Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News August 2013

August 12, 2013

The Nahum Goldmann Fellowship XXV: Response of the Fellows

I have already reported to you about the program of Nahum Goldmann XXV, soon after it took place in Israel on June 11-17, 2013 from the perspective of the Memorial Foundation.

The local impact can really only be determined by how the fellows who participated perceive its impact on them as Jews and potential leaders in their communities. I am therefore sharing with you below selected letters from the fellows that have been arriving at the Foundation all summer. In many of them and others received from Nahum Goldmann Fellowship alumni, the fellows — past and present — are inquiring about organizing Mini Nahum Goldmann Fellowships in their communities. That probably testifies best of all about the success we are achieving in helping them redefine themselves as Jews and hopefully re-define their communities as well in the future.

Selected Letters From Nahum Goldmann XXV Fellows

For us in the Cuban Jewish Community, it was a dream to be part of such a wonderful educational experience. Now that we can leave Cuba, and thanks to programs like yours, it has been possible for us to get involved in world Jewry. For most Jewish people around the globe to have access to Jewish educational programs is something common. For us in Cuba, it is a privilege. I would like to thank the Foundation for the incredible opportunity to be part of the Nahum Goldman Fellowship.

......I have personally experienced one of the best Jewish educational environments I have ever attended, but more important, I have witnessed the impact on young Jewish leaders and this means too much for us. Education is the base for a strong and well established community.

I am very grateful with the knowledge received through you and I really want to help to spread the experience and get as many people involved as possible. Although we are not such a big community, I am dreaming about having an International or Mini Nahum Goldman Fellowship in Cuba in not such a distant future.

W.M., Cuba

I truly feel as if, for the first time, I have gained an understanding of the concept of "Klal Yisrael" and I am eager to explore it further. Despite living in the UK and working with parts of the Jewish community, at Ohalo it was the first time that I was able to learn about the varieties of Judaism without a pre-existing agenda, and with plenty of goodwill and with the guidance of top scholars and organizers.

G.B., UK/Israel

The INGF experience at Ohalo was a very strong one. I would not say anything new if I talk about the interesting faculties, the great place you choose and the impeccable work that you, Karoline, Jenny and your staff have done.

......The week I spend there with the group was one of an unexpected spiritual impact on me. The Jewish people are for me a powerful reality and not only a concept. During that week, I felt this reality around me and with its company I felt stronger, honored and lucky.
In my view, organizations have the power to define persons by assigning them roles, responsibilities, tasks and rights. The INGF does a very good job enhancing its fellows self-definition as Jewish leaders. I am sure that every single fellow has gone back to its place with invigorated passion, devotion and more accurate goals.

It also happened something curious to me that was like a medicine for an unhealed cut in my soul.

Rabbi Bryan from South Africa invited me to the Tora. I accepted with politeness but not much enthusiasm. During the prayers I felt not very much comfortable because I do not know them and everybody did... My Jewish connection is strong in the political and historical dimension but not so much in religious liturgical matters... When I was called to the Tora I had no talis... Myer Moses was there with his Indian style warmness and gave me his talis... When I was in front of the Torah and had to say the bracha I was happy, honored and feeling well. In a fraction of second I understood what was going on to me...

My Bar Mitzvah took place in the worst moment of my parents' separation and the family was not experiencing a nice time. I saw the pictures little time ago and all of us were sad. Hence, I entered the Jewish religious adult life unhappy and not finding a deep meaning on the celebration that took place. At the Ohalo I went to the Torah for the second time in my life and I felt surrounded of an extraordinary group... surrounded by my brothers willing the help me. The invitation of Rabbi Bryan was a medicine for my soul. If there is a secret that could explain the Jewish People survival and progress is its cohesion. Deep cohesion of humans, I think, is more emotional than rational driven. Leaders also have soul. The INGF works very effectively in the soul of its fellows and not only over their education...

Thank you very much for every second of fellowship you gave me. You can count on me for everything I could help in.

A.K., Argentina/Israel

It was an incredible experience - both intellectually and personally moving. The teaching was of a very high standard and the networking opportunities with other young Jewish people from around the world were many and varied.

The Foundation operates a fabulous program which has a significant impact on the participants and which inspires us to continue and enhance the work we are doing with our own communities and with each other.

I look forward to working with you over the coming weeks to bring NGF to Australia and will be in touch with the other Australian participants regarding the arrangements for the mini NGF in Melbourne.

N.M., Australia

It was a pleasure to be part of Nahum Goldmann Fellowship program. I have never been in the program like this before.

M.K., United States

Thank you so much for the opportunity to have been included in the 25th NGF. You are correct in that it takes time to process everything that takes place, and only much later on one has to have a eureka experience, I am having those every so often now. The speakers were phenomenal, the ideas shared superb and it was a pleasure meeting you and getting a small insight into your Toras Shalom, something that I will attempt to not only emulate but teach others.

B.O., South Africa

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the Fellowship. I believe I learnt so much from the experience and have not stopped thinking and talking about it.

G.R., Israel

I have been wanting to thank you for a very enriching — and at times challenging — experience, one that has left an imprint on my life.

I had initially felt quite nervous being one of the only anti-Zionists at the fellowship. It's interesting, although I take public positions that do not subscribe to mainstream Jewish opinions around Israel and Zionism I do not consider myself a confrontational person. Anti-Zionists are often marginalized, or we step out of community spaces. When that happens it is easier for us to become radicalized and detached from the concerns of the community. It has become increasingly imperative that if I do challenge, it is also from within Jewish communal spaces. I take the positions that I do because of my Jewish identity - so for me this is the only way that makes sense.

I used to believe those spaces did not exist. But they do - we perhaps have to seek them out, and at times we have to pry them open. But they are there. The fellowship was that for me, and it has instilled enormous hope that what I see as some core Jewish values engaged, yet in critical discussion, respect for the holding of different opinions is being given space to flourish.

H-J. E., South Africa

It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot from the participants and the program was very well done.

As I expressed at the end of the Fellowship, I came back to Mexico with a lot of questions that I still don't have the answer. If I'm honest, this sometimes makes me a little bit anxious or can disappoint me. But the nice thing is that over all, this gives me more energy to work for the world to be a better place.

Take for sure that I will promote the Fellowship over the Mexican Network and I'd be happy to participate in future events.

S.A., Mexico

Thank you very deeply and sincerely for all of your work and effort to organize and run the fellowship. It was outstanding from start to finish. I gained immensely from both faculty and participants in both the structured and informal parts of the programme...... I am drawn to working in Jewish life and communities because I find the questions that we addressed at the seminar so exhilarating and important. The fellowship renewed my interest and passion in those questions and allowed me to forge relationships with diverse and wonderful people whom I hope to maintain on-going personal and professional relationships.

You mentioned a number of times about the potential good that NG could do in the UK and you should know that I would absolutely love to be a part of bringing NG to the UK Jewish community over the coming years.

Please convey my appreciation and gratitude to all other members of the faculty and staff, all of whom I immensely enjoyed getting to know.
.....And on a personal note, thank you for the time you invested in talking to all of us individually - it was an honour.

J.W., United Kingdom

I would like to express that my experience in The Nahum Goldman Fellowship at Ohalo Manor was a very strong one, it was really a privilege. The opportunity to live every moment of the program near the Kineret, the perfect design of the program of activities, the great faculty and the interest and enthusiasm of all the participants made this event an unforgettable experience for me.

I met and exchanged with Jews from all over the world from every single denomination, a whole representation of Judaism in Israel and the Diaspora. With that experience, I learned that the Jewish People transcends geography, cultures and time.

The Nahum Goldman offered me a unique opportunity to study the Jewish sources, share ideas, discuss concepts, and explain challenges and perspectives, in other words, to learn from each other, something that really changed my life.

I would like to add that the Shabbat was one of the most special of my life, it was really amazing, all of us together: religious and secular people, praying, singing, and enjoying the sunset in the beautiful view of the Kineret; it was really very very exciting for me, something I think I won't forget ever.

D.B., Cuba

It was again a treat to be there. Thank you for what you are doing and preparing for all of us. I feel privilege to be part of this group.

P.G., Czechoslovakia

I just wanted to thank you again for an amazing conference. I really appreciated the opportunity, and look forward to working with you again in the future on behalf of Am Yisrael!

J.S., Israel

Best wishes for a New Year of personal fulfillment, peace and good health.
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President