Amitim Fellowship Program for Russian Speakers

Today, Russian-speakers constitute nearly one-fifth of Israel's Jewish population. The million-plus citizens of the former Soviet Union who migrated to Israel in the past 20 years and their Israeli-born children have transformed the country: they have influenced modern culture, the hi-tech industry, language and slang, education and- perhaps most significantly- politics. However, the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking Israelis remains complicated, problematic and laden with specific challenges attributed to their “Russian” origin.

Despite full integration in Israeli society and significant success reached in professional and social careers, Israeli Russian-speakers remain detached of their Jewish heritage- they have very limited Jewish education, often identify themselves as “Israeli” versus “Jewish” and don’t share a collective Jewish narrative with the rest of Israeli society.

The specific background and complex identity of the Russian-speakers in Israel present a challenge for educational and engagement programs. We claim that while many high-quality programs targeting Russian-speaking Israeli youth and students and educational and engagement programs for new immigrants gradually achieve their goals, the specific social group of successful Russian-speaking Israelis in position of influence, who hold potential for enhancing social change in Israel, remains out of reach of these existing programs.

That is why in our program we target individuals defined as “change agents”- heads or other decision-making positions of different NGOs, governmental positions and academic or private structures among Israeli Russian-speaking adults whose Russian-Jewish heritage has an integral part in their Israeli-Jewish identity. The program addresses challenges and acute issues the participants deal with in their professional lives as well as with their identity using Jewish texts which then help establish powerful links between the Jewish narrative, contemporary life in Israel and participants identity and background as well as helping participants create a broader vision of the Jewish people and the state of Israel.

The study process includes 18 three-hour long bi-weekly educational sessions and a weekend seminar.