More than 150 European Jewish Leaders Gather to plan for Future

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland
Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland

Barcelona, Spain, November 15, 2016 – In the face of continued challenges for Europe’s Jews, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) concluded yesterday its 2nd annual conference in Barcelona fostering Jewish community resilience and planning for the future. Dozens of Jewish leaders, experts, and professionals from across the continent took part in the two-day gathering focusing on training in governmental and intergroup relations, security and preparedness, and communications best practices. The conference was co-organized with the European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC), the European Jewish Congress, and supported by UJA-Federation of New York.

“A year after the horrors of the Bataclan terror attack, and despite many remaining challenges, it was an encouraging sign of the tenacity of Europe’s Jews to find community leaders and professionals, thought leaders and experts from across a vast spectrum of preparedness practices, forging ahead to secure a future for Jewish Europe,” said Diego Ornique, JDC Regional Director for Europe. “We are proud to partner with ECJC, the European Jewish Congress, UJA-Federation of New York, the Pillar Foundation, and so many others in an effort which offers working solutions for tensions on the continent, fosters stronger Jewish communities, and further invests in Jewish life, an enduring strength at difficult times.”

Keynote speakers included renowned historian and Padeia Director Fania Oz-Salzberger, who spoke about Jewish tradition’s teachings on resilience and community survival, and Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, who focused on extremist trends in Europe and the west, the Jewish response to these movements, and the need for societies to re-dedicate themselves to enlightened, democratic values.

“Working on the different aspects of resilience should be the task of every community wanting to guarantee their permanence on the map of European Jewry. By bringing together over 150 leaders from communities, we achieved the first goal of making them partners in the process, so together we can dedicate our future efforts and energies in providing them with the tools required to invest in a strong presence and ensure their vibrancy and uniqueness so that “community” can be experienced by all local Jews. ECJC was proud of being one of the drivers of this conference with JDC, our strongest partner in the field,” said Benjamin Albalas, of Greece, and President of ECJC.

A conversation with Katharina von Schnurbein, the coordinator on combating Anti-Semitism from the European Union, and a special panel on the French Jewish community – including Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur of the Liberal Jewish Movement of France),?Yonathan Arfi, Vice-President and Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), and Jean-François Guthmann, President of OSE, the French Jewish welfare organization – contributed to larger conversations on major trends in Europe.

Among others, David Gidron, a social psychologist and expert in community resilience and crisis management, provided resilience best practices to community leadership in attendance, and Rabbi Robert (Bob) Kaplan, Director of the Center For Community Leadership of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, led sessions on partnership building and conflict prevention from an intergroup relations standpoint. Adam Cannon, a UK media expert and community leader from London, offered sessions on public relations and communications best practices for Jewish communities finding themselves at the center of media stories.

Among the delegates from 31 nations who participated were: Josh Spinner of the Ronald. S. Lauder Foundation; Raya Kalenova, the Executive Vice-President of the European Jewish Congress; Spanish Jewish community leader Uri Benguigui; Edwin Shuker of the Board of Deputies of British Jews; Petr Papoušek, President Federation of Jewish Communities in Czech Republic; Leslaw Piszewski, President of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland; Minos Moissis, President of Jewish Community of Athens; Alek Oscar, President of the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria, “Shalom”; Luciana Friedmann, President of the Jewish Community of Timisoara, Romania; Arturo Tedeschi of the Union of Jewish Communities of Italy; Gabrielle Rosenstein, President of VSJF- Association of Swiss Jewish Welfare organization; and Jonathan Boyd, Executive Director of the UK-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research.