Some 500 community members, sponsors and local dignitaries crowded a former bus depot in Moscow yesterday, celebrating the opening of the city’s newest site for Jewish education. Now home to a sprawling, five-story state-of-the-art elementary school building, the bus depot has come a long way- and this is only the beginning, say organizers. The lot, a full city block that was given to the Federation of Jewish Communities in the former CIS some four years ago, will be home to several more buildings, ultimately housing most of the FJC’s large network of Jewish educational institutions in Moscow. Upon completion of its final phase, still several years away, the campus will include a kindergarten, elementary school for girls and boys, high schools, a yeshiva, and extensive office space. Named for the generous sponsorship of Mr. Yevgeny Shvidler, the complex, known as Beit Shvidler, will represent the largest Jewish educational site of its kind in the former Soviet Union.
With many of the school’s benefactors in attendance, including Messrs. Valery Oif, Yefim Malkin, David Davidovich, Alexander Chirgirinsky and FJC president Mr. Lev Leviev, Sunday’s event celebrated the opening of the elementary school building, the first phase of the project. Some 300 children will be attending Chabad’s Or Avner Jewish Day School in the new building, says school director Rabbi Avraham Lipsker, and most of them were on stage Sunday, delighting the crowd with an elaborate concert in the school’s main hall.
“Our children are the foundation of the Jewish people, and a Jewish education builds that foundation,” said Rabbi Berel Lazar, Russia’s Chief Rabbi, “The tremendous merit accumulated by all the generosity that made this school building possible will ensure a happy and sweet year for the entire community.” Lazar noted the contributions of Alexander Boroda, executive Vice- President of the FJC, who worked tirelessly to see the building’s construction through to its completion.
Boroda joined the school’s principal benefactors, along with Lazar and Leviev, in cutting the ribbon to mark the school’s opening. The group placed Mezuzot on the doors of the new buildings to the cheering of an enthusiastic audience.
“There were those in this very city who tried to destroy anything connected to Judaism for eighty years,” said Mr. Lev Leviev in his remarks, “but there can be no greater proof than this building, and the ones to follow, that the tradition of our ancestors is alive and well in Moscow.”