Chanukah in Eastern Europe and a New Pre-School in Bulgaria

Jewish preschool/kindergarten in Sofia, Bulgaria. November 2010 by Tzvety Friedman

The American Jewish Distribution Committee (JDC) is keeping busy with some unique Chanukah programs in Europe.

In Budapest, they are running Chanukah Cafe in over 30 venues – coffee shops, theaters, etc – celebrating in urban, open settings complete with debates, performances, study sessions and of course, food.

In the former Yugoslavia, they are sponsoring a Chanukah Caravan – a bus of performers, musicians and young Jewish volunteers that travel around the region visiting cities and celebrating Chanukah with them. The itinerary includes: Skopje, Macedonia; Belgrade, Serbia; Novi Sad, Serbia; Subotica, Serbia; and Sarajevo, Bosnia.

And in Sofia, Bulgaria, parents can now give the gift of a Jewish education to their children through Gan Balagan, Sofia’s first Jewish preschool to open in more than fifty years. A project of JDC and Shalom, Bulgarian Jewry’s social and cultural organization, Gan Balagan will provide Jewish children, ages 2-5, with educational experiences in basic Hebrew and Jewish traditions, among other subjects.

Gan Balagan, located in the Beit Shalom JCC, is a a well-equipped, modern facility that includes a spacious area for dancing and role-playing. Equipped with  multimedia equipment and a piano, the school will also serve daily kosher meals.

Gan Balagan is Bulgaria’s first Jewish preschool to open since the Anna Ventura school property was confiscated from the Jewish community by the government in 1958.

Addressing an important need in Bulgaria at large – where a shortage of state-run preschools has left some 3,000 children without an early-education framework – Gan Balagan charges the lowest tuition among all of the private preschools and is seeking subsidies for families that cannot afford to cover the full cost on their own.