Research "You are to teach these words carefully to your children"

Dr. Khatuna Mstoiani on her doctoral thesis on the educational path of young Russian-speaking Jewish women and men

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Dr. Khatuna Mstoiani, you studied social work at the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences and graduated with a master's degree. What were the reasons for you to write a doctoral thesis afterwards?

I'll answer this question with a nice saying by Albert Einstein, which also expresses my desire to do a PhD: "I have no special talent, I'm just passionately curious."


Approximately how long did it take you?

I started the PhD in June 2018 and I had the disputation on October 11, 2022.


Your work is about the educational path of Russian-speaking Jews whose parents immigrated to Germany in the 1990s. What are the most important findings of this study for you personally?

The educational success of young Russian-speaking Jews can be seen as an interplay of several factors. One of them is the social framework that created opportunities for the young people within which they could move. The favorable family resources of the parents and the environment in which they were socialized also contributed to their success on the educational path.

Another finding of the research has shown that biographers must go to secular society to succeed in their educational journey. There, they experience exceedingly strong anti-Semitism and are defenseless against it.

Furthermore, the case reconstruction of the empirical data showed that heterogeneous educational paths exist for young Russian-speaking Jews to reach their educational goal.

In this context, their parents play a significant role, as they have a certain idea for their children's educational path. These ideas are connected with the recommendation for certain professions, which should determine the educational path of the biographers. In addition, parents provide their children with all their resources, whether economic, social or cultural.

They give their children an educational mandate to find a way up in German society. The children, for their part, accept this mandate, albeit with minimal modifications. In the course of their education, they act as active shapers of their biography.


"You are to teach these words carefully to your children" is a quote from the book of Deuteronomy. How exactly did you come up with this title for your book?

The subject of education looks back on a long Jewish tradition.

Parents are obligated to pass on the words of the Torah to their children and teach them. The word 'inculcate' can also be translated as 'to say repeatedly' and 'to memorize.' Fathers, in particular, took a significant role in the education of their children. Unlike the peoples of their time, education was not reserved only for a higher class. Access to education was open to all levels of society, including women, which was a great achievement of the time.

The parents should play a role model function for their children in religious respect. They should first internalize these words themselves and then pass them on to their children. While this statement of the Torah pertains to religious education, it can likewise be applied to other areas of children's lives. Parents are part of their children's educational journey, serving as role models on the one hand and accompanying them on the educational path on the other.

They have been drawing their spiritual potential from the Book of Torah for over 3000 years. Exactly where this statement is written: "You are to teach these words carefully to your children".


In your book, you repeatedly come up with anti-Semitism that the people you interviewed were exposed to. How did these people experience this and how did they deal with it?

In secular society, they experience very strong anti-Semitism and are at the mercy of it without protection. For all interviewees, this experience was made at school, a place where they should experience protection. They confronted this hostility in different ways and developed different strategies for action. Some biographers consciously deal with it on an intellectual level, while others try not to look and ignore it.


They are in born and raised in a Yezidi family in Georgia and baptized Christian. It is highly probable that they have you have had to deal with quite a bit of stereotyping in the course of your own migration. Which ones did you experience on your educational path in Germany?

I can remember my very first school in Germany. We wrote a class assignment, and unfortunately I couldn't really solve a task because I hadn't understood the meaning of a word. When I asked her to explain the word to me, the teacher commented that if I didn't know German, I should stay home. I still haven't forgotten this sentence after 20 years.

If I recount all the encounters I have had in almost 21 years of living in Germany, the pages of the magazine will not be enough ...


Looking back, what would you say was the greatest support for you in your doctoral work?

A very important support for this work was the funding that was made possible for me through a Saxony5 transfer scholarship. I also drew spiritual support and motivation from the Torah.


Thank you for your time and your answers.

The interview was conducted by Holger Braun.


The book "You are to teach these words carefully to your children: Biographical Perspectives and Experiences on the Educational Path of Young Russian-Speaking Jews in Germany" by Khatuna Mstoiani is available for purchase online at


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