The Max Fisher Prize for Excellence in Jewish Education was awarded this year to Rabbi Shmuel and Chani Kaminetzki, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch in the Dnepropetrovsk region of Ukraine.
At a formal ceremony at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, attended by leading members of world Jewry, members of Knesset and Israeli government officials, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Pinkus Foundation, recognized the incredible work of Lubavitch in the Ukraine. The prize took note, in particular, of the education infrastructure in the city built up over the last 12 years by the Kaminetzkis and eighteen other Chabad couples working with them. Chabad-Lubavitch of the Ukraine is a member of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS.
Awarded annually to individuals or organizations for extraordinary achievements in Jewish education in the Diaspora, this is the first time the prize went to an Orthodox institution. Chabad’s education system in Dnepropetrovsk includes the Levi Yitzchok Kindergarten, Or Avner Jewish Day School–the largest in Eastern Europe, with current enrollment of over 700 children–a boy’s Yeshiva High school and high school for girls. Newly established as well, is the Beit Chana teachers seminary, recognized by both the Ukranian and Israeli Ministry of Education, ensures employment for its graduates, while providing Jewish schools across the Former Soviet Union with qualified, dedicated teachers. This sprawling network of institutions currently educates over 1200 students and employs nearly 700 staff members.
Dnepropetrovsk has a special place in the history of Chabad, as the childhood home of the Rebbe and the city in which his father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, served as chief Rabbi for over thirty years. “The Rebbe would often speak nostalgically of Dnepropetrovsk, describing it as the bustling hub of Jewish life in the Ukraine,” says Rabbi Kaminetzki. “So the revitalization of Jewish life here is quite a celebration.” Aside for its educational network, Chabad oversees a variety of social services, including a soup kitchen which feeds 3000 of the city’s destitute each day, holiday awareness programs that typically draw crowds numbering in the thousands, and summer camps for over 3000 children from across the region.”