When the largest Russian library outside of the former Soviet Union (FSU), which is also the most popular of Jerusalem’s 25 public libraries, was in danger of closing, SHATIL’s Assistance to Immigrants from the FSU program staff went into high gear. Recruiting assistance from SHATIL lobby and media experts, the staff partnered with FSU immigrant organizations to convince the municipality to keep the library open. But the building behind the Central Bus Station that had housed the four-story library was already sold with no suitable alternation location secured. After an intensive campaign that made headlines and unrelenting pressure by organizations, activists, and Knesset and Jerusalem city council members, including mayoral hopeful Nir Barkat, the municipality found the library an alternative home in the center of town.
SHATIL sees this successful campaign as the opening salvo of a wider struggle for the cultural rights of the Russian-speaking population in the country as a whole.
Russian library director Clara Elbert
“Russian Jewry didn’t bring out gold when it left Russia,” Dina Kazhdan of SHATIL’s Assistance to Immigrants from the FSU project said in an article in the Jerusalem Post. ”It brought its libraries.”
Just before a major NIF-sponsored demonstration was about to take place, the municipality announced it had found an alternative space for the library in Jerusalem’s Clal Center downtown. SHATIL FSU staff attended the signing of the contract and called off the demonstration.
“The success of this campaign and the widespread participation in it demonstrated that the “right to culture” is important not only to the Russian-speaking population in Jerusalem but to Israeli society as a whole,” said Ilana Litvak, a SHATIL FSU project staffer.