Matúš Horvatovič travels back and forth from his hometown of Bratislava, Slovakia to Brno, Czech Republic where he studies international relations at Masaryk University. You can find him working on behalf of the Jewish youth in Slovakia and enjoying student life in Brno. Matúš’s idea to bring the Shabbat experience to young people in small communities in Slovakia was recently chosen to receive a $1,000 #MakeItHappen micro grant!
#MakeItHappen asked young Jews from around the world to submit ideas for what they would do to create a meaningful experience in their Jewish communities. With the support of several community partners, more than 150 ideas were selected to receive a $1k or $5k micro grant to help them go from dream to reality!
Describe your #MakeItHappen project idea and how it came to life.
My project was to bring Shabbat to small communities in Slovakia. The very few Jews who remain in small towns across Slovakia have almost no connection to Judaism and communities there are almost extinct. Without Jewish outreach they will face a sad future.
With this in mind, I organized a traditional Shabbat dinner to show young people in the Galanta community what it's like to celebrate with peers from Bratislava. The next day, my new friends took us for a tour of the town and we spent the evening together at a bowling alley. We wrapped up our Shabbat weekend together with lunch at an Israeli-style restaurant.
What was your favorite moment from your #MakeItHappen event?
My favorite moment was when we were leaving on Sunday with smiles on our lips. People from two different communities were able to form friendships in just one weekend. It was so satisfying to see young people with almost no connection to Jewish traditions really enjoy a taste of Shabbat and hopefully I inspired them to continue. Creating a network of young Jewish activists is crucial to supporting Jewish life. I have seen many potential future leaders and therefore I am not afraid of the future of their communities or of their Jewish identities. My project was just a small step which pushed them forward and I hope we will share similar moments again.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting your idea into action and how did you overcome this?
Basically, there were no major problems because I have experience with organizing events like this. As usual, it is quite hard to convince people that participating is a good idea and that it is worthwhile to attend. Not everybody is able to have a whole weekend free for this kind of activity. Therefore, I had to put in extra effort to bring people from Bratislava to a small community in Galanta. I started a campaign on social media, talked to them personally about benefits for them and also for the young people they would meet who hadn't had much luck with Jewish activities in the past. On the other hand, young people from Galanta were very happy about this event and were asking me even before I published it if they could participate.
If you could plan a follow up event, what would it look like and why?
I would like to plan another weekend for participants from Bratislava with a different community. In Slovakia, there are many communities in a similar situation as in Galanta -- very few members, almost no Jewish connection. Many communities need support from a big community in which I and my friends who attended the weekend in Galanta are members. It is our duty to help our peers from communities all around Slovakia. Additionally, for the members of all small communities, I would like to organize a seminar where we will meet up again and participate in different workshops, lectures and discussions. We could also visit Jewish monuments in the area.
What does your future hold?
As of now, I study international relations. I would like to continue in this field after finishing my studies. It offers a great variety of jobs in which I can use my skills I learned leading the Jewish youth organization. Moreover, I would like to continue to be active in the Jewish community and, ideally, my future will be connected with work in the Jewish community and reviving Jewish life in Slovakia. Many young Jewish people leave Slovakia to countries where there is a better Jewish life. If everybody leaves who remains here? In my opinion, leaving for this reason is not an option and instead I would like to help here, so that people would like to stay. Read more about Matúš’s project here!
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.