One hundred and twenty years ago, it was a Talmud Torah. Then it was confiscated by the communists and turned into a sports center. But last year, the Russian government officially restored the building to the Jewish community.
At last week’s official “First Bell” ceremony—Beit Sefer Or Avner opened its doors of the newly renovated building as parents, community members, government officials and municipal representatives came to participate in this dramatic opening day for the school’s 140 students in grades 1-11.
Rabbi Chaim Fridman, Chabad representative to Rostov, says that Jewish life and activity is thriving in this city—one of Russia’s oldest, with a Jewish population of 30,000 and historic links to Chabad-Lubavitch. (This is where the fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Shalom Dovber, escaped to during WWI, remaining there until his passing in 1920. His resting place is in this city, and people continue to visit his resting place today.)
Enrollment at the school, with grades 1-11, is up by 40% from last year’s 100 students. “Parents recognize that the school offers the best academic standards to be had in the city,” says Fridman.
Speaking at the opening were various government officials, all of whom underscored the outstanding education offered by the school and the impressive vitality of Jewish educational and social life in the city.
“In this very place, there once was a Talmud Torah,” said one of the speakers. “But “history has a way of turning and returning,” so that now, this building is “once again, a center of Jewish education.”
The school’s renovation was sponsored by philanthropist Lev Leviev and the Or Avner Foundation.