JCC Global Newsletter | April, 2017
Please save these dates in your calendars: Sunday, November 5- Thursday, November 9, 2017.
As recruitment efforts for Amitim1.0–Fellows – A Global Leadership Network are taking place all over the world, plans for the initial face to face gathering of the program are underway. For five days, the Amitim2.0-Fellow and JCC Global board members and sponsors will gather in New York in order to create a global network of peers whereby they will get to know each other and better understand the state of world Jewry today. During the 5 day program, they will be able to find partners and tailor made programs for future global collaboration between JCCs. The Amitim1.0-Fellows who have just completed working on innovative global programs for the past three years will attend both as participants and mentors.
A Global Steering Committee is charged with spearheading the program. Currently the committee is involved in recruitment, reviewing applications and developing the program for the conference. There is still room for JCCs to join and you are welcome to circulate the relevant information to your local JCC and the JCCs in your region. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect with peers from the four corners of the world who share a passion for informal Jewish education and the resilience of the Jewish people.
Conference will take place at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Tarrytown, New York
As the third largest Jewish community in Europe today, the German Jewish community is a model for community building and problem solving. Until some 20 years ago there were only 20,000 Jews living in post-World War II Germany. That drastically changed when immigration from the Former Soviet Union was welcomed by the German authorities. As the fastest growing Jewish community in Europe it welcomed some 200,000 Jews, out of which 120,000 are registered members. The Jews in Germany are dispersed in more than a 100 (!) communities and many of the them don’t have enough people and resources to create programs on their own. Therefore, the work of ZWST as a central body is crucial for sustaining Jewish life. ZWST organizes statewide camps, seminars, trips and services where Jews, from smaller and larger communities across Germany, come together. Another interesting fact is that in Germany, there is a state tax for citizens who adhere to a certain religion. Hence, there is a steady source of income for the Jewish community and there are also very close ties with the administration in various states and with government bodies as well. This enables an impressive basket of services and high level of professionalism across all segments of the community. Seminar delegates had the opportunity to meet with staff members and lay leaders from various communities in Germany and understand the work that they do. An entire day was dedicated to the Jewish Community of Frankfurt. The delegates visited the Jewish school, the Jewish home for the aged and the headquarters of the Jewish community and the JCC. High level professionalism and attention to detail characterize the work of ZWST in Frankfurt. As one of the largest Jewish communities in Germany (8000 Jews,) many services and programs are offered to the members of the community. Recognizing that most of the Jews in Germany come from the FSU, the entire work is culturally sensitive and gives much attention to FSU Jewry cultural norms.
The location of the seminar, in the Bad Sobernheim retreat center some 40 KM form Frankfurt, was an example of how ZWST organizes country wide programs. In conjunction with our seminar, there was a leadership seminar for young leaders from all across Germany and a seminar for Israeli dance instructors. The retreat center was busy with seminars and delegations and it was apparent that it serves as a focal point for the community. The seminar opened up several opportunities for collaboration with ZWST and the German Jewish community as it was felt that there is room for peer learning and joint programming. Several members of the delegation invited ZWST senior staff to visit their communities and several members want to bring their senior staff and lay leaders back to Germany. Perhaps the most moving experience was the visit to the Jewish cemetery of Frankfurt, where the leaders and members of the Jewish community including Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the father of Modern Orthodoxy, are buried. But for Michael Blake, Vice Chair of Jewish Care London and ECJC Europe, that cemetery visit was like no other. It turned out that Michael’s grandparents are buried in this particular cemetery which he never visited before. Saying Kadish and El Male Rahamim in front of these graves was a very moving experience for Michael and for all the delegates and an example of how Jewish lives are unexpectedly interwoven.
The seminar concluded on a very high note with special thanks and appreciation to Benny Bloch, the longtime executive director of ZWST, who has been spearheading the renaissance of Jewish life in Germany for many years. Special thanks also go to Abe Lehrer, ZWST Germany President and to the dedicated staff members and lay leaders that hosted the delegation with special care and attention.
CDI Mexico is one of the largest JCCs in the world. In a Jewish community of some 40,000 members where 90% of children attend Jewish day schools and synagogues are very strong, it offers a place for excellent informal Jewish education focusing on sports and culture. The synagogues in Mexico City represent Jewish communities from different origins and are large in scale. Very often intermarriage is jokingly referred to marriages between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, that’s because the allegiance of many Jews is still connected to their home communities. This makes the role of CDI crucial in building a sense of one Jewish People; it is the place where members of all synagogues and denominations come together. In addition, in a city where crime and personal safety are major concerns, the CDI campus with its state of the art facilities and lush grounds, are a safe haven.
It was therefore an honor for JCC Global to co-sponsor, for the 8th time, a leadership seminar for CDI Mexico. This specific seminar was designed for the members of the senior board of CDI and their spouses under the leadership of their current President and former JCC Global Chair, Ishie Gitlin. In Mexico, the board members not only govern the JCC but they also supervise the actual implementation of all programs and services. Hence, their interest in Jewish communal work is personal and hands on.
The seminar began with a 4 day visit to the Jewish community of Spain graciously hosted by the community. David Hatchwell, the President of the Jewish Community of Madrid and Ziva Fredericks, a community leader, designed a unique program that combined studying the roots of the rich history and culture of Jews in Spain and also getting to know the Jewish community of today. Although relatively small, the Jewish community of Madrid runs a very successful day school which is the focal point of Jewish life. The delegates had a chance to visit the school and meet with members of the community. With David’s vision and enthusiasm, the Jewish community of Madrid is currently looking to open up to other Jewish communities and to become a more active member in European Jewry and world Jewry.
From Madrid, the delegation arrived in Israel for a weeklong seminar focusing on current trends in Israel today and Jewish Peoplehood. As very active members in global initiatives and programs, the delegates visited and met many of their partners and friends. A dinner reception in their honor with Israeli partners was hosted at the home of JCC Global Chair, Menachem Revivi and his wife Adina. The delegation also spent a few days at Kfar Hamaccaibh with Maccabi World Union senior leadership. The delegates attended the MWU Plenum with representatives from many countries, all dedicated this year to bring delegations to the 20th Maccabiah which will take place in Israel, July 4-18, 2017. The delegates were also graciously hosted by the Kfar Yona Community Center and its director Nisan Gez, who are partners in the JCC Global Family Tree program together with the Merage JCC in Orange County, California.
During a very full week, the delegates had a chance to understand better life in Israel today. They delved into the current political issues by speaking to a journalist, meeting the mayor of Efrat, Oded Revivi and even speaking with representatives of bereaved families. The group explored the “Start Up Nation” phenomenon with some of its founding members and with visits to current companies and initiatives in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They also visited social start up initiatives and saw how inspiring leaders take care of some of Israel’s most vulnerable populations.
The seminar had a very strong impact on all the member of the delegation. In their own words, it reaffirmed their commitment to Jewish life in Mexico City, Latin America, Israel and the entire Jewish world.
“The focus on immigration and anti-Semitism in Europe is far exaggerated and only education for tolerance can serve as an anti-dote.”
Two noted scholars that addressed the participants of the recently held Europe Transformed Seminar that took place in Germany came to very similar conclusions regarding the state of the general society and Jewish society in Europe.
Richard M. Lewis, Adviser on Migration, Diversity and Justice at the Institute for European Studies at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and a Senior Associate for Eurasylum in Brussels analyzed the effects of immigration, refugees and demography on social trends across Europe.
Richard began with clarifying some facts:
- There are 500 million people living in Europe.
- According to UNHCR there are 65,3 million forcibly displaced people in the world of which 21,3 million are refugees as defined by the Geneva Convention 1951. The remainders are Internally Displaced Persons . The vast majority of all these people are not in Europe. They are in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and scattered throughout Asia. So looked at in this light, this is not a European problem or at least not just a European problem.
- Europe has a very poor hinterland, which means that the level of life in sub-Saharan Africa is infinitely poorer than even the poorer countries of the European Union. In 2015 it stood on average at $3700 for Sub-Saharan countries per capita gdp according to the World Bank. Compare this, for example, with Belgium at $40.000. It is extraordinarily tempting for younger people in particular to risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean and in many cases losing them in the process.
- According to the UN population department, Europe’s population will decline by roughly the population of the Iberian peninsular (Spain and Portugal) between now and 2050. This will induce an increasing dependency ratio, that is the number of older people whose livelihoods or pensions will depend on those of working age. The ratio is currently 30-40 per hundred of those working. By 2060 it will be 50-60. Europe therefore needs migrants. It’s an inescapable fact.
- Therefore, one has to measure the current influx into Europe in the context of the overall picture. For example, Germany, as the country that has shown the most concern for refugees in the last eighteen months. 1 million is a lot of people but the impact is only 0°,7% of Germany’s workforce and 0,19% of the total European Union’s population of 508 million (which at present includes the UK). In comparison after the Second World War, the population shift was 12 million and after Indian and Pakistani independence 14 million.
The problem is that people are frightened of immigration. They are afraid of the costs, the logistics but above all of what they see as a dilution of their identity. And of course, they are afraid of terrorism. And “when people are sufficiently afraid,” as Thomas Hobbes said, “they will do anything”. People are not just afraid of immigration, they are afraid of “globalisation”, however you define it, of losing their jobs, of the future of their children and grand-children and their standard of living. Change is afoot in practically every sphere of life and people are wary of change. The Anglo-Polish philosopher Zygmunt Bauman has called this “liquid fear”, when everything is in flux.
16% of Europeans are immigrants and the majority of them are making efforts to integrate, a minority who make little effort to fit in and a significant few who are totally disaffected.
As for Muslims, there are 25 million Muslims in Europe, which comprise only 7.5% of France and 4% of UK. There is a wrong perception of the public because of the acts of terrorism rendered by few and because of lack of knowledge.
The solution is therefore a step by step approach and a coordinated response by the world. There needs to be an international settlement agreement and there needs to be a focus on education for tolerance and acceptance. Immigrants need to be mainstreamed into the educational systems and programs that debunk hatred and bigotry need to be institutionalized. There is an identity predicament that is asking who are Europeans and what are they going to become in 50 or 100 years’ time. The road may not be easy, nationalism may be gaining more votes than ever, but still, Richard Lewis believes that Europe can and will embrace cultural diversity as a source for strength and growth.
Zooming in from the overall European analysis to the Jewish one, Dr. Jon Boyd, the Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London presented a fascinating analysis backed by ample empirical data. Jon focused on the status of Jewish communities all across Europe; the facts, trends, conceptions and misconceptions.
There are approximately 1.3 million Jews in Europe today, which comprise 9.5% of Jews. While Jon’s talk will soon be published in a paper, his main conclusions are presented below:
- European Jews are in demographic decline caused by low fertility, ageing and assimilation.
- But Europe remains the third largest bloc in the Jewish world after Israel and the USA, with a significant infrastructure and a tremendous history and heritage.
- Our perception of anti-Semitism is worse than the reality, but there are genuine threats that are causing real anxiety. In addition, what happens in Israel directly impacts European Jewry.
- Anti-Semitic attitudes are being imported into European immigration, but most European Muslims are positive about, or indifferent to Jews, and levels of Islamophobia are higher than levels of anti-Semitism.
- The Muslim population in Europe is growing numerically and proportionally, but is nowhere near becoming a majority anywhere in Europe
- Jews are anxious about anti-Semitism and are sometimes reluctant to be open about their Jewishness in public. Yet most remain proudly part of the European countries in which they live.
- Europeans are concerned about immigration and the economy, and are showing signs of dissatisfaction with how democracy works. Most remain quite positive about the EU but few see Israel in a favorable light.