I was in
yesterday with my colleague Zoya Shvartzman, JDC’s Director of Strategic
Partnerships for Europe.
Zoya is Moldovan-born, growing up in Tel Aviv and Vancouver, and has lived and worked in
Tel Aviv. Specifically, we came for a series of meetings with CJP, the Boston
Jewish Federation, to discuss our work in Hungary and prepare a mission for
One of the aspects of that work that fascinates me about
is how the horizons and challenges of the Jewish community intersect. Hungary has the fourth-largest Jewish community
in Europe (after France, the
UK and Germany), with some 120,000 … but
the total number of Jews participating in any form of community engagement is
probably no more than 20,000. Maybe less.
And one of the key questions we discussed with professionals at CJP yesterday was the difference between engagement and outreach in the Jewish community.
Here in the
US, we sometimes
use the terms interchangeably. But in fact they're very different.
Hungary we can't engage the middle
and older generation, because in so many cases, there’s no one with whom we can
There’s no Jewish memory, no Jewish collective education. They were cut off for so long, and much of what we take for granted in the West as aspects of Jewish life – synagogues, religious institutions, federations, community organizations – are treated with suspicion. So outreach is more of the flavor.
And unlike in the US, where we reach out to parents, and through them we can reach the kids, in places like Hungary we have to reach out first to the kids, and hope that through them we can reach through to the parents.
That’s why Szarvas Camp, the Balint JCC programs and other young-family programs are so critical.
And that’s why what happens in
Hungary will be
the precursor, in many ways, to what we try to do in many other countries
around the world.