By Maia Ferdman
A mobile application that aggregates Jewish events. A renovation and documentation of an abandoned Jewish cemetery. Workshops training Jewish youth in different kinds of safety and survival skills.
These are just a few of the 19 unique projects that young Jewish adults from all over Europe pursued at Rescape, Junction’s first event of 2016, and an initiative of the JDC, the Schusterman Foundation, and YESOD.
Using an innovative and modern approach to building Jewish ideas, Rescape brought together 27 participants from 18 different European cities to work on their own Jewish initiatives for four days in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Participants came from Spain, Austria, Lithuania, and the Netherlands, among many other countries. They included university students, Jewish leaders, and young professionals in a range of fields. Despite their different languages, backgrounds, and levels of religious observance, these participants had something fundamental in common: a passion for Jewish community, and the initiative and drive to pursue a project they believe in.
“I was overwhelmed with the seriousness of the participants,” said Lior Frenkel, one of the primary facilitators at Rescape.
Participants were utterly committed to making their idea a reality, even approaching Lior during breaks and mealtimes. “They wanted to hear my opinion about their project, and to get yet another good advice about their strategy and the way they’re going to tackle their challenge,” he said. Lior is the CEO and co-founder of the nuSchool, which provides training to businesses, start-ups, and freelancers.
Throughout the weekend, participants engaged in discussions about Judaism as a dynamic and changing force, and about how current ideas are shaping today’s Jewish world. Guided by specialized facilitators, participants also refined their projects using a variety of methods, such as project validation, budgeting, time management, and pitching through storytelling.
Ruben Uzan, a participant from France, said that one session in particular, led by artist and educator Inbar Amir, stood out to him. Using theater techniques, Inbar’s session examined the relationship between giving and receiving advice and support.
“It was one of these ‘change your life moments’…when I realized that being a giver makes you sometimes a bad receiver, a bad listener,” Ruben said. “You’re so into your project and willing to give it to the world, that you think it is okay to skip listening and receiving.” Ruben, a marketing consultant, is developing a series of workshops dedicated to asking what it means to be a secular Jew.
Participants also had the opportunity to consult with project advisors from a range of fields, and to pitch their projects to a panel of representatives from the JDC, Schusterman Foundation, and Rothschild Foundation. They then received constructive feedback and insight about how to move their projects forward from the perspective of large Jewish organizations.
“Rescape helped me move from believing my idea is possible to achieve, to forming the actual concrete plan,” said Ivona Gacevic, a participant from Serbia. Ivona, a medical practitioner, is currently working with her partner on new and innovative ways to collect, preserve, and revive the Jewish heritage of European cities.
“At Rescape I found motivation in the fact that people asked questions, reacted well, and all in all I would say I believe in the outcome of my project,” she said.
Indeed, participants became invaluable resources for each other – the international context of Rescape allowed them to capitalize on their individual passions and increase their capacities. Many come from small and disparate communities, so they were able to offer each other new perspectives and solutions to common concerns.
This kind of cross-border collaboration and encouragement is part of Junction’s larger vision for empowering young Jews in Europe.
“Rescape is part of a set of experiences Junction provides to allow young people to examine their and others’ involvement in the Jewish world through different lenses, and to learn from each other’s experiences,” said Lela Sadikario, Junction’s director. “We want to give the opportunity to individuals within the Jewish world to develop strong relationships with like-minded people, to be inspired and empowered, and to dream.”
Dreams like a Talmudic study group aimed at empowering women in Budapest. The dream of staging of a famous play in Berlin about Zionism and socialism, 70 years after it was written. The dream of an international web platform, based out of Vienna, for Jews around the world to offer and search for jobs and housing when moving to a new city. These dreams are already well underway to becoming realities; what remains to be seen is how they will then shape and mold our Jewish future.