THE 27TH INTERNATIONAL NAHUM GOLDMANN FELLOWSHIP
KINERET, ISRAEL ON JUNE 15-21, 2015
As I write this, Andrea Uzan, alumna of past Fellowships, on-site coordinator for our most recent Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, and dear friend, is just completing shiva for her brother, Dan, z"l, who was murdered in the most recent incident of hatred directed against Jews in Copenhagen. I was with Andrea and her family just a few weeks earlier, when her brother served as our guard, protecting us from any potential harm as 35 Fellows from 22 different European countries including Turkey and Azerbaijan gathered for the European Regional Nahum Goldmann Fellowship from January 18-20, 2015.
This Fellowship marked a significant accomplishment for the Foundation. After prior success in Iran, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Israel and Brazil, we brought our shorter, more intensive program to Europe. Coming just nine days after the murder of four Jews in a supermarket in Paris, the overall theme of the Fellowship -- Education for Jewish Identity -- was very present in the Fellows minds.
Jonathan Arkush, Vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and MFJC Vice President and Sally Berkovic, Executive Director of the Rothschild Foundation (HaNadiv) gave the major lectures. The Fellows also had the opportunity to hear about the local Jewish community in Copenhagen from Chief Rabbi Emeritus Bent Melchior, the current Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior, who participated as a Fellow, and the Israeli Ambassador to Copenhagen, Mr. Barukh Binah. A warm and thoughtful welcome was extended to the Fellows from the MFJC by Mr. Salomon Rytz, Chairman Jewish Communities, Boras, Sweden and Secretary to the MFJC Executive Committee. Mr. Rytz introduced the theme of the program and reminded the Fellows that they were present to share knowledge, build bridges and relationships, so that by the time the Fellowship was over, the Fellows would have a stronger, more educated and dedicated understanding of who they are and who they want to be in the future.
This vision remains true to the objectives of the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship. That the Fellows redefine themselves as Jews and future leaders, help to shape the institutions of their home communities, and ultimately, develop the skills and vision to reshape their communities in the spirit of Klal Yisrael.
Mr. Arkush began by framing the history of the Jews in Europe from antiquity forward by documenting the establishment of Jewish communities in Western and Eastern Europe, Russia and North Africa. He explored the decimation of the Jewish community during the Shoah, and described the continuous presence of Jews in Europe for 2,500 years, contributing significantly to the social and cultural life of the countries in which they live. Mr. Arkush examined the forces of the political far left and far right, particularly as they have impacted upon areas of Jewish ritual life such as Shechita and Brit Milah, and the growing hostility to Jews in Europe. Despite anti-semitic attacks, however, Mr. Arkush maintained strongly that while some sectors of Jewish life in Europe may come under stress, Jews still have a significant role to play in Europe. He challenged the Fellows to be both optimists and realists, investing in and energizing communal life, learning themselves and educating others about Jewish values and the way of life, while continuing to contribute to the good of the societies in which they live.
Sally Berkovic, CEO of the Rothschild Foundation, led the second key note session on The Future of European Jewry: Shaping an Educational Response, in which she guided the Fellows in a group text study and conversation about key issues in Jewish education. Using a collection of texts she titled Motherloss, Money and The Mind Body Problem, the Fellows examined their own experiences of Jewish education including their access to and comfort with sacred texts, their experience of the mimetic transmission of Jewish traditions, and their sense of what makes up the most important aspects of their Jewish identities. In a very real way, Ms. Berkovic challenged the Fellows to consider the outcomes they want for themselves and their communities and the possible creative steps they can take to reach those goals
One outstanding aspect of this Fellowship was the participation of prior Nahum Goldmann Fellowship alumni as faculty and presenters. Rabbis Tamarah Benima (NGF IV) and Joe Wolfson (NGF XXV) led evening text study workshops for the Fellows on Jewish Identity and Mr. Jo Toledano, (NGF II) Director General of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, and MFJC Vice President, and Mr. Sasha Friedman (NGF XXVI), Director of Szarvas International Jewish Youth Camp, engaged the Fellows in a meaningful panel conversation about formal and informal education in Europe. They shared powerful stories about the need for vital schools, youth programs, and camps in Europe to support and strengthen Jewish families who are committed to remaining in Europe, living active Jewish lives and transforming Jewish communal life there.
My update about this European Regional Fellowship underscores the importance of the work of the Foundation, and reminds me that our mission, to reconstruct Jewish cultural life around the world after the Shoah is as relevant today as it was the day the Foundation was established.
Our mission statement has evolved to
preserve and intensify Jewish cultural distinctiveness and enhance Jewish cultural life in those communities by supporting the training of competent and committed communal, cultural and professional leaders to deal with the new sociological realities and challenges their communities were confronting. Andrea Uzan is one of those leaders dealing with new challenges to their communities. In the wake of the recent tragedy in Copenhagen, those Fellows and Board members who were in attendance, as well as those who know Andrea from previous Fellowships, sent letters to the Uzan family, sharing their memories of Dan z"l and his presence at the program. Alumni across the world reached out to Andrea and each other through social media in addition to gathering in person and visiting Danish embassies around the world.
Here are some examples of how our Fellows and Board Members responded to Andrea:
With great sorrow we woke up to the terrible news about the terror act against the Jewish Community of Copenhagen in particular and to the Danish society in general.
We bow our heads and mourn the loss of Dan Uzan z"l, a dedicated member of the Jewish Community and Am Israel. Personally I had the privilege to meet and talk to Dan during some very hectic days as the Memorial Foundation's, Nahum Goldmann Fellowhip was arranged in your beautiful community under the guidance of Andrea Uzan and her mother. The limited time I spent with Dan left a most memorable impression. Amongst other things we talked about sports, that was a big interest of his as I understand. He was up to date with both basketball and ice hockey in my home town of Borâs. A day like today it might seem to be of no importance, but it really showed the mensch Dan was and I see the image of Dan in front of my eyes
Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with Andrea, her mother, the Uzan family and the Jewish Community of Copenhagen. Yehi Zihkro Baruch.
Salomon and Susanne Rytz
Chairman Jewish Community, Boras, Sweden and
Secretary to MFJC Executive Committee
Deepest condolences Andrea, it's still hard to believe that your kind and cheerful brother is gone. I remember him smiling to us every time we were leaving the building.
H. D., Serbia
Andrea, I served my community the same way your brother did for many years. It breaks my heart that someone who protected hundreds of lives on a daily basis, and specifically today saved dozens by being where he was, is no longer with us. He will forever remain a guardian of Israel, a Maccabee of our days, who perished defending our dignity and our way of life. May his soul find eternal rest among our Jewish heroes, and may you live a long life. Baruch Dayan haEmet, ihiyeh zichrono baruch
M. Y., USA
My heart breaks - for Andrea, for her family and for a world gone mad. I am thinking of you, dear Andrea Uzan. With much love (and more tears) xxx
D. J., South Africa
Additionally, Julien Pellet, a Fellow at the European Regional Fellowship from Switzerland now living in Israel, has organized a global Mishna study in Dan's memory as a way of increasing unity among the Jewish people.
These examples demonstrate the revised mandate of the Foundation, the development of the social capital of the Jewish people, its communal, cultural, and professional leadership, and the fostering of Jewish connectedness globally.
Sending our condolences, thoughts and prayers to Andrea, her parents Bodil and Serge, the entire Uzan family, and the Jewish community of Copenhagen, we recognize that the important work of the Foundation in fulfilling this mandate can and must continue. We have succeeded in creating a global network of Jewish leaders who are connected in times of both joy and sorrow and we will continue to pursue this mandate at the next Nahum Goldmann Fellowship in Israel, June 15-21, 2015
Best wishes for a joyous Purim,
Rabbi Jeni S. Friedman, Executive Vice President