Feature Stories

European Jews Build Community Beyond Borders

JDC's Gesher programs bring young Jewish adults together for educational and social activities.
JDC's Gesher programs bring young Jewish adults together for educational and social activities.

“I’ve participated in Gesher four years in a row because it provides an unparalleled opportunity to bond and connect with international peers in a Jewish context,” shared Olivera J., a 25-year-old medical student from Macedonia, after participating in the annual JDC-supported leadership development event for Jewish young adults from the Balkan-Black Sea region last month in Serbia.

Like hundreds of her peers who hail from the Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania, Turkey, and beyond each year to network in a Jewish environment, Olivera relies on Gesher’s rich program to enhance her personal Jewish journey.

The four days are packed with chances to engage with Jewish culture, from baking challot to learning Israeli dance, exploring Sephardic music to analyzing “Jewropean” cinema. The seminar also offers a unique opportunity to openly converse about comparative religion, anti-Semitism, how to build Jewish identity among people in each of the participants’ home countries, and more.

“It’s an environment where we learn a lot from both our similarities and our differences,” noted Olivera. Precisely this kind of exchange has made Gesher a touchstone for young leaders who are concerned not only with their own personal development, but with contributing to a bright future for their Jewish communities at home by becoming more connected internationally.

For Olivera, it was another JDC cross-border experience that began her Jewish journey: the Ronald S. Lauder/JDC International Summer Camp at Szarvas, Hungary. “I learned about my Jewish roots when I was 8 years old…once it became more comfortable for us to be open in my country,” she shared. “My Jewish foundation has all been built on what I experienced in that camp…”

Today, in her role as president of the young adults club in the small Jewish community of Skopje, Macedonia, Olivera applies the “advertising techniques” she’s learned at Gesherto engage every Jew she can reach. “Participating in this seminar reinforces for me how important it is for each of us to be present and to be part of a community in order for it to exist,” she said. And Olivera gets re-energized and connected every time she taps into the international network of Jewish peers she has come to rely on, whether via social media or at other JDC-supported regional gatherings. “These people have become my closest friends….”

Tags for this story: Camps / Retreats, Youth / Young Adults

Subscribe to our RSS feed: Feature Stories – JDC Around the World
X

An error occurred during your login.

X

JDC, Cookies, and Your Privacy

Cookies are small pieces of information sent by our web server for storage on your computer, to be retrieved when you return to this site. We use cookies to allow you faster, more convenient access, and to prevent you from being required to log in on every page of our sites.

For more information on JDC’s use of cookies, read our Privacy Policy.

X

An Error Occurred

X

Logging In With One of Your Social Web Site Logins

Instead of trying to remember a bunch of special username/password combinations to log in to different web sites that you visit, you can now link your account on this web site to your account on one (or more) of the social media web sites shown and log in with the same username/password combination that you use on that social web site to log in to our site.

To provide this connection in a secure manner, we use Gigya, a social network connection provider that works behind the scenes to make safe, secure connections between user accounts on different systems, such as popular social media web sites like Facebook and web sites like ours where you are actively involved in social issues and causes.

Each time you log in, Gigya uses special application programming interfaces (APIs) to establish the connection between the sites and validate your username and password. Neither our web site or Gigya receive or store your social network passwords.

In addition to reducing the number of logins you have to remember, connecting your accounts can make it quicker and easier to share an activity or cause you feel passionately about from our web site with your friends on your social web sites.

You can break the connection between your accounts at any time.