EJF Executive Council Reports on Major 2007 Projects and 2008 Agenda

The fourth meeting of the European Jewish Fund (EJF) Executive Council was held on February 11, 2008 in Paris. Presided over by Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, Chairman of EJF and the President of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), the meeting was attended by several major EJF donors, including Mikhail Bezelyansky and Yuri Kanner.
EJF Secretary General Arie Zuckerman announced the meeting agenda, which included reports on the major projects of 2007 and presentation of the Fund’s initiatives for 2008.

The first speaker was Uzi Arad, the renowned nuclear expert and advisor to the EJC President. Mr. Arad talked about the major project sponsored by the Fund in 2007, the International Conference on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe. The Conference brought together more than 50 leading world experts on nuclear issues, including IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, to try to find ways to efficiently counteract the Iranian nuclear threat. The main outcome of the Conference was its final Declaration containing practical proposals to prevent the collapse of the nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime. The document was circulated to heads of state throughout the world, leading politicians and heads of major international organisations. In another important achievement, the Conference was promoted to the status of a permanent Luxembourg Forum with the vast majority of Conference participants as its members.

Galina Levina of the Union of Belarussian Jewish Organizations and Communities gave a presentation on the Jewish Shtetl’s Revival Art Forum. The art forum was supported by the EJF in 2007 and has the ambitious goal of helping talented young Jews from Poland, Estonia and Belarus learn about their heritage through art and creativity. The forum is doing the important work of bringing young community members closer to Judaism and Jewish life. The organisers of the forum plan to hold it on a regular basis in the future to promote Jewish art and traditions among young Jews.

Malka Kafka of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland informed delegates about the EJF leadership training programme. The aim of the programme is to bring a business approach to managing an NGO. Project participants explained the Union’s mission and its long-term development strategy. Kafka stated that this EJF programme will enable the Polish community to meet its goals.

The meeting went on to address new EJF initiatives for 2008.

The first presenters were Barbara Specter and Noomi Weintraub from Paideia, the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden. The EJF will sponsor a Paideia leadership programme to enable the Institute’s students to apply the knowledge they acquire. At this stage, students will present specific projects to show how the community will benefit from their knowledge.

Chaim Chesler, the founder and driving force behind Limmud FSU and Limmud Israel, shared his plans for the future development of this cross-community educational programme, which combines the most important Jewish values of learning, tzedek and volunteering. With the support of the EJF, Chesler envisages the creation of new Limmud branches is in Yalta (Ukraine), Ashkelon (Israel) and Vitebsk (Belarus). The Vitebsk Limmud is also called Limmud Chagall because it focuses on art, culture, the heritage of Jewish artists and their impact on world culture. Limmud Chagall plans to bring the descendants of Solomon Mikhoels, Shlomo Karlebach and Peretz Markish to Vitebsk to share personal stories about their famous relatives.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt spoke on the LINK Project: Creating the World’s Largest Jewish Online Community. This ambitious EJF-sponsored project will build an internet portal featuring video interviews with well-known Jews sharing their personal formulas for success. The goal of the project is to reach out to assimilated Jews in the “click generation” and increase their interest and pride in their own heritage.

The meeting was concluded by Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, who expressed appreciation for the Fund’s efforts. He stressed, however, that the Fund’s projects can only succeed if they go beyond national borders to embrace a pan-European outreach.