A Department for Jewish Culture has been established at the oldest and one of the most prestigious universities in Russia. By an official order signed on March 5, 2011 by Professor Nikolay M. Kropachyev, the Rector of St. Petersburg State University, the department is the successor of the Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies (CBJS) established at the University in 2000 under a formal educational cooperation agreement between the St. Petersburg State University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The Department is aimed at training highly qualified specialists in Jewish history, culture, religion, philosophy and other areas of academic Jewish study. The new status will encourage the development and revival of academic Jewish studies in a city that is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Jewish manuscripts and archival materials.
According to Professor Igor Tantlveskij, the founder and director of the center and professor at the St. Petersburg State University, and a leading specialist in the field of Jewish history of the Second Temple period and the Dead Sea scrolls, “it is historically significant that this department, only the second such department in all of Russia, was established at a University in St. Petersburg, a city in which serious research in academic Judiaca began in the 19th century, as well as where many Jewish cultural and educational institutions existed in pre-Communist times. St. Petersburg State University, under the leadership of Professor Kropachyev, has access to rare Jewish manuscripts and materials, which will now be studied by the students in the newly established department. As part of the expansion of Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union, the department’s creation will play a key role both in academic circles as well as in the development of Jewish study and life.”
During the past several years a number of international organizations and foundations have significantly supported the Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies: Chais Center for Jewish Studies in Russian (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), THE AVI CHAI Foundation, Russian Jewish Congress, Genesis Philanthropy Group, and the Dutch Humanitarian Fund.
The AVI CHAI Foundation played a key role in establishing the department, which the Foundation has funded since 2006, It will continue to provide funding and support toward the expansion, strengthening, enhancement and growth of academic Jewish study at the Department for Jewish Culture.
Starting from 2009, Genesis Philanthropy Group has been providing financial support to CBJS, with this funding enabling a select group of students to study at the center, and enabling several outstanding students to enroll in a one-year academic program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since then, the Genesis Philanthropy Group has also provided a number of grants for students and young professors.
Foundations partnering with the Department for Jewish Culture will continue to provide support toward the strengthening and enhancement of academic Jewish study, with a special focus on the possibilities that the new department offers.
According to David Rozenson, the executive director of the AVI CHAI Foundation and a St. Petersburg native: “We are extremely grateful to Professor Kropachyev for his wisdom and commitment to establishing the Department for Jewish Culture as part of his overall efforts to significantly expand St. Petersburg State University as a world class academic institution. This has been a dream for many years and I have no doubt that students generations from now will benefit from the department and the new possibilities that this historic decision offers both for St. Petersburg State University and the developing field of academic Jewish Studies in Russia and beyond.”
Professor Igor Tantlevskij, director of CBJS, head of the Department for Jewish Culture, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com