As Jews around the world begin celebrating Chanukah tonight, Shlomo, a 33-year-old father of two from Sofia, Bulgaria, will be giving the gift of a Jewish education to his children through Gan Balagan, Sofia’s first Jewish preschool to open in more than fifty years. A project of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Shalom, Bulgarian Jewry’s social and cultural organization, Gan Balagan will provide Jewish children, ages 2-5, with educational experiences in basic Hebrew and Jewish traditions, among other subjects. Located in a well-equipped, modern facility that includes a spacious area for dancing and role-playing, multimedia equipment, and a piano, the school will also serve daily kosher meals.
“As JDC has historically been at the center of efforts to rekindle the flames of Jewish life in Europe and throughout the world, it’s our great pleasure this Chanukah to celebrate with the Bulgarian Jewish community its new, landmark Jewish educational institution,” said JDC CEO Steven Schwager.
Gan Balagan is located in the Beit Shalom JCC and is Bulgaria’s first Jewish preschool to open since the Anna Ventura school property was confiscated from the Jewish community by the government in 1958. Addressing an important need in Bulgaria at large—where a shortage of state-run preschools has left some 3,000 children without an early-education framework—Gan Balagan charges the lowest tuition among all of the private preschools and is seeking subsidies for families that cannot afford to cover the full cost on their own.