The Indiana Heritage School/Multicultural Education Center, formerly the Russian School of Indiana, said the change better reflects the organization.
CARMEL, Ind. – Indiana’s Russian School, which for decades operated as a language school, has dropped all ties to the country of its official name in a show of solidarity with Ukraine as the war continues this summer.
The school will now be called The Heritage School/Multicultural Education Center of Indiana. School officials said the name change was part of a larger effort to show solidarity with Ukraine and would better reflect the lives of the multicultural families who attend the school.
“It’s not fair to our students and teachers who come from different cultural backgrounds. Some of them are Ukrainians, and it could be very tricky for them to be associated with a Russian school,” Irina said. Yoshida, a school administrator who teaches drama science and labs.
The decision to rename the school was one that school officials said they had already considered and did not take lightly, even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We felt like the name no longer represented who we are. And that’s been going on for a while. We felt like it’s a brand name but it doesn’t represent our mission,” said Natalia Rekhter, who is the chef. executive director of the new Heritage School/Multicultural Education Center of Indiana.
The school largely tried to steer clear of commentary on larger geopolitical conflicts or wars, Rekhter said, and focused on education programs intended to serve immigrant communities settling in Indiana, mostly from former Soviet republics like Belarus, Moldova, and Russia.
But when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, administrators felt morally compelled to speed up that name change process.
“The situation, the war, changed everything. Because all of a sudden the name can not only distort who we are, but also distort our relationship with community members,” Rekhter said.
Rekhter published an op-ed about the name change in the Current in Carmel newspaper and said the organization has received great support from the community in response.
“We feel morally obligated to express our vehement objection to the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. We stand with the people of Ukraine against Russian President Vladimir Putin, his regime and the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army,” Rekhter wrote in the article. .
The Indiana Heritage School was founded in 1993 by a group of Russian-speaking immigrants. The Weisburd, Pekar and Kleyman families were Jewish refugees who fled persecution in the former Soviet Union and feared their children would feel disconnected from Russian culture living in the United States.
In collaboration with the Jewish Community Center, these families have started to organize language classes every Sunday to connect them to the culture. The organization grew over the years and moved to Carmel University High School.
Throughout this time, the community around the world has been fostered within the walls of the school and it continues to offer classes every Sunday. About half of the classes welcome children from homes where Russian is mainly spoken, but the students come from countries such as Canada, China or India.
The name change comes as several organizations across the country struggle to reconcile their Russian roots or influences amid the country’s ongoing war in Ukraine. Chicago’s Russian Tea Time restaurant reportedly considered dropping Russia from the name. A New York restaurant owner, who originally referred to her restaurant as Russian because she felt it would be more recognizable to Americans, changed the name to Ukrainian to accurately reflect her roots.
“We weren’t among the first because we wanted feedback from the community. We wanted to know from the community whether or not what we were doing was the right thing to do, even if we felt it was the right thing to do,” Rekhter said.
While heritage school officials have changed the name to better reflect the communities, they do not, Rekhter said, denounce their Russian heritage.
“The actions do not represent who all Russian citizens are. I would like people to remember this when they think of Russia and what is happening there. At the same time, unfortunately, the war is not not finished yet. I hope it will happen soon, but Ukraine will need a lot of help to rebuild the country,” Rekhter said.
RELATED: Ukraine: Kyiv attack was Putin’s ‘middle finger’ at UN
A name change isn’t the only way the nonprofit has said it’s supporting Ukraine. The Heritage School also offers free English classes for Ukrainian refugees in Indiana. The non-profit organization has worked closely with Indiana Supports Ukraine to provide basic necessities to people on the ground in Poland who have fled the country.
Watching the war unfold from Indiana hurt Russian and Ukrainian families affiliated with the school, said Richter, whose cultures had been intertwined for decades.
“It’s so painful. It’s so close to home. So of course we will support Ukraine. We will try to do everything we can,” Rekhter said.