Chai Center

Supporting educational activities

Sofia, Bulgaria
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About the center

CHAI Center is an educational center in the suburbs of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. The center includes a kindergarten (CHAI Kindergarten) and a Sunday school for Jewish children from Sofia and Israel, who are living in Sofia now. The project is run by Chabad emissaries in Sofia, Rabbi Yosef and Rabbit Tami Salomon.

“The project aims to provide a quality Jewish education, with a focus on Hebrew, tradition, and Jewish holidays, especially to those children who today are cut off from Jewish traditions because they come from secular families, live outside of Israel, and attend non-Jewish schools,” says Rav Joseph Salomon.“Our goal is to involve as many Jewish children as possible in kindergarten and primary school age. Sunday school meetings are especially popular, there are 25-35 regular participants.”

In addition to Jewish studies - traditions and Hebrew - kindergarten and Sunday school students learn Bulgarian and English, mathematics and the world around them, develop their creative abilities in art and rhythm classes, and regularly take swimming and ballet lessons, and go skiing in winter. The kindergarten employs professional teachers from Bulgaria, as well as trainee teachers from Israeli pedagogical colleges.

The collaboration of the project with the Yael Foundation began in early 2020. During this time, the Chai Center was opened in a picturesque location in the mountainous suburb of Sofia, in an area where many Israeli families live. The project increased the number of kindergarten students and made Sunday school a traditional and favorite place for spending time on Sundays for children and teenagers. It was of particular importance for children and adults that our activities did not stop even for a minute against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020-21.

About the community

The Chabad community center was established in Sofia 20 years ago. Its participants are not only members of the local Bulgarian Jewish community, but also Israelis who came to live and work in Bulgaria for several years or longer.

The history of the Jews of Bulgaria goes back more than 2 thousand years, which makes the local community one of the oldest in the world. Even before the destruction of the Second Temple in the 1st century AD. a community known as the Romaniotes, the Jews of the Roman Empire, was born.After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, groups of Spanish Jews arrived in Bulgaria, then part of Byzantium, and became part of the local community. After the fall of Byzantium, the settlement of the Romaniotes and exiles from Spain and Portugal became the Ottoman Empire, which looked favorably on the immigration of Jewish communities.