European Social Innovators Connect to Create New Expressions of Jewish Life

Jerusalem, August 3, 2011: As Europe faces an acute identity crisis, 48 social justice activists, artists, environmentalists, media and tech gurus, educators, Israel advocates and intercultural dialoguers will gather for four days at JPropel in Sweden to address the challenges confronting the European Jewish renaissance and to enhance the role of up- and-coming Jewish leaders in shaping a Europe that embraces respect for all religions and cultures. JPropel is a joint initiative of JHub, Paideia and ROI Community to propel forward a new generation of European Jewish leaders.

“In the shadow of the horrific massacre in Norway, JPropel shines a light on European Jewish initiatives which combat racism by reviving the spirit and culture of its victims,” said ROI Community Executive Director Justin Korda. “We are proud to join our European partners in rekindling the Jewish flame by supporting and nurturing European Jewish innovators who are remaking the Jewish world in their own image.”

Today, Jews across Europe are revitalizing their communities and beyond. These social entrepreneurs are introducing inclusive, open and accessible ways of expressing Judaism and reaching out to unaffiliated Jews, as well as non-Jews. As a result, people are connecting and reconnecting to Jewish life tied to the continent’s history but thriving and looking toward a bright future.

JPropel offers a unique networking and skill-building opportunity to a core group of such change agents. JPropel participants will learn or strengthen useful tools and establish vital connections to address current challenges in all areas of Jewish life. At the heart of the program are professional workshops led by some of the world’s foremost experts in social entrepreneurship from Ashoka, Jumpstart and PresenTense, among others, as well as peer-to-peer training.

Indeed, JPropel is about providing Europe’s budding Jewish leaders a space for growth. “I see leadership development happening before my very eyes,” said JHub Director Shoshana Boyd Gelfand. “These passionate individuals are learning organizational skills, developing vision, nurturing relationships, and gaining valuable experiences that they will leverage for the good of their communities.”

Paideia, The European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden, is marking its decennial. In the last 10 years, it has confronted the issues Jews face in Europe: the Jew as “other,” being part of Europe while being apart, and the challenge of multiculturalism to democracy.

“The time has now come to reflect, celebrate and continue building,” said Paideia Founding Director Barbara Lerner Spectre. “Reflect on the changes taking place in Europe through the lens of Jewish thought, celebrate those who are making change happen and renew the visions of developing European Jewish life in the coming decades.”

Among the 48 JPropel participants who are creating ripples of change:

Agata Kaplon, who was born in Poland, holds a Masters in sociology from the University of Wroclaw. In 2009, she received a scholarship from the Institut der Philosophie in Hannover, Germany, as well as from Paideia. Agata currently works for the Central Council of Jews in Germany where she is coordinating Jews Go Green, a new project on Judaism and ecology. Through a website and educational seminars, the project will examine environmentalism, nature, consumption and sustainability through the lens of Judaism.

Michael Amsellem, a Strasbourg native, has worked to bring about cooperation between French and Israeli parliamentarians and organized conferences on Jewish philosophy as well as on business ventures between France and Israel. An active member of ROI Community, Michael is also a Limmud activist. His latest undertaking is to found Moishe House in Paris. Moishe House will target young Jews who are never, or only occasionally, connected to Jewish life, by bringing to France a spirit that is global, engaged, innovative, post-denominational and meaningful to young French Jews.

Anna Yablonskaya, from Kharkov, Ukraine, studied systems analysis management at Kharkov Polytechnic University. Since 2011, she has been working as a community development director at the Great Kiev Synagogue (Brodsky). Fired by a vision, she is applying a business approach to spreading creative ideas, thus breathing new life into small Jewish communities throughout Ukraine. Breathing One Air, her brainchild, aims to upgrade the level of Jewish education and increase Jewish awareness in areas with no synagogue, rabbi, Jewish school or community center. The two year course, which is offered for all ages, provides an interactive educational experience and culminates in a trip to Israel.

Klaudia Klimek manages the Madrichim Agency, which offers courses, workshops, tours and classes in Krakow, where she is also a youth leader and educator. She founded and was a semi-finalist in “Innovation and Business” at the Jagiellonian University School of Entrepreneurship. One innovation that Klaudia is promoting is Polin TV, which will feature programs made by young adults, amateur reporters, local Polish leaders – and with time other Europeans – about Jewish culture, tradition and education in Poland, with interactive programs for viewers the world over. Beginning with an hour of programming, Klaudia will grow the station to produce longer programs, including Jewish movies.

Torkel S. Wachter’s second novel, Ciona: An Autobiology (AlfabetaAnamma 2002), was short-listed for the prestigious August Prize for fiction. Stockholm-born, he began writing novels while still a pilot with Scandinavian Airlines. 32 Postkarten is the first of a series of projects dealing with memory which he initiated. When his father died, Torkel discovered cases filled with diaries, letters, articles and unfinished memoirs, including the last postcards Torkel’s grandparents sent before they were deported. It is now possible to read these 32 authentic postcards at Each postcard is published on the date they were written, but 70 years later. The next project will deal with the crucial year 1933, using other material found in the boxes Torkel’s father left behind.

Shoshana Bloom, a member of ROI Community of Young Jewish Innovators, is head of Jewish culture for Norwood, a leading Jewish charity that supports the field of learning disabilities and children and families in need in the UK. In this role, Shoshana works on creating innovative, informal education programs and projects for children and adults. She is passionate about building a fairer society, particularly for the marginalized. For the second time, Shoshana will chair the Limmud Conference. She is introducing for the first time ever at a Limmud event anywhere in the world a track designed specifically for adults with learning disabilities, as well as their participation in the wider conference as presenters and volunteers.

About: ROI Community is an international network of 600 social entrepreneurs and Jewish innovators in 40 countries on six continents who are creating innovative ways to connect to Jewish life. American Jewish philanthropist Lynn Schusterman created ROI Community as a partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel in 2005.

JHub, a program of the Pears Foundation, is a center of creativity, energy, learning and innovation. JHub provides office space, meeting rooms and a support network for innovative UK-based Jewish individuals, projects and organizations who are working to contribute meaningfully, in a variety of ways, to the Jewish and wider world.

Paideia, The European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden, was created in 2000 through grants from the Swedish government and the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation as a non-denominational academic and applied institute of excellence, with the mandate of working for the rebuilding of Jewish life and culture in Europe. After ten years of activity, Paideia has graduated over 200 fellows from its One-Year Jewish Studies Program and more than 100 social entrepreneurs from the Paideia Project-Incubator, who are changing the face of European Jewish life.