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Micro Grant Interview: Night for Finnish Jews with Uniikii

"For me it’s hard to actually think of ‘Jewish involvement’ per say, it’s really just the way I see the world - everything is through a Jewish lens, and it’s just an intrinsic part of who I am." - Jake Berger

Last month, we were already going to be in Northern Europe for BJN (see previous post) so we thought we should make the most of our time in “The North” and meet some young, Finnish Jews, learn about the community, eat some delicious food, and hear from a local celebrity! Our partner for the event was Jake Berger. Jake is originally from Manchester and currently lives in Helsinki as the JDC-Yesod Jewish Service Corps Fellow. He graduated from Oxford with a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy (where he also founded what he presumes to be the university’s first-ever Schnitzel Society).

After that, he studied as a European Leadership Fellow at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. Since moving to Finland he has incorporated the sauna and dipping into the Baltic as a key component of his Jewish practice. Jake had the wonderful idea of reaching out to Uniikki, one of the pioneers of Finnish rap and community member and host a dinner meet and greet in an adorable Vietnamese restaurant!

Q. What was your key takeaway from the Program?

Good food, interesting speaker, great to connect and engage with young adults from across Helsinki. Uniikki was fantastic, so a big thanks to him too!

Q. What lead you to reach out to Junction?

I was familiar with Junction’s work across Europe and I knew that the Nordic countries were a key area of focus for expansion, so it seemed a great opportunity. The resources could really help activate Jewish life for young adults here, but I think the main thing for people here is the sense of connection to other communities, as sometimes in Finland we feel a touch isolated from the Scandinavian countries and other countries across Europe.

Q. What surprised you about the planning process?

How easy it was! Once the grant was secured everything flowed naturally and led to a successful event.

Q. What was your Jewish involvement in the past?

I have always been involved in Jewish life, from being a participant in my local youth movement in Manchester to organising events on campus at my University. After that, I spent a year engaged in text study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem as a European Leadership Fellow. This year I went to my first ever Limmud in the UK, and also helped to organise Limud Helsinki in February. For me it’s hard to actually think of ‘Jewish involvement’ per say, it’s really just the way I see the world – everything is through a Jewish lens, and it’s just an intrinsic part of who I am.

Q. What is your Jewish involvement now?

Currently, I work in the Jewish School, support the young adult community and try to identify other development opportunities for the community as a whole.

Q. What excites you about the Jewish future?

The greater sense of connectivity across individuals and communities is definitely energising; it’s hard not to envision the future of our people being predicated in some way based on these increasingly more global connections. Besides this, I think our generation’s anti-institutional tilt has paved the way for a creative Jewish future that can exist independent of any one central body, and that’s really exciting to me.

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

It’s small but definitely vibrant and warm, despite the winters. There are of course challenges – like any Jewish community – though in spite of those, there really is some great stuff going on here and I think the Jewish future is bright here.

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

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