In Changing Europe, Focusing On the Next Generation

November 10, 2015


For Natalia Assa, a young Bulgarian Jew living in Austria, the decision to attend the OpportUNITY conference was easy — she trusts JDC.

“JDC gets people to know, inspire, and network with each other,” said Assa, who is involved with Jüdische Österreichische Studenten, the Austrian Jewish student union. “It develops leadership skills, which we then spread in our communities back home. It inspires people, and sometimes that’s all we need — because as leaders, we’re able to make dreams and ideas come true!”

Assa was one of dozens of emerging European Jewish leaders to attend OpportUNITY, held in Barcelona last month as a collaboration between JDC, the Schusterman Family Foundation (as part of the YESOD collaboration among Schusterman, JDC and the Rothschild Foundation), and the ROI Community (as part of its Connection Point initiative).

Over the course of three days in the Spanish metropolis, young European Jews met with coaches to bolster their leadership skills and participated in forums like “BRAND YOU: Build a Powerful Personal Brand” and “Dream, Inspire, and Contribute to Your Community.”

Lela Sadikario, JDC’s program director in Europe, said the conference is valuable because it tapped into JDC’s existing Junction network of European Jewish entrepreneurs to provide a meaningful space for self-reflection for the next generation of Jewish leaders.

“OpportUNITY provided a space for young people to explore their goals, aspirations, and skill sets, and evaluate where these fit into to their individual professional journeys,” she said. “By providing this space for honest self-reflection, OpportUNITY also encouraged participants to examine the connection between themselves and their Jewish communities.”

David Csillik is a member of the Youth Council of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary and a madrich (counselor) at Szarvas, JDC and the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation’s pioneering international Jewish summer camp.

He said the conference helped him view how his career might unfold in a Jewish context, with Jewish values.

“JDC brings in new methods, programs, and experts to build community. Their assistance is essential in Europe if we’re going to have strong communities,” he said. “It is really great both personally and professionally to be involved in this huge and vital network.”

For Sadikario, events like OpportUNITY are exciting because they’re a glimpse into the future, a charge to the next generation to create and reinforce vibrant Jewish communities all over Europe.

“I am excited to see the next generation of European Jewish leaders moving toward a reshaping of traditional communities as we know them into new, innovative, and relevant models of community life,” she said. “In the future, I would like to see small grassroots initiatives, or simply communities of like-minded young Jews, that meet and work together to seek ways they can accelerate their personal and professional lives, both in a Jewish frame and with a wider awareness of global Jewish life.”

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