(FJC.ru) The Ohr Avner Chabad Day School in Zhitomir, Ukraine, welcomed male students from countries across the former Soviet Union for a conference celebrating the attendees Bar Mitzvahs.

“You must always be proud that you are Jews,” Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary and chief rabbi of central and western Ukraine, exhorted the young men. “Don’t ever change your name or traditions. [Instead], move alongside your people.”

The seminar featured lectures and educational exercises, and included excursions to outlying sites such as the resting place of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidic thought.

Sponsored by the Ohr Avner Foundation and underwritten by Lev Leviev, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the former Soviet Union, the Ohr Avner network of day schools represents the largest Jewish educational network in the former Soviet Union.