JHub hosts Siach’s first European Gathering

May 17, 2012

Pears Foundation’s operating programme JHub hosted a two day gathering of members of Siach, the global Jewish social justice and environment network. The meeting brought together more than 35 professionals and activists from across the continent and beyond (UK, France, Hungary, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Chile, Australia and the USA) and included those working, inspired by Jewish values and experience, on issues such as Asylum, Genocide, Climate Change, International Development, Human Rights and Fairtrade.

The event began with an evening reception hosted at the residence of Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Lady Sacks, where the Chief Rabbi shared his thoughts on the Jewish imperative to be engaged with acting for a fairer and more sustainable world for all humanity. One highlight included the Chief Rabbi citing his encouragement of UJS (Union of Jewish Students) to be at the forefront of combating Islamaphobia on campus as an example of ‘paradoxical intervention’. It was suggested this approach is one we could all employ more often, rejecting fear and surprising people with our positive hope filled responses to the challenges of globalisation. Lord Sacks enthused the crowd with Abraham’s example of Faith as protest and the sense that Judaism is about asking the challenging questions about how we bring more Justice and Righteousness into the world as partners with God in perfecting creation.

The following day the group participated in sessions exploring how Jewish social action allows us to offer a reinvigorated and forward looking expression of Judaism for our young people and communities, one that recognises a desire to inspire people with Jewish heritage yet at the same time equip them to be active in wider society.

Julia Itin from Germany joined a panel with Amy Philip, deputy director of Pears Foundation and Jonathan Boyd, Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, discussing the current opportunities and challenges facing European Jewry, based on a range of recent studies. The panel and the group may not have agreed if there is a clear sense of what European Jewry is, but the overwhelming positive examples of innovation and social action across the continent were heralded as cause for optimism that the quality of Jewish life in Europe is vibrant and diverse.

The current economic and political realties in Europe shaped some of the conversation, as the group sought to articulate what part of the European contribution to the global Siach network may be. It was clear that protecting vulnerable groups during this time of austerity, offering a different economic narrative, combating fascism and embracing diversity are areas of activity where the European experience may offer useful insight and existing projects within the global social justice and environment conversation Siach is fostering globally. 

This regional gathering was in preparation for the second global Siach conference taking part in Israel in June. 

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