Connecting the European and North American Jewish Communities

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By Andrea Kasper, winner of the 2011 Jewish Futures Competition. With the help of an ROI Micro Grant, Andrea attended the Shifting Thought Shifting Action conference in Berlin in February 2013.  

Attending Shifting Thought Shifting Action in Berlin in February 2013 was a transforming experience in several fundamental ways.  While I have been straddling both the European and North American Communities, I have been much more involved in the North American.  The opportunity to listen to and learn from so many young Jewish European leaders was inspiring and illuminating. As a community we all left feeling that the state of European Jewry is strong and in good hands.  This lesson allowed me to reflect on the American Jewish community which, I believe, is in the same healthy state.  In the US we have become so focused on the numbers and continuity and over and again it was clear that we all found this focus to be misplaced and even frustrating.  The sense among many of us was that it was time to focus on who is there and not only on who isn’t.

As a North American it also became clear to me that the North American Jewish community needs to begin developing relationships with European Jewish communities that are not predicated on old notions of charity. I heard these leaders of Jewish communities say clearly that they are not just survivors of the Holocaust that their communities are old and rich and while small they are growing. These communities, some that number less than 10 were not despairing at these numbers; they saw themselves as growing and learning.  What remained frustrating for so many was the lack of funds they could receive to help them fund small communities which are just as important as the big communities.

As a result of this meeting I have developed several relationships for future collaboration in Jewish education and I hope to work with the community in Sweden to help support the development of informal Jewish educators. Furthermore, the idea of connecting Jewish day schools in North American to Europe remains a goal for me and as I prepare to return to the US and work within a school I plan on pursuing this end. Already, I have begun work with several collaborators across the US to develop the idea of building min-media-labs (per MIT) and to connect interested schools within the global Jewish community to meet this goal.