Machanaim TodayMACHANAIM STORY
MACHANAIM touches the lives of thousands of people and adapts itself to the needs and requirements of the Russian-speaking population in Israel and around the world, helping them to integrate into Israeli society in its cultural, traditional, religious and other aspects.
What was to become MACHANAIM originated in Moscow at the end of the ‘seventies as an underground group of young people who were learning Jewish history and tradition and trying to transmit whatever knowledge they had to others. It soon developed into an organized network of learners. The founders of the group learned Torah, Jewish law and Jewish philosophy among themselves and with the help of rabbis and teachers from the USA, Europe and Israel. Each of them also taught a group of beginners. Later, as beginners made (in many cases quite substantial) progress, they themselves taught groups of their own.
Almost all these teachers were refuseniks. The Torah lessons took place, naturally, in private homes. Sometimes they were "visited" by the KGB. These visits were usually followed by some sort of trouble, in most cases, fortunately, not too serious: a warning, a talk with a boss at work (for those few who had jobs), threats of expulsion from the university, etc. But since Hebrew teachers (some very close to MACHANAIM) were sent to prison, these constant collisions with the KGB created considerable tension.
In 1987 most of MACHANAIM's central figures received their long-awaited permissions for aliya. (The moving force behind MACHANAIM and its founder, the renowned astrophysicist Dr. Zeev Dashevsky, was finally allowed to join them in 1990.) They felt that their many years' experience in educational work and the open-minded, non-coercive approach which they developed should be used in Israel too. Soon after the arrival of the first MACHANAIM original core group – P.Polonsky, M.Kara-Ivanov, Y.Belenky, L.Kitrossky – MACHANAIM in Jerusalem was organized. It set itself two tasks: to work with new olim from the USSR and to provide help to Jews still in Russia. The dual character of the work gave birth to the name MACHANAIM, taken from Genesis 32:3 and meaning "two camps" – Moscow and Jerusalem.
MACHANAIM’S PROJECTS include:
MACHANAIM in Community – a project that aims to develop community life among Russian speakers, especially in localities where they constitute a high percentage of the residents. Activities include social gatherings, tours, Shabbat and Holiday celebrations, creative workshops, Beit Midrash and more, all in order to integrate the immigrants into the daily routine of Israeli society and to help them out of the cultural isolation in which many find themselves. The goal of this project is to help Russian immigrants to get acquainted with their heritage without having to throw away the culture they acquired in the past. Such approach enables the immigrants to enter the Israeli society as equal members, able to participate in the cultural dialogue.
Jewish Heritage Classes – lectures and classes given in Russian and Hebrew on Jewish history, Jewish philosophy and Jewish culture; these encounters take place in many locations nationwide. Many of the activities are provided on a voluntary basis. In this way MACHANAIM is bringing the community closer to the history and culture of the Jewish People. The classes also include high-level study of the Jewish Bible and Talmud.
Educational Tours – These tours are conducted in Russian by experienced professional guides. Through these tours we invite immigrants to get to know their land better and develop an interest in its history and culture. These tours are designed to foster a deeper emotional link to the Land of Israel and encourage and strengthen immigration to Israel.
Book Publishing – MACHANAIM has published a variety of publications for Russian speakers that are popular in Israel and abroad. They include over 25 books in Russian, original and translated, on a wide variety of Jewish themes. Russian speakers are a reading public; having been denied exposure to their Jewish heritage in their families, they in many cases receive it from reading.
Conversion Program MACHANAIM conducts conversion courses for immigrants who are not Jewish according to Jewish law, and who want to convert. The program is constructed according to the Israeli Rabbinate’s demands and supported by the Prime Minister’s Office. The students attend two four-hour sessions per week ofer the course of a year. Topics include Jewish law, Torah, Jewish philosophy and Jewish prayer. In addition to classes, they also participate in at least one weekend seminar, several educational tours, holiday celebrations and social gatherings. MACHANAIM teachers also provide individual counseling for them, accompany them to the Rabbinical court and help them with any problems that arise. Almost all the students convert successfully after completing the course. To date MACHANAIM has helped thousands of young people to convert and join the Jewish people. The conversion process is made easier because it is organized by Russian immigrants who speak the language of the converts and, still more important, share with them a similar cultural background.
The Machanaim community helps the converts to internalize the learned material and to see how it works in practice, as they share the joys and sorrows of the community.
Internet Site – Our educational site contains close to 10,000 pages, including the world’s most extensive collection of materials on Jewish tradition in Russian. We have built new interactive academic courses on various Jewish Heritage topics, providing Jews from all around the world with access to this information and knowledge. It also includes an interactive Beit Midrash for teenagers and adults, in Russian and Hebrew.
Teaching Judaism in the FSU – MACHANAIM provides educational seminars in the FSU, develops educational materials on Jewish history and Jewish tradition in Russian, and maintains constant contact with the Jewish educators there, providing them with educational materials on Jewish history and Jewish tradition.