National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy announced the establishment of a two-year Master's Program in Jewish Studies in October 2012. This initiative was made possible with the support and generosity of James C. Temerty, a friend and partner of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and Ukrainian-Canadian philanthropist. Currently, the Program is referred to as the specialty of Judaica within the Department of History.
Oleksiy Khamraj, Doctor of Philology, is the director of the Judaica Master’s Program at Kyiv Mohyla Academy. A long time faculty member in the History Department at Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Dr. Oleksiy Khamraj is also a Senior Research Fellow at the A.Y. Krymskyj Oriental Studies Institute at the National Academy of Ukraine. His research includes works on grammar of the Arabic language and Hebrew writing traditions in Ukraine.
The program includes the establishment of international contacts with leading centers of Judaism throughout the world, and the creation of a quality platform for research in the field. Advancing toward this goal, the director and faculty of the Judaica Program continuously establish contacts and engage in collaborative programs with their colleagues and research centers in Israel, the United States, Canada, and Russia. Negotiations to establish a collaborative agreement with Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel's leading institution of higher education, have taken place continuously.
In addition, a new academic journal titled «Judaica Ukrainica» will be published by the university, which will be Ukraine’s first continuous collection of academic publications on Judaica. The publication will have international status, a professional editorial board that will include well-known researchers and historians from different countries, and each article will undergo the process of independent peer review. Articles will be published in three languages.
The tradition of Judaica Studies at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy dates back to the 17th century. Since that time, Judaica, which began to emerge as an area of separate study only in the 19th century, was represented mainly as Hebraic Studies. As stated by Professor Valery Nichyk, "The study of Jewish history, language, customs, and Scripture was initiated at this institution by its founder Petro Mohyla. No person could be considered educated and cultured if he or she did not know Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The attention to Hebraic Studies was determined primarily as a necessity for scientific and educational needs, they were necessary for the study and interpretation of the Bible, which was considered one of the primary sources for the education of scientists, humanists and reformers ".
During Soviet times, especially since 1948, Hebraic Studies and Judaica were banned. After the collapse of the USSR, in independent Ukraine, Judaica Studies were established in the early 1990s as a Department of Jewish Studies at the International Solomon University in Kyiv, and it then became the most prominent Center of Jewish Studies in Ukraine until the beginning of the 2000s. Since then, the torch of Judaism studies moved to Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
In 2003 the Academy established an Interdisciplinary Certificate Program in Judaism, which offered a series of courses at the Department of Humanities to students of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and of other universities. The program included leading experts on Jewish Studies in Kyiv. The first graduates received certificates and diplomas in 2006. In 2012 the Program had 35 graduates. Over 120 students attended classes on Judaism in the years 2003 to 2012. Since 2006, the Research Center of History and Culture of East European Jewry at Kyiv Mohyla Academy has become a vibrant academic-research center.
During the last six years, in conjunction with the University Publishing House "Spirit and Letter", the Center published dozens of books and collections on Judaica, and today it is considered to be the leader in Ukraine in this field. One of the major current publications is the Ukrainian translation of the Oxford Textbook of Jewish Studies, a work of over thousand pages, which will serve as a source for study and research for all students who are interested in Judaica.
In the year 2008, through the efforts of the Association of Jewish organizations and communities of Ukraine (VAAD), which was a continuous partner of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy since the beginning, the necessary technical and physical components for the full implementation, functioning and development of Judaism were established and implemented, including two well-equipped rooms for conducting classes and a library.
Translated and edited from the Ukrainian article by Oleksij Khamraj, Director of the NaUKMA Judaica Program