Building A Kehilah Kedosha Around the World

Wherever he goes, JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps (JSC) Fellow Dan Alpert helps cultivate Jewish life that is vibrant, diverse, and holy.

By Dan Alpert - JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps (JSC) Fellow; Budapest, Hungary | January 5, 2024

Dan Alpert (second from left) visits a local synagogue with members of the Mumbai Jewish community, including Nissim Pingle (far right), director of JDC's Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Center (EPJCC).

From India to Hungary, Dan Alpert — a JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps (JSC) fellow — has helped communities build vibrant Jewish life. At the core of Alpert’s commitment is the notion of a kehila kedosha (holy community): the idea that, when Jews come together to support each other, they create something truly sacred. In this reflection, Alpert takes a global view of kehila kedosha, noting JDC’s crucial role in cultivating a “holy community” for Jews everywhere.

Alpert (left) with Raziel, a member of Jewish Youth Pioneers (JYP), JDC’s program for young adults in India.

Just a few weeks ago, I sat in Pune, India, with friends I met at Szarvas, the JDC-Lauder international Jewish summer camp in rural Hungary. My friends, part of the Indian Jewish community, turned to me while we celebrated the start of Shabbat and asked if I had any songs from back home that I wanted to sing. I asked them if they had ever heard the Backstreet Boys version of “Adon Olam.” They hadn’t.

I taught them this fun, modern, camp-style version of a traditional Shabbat song that reminds me of my home and a community I grew up in, and in that moment, I felt a certain sense of pride in our global Jewish community.

As a JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps (JSC) Fellow in Budapest, I’ve had the chance to visit various Jewish communities around the world. In Budapest, I’m completing a second year of this fellowship, serving in an incredible Jewish community which I recently wrote about

While I was in India for vacation, I found myself surrounded by the impact of JDC and the local Jewish community — a connection and partnership that ensures the Jewish community of Mumbai and surrounding areas are able to thrive just as they have for hundreds of years.

The day I arrived in Mumbai, I went straight to JDC’s Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Center (EPJCC), where I met up with my good friend, Sharon Samuel. He recently wrote about the Indian Jewish community for the JDC Voices blog

Joining Sharon, I participated in the EPJCC’s Global Day of Jewish Learning event. With more than 50 people in attendance, we had the chance to explore themes such as gratitude and Jewish-community growth. I also had the chance to speak about the Jewish community of Budapest and share why this Global Day of Jewish Learning helps create a true worldwide community — connecting each of us through our own unique local programming.

Alpert (center) attends a wedding in Pune, India, with members of the Mumbai Jewish community.

Throughout the week, Sharon — a good friend and guide, and an even better Jewish communal professional — showed me the many synagogues of Mumbai, saying hello to each person he knew (which felt like everyone!). We also attended a Jewish-Indian wedding in Pune, where I was able to see how Jewish and Indian traditions are entwined in the beautiful wedding ceremony. It was a clear example of how Jewish life in India features a unique celebration and blend of culture and religion.

While exploring Jewish life in India, one thought kept coming back to me: In towns and cities across the world — no matter where you are — Jewish communities are creating a kehilah kedosha (holy community).

When I say kehila kedosha, I’m referring to the true and deep sense of community that I’ve seen across the world.

For example, it is the sense of unique community-building that I felt at Mriya, JDC’s respite camp for Ukraine’s Jews hosted at Szarvas. During the winter months, Jews from all across Ukraine found comfort and support at Hungary’s flagship Jewish summer camp, celebrating Judaism with pride in a dark time.

It’s a similar feeling I felt when I visited communities in Chișinău and Warsaw, where the local Jewish community centers (JCCs) provide services and programs for individuals of all ages.  

A kehila kedosha is something I’m grateful to help build during my time in Budapest. With more than 4,500 individuals engaged monthly in the work of JCC Budapest-Bálint Haz this past year, we create a community that is holy not just in its religious nature, but in cultural pride and communal appreciation of one another.

Each of these communities create kehila kedosha in the work they do each and every day — work that ensures a vibrant Jewish future. 

Having now arrived back in Budapest, I think back to sitting in that hotel room just a few weeks ago, teaching my friends a classic Shabbat song from American Jewish summer camps. I think of the feeling I had in that moment: pure joy. It brought me back to my own summer camp experience where I sat on old wooden benches singing Adom Olam in the Backstreet Boys version to conclude Shabbat services. Even to this day, the camp director and I call our camp community a kehila kedosha — not because of any religious aspect, but because of how the community makes each of us feel at home.

Each of these communities create kehila kedosha in the work they do each and every day — work that ensures a vibrant Jewish future.

While I was teaching that tune to my friends in India, I felt a deep sense of appreciation for the kehila kedosha that exists within the Mumbai Jewish community and an even deeper appreciation for the kehilah kedosha that is our global Jewish community.

Together, Jews are staying connected globally while creating their own holy communities, their own unique communities, their own kehilah kedosha — and that makes all the difference in ensuring the future of Jewish life around the world.  

Dan Alpert graduated in 2021 from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, where he received a Bachelor of Science in marketing and minors in Jewish Studies and International Development and Conflict Management. He then went to work in the Maryland General Assembly focused on labor and transportation policy for a State Delegate.

A second-year JDC Entwine Global Jewish Service Corps Fellow in Budapest, Hungary, Alpert now serves as a Global Engagements Coordinator at JCC Budapest.

JDC Entwine is grateful to the generous supporters of the Jewish Service Corps Fellowship; Pears Foundation, Sandler Family, Soref Foundation, the W and E Kahane Family Foundation, William Donner, and the Wolf family.

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