«Jewish Observer»
January 2002
5762 Tevet

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-My first education is philosophical, that is the philosophical problems of physics. This was also the theme of my candidate thesis, - says Veronika Kogan. - Then I worked at the department of physics, then I received medical education and, at last, juridical. Today I am the Rector of Maimonid State Jewish Academy. This University was opened in 1991 by instruction of Boris Eltsen.

- How many students study in it?

- Now, over 3,5 thousand students study at the departments of Jewish studies, philosophy, law, mathematics, information studies, music and medicine. We don't have a bachelor's degree, only the master's one. The period of studies at all departments is 5 years, except for medical department. There the students study 6 years and 1 year more for clinical studies.

- Is tuition free?

- Yes, like in all state-owned institutions. However, there are also contract-basis students who pay for their studies by contract. Their number will increase now as we got new good premises. The premises are in Peredelkino. Formally they were the boarding houses for old Bolsheviks. Thanks to some people, of course, of Jewish nationality they were bought out.

- Is the enrolment competition high?

- Yes, because the enrolment is small and we practice "handy" production, which demands high level of teaching. This is not my merit.

The share of Jews teaching in higher educational establishments in the USSR was very high. I, for example, didn't know that the Director of the Institute of Information Studies, academician Rakitov is a Jew. When he came to me and said that he would like to head the department of electronic support, he mentioned that he was a Jew and his family lived in Israel long ago.

- What is the level of Jewish studies?

- In my opinion it is not very high, as well as the level Hebraic studies.

Only rabbis can teach Jewish studies. It is a religious system, and it is not easy to make it a university subject.

- Do you have students from Israel?

- Yes, they are many. Many children were brought to Israel from the eleventh or tenth form. Nobody thought then that even under the most favorable conditions for studying Hebrew their level would not be enough to get higher education. So, many children, especially mathematicians, didn't get education. The opening of the university, like ours, was a great help to them.

- Over 2 thousand young people have graduated from your University? Are they all employed?

- We don't keep such statistics. But I don't remember anyone to come and say that he is unemployed.

- Do you have exchange of students and lecturers?

- Thanks to Alexander Bovin, former Russian Ambassador in Israel, we concluded an exchange contract with the University of Bar-Ilan. Unfortunately, I can't pay such salaries as they pay their professors. Neither I have enough money for students to go to Israel for practical studies.

As we have new premises in Peredelkino, I hope that a join international university will be set up.

- What is the attitude of authorities towards your activities?

- Like to any other institution. May be I differ from other rectors because I used to come to the Minister and asked him persistently for what I needed. He would then answer: "If I give all this to the Jewish University, I'll be torn into pieces". Finally, I stopped begging. Now I receive what I am to receive.

- Can you imagine a Jewish university in Moscow in 1972?

- Without any doubt. Especially if I had the same situation with the Politburo secretaries as with Boris Eltsen when one could bang on the table and say - let's do it. Do you know how many Jewish educational establishments were in the tsarist Russia? About 1,5 thousands. The Leningrad Jewish University was active until 1938. In fact, Jews themselves used to bring keys from synagogues and educational establishments asking to close them. On the whole, they were right because they wanted to save their lives. In hard times Jews try to dissolve to increase the chance to survive. There was no one at that time to say: "Open". It could be opened. Churches were opened, mosques were opened but synagogues - never. The Jews used to say "We don't need them."

- Please, tell me - are you a good rector, Veronika Rafailovna?

- I think that rectors in Russia are bad. On such a background, it is not difficult to be a good rector. Rector is not a profession. Rector is a politician. If a man is asked whether he is a good politician or not, only an insane can give a positive response.

"Okna", Israel

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