Jews from Five Continents Meet to Exchange Experiences

Delegates from Jewish communities around the globe gathered here this week to discuss ways of fostering international Jewish networking to promote Jewish identity and community development.

The meeting was the third annual International Conference, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and held over the weekend after the AJCommittee’s annual meeting.

More than 80 participants from five continents took part, representing Diaspora communities such as those across Europe and the former Soviet Union and in Cuba, Argentina, Germany and Hong Kong.

The participants included lay and religious leaders as well as intellectuals, teachers, scholars and cultural figures.

“We are many, but one,” AJCommittee President Robert Rifkind said, stressing the focus of the session – to enable Jews from diverse Jewish communities to share their experiences and help other communities face challenges and problems.

“It is interesting to see what people are thinking about and compare it to the topics we deal with back home,” Jacob Finci, president of La Benevolencija, the Jewish cultural, educational and humanitarian organization in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo.

“All are the same problems we face in Sarajevo, but we also have a problem that is of [primary] importance: how to survive,” he said in an interview. “It is always good to see what the others are doing, and what will be the next developments.”

The exchange of ideas – and e-mail addresses – was a central goal aimed at promoting further contact and cooperation throughout the year.

Finci, along with representatives of the Jewish communities in Cuba and Latvia, were featured speakers at a conference session on Jewish communities in a period of political turmoil.

Other sessions focused on the problem of Jewish identity, Israel-Diaspora relations, anti-Semitism and Jewish involvement in public life.

“It is a very valuable forum,” Stanislaw Krajewski, who is from Warsaw, said in an interview, “particularly for the extent of the international participation and the variety of Jewish backgrounds brought leader.”

Krajewski, who has taken part in the revival of Jewish life in Poland for more than 15 year, and other said one of the key values of the annual meeting was the opportunity to network with other Jews facing similar problems.

Jews from communities that have been able to revive and renew themselves only since the fall of communism said they particularly valued the sense of common challenge as they faced similar problems.

Jose Miller, president of the Jewish community in Cuba who was attending the meeting for the first time, said the encounters with other Jews made him feel less isolated.

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