This year we decided to have our fall seminar in Paris, using Marom Paris centre as a study case for our educational theme – “Who is the other?” – Masorti perspective on refugees and interfaith. In the last few years, our centre in Paris has been focusing on working with non-Jewish groups (partnership with Paris “co-existence” organization) and volunteering and hosting refugees. Marom Paris is one of the very few Jewish centres who is currently do that in Paris. We wanted to take advantage of their experience, learn together and be inspired.
We were fortunate to have 23 participants from 9 cities in Europe (London, Paris, Madrid, Budapest, Stockholm, Kiev, Chernobyl, Khrakiv and Italy) and Israel. It was a
really special and exciting occasion for the Marom Europe community, because representatives from Kiev, Chernobyl and Khrakiv attended our seminar for the first time. Marom Ukraine joined Marom Europe officially last year (we held a Marom Europe coordinators and leaders seminar in Kiev in June). We asked every centre to send a mixed group of Marom Seminar “veterans” and first timers. We see a generational leaders change in some of our more established centres and It was important for us to continue building the network by inviting new people to join the seminar and hopefully feel motivated to take an active role in their centre afterwards. We had 7 participants who joined Marom Europe seminars in the past and 16 first timers.
In Addition to learning about the “the other”, the strengthening of the Marom Europe network was in the focus of the seminar. We had several sessions focusing on sharing centres information’s and programs, thinking and planning sessions where among others we were talking about our own communities, the challenges and opportunities. We emphasized on possible collaborations – joint programs, Mitzva day partnerships, Marom centres visit each other etc.
Our educational sessions were led by Miriam Camerini, a Jewish educator from Milan, Italy and Michal Chacham, director of the Europe and Africa desk at Marom Olami. Miriam led the session “Biblical culture clash”, she used different biblical stories and we studied in Hevrutot how our forefathers and mothers reacted in situations where there was a culture and religious clash and what can we learn from that. Next, we had a session regarding the refugees in Israel – we learned about their status now, the South Tel Aviv neighbours point of view and held a discussion about Tikun Olam and the pasuk – ינע םימדוק ךריע י (literally; the poor people of your city comes first)- “can we or should we put a priority on who we help first?” “Does the answers changed if we are talking about Israel?”
We then went to the Medem Center – a small Yiddish “bubble” in the center of Paris. We learned about the Jewish history of the place and heard from Milena Kartowski, a Marom Paris member about her refugee work in and outside of Paris using the performance arts. We had the privilege of having a Yazidi refugee Diler Almandicany joining up and spending shabbat with us and shared his personal story and the status of refugees in Europe and Paris specially. We were really moved by Diler’s story the challenges, the hope he still kept through difficult times and the responsibility we have.
On Friday evening we had a group of the coexistence organization joining us for an interfaith Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat dinner. It was one of the highlights of the seminar – joined by muslims & christians celebrating Jewish shabbat rituals together. During the shabbat dinner we presented different topic questions and introductions so that the participants can engage in conversations.
Apart from all the learning, planning and discussions, we participated in a magical Kabbalat Shabbat and Tefillah with the Masorti community of Dor Va Dor in Paris where members of Marom Europe took an active role in leading services, Divrei Torah for the entire synagogue community, read the Torah and had Aliyot. Marom Paris is known for their Zmirot sessions so they led and taught us all some songs and we receive a Zmirot booklet as a gift from Marom Paris Centre. It was also a Shabbat Chatan in the Synagogue so there was a special atmosphere and we joined the singing and dancing celebrations.
On Shabbat afternoon, we went to the Immigration museum in Paris. What used to be a colonialism museum in the beginning of the 20th century turned into an immigration focused museum in 2007. We had a tour in the museum and educational session about prejudice, asking ourselves – where prejudice come from? Can it be avoided? We also had a chance to do some reflection session about the interfaith dinner and meeting the refugees – What are some of the challenging parts when we meet someone so different then us? Can we look at the “other” with clean “glasses”?
Since Zionism and Israel are main pillars of our centres, we had a session using the vintage Zionism posters exhibition discussing Zionism 100 years ago and today – what changed and what stayed the same, what are some of the challenges that they face in Europe by being Zionist Jews working in Zionist organizations.
On Sunday we had a chance to see parts of Paris together in a tour led by Simon Fleury, Marom Paris coordinator. The tour focused on the La Marais neighbourhood and the Jewish history of that area. We visited different Ashkenazi and Sephardic synagogues, holocaust memorials, and got to see some Paris architecture and Jewish patisseries. We enjoyed lunch at the Miznon, Israeli chef Eyal Shani restaurant, and had a finale session at an old Netsach Israel synagogue founded by Jews from Odessa. We conclude by reflecting on what we experienced and learned: we tried to define the role of Marom Europe in the life of our communities and individuals, we talked about how we would like to develop and expand our network and to see what is everyone’s place and role in it. We talked about the vision and mission of Marom Olami and Marom Europe and how can we bring the value of “meeting the other”, as a masorti value – into our programs and events.
The opportunity to get together, discuss, learn, explore and study a subject that is related to young Jews in Europe and letting us share our thoughts, feelings and ideas about this topic and to generate that into action is important and meaningful. During the year, each Marom centre in Europe is building, planning and running activities for their own community. Coming to a Marom Europe seminar offers our members and leaders to take a few days off their daily jobs to fill the mind and soul with Jewish learning and experiences that helps to maintain the motivation in their daily work.
We would like to continue creating a bigger community of Marom Europe, reach more people and inspire more Jewish young adults. We believe that empowering this age group will create a stronger, progressive young adult community that will choose to live a Jewish life in Europe. We would very much like to continue this tradition and have the opportunity to invite all Marom Europe members to learn, explore and strengthen their connection to Judaism and Zionism and their relationship with Jews in Europe.