ROI Community Set to Propel Latin American “Jewish Spring” at
Ibero-American Gathering in Buenos Aires
Jerusalem – November 20, 2011: As Latin America assumes a growing global role economically and diplomatically, 50 hand-picked up-and-coming leaders from Mexico to Argentina, and 14 other countries, will convene for ROI’s Ibero-American Gathering in Buenos Aires, November 23-27, 2011, to explore original ways to shape the Jewish future. They include social justice activists, artists, environmentalists, media and tech gurus, educators, Israel advocates, intercultural dialoguers and others whose projects are already impacting and invigorating Jewish communities throughout Latin America and beyond.
“We need a ‘Jewish Spring’ that transforms the Jewish world into a more inclusive and welcoming home for anyone who wants to be Jewish,” said Lynn Schusterman, who, in 2005, created ROI Community as a partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel. “These young change agents are key to ensuring the vibrancy of Jewish life 3,000 years down the road.”
ROI Community is an international network of 600 social entrepreneurs and Jewish innovators in 40 countries who are creating innovative ways to connect to Jewish life. Mexico City native Beto Maya, ROI Community Director for Gatherings and Recruitment, is spearheading the conference.
“This gathering spotlights Latin America’s dynamic Jewish social entrepreneurs,” said ROI Community Executive Director Justin Korda. “They are introducing inclusive, open and accessible ways of expressing Judaism. At the same time, they are fostering dialogue with society at large to encourage participation, promote diversity, and stem discrimination.”
In his keynote, serial entrepreneur Santiago Bilinkis, who founded Officenet, an Internet office supply company, right out of college and sold it to Staples, will share his unique perspective on Latin American entrepreneurship.
Participants will learn useful tools, strengthen important skills, and establish vital connections to help them advance their projects. At the heart of the program are professional workshops in communications, project financing, project management and technological applications, as well as peer-to-peer training and collaborative project-building sessions.
Among the 50 participants who are creating ripples of change:
Gabriel Buznick, from Argentina, brings young Arabs and Jews together to forge human ties over meals. Participants host dinners in their homes on a rotating basis. The informal setting helps them first develop a personal bond then approach the tough issues later.
Dina Buchbinder Auron, an Ashoka Fellow, founded Deport-es para Compartir (Sports to Share) to teach Mexico’s children about global issues like disease prevention, the environment and gender equality, through games and sports. Since its founding in 2007, Deport-es para Compartir has reached more than 28,500 children. In 2010, Buchbinder’s initiative was selected by Ashoka Council as one of the top 25 social development projects from among 47,000 entries.
Uriel Aiskovich, recently established the Altneuland Foundation in Argentina to promote respect for cultural diversity and understanding of Judaism through art and culture. The Foundation supports Urban Rhythms, a viral music clip featuring Israeli star Idan Raichel and local artists. Aiskovich is also behind the Babel Travels, an interactive project drawing on Jewish thinker Yeshayahu Leibowitz’s Babel story. He is best known for founding Shagriria, in 2006. It has already trained over 200 young people in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela to be “ambassadors” for Israel.
Uruguay’s Samuel Dresel is creator and executive director of the Shoah Project, a 700-square meter interactive educational exhibit. The Uruguayan government hosted the exhibit in 2008-9 and had over 50,000 visitors in Montevideo. The Project, which has traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Bogota, Colombia, is taking Holocaust education across Latin America, as a tool to increase tolerance, respect for differences and coexistence. Dresel has turned the project into a cultural franchise that can be replicated in communities throughout the region.
Carolina Lifchitz, works for Hillel Rio de Janeiro’s Coexistence Project which runs programs for teenagers in the city’s public and private, Jewish and non-Jewish schools, tackling issues such as discrimination, prejudice and social responsibility using group dynamics, games and dialogue. In addition, the program organizes street rallies and art exhibits with paintings from Jerusalem’s Museum on the Seam, a socio- political contemporary art museum. Coexistence has already involved over 2,000 students.
Maximiliano Grass, a Santiago native, took over as president of the Federation of Jewish Students in Chile in April. His main objective is to mobilize Jewish university students to advocate for Israel, spearhead social action initiatives and organize cultural programs. The 1,200-member organization focuses on combating anti-Israel campus activism by Chile’s large Palestinian population and creating alliances with the young leadership of Chile’s political parties. (There are half a million Palestinians in Chile, the largest concentration in the world outside the West Bank and Gaza.)
Jonathan Sosky runs a pilot branch of Hillel to connect with Paraguay’s 100 Jewish university students, a third of whom are unaffiliated. Paraguay’s 1,200 Jews are quite dispersed. To build the community, Sosky brings Paraguayan Jews together through social gatherings and organizes trips to Buenos Aires, Cordova and Montevideo to link them with Jews in neighboring countries.
Denise Dalva of Uruguay created Mifgash, to provide a Jewish framework and a meeting place for Jewish singles aged 28 to 40, with support from Kehila Yavne. Since its inception in 2009, three couples have become engaged. The first married in July 2011; the others are planning to tie the knot in the coming months.