Celebrating Transformative Educational Seminars in Romania

Celebrating Transformative Educational Seminars in Romania

They gathered together at the Great Synagogue of Bucharest, 350 Jews from 31 communities around Romania braving slush and rain to pay tribute to the 10th session of Bereshit, a JDC-sponsored weekend of Jewish learning and text study.

Though this year’s event was held in the capital city, years of staging the seminar in various communities around Romania created a strong and powerful Bereshit community – “Bereshit-branded friendships and inside jokes, full of heartwarming stories and history.”

The first plenary session was conducted by Rabbi Joseph Schonwald of the Rochlin Foundation, commanding an audience spilling out of the Choral Temple sanctuary. He spoke about Jewish identity and anti-Semitism, togetherness, and resilience. The first day’s program concluded with a dinner party in the synagogue, with Bucharest’s klezmer band playing popular Jewish tunes for an enthusiastic congregation.
But Bereshit isn’t just about the party – it’s about in-depth Jewish learning that is the foundation of Jewish tradition, and which for four decades was denied to Romania’s Jewish community. Bereshit educates local Jewish leaders and community members in the fundamentals of Judaism, including Torah and oral tradition. The initiative provides a pluralistic solution for Jewish adults seeking access to Jewish educational resources, values, and personalities, offering courses taught by renowned Jewish Studies professors from Israel and Europe.

On Friday, professors lectured on five different topics, discussing Moses, religion, science, kabbalah, and even Carlebach to an audience thirsty for knowledge. Though the lecturers are all volunteers, their performance is engrossing and professional. For the 10th anniversary celebration, the featured speakers were selected by a vote of attendees’ favorite lecturers from previous Bereshit learning fests.
Bereshit is coordinated by JDC, in collaboration with the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania, the Bucharest JCC, and the Jewish community of Bucharest.

Bereshit celebrated its birthday with a bang, and as is the seminar’s tradition, save-the-date fliers for the next session were distributed before attendees left town. The 11th installment of this landmark learning experience for the Romanian Jewish community will take place in Constanta, September 17-20, bringing this meaningful program to the shores of the Black Sea.