A new Jewish Sunday school has opened in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, representing the 17th school established as a part of an educational program called JFUTURE.

Intended for families not active in Jewish communal life, the relatively new project was launched with the support of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. It includes more than 400 participants, spanning countries including Montenegro, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Bulgaria, Japan, India and Kazakhstan.

The STEAM approach (Science, Technologies, Engineering, Art and Math) underlies the educational program. Students are grouped according to age: as part of J-fun (ages 5-6); J-lab (ages 7-9); and J-profi (ages 10-12), with each age group ranging from six to 15 members.

The program has been backed by Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, who said, “We are glad to take an active part in this education initiative intended to strengthen ties of hundreds of Jewish children learning our history and tradition. It is gratifying to see that such a project appeared just now, when Jews in various countries are facing an acute problem of preserving their national identity. Familiarization with our heritage from an early age will help these children keep their Jewishness alive.”

Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, co-director with his wife, Chaya, of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, spoke about the influence the program exerts on the local Jewish community in India.

“The project has allowed us to involve new families in the activities of the community that nowadays numbers about 2,000 people,” he said. “We are witnessing our students pass the knowledge they gained on to their parents, thus acquainting them with Jewish tradition and strengthening ties between the generations. Our Jewish Sunday school helps support cooperation of the community with Jews all over the world.”

Towards the end of 2019, the program is expected to double the number of students involved and bring new communities on board.