Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News September 2001

September 10, 2001


The tenth Nahum Goldmann Fellowship took place in Glamsta, Sweden on August 20th-30th. It was, like all the earlier ones, a success, but in a very special way. Let me explain.

The faculty was the very best we ever recruited, and consisted of Professor Anita Shapira, our Acting President and a Professor of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University; Aharon Appelfeld, the internationally known author and nominee for the Nobel Prize in literature; Professor Aviezer Ravitzky, this year's recipient of the Israel Prize in Philosophy; and Professors Shalom Rosenberg and Michael Rosenak of the Hebrew University.

Aharon Appelfeld spoke in a deeply moving way about his quest as a child survivor to find the words and language to share the meaning of his experience, and the use of literature as a vehicle to probe the depths of the Shoah. The Fellows, coming from a wide variety of religious and ideological backgrounds, actively engaged him in intense discussion, not only during the lectures, which ended in vigorous and sustained applause, but for the duration of his stay at Glamsta. He, like the other faculty, was available for most of the Fellowship, both before and after their lectures, so that the Fellows could talk with him during meals, taken together, at coffee breaks, and at their leisure periods during the day.

The overall theme of the Fellowship was Raising Jewish Consciousness in the 21st Century. The lectures by Professors Rosenak, Ravitzky and Rosenberg dealt with the new realities — Jewish, ideological, and sociological that will shape the lives of the Fellows and their communities in the future, and the challenge to the Jewish community and its leadership to become sensitive to, and deal with, these changes. It became abundantly clear that we will be dealing with new frontiers for Jewish consciousness. Prof. Anita Shapira spoke of the importance of the integrity of the Zionist narrative and defended it from the post-Zionist historians and ideologues. As organizers and sponsors of the Fellowship, the Memorial Foundation had much to learn about the shape Jewish culture and consciousness will take in the future, and we indeed, benefited as much as the Fellows from these discussions.

The workshops on Jewish Texts, Jewish Identity and the Jewish Community, held each afternoon, and lead by Dr. Steven Bayme, Director of Contemporary Jewish Life at the American Jewish Committee; Dr. Benjamin Ish-Shalom, Rector of Beit Morasha in Jerusalem; and Mrs. Rena Rosenberg, were, as in the past, effective vehicles for addressing a variety of leadership issues.

The discussion groups in the evenings dealing with What Can We Learn From Each Other?, Community Profiles, The Future of Our Communities, Where Do We Go From Here? were, as always, the heart of the Fellowship. Lead by the Fellows themselves, this was their opportunity to discuss their own personal and communal concerns. There was also intensive informal interaction among the Fellows, beginning with their arrival at the airport in Stockholm, continuing at mealtime each day, through their recreational breaks, and in their rooms until the wee hours of the morning. This interaction was all the more unique because the group of Fellows we assembled was the most diverse ever. Geographically, the thirty-three Fellows came from Jewish communities, large and small, in twenty one countries on six continents: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Morocco, The Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, U.S.A., Ukraine and Uruguay.

I am listing below the backgrounds of some of the Fellows:

Daniel Hoenig — A community activist since his youth in Sydney, Australia, he now serves as Vice President of the New South Wales Board of Deputies.

Tomas Kreisinger — Tomas organizes cultural events and serves as the Chazan in his synagogue in Plzen, Czech Republic.

Marcelo Ellenberg — A director of the Yavneh School in Uruguay and a leader of the "Young Turks" who have recently gained power in the Uruguayan Jewish community.

Iryna Bayguzina — A family psychologist in a pediatric hospital in Vinnitsa, Ukraine who is involved in cultural and educational work in her community. Iryna did not know she was Jewish until she was 15 years old.

Ana Lebl — An archaeologist by profession, Ana is one of the key leaders of the small Jewish community in Split, Yugoslavia.

Salman Noach — Salman, who is completing his doctorate in Physics at Hebrew University, is active in developing leadership programs for the development towns in Israel, and an active participant in a project with Beit Shmuel, the educational institute of the Reform Movement in Israel supporting dialogue between religious and secular groups in Israel.

Rebecca Neuwirth — A graduate of Yale University, Rebecca studied in Berlin on a Fulbright Scholarship. While there, she became more interested in Judaism, and is now serving as a the Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President of the American Jewish Congress in New York City.

Charles Ancer — Charles currently serves as the political officer of the South African Board of Deputies.

Oded Horowitz — Oded is a medical doctor in Dusseldorf, Germany involved in trying to integrate Russian Jews into the local community.

Arthur Klempert — Helped organize and now directs the Jewish Museum for Children in Moscow.

Susana Pollak — Suzy, a past participant of the Latin American Nahum Goldmann Fellowship, is now an important leader in the Conservative movement in Santiago, Chile.

While all the Fellows were special, I should like to highlight two of them because they represent a Jewish community in the making. A film, shown on Israeli television during August, was specially screened for the Fellows. It deals with the new Jews of Poland, young men and women whose parents were hidden during World War II by Christians and were subsequently raised as Christians. Some learned in recent years that their parents or grandparents were Jewish. The film features one of the Fellows, Leszek Piszewski, describing his odyssey in returning to Judaism and reconnecting with Jewish life. It is an emotionally dramatic and searing story. Leszek also attended Nahum Goldmann Fellowship VIII in Sweden two years ago and received a Memorial Foundation Community Service Scholarship to study in Israel. He is currently President of the Warsaw Jewish Community, engaged in organizing a communal structure for other new Polish Jews like himself.

Joining him at Nahum Goldmann Fellowship X was Monika Krawczyk, with an equally dramatic personal story, who formally converted to Judaism in Israel several years ago. She is currently a legal adviser to the Jewish community for the restitution negotiations in Poland.

There was nary a dry eye in the room during the film. One of the other Fellows, told me that it was an honor for him to be in the same room with Leszek and Monika. Leszek and Monika are excellent examples of the determination and courage we seek to foster at the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship.


The Society of Fellows

Nahum Goldmann Fellowship X was the most successful of all the seminars we have organized because of the unique blending of its various components. The Fellowship has abundantly and conclusively demonstrated the special potency of the programmatic model we have conceived at the Foundation for the development of Jewish leadership in the future.

A critical component of course, is the serious Jewish learning, not Mickey Mouse Judaism, to which the Fellows are exposed that I described above, and which undoubtedly motivates and inspires them.

But the greatest breakthrough was the creation of a society of Fellows, imbued with the spirit of "fellowship", the conceptual bedrock of our enterprise. As diverse ideologically as they were geographically, all the Fellows, religious and secular, Zionist and non-Zionist, from the political right and left, joined together in prayer on Friday night at an enthusiastic Carlebachean traditional religious service. Among the Fellows at that service was Hetty Groeneveld from Tilburg, the Netherlands, who next September will enroll at the Reform Leo Baeck College, with Foundation support; Ariel Slain currently a student in the Conservative Seminario Rabbinico Latino Americano; and Yitzhak (Jacquy) Sebag, an educator from Casablanca who will be studying next year to become a judge in the religious court there. No small accomplishment that.

Fellows and faculty talked much, separately and together, about a broad range of controversial and sometimes provocative subjects, but always with civility and respect, and often with empathy. Most important, we bonded together, in harmony.

As we were walking down the dark road from the synagogue after the Sabbath, one Fellow told me he felt "there was hope for the Jewish people".

In ten days at the Stockholm Jewish Community's campsite in the beautiful rustic hinterland of Sweden bordering the Baltic Sea, a greatly diverse group of potential Jewish leaders from all around the world demonstrated that we can become one people, that this possibility still inheres in Knesset Israel, and that Ahavat Israel is not a remote theological concept, but can be lived.

That is the grandest accomplishment of Nahum Goldmann Fellowship X.

Warm wishes to you and your family for a New Year of peace and good health.

Warm regards.
Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jerry Hochbaum
Executive Vice President