«Jewish Observer»
November 2002
5763 Kislev

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When my friends recommended me to visit a collective exhibition of Kiev painters "Point of intersection - Sofia", I had no particular expectations. Firstly, formal techniques enrapture me no more, secondly, a professional psychologist and pedagogue, I have long desperately tried to find in modern canvases what would suit a child simultaneously in esthetic, spiritual and cognitive aspects. This is particularly characteristic of a Jewish child actively or passively introduced to the Jewish world outlook, to our tradition. But the exhibition in the very center of Kiev shocked me. I saw what I had not expected to see even in Russia. I mean drawings and texts of a yet unpublished book for children with an unexpected but familiar to a Jew title "Shalakhmonesy" (painter P. Fishel, poet - G. Falkovich).

This mischievous and entertaining book differs greatly from the reading-matter in the system of Jewish education on the CIS territory. Our pre-school and school texts are, mainly, translations from Hebrew reflecting realities of modern Israel and having no connection with everyday life of a Jewish family be it in Russia or Ukraine. These texts, as a rule, do not promote introducing our children to the Jewish world since they are torn off their habitual surrounding.

This painful problem has not been raised yet, but many remedies are already offered. I was lucky to meet one of them, probably, most perspective in Kiev. I talk about children's literature for Jewish education by local authors (Russian, Ukrainian, etc.), about literature OUR children understand. Besides, such works in languages of indigenous nations will never become a provocative irritant in complicated processes of state languages' developing in new sovereign states.

My knowledge of Ukrainian I received in childhood allows me to affirm that "Shalakhmonesy" is simultaneously a Jewish and Ukrainian book. That means its human UNIQUENESS is defined not only by its content interesting for a child of any nationality and widening a range of interests about a Jewish way of life, but also by its design. Artist's fantasy and brush link epoques, revive in memory and as if update wonderfully designed old Jewish books. Each drawing of P. Fishel is an interpreted verse, astonishing combination of Jewish tradition and Ukrainian reality.

I will allow myself to address to the exhibition visitors and readers of a future book: read with your children not only poems but drawings as well. Yes, drawings... Do not make haste, get surprised, enjoy... If you develop a wish (why not?) and if you are lucky (you are surely to become this!), you will join in a whirlwind of life of that fictitious and real Universe a talented children's book always is.

I do envy children of Ukraine, their parents and teachers. We in Russia do not yet have such book, but I believe in wisdom of rich and kind people.

People have used binoculars and telescope since long - magnifying the little and approaching the big. I sincerely advise to fancy there are binoculars and telescope on your table. Do not forget about them when you are lucky to get a book with a surprising name "Shalakhmonesy".


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© 2002 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine - www.jewukr.org