Due to the present political crises we lost our vision as one Jewish people, we became divided. It was clear Project Kesher needed to take action. We started with International Skype calls. Every evening one woman from Russia, one from Ukraine, one from Belarus, one from Israel called a woman in another country: talking, sharing our love and support, wishing peace. When women started calling each other again and restoring broken relationships we saw that “KESHER” – connection – is working.
One day when there was a serious military clash in the area where she lived one of our leaders proposed to read Tehilim (Psalms), as prayers for peace. Soon more than one hundred women were reading Psalms, creating a chain of peace. Such a spirit of peace prevailed even at a time when the air was filled with war.
In Russia there are refugee families from different regions of the Ukraine. Sometimes they lost everything. Project Kesher women’s groups in cooperation with other Jewish organizations collected clothes, foot-wear as well as school-bags, school record books, sketchbooks, colored paper, paperboard, plasticine, pencil boxes, paints and markers for refugee children. Project Kesher activists also actively participated in organizing camps for refugees in Kharkiv and the Dnipropretrovsk region (Ukraine).
In times of conflict the wish to live in peace is not enough. Women needed instruments for conflict resolution. Project Kesher developed a unique leadership training program with the aim to enable the participants to conduct trainings in conflict resolution themselves in Jewish communities and partner organizations and to engage in mediation. These trainings are often based on Jewish tradition and text study.
A special event is Project Kesher’s Global Women’s Seder that was celebrated in 2015 for the 21st time. No less than 2500 members of 140 Project Kesher women’s and youth groups in 110 cities and five countries – Belarus, Georgia, Israel, Russia and the Ukraine – participated this year. The participants spoke about peace and declared that they intended to do everything possible to maintain peace in their families and in society. With the energy it sets free Project Kesher continues to initiate positive changes.
The Limmud mission, which emphasizes learning, diversity and community, has proven to be a compelling set of values. These values are central to international groups. Studies have shown that Limmud participants are highly likely to travel internationally and recognize that they are part of a global community. However, this is not enough. The question that needs to be addressed entails how being a member of an international community can help us strengthen the Jewish people.
The lack of leadership in the Jewish community in Hungary prevents an obstacle to the promotion of Jewish peoplehood as a focal point for developing the community of tomorrow. The Hungarian Jewish community suffers from a weak and ineffective structure and a lack of leadership. Nevertheless, the last decade has witnessed a revival of Jewish life in Hungary, with a particular focus on Jewish peoplehood. This focus is both a challenge and an opportunity for the Jewish community in Hungary.
Judaism and the culture of memory /Thomas Gergely
European Jewry and Klal Yisrael /Eliezer Ben-Rafael, Thomas Gergely, and Yosef Gorny
Is the French model in decline? /Pierre Birnbaum
Case of Belgium /Jean-Philippe Schreiber
Identity of Dutch Jews /Ludo Abicht
Russian-Jewish immigration to Germany /Julius H. Schoeps, Willi Jasper, and Olaf Glöckner
Religiosity, praxis, and tradition in contemporary Hungarian Jewry /András Kovács
Being Jewish in Romania after the second world war /Carol Iangu
Jewish identity, memory, and anti-Semitism /Maurice Konopnicki
Siamese twins: religion and secularism in Jewish national thought /Yosef Gorny
Israeli identity and mission in Buber's thought /Shalom Ratzabi
Sovereignty, voluntarism, and Jewish identity: Nathan Rotenstreich /Avi Bareli
On religious-secular tensions /Avi Sagi
Religious-secular cleavage in contemprary Israel /Yochanan Peres
On European Jewish Orthodoxy, Sephardic tradition, and the Shas movement /Zvi Zohar
Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, and secular women in college /Lior Ben-Chaim Rafael
Challenge of secularism to Jewish survival in Abba Hillel Silver's thinking /Ofer Shiff
Identities of Jewish American women /Suzanne Vromen
Jews and secularization: a challenge or a prospect? /Guy Haarscher
Submission and subversion before the law /Rivon Krygier
Tradition of diaspora and political reality of the state of Israel /David Meyer
Diaspora museum and Israeli-Jewish identity /Dina Porat
Jewish transnational community and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem /Uri Cohen
Contemporary dilemmas of identity: Israel and the diaspora /Eliezer Ben-Rafael
Was the Shoah the "sanctification of God"? /Thomas Gergely.
through an ethnographic study of Portugal’s urban Marranos (descendants of fifteenth-century
forced converts to Catholicism) and foreign Jews who travel from abroad to meet them.
Although not Jewish according to Jewish law, given centuries of intermarriage, Marranos are
nonetheless widely considered to be part of “the Jewish family,” “lost brethren” who should be
welcomed back to the Jewish people. Many Jews view them within the metanarrative of Jewish
destruction and survival, the “eternal spark” that remains despite the Inquisition’s attempted
elimination of Judaism from the Portuguese landscape. However, for numerous local reasons the
present-day Marranos are not welcomed by Portugal’s tiny normative Jewish community. As a
result, the urban Marranos, who feel strongly that they are Jews by descent, turn to foreign
Jewish travelers as sources of educational, spiritual, and material assistance in their bid to join
the Jewish world and attain recognition as Jews in the present.
Based on two years of fieldwork in Marrano organizations in Lisbon and Porto and traveling
alongside Jewish tourists and outreach workers, the dissertation undertakes a processual analysis
of the constitution of ancestral Jewish identity and of the role of transnational, cross-cultural
affective ties in affording a sense of global Jewish belonging. The primary questions driving this
work are, first, how and why do far-flung people come to feel that they are related to one
another, and what terms do they use to characterize and think through that feeling of relatedness?
Second, to what extent are their perceptions of essential connection disrupted or transformed by
face-to-face contact? By interrogating the cultural logics of kinship writ large—the language and
conceptual frameworks people use to articulate and make sense of their feelings of relatedness to
one another—and then examining how those logics play out “on the ground,” this study provides
a fine-grained ethnographic analysis of the mechanisms through which global and ancestral
imaginings become concretized in social interaction. Ultimately, I argue, physical proximity
remains the productive sphere for identification and belonging, even as global interconnection
provides new opportunities for encounter.
The Jewish collective identity stands at new crossroads of multicultural ideologies and transnational diasporism. Jewry is experiencing an existential problem in today's changing society, shifting between convergence and unity on the one hand and divergence and division on the other hand. Quo vadis, O Jewish people? Rather than fully answering this question, researchers from Israel, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, Russia, France and Belgium try to open up the discussion in this book.
In 2009 Natan Sharansky, formerly an iconic Soviet refusenik and now an Israeli politician, was named chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the wing of the Israeli government historically charged with fostering Jewish immigration to Israel, traditionally known as aliya. Sharansky, however, immediately reformulated the central mission of the Jewish Agency away from aliya and toward the strengthening of secular Jewish identity around the world. The Forward reported:
At the center of Sharansky's plan is the notion of peoplehood. He and a tight group of ideological allies—mostly other Russian Jews—believe that the Jewish Agency must now become a global promoter of Jewish identity, particularly among the young. Peoplehood, according to its proponents, is defined as a sense of connectivity between Jews who share a common history and fate.
With Sharansky's ascent to this particular position and the concurrent shift in the Jewish Agency's mission from fomenter of migration to builder of secular Jewish identity, Soviet Jews have moved to the center of conversations about Jewish identity and culture. These new developments give reason to think seriously about Soviet Jewish culture and its impact on global Jewish culture. Indeed, a growing number of books and articles on the subject indicate that there is a new body of scholarship, defined by a cultural studies approach to the Soviet and post-Soviet Jewish experience. These new studies come from varied disciplines, such as history, anthropology, film studies, and literary criticism, to name a few, but they all put culture and cultural production at the center of scholarship on Soviet and post-Soviet Jewish community and identity. We call this emerging field "Soviet Jewish Cultural Studies." This newly developing field sweeps across temporal and spatial boundaries. It encompasses Jewish experiences in both the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, as well as within the borders of the Former Soviet Union and outside of it, in Israel, North America, or elsewhere, wherever Soviet and post-Soviet Jews have migrated. What the subjects of all of this research have in common is the experience of having lived under the Soviet Union with its radical experiments in Jewish identity and culture.
Scholars working in this emerging field generally do not look at Soviet and post-Soviet Jews through the more traditional lenses of vanishing diasporas, Soviet anti-Semitism, and the disappearance of Yiddish and Hebrew cultures. Rather than approaching the Jewish experience of Soviet Jews with presumptions of what it means to be Jewish, and whether in fact Soviet Jews measure up, this scholarship asks what it means to be Jewish in a Soviet and post-Soviet context. In what ways is Jewishness performed and represented? By taking a birds-eye, interdisciplinary view, we want to redefine the field of Soviet Jewish Studies, and to use particular examples of the new research to suggest what a cultural studies approach reveals about Soviet and post-Soviet Jewish culture. We will demonstrate first that scholars of Soviet Jewish Cultural Studies have focused on new forms of Jewish practice that have sometimes supplanted traditional religious practices. Secondly, we show that this body of scholarship in Soviet Jewish Cultural Studies complicates the idea that twentieth century Jewish history is a history of assimilation, a movement downward from authentic Jewish practice rooted in Jewish languages to the end of a distinctive Jewish life. Most importantly, this new scholarship takes a global rather than national perspective, since post-Soviet Jewry is one of the most transnational in contemporary Jewish life. Thus, in a post-Soviet, post-Zionist, post-assimilationist moment in global Jewish culture, this group of Jews with their unique cultural history may be placed at the center, not periphery, of the global Jewish experience. Therefore, the body of scholarship forming Soviet Jewish Cultural Studies has much to offer to scholars in Jewish and Russian Studies, as well as Diaspora Studies.