Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture
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Memorial Foundation Board Briefings - Recent News April 2010

April 8, 2010

The Canadian Jewish News -

By Lance Davis, Samuel Konig and Benjamin Shinewald

For the first time in its 23-year history, a significant contingent of young Canadian leaders attended the most recent Nahum Goldmann Fellowship Program.

Held on the Croatian island of Pag, the program brought together some 50 young Jewish leaders from around the world who spent a week learning about a wide range of subjects related to Jewish life.

The fellowship is sponsored by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, whose largely unsung work has a significant impact on the Jewish world.

Funded in part by German reparation money and founded 45 years ago by Nahum Goldmann, the legendary president of the World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Federation, the foundation aims to reconstruct Jewish cultural life around the world, especially in Europe in light of the double devastation as a result of the Shoah and communism.

The foundation tries to achieve its aims by supporting a new generation of scholars, intellectuals, academic, writers, artists, rabbis, educators and other Jewish communal professionals. Its greatest impact seems to be in former Iron Curtain countries.

The fellowship brings together a culturally and religiously diverse group. The meeting in Pag attracted lay leaders and professionals from Croatia, India, Macedonia, France, South Africa, Belarus, Australia, Poland, Panama, Israel and the United States, as well as Canada. Some fellows came from centres with large Jewish populations, while others came from small towns where the Jewish population numbered in the dozens.

The intellectual focus of the week-long conference was on Jewish textual study, social theory and the practical application of different leadership models.

Some of the Jewish world's stellar scholars taught at the program. Among the scholars were Prof. David Myers of UCLA, Moshe Halbertal of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Prof. Ismar Schorsch, the former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary; Rabbi Saul Berman of New York University Law School; Prof. Benny Ish Shalom of Beit Morasha in Jerusalem and Steven Bayme of the American Jewish Committee.

Over the years, the foundation has awarded scholarships and fellowships to more than 13,000 men and women, many of whom were thus enabled to subsequently step into leadership positions in their respective communities. One such recipient was Chief Rabbi Eliezer Aloni of Croatia.

The foundation has also assisted in the publication of almost 4,000 books related to Jewish culture in over 25 languages. More than 600 books in Russian and eastern European languages were distributed behind the Iron Curtain during the two decades before the fall of communism.

The foundation is represented in Canada by the Canadian Jewish Congress. Canadians attending this year's program included Samuel Konig, national director of National Jewish Campus Life in Toronto; Lance Davis, executive director of the Calgary Jewish Community Council; Rabbi Jeni Friedman, formerly of Edmonton and now of Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights, N.Y.; Noah Slepkov, formerly of St. Catherines, Ont., and now of Tel Aviv; Guido Setton, formerly of Vancouver, Montreal and Argentina and now at the Jewish Federation of Tulsa, Okla.; Robin Nobel, formerly of Montreal and now at the Rothschild Foundation in London, England, and Benjamin Shinewald, national executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

The fellowship is held annually. It alternates between locations in Israel and the Diaspora and is open to those ranging in age from 25 to 40.

Canadians Lance Davies, Samuel Konig and Benjamin Shinewald attended the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship Program.