On March 3 – 10, 2019, the Klal Yisrael Fellowship Cohort 5 came together in Paris, France for the second seminar of their fellowship year. The Klal Yisrael Fellowship program is a program of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) in collaboration with the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), and the Israel Movement for Progressive and Reform Judaism (IMPJ). Klal Yisrael is enabled by a generous grant from Betty and Arthur Roswell. Participants, ages 21-30, meet for three seminars over the course of ten months – in Israel, North America and Europe – to collaborate and develop their capacity to impact an area of Jewish life that is important to them.
This year’s cohort comprises 12 young adults – four from Israel, four from the US and one from Poland, one from Ukraine, one from Guatemala, and one from Germany. Their week of discovery, learning and networking in the French capital was designed to bring participants face to face with Progressive congregations across Europe, learn about their growth and challenges, and listen to larger issues facing our movement, and the Jewish people.
With the generous cooperation of Rabbi Pauline Bebe, rabbi of Communauté Juive Libérale (CJL), a Progressive Jewish congregation in Paris, and other Progressive congregations in Paris, participants spent the week meeting with a range of rabbinic, student, religious, and local leaders.
Highlights of the seminar included:
- Touring La Victoire, the Grand Synagogue of Paris, built in 1874, and meeting with rabbinic leaders of the Consistoire central israélite de France (Israelite Central Consistory of France), a centuries-old umbrella organization.
- Visiting the sites, tastes and histories of ‘Jewish Paris’ with Rabbi Tom Cohen from Kehilat Gesher, the only bilingual congregation in Paris, embracing Progressive and Reform values and beliefs.
- Learning about Rabbi Bebe’s interfaith project that brings together individuals from all faiths who are training to become religious leaders, and meeting with Muslim leaders.
- A tour of Evening talk with Rabbi Jonas Jacquelin from the Union Libérale Israélite de France, Copernic Synagogue, about his experiences as a young rabbi in the oldest community in Paris.
- Dinner with Stephane Bédèr, Senior Vice Chair of the WUPJ, to discuss Progressive Judaism across Europe.
- Meeting with the head of the French Jewish Student Union, Sasha Gozlan to talk about standing at the forefront of campaigns against anti Semitism, racism, homophobia, and BDS on campus.
Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat dinner was held at CJL with Rabbi Bebe and young adults from Tamar France.
On Shabbat morning, participants met with Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur, from the Mouvement Liberal Juif de France (MJLF), and visited her congregation to talk about current issues facing Jews in Paris, including antisemitism. Rabbi Horvilleur recently completed her third book, focusing on antisemitism. In 2018 she was chosen by the international foundation Global Hope Coalition as one of five “Heroes Against Extremism and Intolerance,” granted by Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, in the presence of heads of state and government present in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Rabbi Horvilleur was also the first rabbi to receive this global award.
Additional workshops for participants focused on providing leadership and project management skills, including a session on ‘how to present your project’ and hone one’s vision and goals for impact, and how to make croissants.
Reflecting on what they gained and what most struck them over the course of the seminar, participants noted:
“It was very interesting for me to learn about other communities around the world that are not the largest Jewish centers – like North America or Israel – and to learn about issues facing Jews in Europe. Coming to Paris, with so many social protests going on, helped me see how politics and religion on national or city levels impact Jewish living.”
“Meeting with so many rabbis and leaders opened my mind to the levels of community leadership that are possible. It’s amazing to see the voice of the Progressive community in Paris on the rise with more people in government positions listening to what they have to say. I see this as a reflection of our Progressive Jewish values and how we aim to make this world a better place for all.”