Gary Rosenblatt on Fighting the Odds

from The Jewish Week:

Young European Jews Asserting Identity, Against The Odds

… I learned that famed old synagogues are not the primary source of native Jewish life in Europe today. Chabad Lubavitch offers an impressive network of religious and social services, but its rabbis and leaders are for the most part imported from America. If you want to find the sparks of homegrown European talent and activity, speak to the more than 200 fellows and alumni of Paideia, now in its 10th year. The institute’s main program is a full academic year of interactive study of Jewish texts and courses in leadership development, with the goal of educating and training “the best and brightest” young people “who can lead a true renaissance of European Jewish culture,” according to its website.

Among this summer’s participants in Project Incubator – which was conducted in English – were two Russian women planning weekend seminars for Jewish learning in various cities; a Belarus activist who hopes to create a combined Jewish study/vocational training program for young men from disadvantaged families; an Italian architect with a vision of turning the famous Venice Jewish Ghetto into a vibrant center for international Jewish life and culture; and a theatrical couple from England whose dream is to see “Soviet Zion,” their musical production depicting life in Birobidzhan, the Stalin-designated Yiddish homeland in Siberia, into a Broadway show.

The sophistication and scope of the projects varied, but the incubator program boasts an impressive track record. About two-thirds of past proposals have come to fruition within a year, aided by help from the program’s alumni, and funding advice and support from Paideia mentors and a network of funders (including the European Jewish Fund, UJA-Federation of New York and the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education in the Diaspora).

You can find more on Gary Rosenblatt’s visit with this summer’s Project Incubator participants here.