From the CEO: In Europe, JDC Prepares for the Future

The cities of Lisbon and Madrid are separated by about 300 miles, a distance similar to New York and Boston or New York and Washington, DC.

July 17, 2015

The cities of Lisbon and Madrid are separated by about 300 miles, a distance similar to New York and Boston or New York and Washington, DC.

Yet despite their relative proximity, the leaders of their respective Jewish communities had never met until last month at our special Jewish resilience conference in Barcelona.

The two leaders were among more than 100 prominent European Jewish leaders, academics, and activists who came from all over the continent to the two-day event to learn ways to deal with growing insecurity and rising anti-Semitism, economic instability, and political volatility — matters of grave concern to Europe’s Jews today.

Jewish communities are deeply shaken by the fatal shootings at a kosher store in Paris and a synagogue in Copenhagen that took place earlier this year. Coupled with the ongoing euro-zone crisis, Jewish cooperation and preparedness in Europe is more important than ever.

In response, we at JDC — in cooperation with our esteemed partners at the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC) — have brought European Jews together so that they can examine the latest geopolitical realities, partake in a series of workshops bolstering resilience and security, and build closer working relationships.

To ensure the success of this conference, we convened experts including social psychologist David Gidron — who has worked with JDC around the world — to discuss crisis communication; Taly Levanon of the Israeli Trauma Coalition discussed pyscho-social trauma; and several teams of Israeli security experts gave advice on how to manage crowds, and prevent terror attacks.

The resounding message heard at the gathering underscored the reality that the vast majority are of European Jews are staying and committed to safeguarding their communities and their place in European society. Italian Jewish historian Diana Pinto, political scientist Dominique Moisi, and Rabbi Michael Melchior (pictured above, left, with Pinto) were among those who vociferously argued European Jews are building a bright future.

‘Nowhere is completely free of fear, neither Israel nor Europe’ Melchior, who is the chief rabbi of Norway and a former Israeli minister, was quoted as saying by . ‘We can’t pick ourselves up thinking everyone is a potential terrorist.’

Other participants at the gathering included the President of the British Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush; President of the Jewish Community of Rome, Ruth Dureghello; Director of the JCC in Latvia, Inna Lapidus; Vice President of the Reform movement in France, Patrick Schein, and many more.

Other participants at the gathering, extensively covered by , included the President of the British Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush; President of the Jewish Community of Rome, Ruth Dureghello; Director of the JCC in Latvia, Inna Lapidus; Vice President of the Reform movement in France, Patrick Schein, and many more.

Of course, the event in Barcelona is just one of many ways JDC is cultivating resilience and preparedness among European Jews. Our work mitigating the impact of financial crises in Greece, Bulgaria, and the Baltics on its Jews have been bulwarks against an economic roller coaster still in motion. And our creation and support of JCCs, Jewish street festivals, educational events, family retreats and summer programs, and leadership training seminars have secured confident communities, and Jews with strong, positive identities, who can bravely and resolutely stand in the face of hate.

Such strong leadership was evident with a JDC Board mission to Paris and Budapest led by Amy Bressman, the Chair of JDC’s Europe Committee. During the trip, Board members were introduced to the realities of Jewish life in Europe, speaking to European Jewish leadership of all ages and in all positions, and seeing JDC’s current efforts in action. Without a doubt, their time singing and dancing — celebrating Jewish life — at the JDC-Lauder International Jewish Summer Camp at Szarvas will stay with them for years to come. Indeed, the fact that we have added a fourth session to the camp this summer to accommodate more than 2,000 Jewish campers and counselors, the majority from Europe, speaks volumes of the critical need for all JDC does in Europe today. This experience was just given voice in an by the camp’s director Sasha Friedman.

I’m proud that JDC is engaging in this vital work, taking a leadership role at a critical juncture in European history and countering a destructive narrative of fear and flight. By utilizing our long-forged expertise from around the world and adapting those models of success, we are deploying a JDC that offers first-class solutions for a Jewish world facing increasing challenges.

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