JCC Global Newsletter | April, 2016
May 15- 22, 2016-JCC Global will lead a worldwide delegation to the JCC Association Biennial Conference in Baltimore, followed by a study seminar to the Jewish Community and JCC of Greater Washington
JCC leaders from Argentina, Bulgaria, Estonia, Israel, Mexico, Paraguay, Poland, Spain and Ukraine will be attending the JCC Association Biennial Conference as part of the JCC Global overseas delegation. Known to be the largest gathering of JCCs in North America, the conference will allow visiting leaders to learn best practices from leading JCCs and at the same time Biennial delegates will be able to open a window to Jewish life in overseas communities.
Following the conference, some of the delegates will participate in a study seminar to the Jewish Community and JCC of Greater Washington. Michael Feinstein, CEO and JCC Global Amitim-Fellow designed a program filled with learning and networking opportunities that will allow delegates to get to know in depth one of the leading Jewish communities in North America.
As part of an ongoing effort to analyze and evaluate the work of JCC Global, Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz has published the third evaluation report of Amitim-Fellows – A Global Leadership Network program. We welcome you to read the report and encourage you to send us your comments and observations. This report, along with numerous discussions and consultations, will help JCC Global’s future planning.
Known as the “heart of South America”, Paraguay is nestled between Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. In a rather small Jewish community of some 1000 Jews, Union Hebraica del Paraguay- the JCC of Paraguay recently celebrated 95 years of existence.
History: The first Jews came to Paraguay from Europe towards the end of the 19th century followed by a few families that emigrated from Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century. The second wave of immigration was in the 1920’s when Jews from Ukraine and Poland arrived and it was then that Jewish institutions were built. Between 1933 and 1939, some 20,000 Jews from Europe took advantage of Paraguay’s liberal immigration laws to escape Nazi occupied countries. Most of them used Paraguay as stepping stones to move to other countries in the continent. After World War II, a last group of immigrants, mostly survivors, arrived. Throughout the years, Jews left to neighboring countries and some made Aliya to Israel in the 80’s.
The community supports a Jewish school named, “Colegio Estado de Israel (Jewish Day School State of Israel)” at which Hebrew and Jewish studies are taught in addition to the Paraguayan curriculum. About 55% of the school population is Jewish. In addition there are a community synagogue (located at the JCC) affiliated to the Conservative Movement and Chabad.
Union Hebraica del Paraguay focuses its activists on sports and culture as well as religious programs. Many activates take place every weekend and specially around holidays. There are programs serving various age groups and seniors as well.
We spoke with Mariano Mirelman, the Executive Director of Hebraica/JCC. He identified some of their strengths and challenges. “Since it’s a small community, there aren’t many options for Jewish life and therefore the membership rate is quite high (85%), but our facilities are too old, so some of them are not coming to the JCC. There is also a strong sense of familiarity and comradery. It is a small and warm community. At the same time the community faces some challenges:
Jewish continuity – As a small community (200 families) with high intermarriage rates, it is very important to continue and strengthen Jewish education.
Because of immigration there is a leadership gap in the community. There is a need to train and cultivate the younger generation of Jewish leaders and attract them to the community.
It is also important to strengthen the relationship to Israel and its people for all community members.”
Mariano attended the 9th World Conference of JCCs and will also join the JCC Global delegation to the JCCA Biennial. He is looking to partner with Jewish communities so that they feel more connected to the Jewish world and less isolated. Mariano is also looking for new ways to bring the Jewish spirit and Israel to their small yet vibrant Jewish community.
Union Hebraica del Paraguay is an affiliate of CLAM- Confederation of Latin American Maccabi Clubs, Maccabi World Union and JCC Global
L’Alliance Media Teen Passover greetings
How to overcome misconceptions regarding Jewish communities in different parts of the world? Teens from Khmelnitsky Welfare Fund “Hesed Besht,” Khmelnitsky, Ukraine | Centre Culturel et Communautaire Jérôme Cahen (CCJC), Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, France | Sid Jacobson JCC, East Hills, NY, USA | Beit Hakerem Community Center, Jerusalem, Israel, all part of the L’Alliance Media Teen Amitim-Fellows joint project, are trying to answer this question by developing a media project.
The teens, who met in Israel in December, grappled with this topic and in addition to group discussions gathered media materials in order to prepare a short movie. The movie will present the contrast between their images of Israel prior to their seminar versus the reality they encountered. Their hope is to develop short films on each of the partner communities. These movies will help build bridges among various communities.
For Passover, the teens decided to greet each other not by sending a mere email message, but to sit down and write a personal letter to their peers in one of the partner communities (partners are chosen by a lottery.) In this letter, they are going to describe their Passover holiday at home, how they celebrate it, what are their customs and traditions, what they plan to do during their vacation and any other thought or feeling they would like to convey to their peers. This letter, along with a personal holiday greeting is part of the project’s on-going effort to help the teens from the four different communities to get to know one another. Another initiative, is that of Global MekoRock where participating teens from Venezuela, Moldova and Emek Hefer attended a pre Passover video conferencing session. The teens greeted each other, sang Passover songs together and welcomed the holiday as a group. These ideas could be easily replicated and we will be glad to hear how you connected with another Jewish community during Passover.
Hassidic rabbis teach us that going out of Egypt is not only a one time historical event, but rather an ongoing process that takes place within ourselves all the time. We are advised to remember the hardships that we encounter and wish to overcome them. In these trying times, we hope you can bring this message of hope to your Passover table. With best wishes for a Happy Passover!