When you think of famous stars who forever changed music like Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, do you also think of the Babylonian Talmud? If not, after reading about the various Jewish activities that just happened at the “Rock, Reggae, and Rebellious Royals: The Rhythms of Jewish Life as Seen through the Rhythms of Popular Song” international youth seminar, from March 15-18, in Timisoara, Romania, you just might.
Bringing together 85 attendees aged 18-35 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Romania, which included 15 participants from across the United States, who are part of a JDC Entwine Insider trip in partnership with Columbia Hillel, this first-of-its-kind Shabbaton enabled young Jews to enjoy a music-filled journey with their peers. (Entwine is JDC’s growing movement for young Jewish leaders, influencers, and advocates looking to make a meaningful impact on global Jewish needs and international humanitarian issues.)
“We’ve learned so much on this trip about the Jewish culture in Eastern Europe and this opportunity gave us a chance to immerse ourselves in a shared experience of Jewish practice,” said Sam Sheldon, a JDC Entwine Insider trip participant and a freshman at Columbia University.
Kicking off the seminar, attendees created a list of their personal Ten Commandments, joined a guided tour of Timisoara, and eat a delicious traditional Romanian dinner held at the Jewish community’s Kosher Canteen.
Despite only 600 Jews living in Timisoara today (and about 8,000 Jews living throughout Romania), it is a vibrant Jewish community led by President Luciana Friedman, who is an active and inspiring Jewish leader, and led a presentation about JDC’s long history of work in Romania and its strong partnership with the Jewish community at the seminar.
“For our community, it is a great joy to host such an international event. It brings the spirit of joy or ‘young blood’ to the veins of this community. The core value for us, I think, that we have a feeling of family, no matter from where we are,” said Luciana Friedman.
Rabbi David Levin-Kruss, director of Jewish education for JDC in Europe, was also on hand at the Shabbaton as he spoke about how to appreciate time through analyzing popular tunes including “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan and “If It Be Your Will” by Leonard Cohen.
“For the participants from the U.S., this seminar was an enrichment of their Jewish life, while for young people living in Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, this is their Jewish life and their chance to meet other young Jews to share meaningful conversations with,” said Rabbi David Levin-Kruss.
Additionally, a session “to feed the soul,” included home visits in the region where participants visited 18 vulnerable elderly Jews to combat loneliness and bring them food, an activity that underlines the Jewish saying Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, meaning all Jews are responsible for each other and should help the less fortunate.
Singing traditional Shabbat songs, arts and crafts activities, and challah-making were planned as well.
A Passover workshop, also led by Rabbi Levin-Kruss, highlighted the famous Bob Marley tune, “Exodus,” and “Go Down Moses,” a traditional spiritual hymn, and a group discussion on the songs “Samson” by Regina Spektor and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” were also scheduled.
“Even though at the beginning I was a bit skeptical about it, now I am very happy I came here as it was an awesome event, and it made me feel highly motivated to be even more involved at a regional level, as well and attend further events of this sort,” said Lara Soljom, an attendee from Serbia, a Jewish community with about 2,500 Jews.
A Motzei Shabbat Party, complete with singing, dancing, and a Havdalah ceremony in the city closed out the seminar.
This global youth seminar’s unique theme, mixed with Jewish traditions, customs, and a special Shabbat, was surely intriguing for all.