Spotlight on the JDC Entwine: Exposing Young Jewish Leaders to the Diaspora and World

In communities from South America to New Zealand, local Jews are faced with a mounting wave of anti-Semitism, spilling into the streets, online media, sports fields and learning institutions. As the scourge of Jew hatred intensifies, our leadership has been paralyzed, unable to adapt from decades of relative calm to today’s eruptions of bigotry and anti-Jewish attacks. What we need are new leaders to invigorate our communal institutions, and who best to accomplish this other than our youngest and brightest? I am glad to report that the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has made developing future leaders a prime priority and I want to highlight a small part of their work.

The JDC was founded in 1914 and is today the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization. One of its core missions is grooming future community leaders. With programs like Entwine, JDC gives North American young adults exposure to the wider Jewish Diaspora and its affairs. Through the Global Jewish Service Corps Fellowship, JDC Entwine provides young Jewish influencers and advocates a fully paid, year-long service experience in Jewish communities in locations like India, Argentina, Turkey, Hungary, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Israel and more. Once there, fellows create “innovative programs that respond to specific needs [of local communities], gain an understanding of pressing global challenges, and explore Jewish values underlying their service”. Herehttp://www.jdcentwine.org/jsc you can learn more about some of the past and current accomplished Jewish Service Corps fellows and the amazing activities they’ve been involved with at home and around the globe. Understanding that many young leaders have commitments preventing them from embarking on the year-long fellowship, JDC Entwine also offers shorter trips for young professional to travel to global Jewish communists for 10 days and expose themselves to the lives and trials of other diaspora Jewry.

Through JDC Entwine foreign service trips, our communities’ future leaders are gaining first hand familiarity with the greater Jewish world. Participants will take these experiences along with them as they rise through the ranks of our Jewish intuitions and engage North American Jewish society. Connecting with other Diaspora Jews reinforces our shared sense of klal Yisrael, Jewish peoplehood. We are all facing the growing threat of anti-Semitism together, and the more we know about one another, the better we can all work to protect our respective communities and each other.

jdc

“All Israel is responsible for one another”

(Shavuot, Psehamim 39a)

Advertisements

Spotlight: B’nai B’rith Youth Organization

bbyo

(Photo via BBYO)

At present, the Jewish world is faced with a drastic increase in world wide anti-Semitism. Over the last year, attacks against Jews have occurred from New Zealand to South America. Anti-Semitic slogans appear on the streets of London, Paris, Berlin and Istanbul, harkening back to the 1930s and 1940s. Anti-Semitism of this nature, once unthinkable a decade ago, is becoming reality. A strong, proactive approach is needed by our Jewish leaders and organizations to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism head on. Yet, these the very institutions have been slow or unable to respond to a battle increasingly taking place on university campuses and the new arena of social media.

What we, the Jewish world needs, is the involvement of fresh and younger Jewish leaders, more nimble and better able to adapt to these growing threats. While the creation of such leaders takes much time and investment, I would like to spotlight a special organization already doing so, the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO).

BBYO is the youth wing part of the larger B’nai B’rith, the oldest Jewish service organization in the US with a rich history of fighting anti-Semitism, both domestically and internationally. Founded in the 1920s, BBYO’s mission is to provide leadership training, community service opportunities, Jewish education, a connection to Israel, and positive identity to Jewish high school and pre-university students. Today, BBYO is considered the “world’s leading pluralistic Jewish youth movement” with chapters in more than 20 countries. Along with fun activities such as sport, BBYO stresses community involvement and social actions, both within the Jewish community and the larger world. It is these traits that young Jews can expand upon as they enter the university and professional setting and emerge as capable Jewish leaders.

As the challenges facing Jewish communities the world over only increases, we need to invest in and develop pioneering Jewish leaders. Organizations like BBYO instill a commitment to Jewish communal life in their graduates, providing them with the knowledge and tools to tackle future challenges. I admire the work of BBYO and look forward to seeing the great changes and innovations they will bring to Jewish communities around the world.

Following Violent Attack, The European Jewish Congress Calls on France to Protect the Jewish Community

creit

(photo via Twitter)

A recent violent anti-Semitic attack in France has got Jewish organizations up in arms, and rightly so.

At the start of December, three unknown assailants broke into the home of a Jewish couple in the Paris suburb Créteil (which is known for its sizable Jewish population). The couple were tied up, robbed, and the 19-year-old woman was violently raped.

In addition to this, the assailants told the couple “You Jews always have money” as explanation for their choice of target.

This came only days after two Jewish brothers wearing skullcaps were beaten whilst praying near the Shaare Zion synagogue. The brothers both live in Créteil.

These attacks come as yet another reality dose to French Jewry, who have left France this year in record numbers.

Jewish organizations responded to the attack with horrified outrage. The European Jewish Congress immediately called “on police and public authorities in France to swiftly arrest all the perpetrators and bring them to justice as well as to enhance security at Jewish institutions and to protect the Jewish community.”

The group asks that anti-Semitic attacks be placed at the forefront of the French government’s agenda. Their president stated:  “Unfortunately, it appears that it is ‘open season’ on Jews in France following so many recent violent attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions going all the way back to the brutal torture and murder of Ilan Halimi…”

That doesn’t seem to be far from the truth.

France’s Jewish umbrella organization, CRIF, staunchly condemned the attack in Créteil, but has not done much more. CRIF’s current concentration is France’s Palestine vote, which is where their energy is predominantly directed.

Anti-Semitism has reached a fever pitch in France over the past decade. It is a pervasive force in French culture and must be CRIF’s number one priority. If they are to combat it effectively, the cultural sphere of anti-Semitism must be their constant target.

Spotlight: Shomrim UK

I have all the respect in the world for Shomrim, Jewish civilian patrol groups (or neighborhood watches) that do everything from stopping vandals to helping victims of violent crimes and searching for missing persons. Though they do not have the authority to make arrests, they are known to be effective in tracking and detaining suspects until police arrive. Shomrim UK (North London) hands over, on average, three to five suspects per week to the police.

Shomrim UK also tackle anti-Semitic crime, and are often called before police, due to their quick response time- about 40 seconds!, Though formed to patrol Jewish religious neighborhoods, around 70% of the people they help are not Jewish.

Reporter Tammy Kinder described her experience on patrol with Shomrim in North London: “At around 10PM a Shomrim patrolman spots a woman lying in the middle of busy traffic on Stamford Hill Broadway. Shulem (the driver) gets us there in less than a minute. When we arrive, two Shomrim members are giving first aid to the woman in the street – a (non-Jewish) pedestrian knocked down by a hit and run driver – while another tapes off the area. Two more Shomrim members are taking contact details of witnesses to pass on to police. Three minutes later, a Hatzola ambulance arrives and prepares to take the woman to hospital. Three minutes after that, the police arrive.”

That response is known to be the group’s norm.

shomrim

(photo via thejc)

What I find truly remarkable about the group is their inter-faith cooperation that brings about heightened community trust. Shomrim UK have an agreement with the Muslim community to protect their mosque and community center. These types of initiatives are the building blocks for safe communities and diminishing hate crimes.

This is a grassroots group that is making a difference, and serves as inspiration for future grassroots movements seeking to tackle anti-Semitism. They take active and effective steps to fight anti-Semitism (and crime!) without waiting for the initiative of major Jewish organizations. They are on excellent terms with local police forces and citizens. Now that’s the kind of resourceful action our communities can count on!

The ROI Community: Investing In Young Jewish Leaders

ROI

(Photo via ROI)

Today, world Jewry has found itself in a precarious position. Globally, anti-Semitism has risen to levels once unthinkable years earlier. From the streets of European capitals to the far reaches of New Zealand and South Africa, Jews are finding themselves again facing the existential threats of Jew-hatred and bigotry. Our communal institutions have been caught off guard- the very leaders and organizations meant to protect and advocate for us, have been slow at best, and incapable at worst, in fighting a battle increasingly taking place on new battleground like social media and university campuses. I believe young and innovative leaders are required to reinvigorate our Jewish institutions and respond to anti-Semitism. To guarantee the success of such leaders, the Jewish community must invest in and nurture them. One organization leading this task is the ROI Community.

Founded by Lynn and Charles Schusterman Philanthropic Foundation, the ROI Community is an international network of young Jewish activists and “change makers who are redefining Jewish engagement for a new generation of global citizens”. With the view that Jews around the world make up one united kehilah, the ROI Community creates a forum for young Jews to discuss and learn from each other ways in which to strengthen and improve their respective communities and societies. This is done primarily through the program’s capstone Summit meeting which pays for identified Jewish leaders to come to Israel from all over the world and facilitates on-going interactions and relationships among them. The organization also gives out micro grants for personal and professional development to the leaders. Recent ROI Community participants include Andre Oboler, the founder and CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute, an Australian charity combating online anti-Semitism, and Melissa Sonnino, the Community Affairs Coordinator at CEJI, where she implements diversity training against all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism.

It is inspiring to see such capable and innovative young Jews coming together to solve our shared problems. World Jewry must work to encourage our established Jewish organizations to open up to the new ideas and fresh perspectives that these new Jewish leaders offer. By working together, anti-Semitism can be defeated!

The Next Generation of Jewish Leaders: Jonathan Hayoun Takes on French Antisemitism

JHayoun

Photo via Valeurs Actuelles

It all began with a hashtag. Seemingly innocuous at first glance, #unbonjuif, when translated from French means “a good Jew.” Yet in a sea of anti-Semitic tweets and hashtags, #unbonjuif gained traction, becoming the third most popular trending topic. The hate fest that ensued included everything from “a good jew is a dead jew” to Holocaust humor and pictures of dustpans filled with dust. At its utmost escalation there were direct calls to murder Jews.

(Source)

Far from being a novel issue, racism has long plagued twitter- if you were to search at this moment you would be find a barrage of anti-Semitic attacks. In France, anti-Semitic hate online is a huge issue, with various forums absolutely flooded with threats and offensive “humor.” But 2012 marked a turning point in terms of activism.

(Source)

It was in 2012 that in response to the #unbonjuif trend, French student leader Jonathan Hayoun of the Union of Jewish French Students (UEJF), took legal action and managed to get twitter to take down the offending tweets in a massive lawsuit.

The court ruled that Twitter must turn over the names of users who made the offending tweets- which Twitter appealed. UEJF filed a second suit for $50 million and after a legal battle spanning several months, twitter turned over the data to the French prosecutors to help them identify the authors of some of the anti-Semitic tweets (including IP and email addresses).

What stands out to me in this case was that the lawsuit was not the work of major French or European Jewish organizations like CRIF. It’s a stunning example of a younger generation of Jews taking initiative and generating real, tangible change.

This landmark case is truly amazing in that it resulted in additional social media sites clamping down on anti-Semitism. This includes Youtube, Facebook, and even Google.

(Source)

Jonathan Hayoun has since become a member of the CRIF executive committee, and has stated of the CRIF and other organizations that “People can’t feel represented by their institutions if these same institutions don’t make them want to get involved at the community level…We need to make Jewish associations more modern and appealing to young people.”

(Source)

It seems to me that he will be the one to make that happen.

Could Dieter Graumann Save the European Jewish Congress?

Graumann faz.net

photo via faz.net

The future of Jews in Europe has not looked so uncertain in decades.  The anti-Semitic uproar that took place these last few months has yet to fizzle out, and frankly I see so evidence that it will.

If you’re reading this you probably are already aware of the dangers European Jews face. Physical and verbal anti-Semitic attacks, the threat of ISIS “lone wolves,” and a threat to the safety of being Jewish “in public.”

Quite understandably, this has had a powerful effect on the way Jewish people see their place in Europe. But the issues that arose were not only the actions of aggressors. The response of Jewish leadership was far too often too little, too late.

If European Jews are to continue living in this dangerous climate, they urgently need new leadership. This isn’t a question, it’s a priority. European Jews deserve to be represented by leaders that actively support their best interests, and do not use their positions in Jewish organizations only for their own political gain.

So I’d like to ask the question that seems to me to be most imperative: who should be considered as future leaders for European Jewry?

A great example would be Dieter Graumann, a prominent lawyer, economist, and business owner.

As a Jewish community leader from Germany, Graumann has real world experience combating anti-Semitism in the diplomatic sphere. And he did just that this past summer, even writing an article for Huffington Post in July, drawing attention to the severity of German anti-Semitism.

As for credentials, Graumann currently serves as Chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and is the Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. He is a trustee for the charitable Leo Baeck Foundation, aimed “at expanding and strengthening European Jewry and at creating perspectives on interfaith dialogue”

(Source: Leo Baeck Foundation)

“Graumann has also repeatedly and openly criticized Germany for its extensive business ties with Iran, calling them “despicable” and “a disgrace.”

(Source: WWRN)

This is the kind of active, exemplary leadership that European Jews deserve, but are currently lacking. The current head of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, has not only neglected his diplomatic duty to combat anti-Semitism, but also lacks the experience needed to address the issue. Kantor is a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. It’s little wonder that he has neglected the Jewish community.

But the facts are clear- in a time of necessity, Kantor has failed to address the needs of Europe’s Jewish communities. The time has come to find a competent successor, thus empowering and protecting European Jewry.