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Meeting Up Down Under, Fellows Enrich Identities and Make Friends

August 21, 2002
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Thirty-seven potential Jewish leaders from 15 different countries have completed the 11th Nahum Goldmann Fellowship program in Australia.

Gathered together for eight days in the picturesque Victorian country town of Kyneton, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the fellows enriched their Jewish identity and developed both friendship and career bonds.

“I found the program amazing. I have made a range of contacts from all over the world,” said Sara King-Scott, 24, who works in the press office of London’s chief rabbi. “We can learn from the smaller communities. After all, we have the same problems and the same aims.”

The program included morning lectures and afternoon workshops with leading Jewish thinkers and lecturers.

Seminar topics included faith after the Holocaust, models of biblical leadership, the challenges and responsibilities of Jewish leadership, contemporary Jewish thought and the changing relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.

“The program was astonishing. It’s the cutting edge of Jewish thinking. It was very exciting to have had the opportunity to listen to those leading academics,” said Marlo Newton, 35, the director of community affairs at Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne.

“The program has reinvigorated me,” she said. “I’ve received an injection of enthusiasm.”

Some fellows hope the insight they gained will help them confront immediate problems.

In 1993, the Jewish day school in Montevideo, Uruguay, was on the verge of closing, until new leadership took over the community and kept the school operating.

Uruguay’s problems still rest heavily on the shoulders of Marcello Ellenberg, 26, the executive director of the Yavne School.

“We have a community of 25,000, but we get little support locally. Most of our funds have come from the Jewish Agency,” Ellenberg said. “But we have made a U-turn and a new lease on life is being injected into our Jewish community.

“The efforts are coming from the young people,” he said. “The fellowship has helped me in my task, especially the opportunity to listen to such important lecturers.”

The fellows were selected from more than 130 applicants by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, a New York-based group that supports Jewish scholarship, education and culture around the world.

“The immediate implications are that there’s hope for the Jewish world. We covered the main problems facing the Jewish communities throughout the world — anti-Semitism, intermarriage and public relations regarding Israel,” said Jerry Hochbaum, executive vice president of the Memorial Foundation. “Good leadership can deal with these problems.”

The 2002 fellows came from around the globe, including Brazil, Croatia, Holland, Hungary, India, Israel, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, the United States and Australia.

One fellow, however, could not make the trip. Earlier this year, educator Jacquy Sebag was attacked in his home town of Casablanca, Morocco, and suffered severe axe wounds to the face.

With the aid of the Goldmann Fellowship, he was flown to a hospital in Toulouse, France, and is now recovering.

The Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture was established in 1965 by Nahum Goldmann, first president of the World Jewish Congress, with reparation funds received from the German government.

To date, more than $72 million has been allocated to promote Jewish cultural activity and revival. The foundation is particularly active in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

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