Rabbinical group seeks to fortify communal ties in Europe

Federation of Jewish religious leaders in Europe announces plan to fund Jewish kindergartens in communities which don't already have them.

Warsaw Synagogue 521 (photo credit: courtesy of Issac Kaplan Old Ysihuv Court Museum)
Warsaw Synagogue 521
(photo credit: courtesy of Issac Kaplan Old Ysihuv Court Museum)
The Conference of European Rabbis has announced a new initiative to strengthen communal ties in small Jewish communities across the continent. At a conference held earlier this month in Rome for young European rabbis, the CER – a federation of Jewish religious leaders in Europe – announced that it will fund a chain of Jewish kindergartens in communities which do not already have such facilities.
“This is about providing the most basic building block for Jewish community life,” new CER President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said, adding that it is imperative that communities have the resources to provide an educational structure that can impart traditional Jewish values.
“Kindergartens also have the ability to bring the young parents of a community together,” Goldschmidt told The Jerusalem Post. “They play a very important role in consolidating a community, many of which in Europe at the moment are being badly affected by apathy and assimilation.”
At least 10 proposals are expected to be received from communities in countries such as Germany, Austria, Hungary, Russia and Ukraine.
Along with the CER, extensive support will come from the Luxembourg-based Matanel Foundation, providing at least 50 percent of the money for each individual kindergarten projects. Matching grants will also be sought from the communities applying.
The initiative is part of a broader CER mission to strengthen communal institutions across Europe, which is being conducted in collaboration with Hulya, an institute established jointly by the Matanel Foundation and CER to enhance the resources available to rabbis and Jewish communities on the continent. The two organizations are providing funds to build at least seven new mikvaot (ritual baths), hold a series of rabbinical training courses, and develop a program of weekend retreats for Jewish communities on the continent.
“A lot of people move from city to city and country to country these days and that means they can easily become unaffiliated,” Goldschmidt said. “We want communal rabbis in Europe to reach out to young Jewish families who have become disconnected from the community and this is the purpose of the current projects.
“We can no longer just sit back and hope that people will come to us. The post-modern world offers a variety of options to young people, which means that we have to be relevant to their needs.”