play. He also informed the school participants about the possibility of entering the program of the Open University of Israel, the Russian students who already have bachelor's degrees or higher.

Lecture courses at the school were presented also by teachers from Moscow – Konstantin Burmistrov, Leonid Kogan, Mikhail Seleznev, Eugene Smagina, from Kiev – Igor Turov, and St. Petersburg – Alexander Lvov, who acquainted students with his course of lectures on marginalized Jewish communities (crypto-Jews, Judaism and other "lost Jews"). He also spoke about the possibility of first-year courses in the "Petersburg Judaica" Center in the presence of a diploma Bachelor's degree or higher.

Support for the School was also provided by the Israeli Cultural Center in Moscow, the Center Director Mirit Wachs and First Secretary of Israeli Embassy in Moscow Shlomo Voskoboinik took part in the School opening.

The School opened on January 27, 2011 – a symbolic date, as it is the day declared by the U.N. as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the Shoah history is a must in the Sefer schools’ curriculum. In this regard, it is appropriate to quote Professor Victor Shnirelman (RAS), an expert on racism and anti-Semitism and one of Sefer School’s lecturers, who emphasized that while studying and teaching history in Russia one cannot avoid the processes of anti-Semitism, racism and nationalism. According to him, while studying, for example, the history of the Holocaust we must remember that today the causes that gave rise to these tragic events have not disappeared, they exist and in fact, are evolving. "One cannot study society without studying its prejudices and biases. Aren’t we seeing today manifestations of racism, neo-Nazism, anti-Semitism? These things are visible, they evolve and mutate. One cannot understand our society without realizing that these things still prevail, and they are not paid enough attention to. It is quite clear today, especially after the December 2010 events at the Manege Square in Moscow. And we need to know these things, and that's why I’ve decided to read the course at the Sefer Winter School”.

Sefer Center Director Victoria Mochalova announced XVIII International Conference on Jewish Studies, and presented new publications prepared by the Sefer and its partners. Sefer student programs coordinator Irina Kopchenova, also cheered participants of the school with the information on the development of the "Lecture Bureau” project (visiting lecture at the request performed by requests from regional educational centers and institutions of Russia and former USSR), as well as about a new initiative called "Small Projects "aimed at supporting initiatives groups and individuals who have ideas for development of community life in the academic and educational format.

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