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Micro Grant Interview: Baltic Jewish Network

"Planning the event is always surprising. This year we had a huge flow of requests from participants, partner companies, who wished to make sessions at our event in order to present their business or areas of work during the weekend." - Aleksandr and Ilja

Baltic Jewish Network Weekend 5. A community of professional and entrepreneurial individuals held their first anniversary!

In April the resort town of Latvia – Jurmala hosted the 5th Baltic Jewish Network (BJN) Weekend. The major BJN event of the year has over 140 participants from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, USA, Russia, Israel, Germany, Finland,Switzerland, Germany, Bulgaria, Sweden, Hungary and Poland.

The Baltic Jewish Network (BJN) is an initiative of local young professionals who identified the need for connecting Jewish professionals and entrepreneurs from the Baltic States through a common platform. Heads and founders of the organization are political expert and Deputy of the Tallinn City Council, Aleksandr Zdankevitch (Estonia) and Head of wealth management at Rietumu Banka, Ilja Hagin (Latvia).

BJN is one of Junction’s most successful micro-grantee programs and we are happy to be a part of this incredible network and can’t wait for what the next 5 years will hold! Follow BJN news on the website: www.balticjewishnetwork.eu

Q. What was your key takeaway from BJN?

Aleksandr and Ilja: Acting as a regional hub, by enabling people to access the professional ideas, by nurturing networks of entrepreneurs, innovators, and through sharing practical interventions. Hearing from participants that BJN was a boost to various stories of success was a great takeaway from the BJN anniversary event.

Q. What lead you to reach out to Junction?

Aleksandr and Ilja: We are very pleased that Baltic Jewish Network from the very beginning is supported by our partners and friends: The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. JDC also helped us to connect with Junction – a network of empowered and like-minded European Jews, which helps young Jews getting more active within their own Jewish local communities.

Q. What surprised you about the planning process?

Aleksandr and Ilja: Planning the event is always surprising. This year we had a huge flow of requests from participants, partner companies, who wished to make sessions at our event in order to present their business or areas of work during the weekend. This no doubt shows the high interest of BJN members in the planning process, gives an understanding that we are reaching our main goals and takes us to a new level.

Q. What was your Jewish involvement in the past?

Aleksandr and Ilja: Both of us were leaders of Jewish movements for youngsters, students and young adults in Jewish communities in Tallinn and Riga.

Q. What is your Jewish involvement now?

Ilja: BJN co-founder and active member of Rigas Jewish Community.

Aleksandr: BJN co-founder and member of the board of Jewish Community of Estonia.

Q. What excites you about the Jewish future?

Aleksandr and Ilja: We hope that BJN will continue to contribute to the development of innovative ideas and analytical center of Jewish professionals in the Baltic States and other countries. It is important to note that BJN members/participants, their motivation, willingness to learn and share their experiences gives a great hope for successful development of the future Jewish life.

Q. What should people know about the Baltic Jewish Community?

Aleksandr and Ilja: Open. Modern.Forward-looking.

Q. What’s next for you?

Aleksandr and Ilja: We are planning to organize exclusive, professionally oriented events, that are fostering the development of a think tank of innovative ideas in both the Jewish and the general societies. Already in June, we will have an event, which is called Baltics MeetUp, this year we are gathering in Tartu, Estonia.

Aleksandr Zdankevitch (Estonia) – politician, since 2013 – deputy of Tallinn City Council. 2016-2017 worked in the Ministry of Finance as an adviser for the Minister of Public Administration. Since July 2017 – political adviser for the bureau of Estonian Centre Party. Since 2014 – lecturer at the Euroacademy. In 2007 graduated with honors from the Faculty of International Relations at the European University (Tallinn), in 2009 received a Master of Social Sciences degree in the European Studies program. Since 2011 has been a teacher of history at the Tallinn Jewish School. Since 2015 – member of the Board at NGO Baltic Jewish Network. Since 2017 – Member of the board of the Jewish Community of Estonia.

Ilja Hagins (Latvia) – in 2012 received Master of Science Engineering from Riga’s Technical University. Since 2010 works in JSC Rietumu Bank. 2010-2016 was working in Security and Financial market department as sales and later Head of Sales division. From 2016 is Head of Wealth Management. Since 2015 – Member of the Board at NGO Baltic Jewish Network.

Junction micro grants are awarded to innovative, engaging young adult community projects and can range from $1000 to $5000.

If you have a new program idea such as a celebration of a Jewish holiday or a Jewish social event and want to make it happen, find out more here!

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