(lubavitch.com) First grade students at the Ohr Avner-Chabad School in Tashkent, Uzbekistan performed for family members, showed off their Hebrew language skills, and received their own prayer books at a traditional Mesibat HaSiddur ceremony to mark an important milestone in Jewish education – achieving basic Hebrew proficiency.
In attendance were parents and grandparents, many of whom were denied the privilege of learning Jewish studies as children growing up in Communist Russia.
The 14 students performed a skit which told the famous Chassidic story of a Russian nobleman’s son who discovers he is adopted and Jewish when he finds a siddur his parents left for him. He runs to the nearest town, finds the synagogue and, not being able to read, offers his siddur in place of prayer.
The students showed off their mastery of Hebrew and Jewish daily prayers with song and dance renditions of various parts of the prayer book. Pictures and a video recapped a year’s worth of the class’s holiday celebrations and events.
School directors and Chabad emissaries Rabbi Dovid and Chana Kolton addressed the students and parents with words of blessing, congratulations and wishes for future success.
They presented each child with a prayer book embossed with their name. In addition, boys received tzitzit and girls silver candlesticks to mark the beginning of their formal training in Jewish observances.
Tashkent is Central Asia largest Jewish community. Close to 20,000 Jews live in Uzbekistan, primarily concentrated in the main centers of Tashkent, Bukhara, and Samarkand.
Tashkent’s day school is one of the 72 elementary day schools in the Ohr Avner Jewish education network which educates more than 15,000 students in the former Soviet Union, and is underwritten and organized by international philanthropist Lev Leviev.
The Chabad community in Tashkent features a kindergarten, day school, yeshiva, Sunday school program, soup kitchen, JCC community center, adult education classes, the Museum of History of Central Asia Jews, and the locally produced “Beis Cheyeynu” Jewish newspaper.