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July 06, 2006 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-07-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Editor's Letter

ma loving
way to
celebrate a
simcha...

Giving Judaism Meaning

Art Of Learning

Noomi

I met Weinryb on June 15 at the American Jewish
Press Association's annual conference in Baltimore. The
Stockholm School of Economics graduate appeared on a panel
discussing European Jewry. She was in the U.S. trying to raise
$200,000 for Paideia, whose annual operating budget is $1.2
million. The Institute certainly sounds like a necessary place
given the anti-Zionist currents running through Europe as the
number of Muslim citizens who despise Israel grows.
Paideia was founded with a grant from the Swedish govern-
ment. Its interdisciplinary academic approach draws Jews of
all backgrounds. Many of the fellows come from Central and
Eastern Europe where the economies are lagging. They scrimp
and borrow to meet the $25,000 cost of a fellowship; Paideia
also offers scholarships. The August incoming class will have
30 students from 16 countries, including Azerbadjan, Moldavia
and Slovakia.
Weinryb was born and raised in Stockholm. She's smart,
worldly and an excellent fundraising ambassador for the
Institute. Her message echoes: "The time for young European
Jews to make a difference is now. If they want a viable European
Jewish community, they must be able to explain why Jews
should stay in Europe and risk their lives!'
She cited Hitler's drumbeat of hate. "It could happen again:'
she said. "Look at what is happening in France, for example!'
What's happening is that the level of anti-Jewish acts in
France is seven times higher than six years ago, reports Roger
Cukierman, president of the CRIF, the umbrella group of
French Jewish organizations.

European Roots
Weinryb is a World Jewish Congress Young Professionals
Diplomatic Corps member. I applaud the value she attaches to
provincial thinking, however. She's Jewish but also European,
she reminds. While supportive of aliyah, she and other young
Jews have seized the moment to help secure a Jewish communi-
ty in Europe amid the unsettled winds of the European Union.
Unlike in America, the Holocaust remains a part of daily life
in Europe. "We relate to it in one way or another every day,'
Weinryb said. "Most of-us are children or grandchildren or sur-
vivors!' She's the grandchild of Polish survivors who arrived in
Sweden in 1945.
Such familial ties have spurred many among her genera-
tion to stay in Europe and nurture their Jewish roots. Besides,
Europe is Israel's largest collective trading partner. So a vital
European Jewish community does matter.
Clearly, young adults like Weinryb must be confident in who
they are as European Jews — from standing with Israel, to
embracing American Jewish support, to understanding their
connection to a global people. "That's where Jewish education
comes into play;' Weinryb said. "It's integral!'
In ancient Greek, the word paideia links learning with
culture. In Hebrew, podeah means, "here,
there is knowledge!' Against this backdrop, it
makes sense why Paideia, the Institute, not only
includes Israeli professors on its faculty, but
also invites non-Jewish Israeli journalists and
academicians as students. Israel needs Zionist
advocates among Jewish and non-Jewish citizens
alike.
Meanwhile, European Jews who appreciate the
American Jewish impact on their lives must tip-
toe through the European cultural system, where
anti-American sentiment is strong. "European
Weinryb
Jewry very much wants to be a part of the world
Jewish people," Weinryb said. "But we can't show
that openly. I know our system is very bad, but it's the system
that exists. Jews have to navigate within it."
That explains why Jews indigenous to Europe have the best
feel for the choppy waters they encounter. My take is that pro-
spective young leaders from this group first must be inspired to
embrace Judaism at places like Paideia before they can become
empowered to shape Jewish life and communal service as well
as Jewish arts and culture in Europe.
The payoff for European students from such Jewish learning
and leadership development is the ability to lead a revival and
a continuity of Jewish life in their home countries, where being
Jewish typically remains a struggle.



To contact Paideia: www.paideia-eu.org

P OINTS TO. PO NDE R...

C

an Jewish 20- and 30-somethings in Europe openly
practice their faith amid the anti-Jewish sentiment
swirling around them?
Not easily.
It starts with their upbringing. Typically, they're brainwashed
as kids against their Jewish identity. They may know they're •
Jewish, but by the time they are teenag-
ers they have no clue what that means
or how to act on it. So the barrier is
steep. Some find resonance on campus
through the European Union of Jewish
Students.
"People my age, we want to be
Jewish," says Noomi Weinryb, a won-
derfully engaging 25-year-old Swede.
"In a world where we can choose our
identity, we choose Judaism. And we
want to be active Jewishly. Many of us
just don't know how."
So their challenge is to expand their
Jewish knowledge and share more Jewish experiences.
Some go to study at Paideia, the European Institute for Jewish
Studies in Sweden. Weinryb is deputy director of the 6-
year-old Institute. The 100 graduates, ages 20-60, have
come from 23 Eurasian nations, including Russia and
Germany
"We try to educate students in Jewish literacy','
Weinryb said,"so they can go back to their communi-
ties and become engaged leaders in a way that revives
a European Jewish voice long silenced by Communism
and post-Holocaust trauma. We want that voice to con-
tribute to a culturally rich and pluralistic Europe!'

Is helping build a strong Jewish commu-
nity in the diaspora less important than
making aliyah?

Can European Jewry ultimately survive
the anti-Jewish waves rippling across the
continent?

E-mail: letters@thejewishnews.com

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July 6 • 2006

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