Reflections on the JFNA General Assembly
This year’s General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA GA) took place in Tel Aviv. Many important Jewish organisations, such as the Jewish Agency and the JDC, and the President of the State of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, Isaac Herzog Chairman of the The Jewish Agency for Israel, and Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, took part in this congress. The focus of the congress was to strengthen the relations between North America and Israel, discussing topics such as the issue of BDS, Israel’s Peace Process and the Goal of a Greater Pluralism.
I had the unique opportunity to participate as a part of the WUJS-Bronfman Global Fellowship Delegation, representing the JSUD (Jewish Student Union Germany). Yet again, I had an amazing experience with WUJS. I was able to listen to inspiring speakers such as Miriam Perez, winner of the Israel prize, who spoke of the loss of her two sons in the IDF and how she continues to remain optimistic regardless of matter what happened; Marius Nacht, co-founder of the Check Point Software Technologies and inventor of the prototype for the iron dome, and Dana Azrieli, Co-Chair of the General Assembly. Speaking to presidents and CEOs of Jewish organizations inspired and motivated me to continue my work as a leader of the Jewish Student Organization in Baden, Germany, and made me feel like I was a part of this impressive movement to strengthen and ensure Jewish life.
My personal highlight was meeting Eric Fingerhut, the President and CEO of Hillel International. For me his work is incredibly inspiring. Hillel does not only make Jewish life in the USA flourish, but it also has a big impact in Germany as well. Once again I realized how important the role of North America and Israel is for the world’s Jewry. Without Israel and North America, Jewish life such as in Germany would not have the same quality as it has today.
At the GA I was able to experience the collaboration between North America and Israel. I saw their ambitious efforts to achieve something big, together. Dana Azrieli referred to the relations of North America and Israel as two sides of a arch, the one side can’t exist without the other and the stronger both sides get, the more stable the arch will be. I hope that this bond and support of North America and Israel will continue grow. Furthermore I hope that I will be able to participate in further conferences that focus on diaspora jewry outside of North America. I hope one day Europe, Australia, South Africa and Asia will have such an flourishing Jewish life that they need an General Assembly to gather and speak. But not only speak, I hope they will turn words into action and work together as one nation.
I am very happy to have been able to attend this General Assembly and to have been able to widen my horizon about Jewish life in North America and Israel; and that I was able to talk to people about Jewish life in Germany. I wanted to show them that Jewish life in Germany is possible and even flourishing. Coming from a religious family, having been confronted with antisemitism, I know how difficult it can be to be Jewish in Germany. Nonetheless, I want to continue supporting Jewish life in my home country because it has a lot of potential.
Thank you WUJS President, Avigayil Benstein, and Manager of Jewish Leadership and Impact at the Bronfman Center, Dana Levinson Steiner, for making this inspiring and unique opportunity possible for me!
Naomi Ellenbogen is currently studying English and Geography at Heidelberg University. She is a member of JSUD (Jewish Student Union Germany) and 2018 WUJS-Bronfman Global Fellow.