Jewish Renewal Goes Live

February 8, 2011


Anton, a Jewish youth group leader, lives in an Eastern Ukrainian city with few knowledgeable Jews, no Jewish school or library, and a community life that is more enthusiastic than substantive. Despite his eagerness to help local teenagers grappling with what being Jewish means to them personally, Anton struggled with his own rudimentary religious education to put together a program on Jewish identity that would “speak” to young people and involve them personally in the dialogue.

That was some months ago.

Now, with the click of an icon, a world of Jewish information and creative programming-including lessons, games, and activities for all age groups-is open to him. JDC’s Activi, a new 14-volume Russian-language anthology of Jewish knowledge and informal educational materials available online ( and in print, is an invaluable resource for informal Jewish educators like Anton who are working today in hundreds of cities throughout the FSU, and in Russian-speaking communities worldwide.

Recently unveiled at a three-day JDC educators’ conference in Moscow, the comprehensive series provides the methodology to transmit information about Jewish culture and tradition in ways that are stimulating, engaging, and appropriate for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. It covers a wide range of Jewish topics, from Judaism in the modern world to Jewish holidays to the State of Israel, among many other themes. Articles are written in simple, accessible Russian and aimed at those who have only very basic Jewish knowledge.

The launch conference put Activi’s innovativeness into action. Using an exhibit stand to represent each of the anthology’s 14 volumes, JDC organizers showcased card games about Jewish shtetls, puppet shows on Jewish family life, holiday cooking demonstrations, a workshop recreating a traditional Jewish study hall, a Jewish literary coffee house, theatrical performances, comic strips on Jewish topics, and other creative ideas.

Almost four years in the making, Activi was authored primarily by the Chais Center at Hebrew University, Machanaim, and the Institute of Informal Education headed by Dima and Natasha Zicer. The website is the internet companion to the published 14-volume, 3,000-page compilation, which JDC is distributing to Jewish institutions throughout the former Soviet Union. Publication was supported by the Charles Hoffman Endowment Fund, among others.

Activi is part of JDC’s “Judaism without Walls” initiative, which aims to bring Jewish tradition and culture to people where they are, often in alternative spaces outside of conventional centers of Jewish life. Today, Activi is giving community activists in cities far from the FSU’s major centers of Jewish life the resources to educate, entertain, and inspire their fellow Jews.

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