In 1991, with the deterioration of communism in the Former Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of Jews streamed through the Iron Curtain. Ignorant of their Jewish heritage, Russian Jews would require extensive support to integrate into Israeli society.
Many Russian Jews realized their dreams of religious freedom and chose to re-establish their lives in Israel. What they didn’t know, however, was that they were potentially headed for cultural and religious obliteration in the Jewish state. Israel’s education system was not prepared to handle the influx of highly educated immigrant children lacking the most basic Jewish education.
The late great visionary, Rabbi Avraham Pam zt”l, had the foresight to realize that, after over seventy years of virtually no Jewish life, Russian Jews would require tremendous support to acclimate in their new Jewish homeland. His dream was to create a framework of schools throughout Israel for Russian immigrant children, to return them to the heritage that had been denied to their parents and grandparents. At the same time, Shuvu schools would provide them with the outstanding secular education they were accustomed to in Russia.
The Shuvu ‘Return’ revolution began with a few classes housed in temporary caravan trailers, but slowly an entire network of kindergartens, elementary schools and high schools was established throughout Israel. Leading educators were hired to develop Shuvu’s special high-level curriculum and teacher training program, and school premises were found. From the beginning, the Shuvu network extended beyond the classroom, providing Jewish enrichment programs, adult education classes for parents, emergency and welfare support, and summer camps.
In recent years, building on the success of the Shuvu schools with immigrant children, Shuvu schools have also evolved to embrace native Israeli children and immigrants from America, England and France, registering increasing numbers of students from diverse backgrounds every year. Today, the Shuvu network includes 67 schools and affiliates, touching the lives of over 15,000 students.