OpportUNITY: A New Sense of Optimism

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Anna Nosková is a journalist, founder of a niche website about fashion and books (www.fashionbook.cz) and also acts as a creative and media consultant. She loves coaching and psychology. Although she finished her masters degree some time ago, she started to study again this year. She is now taking classes in the field of diplomacy: she completed a seminar for young Jewish leaders at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem and since September, she has been studying at the Diplomatic Academy in Prague. Besides her family, Anna loves her little chihuahua, Emil, and is trying to become less addicted to her phone.

Anna recently participated in Schusterman Connection Point: OpportUNITY in Barcelona, Spain. As part of  the Yesod collaboration among JDC, the Rothschild Foundation and Schusterman, the three-day gathering brought together young European Jews to network and learn together and discuss ways they could be catalysts for change in their home communities.

Sometimes it’s hard to smile these days. Forget having a busy life and searching for work-life balance, we Jews have always had a reason to worry. Can you argue with history? I am part of the third post-Shoa generation. I was born and grew up in socialistic and then post-socialistic Europe, being Jewish was always an issue. The identity came with a lot of fear.

"Don’t tell anybody!”, whispered my grand-parents, the survivors. "Are you a meshugeh?,” commented my parents on my brand new Magen David necklace which I proudly wore around my neck.

I was striving to express my Jewish identity. I wanted to feel free and inspired, united with my people but still with a sense of my own  individuality. Still, I can recall that during my teenage years I was terribly shy so I anxiously refused my parents when they offered to send me to a Jewish youth camp.

Years passed by, and as an adult I decided to stop claiming that I could be a better Jew in the States or Israel, or anywhere with a bigger community. I decided to fight for my own yidishkeit. In 2014 I traveled to "Junction Paris," the first Jewish event I ever attended abroad. I celebrated my 30th birthday there with complete strangers who are now my friends. I will never forget those days nor those that I recently spent at OpportUNITY. They are forever printed on my soul.

As I mentioned in the beginning, it's hard to smile, especially these days. I arrived in Barcelona full of thoughts about my family and friends in Israel, about their safety in these hard days, about what the future of Europe will look like…and, only three days later, I left feeling very optimistic. I will explain why.

I had an amazing time with people who quickly turned into family. We forgot about our busy lives, worries or preconceptions. As I've learned, when you join a coaching program, as a coach or as a coachee, you have to take off the mask you usually use to hide your flaws.

Speaking of which, the coaching training surfaced so many new aspects of my character. I tend to be a very dynamic speaker, often full of ideas and quite impatient. But the training showed me the beauty of listening and compassion. After hearing feedback from my coachees, I understood how effective a good listener could be.

It sounds like a cliché but nothing is a cliché when it’s happening to you. I never met so many interesting people willing to share their successes but also their fears. When I reflect back I see that we had the key elements needed to create a great atmosphere: trust and complete honesty with each other.

The work of the OpportUNITY team was a real mitzvah: different people from completely different backgrounds, families and communities, each with their own story, trusted, worked and had so much fun together.

After participating in OpportUNITY, I believe we are capable of a better world. Despite all of the circumstances the Jewish community faces, we stand united, brave and inspired.

As my fellow coach Vito said on the last day, "we arrived with thoughts and we leave with love."

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.