Making Meaningful Connections in Houston

Ukrainian and Hungarian Jews, Israelis, and American Jewish leaders converged on Houston for the first-ever Global Symposium in Texas, organized by JDC and the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston on November 1.

November 3, 2015

photo: Jen Berman/JDC

Ukrainian and Hungarian Jews, Israelis, and American Jewish leaders converged on Houston for the first-ever Global Symposium in Texas, organized by JDC and the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston on November 1.

Well over 100 community members gathered together, joined by people from as far as New Orleans and Dallas. JDC Board member Martha Freedman and Robin Stein co-chaired the event, and leaders from Houston and beyond — like JDC’s President-elect Stan Rabin, Beth Osher del Pico, Carol Goldberg, Debra Cohen, Buzzy Bluestone, and JDC Entwine leader Eric Barvin — presented movingly about their own meaningful interactions with Jews and JDC work around the world.

The day began with a conversation between Alan Gill, JDC’s Executive Vice President and CEO, and Lee Wunsch, Executive Director of the Houston Federation, about challenges facing Jews around the world. Wunsch presented Gill with a surprise gift in recognition of his outstanding service to the Jewish people.

Masha Shumyatsky, a small-framed young woman from Eastern Ukraine, brought the discussion home with her personal story of wartime displacement, with her own astounding activism with peers aimed to help elderly Jews in Ukraine even less fortunate, and finally with her impassioned thank you to American Jews who are not leaving her alone in this struggle.

Jutka Lubeck similarly wowed the audience with her courageous story of building Jewish community in her hometown of Budapest and beyond through her work at the JDC/Ronald S. Lauder Foundation international Jewish summer camp at Szarvas, perhaps the greatest single symbol of hope and generational change in Europe today. Some people say she is naive, Jutka said, but this is the first time in generations Jews can be proud and are able to build on a real foundation — and she and her friends and JDC colleagues are seizing this opportunity.

JDC’s Asher Ostrin echoed and expanded the theme, speaking about an historic moment when Jewish history and fate is in our hands together — including in Houston.

Why would we turn our backs now?

Rebecca Neuwirth is the Director of Strategic Engagement and a Senior Development Officer at JDC.

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