uploaded : Thursday 27th May 2010 at 14:21
by : Mushka Dubasava
Young European Jews Take Their First Transatlantic ECJS Trip
(Brussels, Belgium - May 27, 2010)
Despite volcanic disruptions to European air travel, 150 Europeans traveled to New York for the first transatlantic ECJS event May 6-10. The 5-day program was replete with touring and educational lectures and activities. Young adults from 22 countries noted sharp contrasts in culture, lifestyle and religious expression between the US and Europe.
“It is very important for European Jews to visit America. Here they can see Jews, outside Israel, who openly display their identity whether by wearing jewelry with Jewish symbols, kipot or other religious clothing,” Said Rabbi Zev Ives, Executive Director of ECJS. Rabbi Ives sports a beard, kippah and tzitzit; Rabbi Ives notes that most European Jews do not feel comfortable openly displaying their identity. Rabbi Ives believes that societal pressures cause many Europeans to hide their Jewish identity, even among gentile friends and colleagues, much more than in America. “Societal pressures vary between European countries, but none come close to the acceptance felt in America.”
The prominence of Jewish life in New York was a novelty for many of the European visitors. One tour group walking down Wall Street passed a bearded Jew on his way to work. Excitedly gesturing, a number of participants proceeded to snap pictures to capture another unique sight in NYC.
Over the course of the 5-day event, guided visits of major NYC sights included: Central Park, Times Square, Top of the Rock - Rockefeller Plaza, Greenwich Village, Soho, China Town, Little Italy, Brooklyn Bridge, Financial district, Ground Zero and harbor cruise of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The group also visited the Ohel (gravesite of the Lubavitch Rebbe) and Simon Wiesenthal Tolerance Center.
Sarri Singer, daughter of a NJ Senator, and director of One Heart Global organization spoke about her experiences of surviving a terrorist attack in Israel, understanding a society under the constant threat of terror, and One Heart Global. Rabbi Ari Hier from the Simon Wiesenthal Center presented their film called Against the Tide about the reactions in America during the Holocaust. Rabbi Hier also led a Jewish philosophical discussion group. Rabbi Eliezer Wolf spoke about contemporary Jewish issues such as accountability, morality, and awareness of Jewish identity.
In just over 5 years, the Brussels-based ECJS has become the largest European organization for young adults. ECJS has 5 major conventions every year, as well as a European speakers’ bureau and weekly Shabbat programs. ECJS is the European partner of Taglit-Birthright Israel, Simon Wiesenthal Center and Hapoel sports tournament.
This event was sponsored in conjunction with iACT Campus Division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. For more information about the European Center for Jewish Students and its upcoming events please visit
High resolution pictures are available upon request.
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European Center for Jewish Students