After 50 years without organized Jewish educational options, parents in the Serbian capital of Belgrade are ecstatic following this summer’s grand opening of a preschool by the country’s resident Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.

Reached just before the start of classes, many saw the new school as symbolic of a Jewish revival nurtured by the 2008 arrival Rabbi Yehoshua and Miri Kaminetzky to this Balkan nation.

“The Jewish community of Belgrade suffered a terrible loss after the Holocaust,” explains Davor Salom, an early supporter of the institution who puts the preschool in its historical context. “After the war, Jewish kids were educated in a preschool opened by the only remaining synagogue in Belgrade. It was run mostly by Holocaust survivors, but it was shut down due to low attendance.”

For more than 50 years, the problem of a preschool remained unresolved, largely due to lacks of funding and enthusiasm. But when the Kaminetzkys opened their Chabad House, things began to change.

“In the past two years, they have hosted numerous guests at their home for Shabbat meals and festival celebrations,” says Salom. “This warm and hospitable approach helped them to gain a number of friends willing to support their idea of opening a preschool.”

According to Salom, planning took a year.

Eight children make up the school’s inaugural class.
Eight children make up the school’s inaugural class.

For his part, Yehoshua Kaminetzky says that locals remembered the old preschool with pride. That helps explain the community’s willingness to get behind the project.

“Community members in their late-60s have fond memories of their experience there,” says the rabbi, who also teaches adult education classes.

Eight children make up the preschool’s inaugural class.

“They learn Judaic studies, as well as math, science, sports, music and English,” says Kaminetzky.

Eitan Silberger says that he’s happy to send his two-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son to the school.

“This is a brand new thing for us,” he says. “Before now, we didn’t have a Jewish school to send our children to.”

Kaminetzky, who predicts larger classes in the future, says that he’s taking a long view of the educational landscape.

“Our goal,” he states, “is that every Jewish child should have the chance to be educated in their own heritage and maintain their Jewish identity with pride.”