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In February 2016, the 2nd Matanel Think Tank met in Pomezia, Italy to discuss the future of European Jewry. The attendees, professional or laypersons, serve their communities in the areas of research, planning, or rabbinical and educational guidance. Representing more than ten European countries, and diverse cultural backgrounds and religious denominations, they express a variety of points of view regarding the issues on the agenda of the Jewish people. This Matanel Paper makes available to the vast public a summary of the debates and the conclusions.
The 1st Matanel Think Tank on European Jewry took place in Luxembourg in June 2011. It brought together a small group of experts from various Jewish communities in order to provide advice and ideas on specific issues, subjects or problems. Most participants held leadership roles, either as professionals or as lay leaders, in their respective communities, institutions, organizations or areas of practice.
The first meeting led to the formation of Hulya (Hebrew acronym for Hug Lelimudei Yahadut Europa), a joint initiative of Matanel Foundation and the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) aimed at providing a platform for assisting, training and empowering young rabbis in their communities, providing resources and establishing a social network for them. Great resources have also been invested in training sessions for young rabbis; immersion seminars in Judaism for families, students and young professionals; construction and restoration of kindergartens and mikvaot throughout Europe; distribution of hundreds of thousands of Jewish holiday packages (for Chanukah, Purim, and Pessah); awarding of prizes for best practices for Jewish education and celebration; and so on.
In February 2016, the 2nd Matanel Think Tank gathering was held in Pomezia. The period between the two meetings saw Europe undergoing many changes; Islamic terrorist attacks occurred in various cities, mainly in Paris, and waves of migrants seeking to reach north Europe flooded the continent. The Think Tank attendees, representing more than ten European countries, come from diverse cultural backgrounds and religious denominations, and have a variety of points of view regarding the issues on the agenda of the Jewish people. Their positions (professional or lay) in the community typically involve research, planning or rabbinical and educational guidance.
In planning the 2nd Matanel Think Tank program, the following assumptions were taken into consideration:
• We are entering a period of globalization whose civilizational uncertainties exceed its certainties.
• The State of Israel and the North American communities are the two main sources of inspiration for European Jewry. In other words, the “Pillars Model,” which sets as many pillars as one would wish to consider (three: Israel, the United States, Europe; or four, by adding Latin American Jewry, according to some researchers), applies to or underlies the relations between Israel and the communities of the Diaspora in a spirit of free, exciting and creative mutual emulation.
• There will soon be no more living survivors of the Shoah, leaving to the following generations the duty to perpetuate their martyrs.
• Judaism is a way of life at the crossroads of existential questions of individuals and structural questions about Jewish communal services, scientific and technological progress, and the evolution of other religions, new and old ones, inspired by the Scriptures or other sources.
• All questions are pertinent to the great debate concerning the Jewish condition.
By the end of the meeting, comprising almost four full days of deliberation, including the celebration of Shabbat, the participants had debated all the topics outlined in the program. They certainly did not forget from which country they had come nor the institution they represented, but they did share a common interest in European Jewry and the steps required to perpetuate a Jewish presence on this continent.
Rabbi Benjamin Myers took upon himself to summarize the debates and bring them, under the guidance of Rabbi Eliyahou Birnbaum, to the vast public. Ami Bouganim, advisor of Matanel Foundation, writer and thinker, revisited his previous opinions on this issue. Both are presented at the end of this booklet, as is the list of Think Tank participants and their mail addresses. Without their attendance at all the Think Tank sessions and their intelligent and responsible insights, this booklet would not have come into existence.
We believe in the future of European Jewry, and this vibrant and intense experience has given us the energy to pursue our activities, either through Hulya or other channels.
We would like to thank all those who were involved in preparing this meeting and those who participated in it, and wish an interesting read to all those concerned with the future of Europe and the place and role of the Jews on this continent.
Joëlle Aflalo and Gad Boukobza