A recent mission to Berlin and Budapest, Hungary, proved to be life-changing, life-affirming and more for two leaders of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.
James Pious, chair of philanthropy, said the trip allowed them to see the real impact of some of the Alliance’s fundraising.
“When you go overseas and witness the needs, you can’t deny the importance of our support,” added Adam Greenman, Alliance president and CEO.
Pious and Greenman were among 150 leaders of Jewish federations of all sizes who made the seven-day trip, which was sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America. While they traveled, learned and networked, with leaders from the U.S. and Canada, they also brainstormed on how to foster engagement by telling their stories.
“It’s important to understand where the dollars go,” said Pious. “It’s easy to see it locally. We are the stewards. We need to look at where it goes [internationally]. Understanding the dynamics and being able to discuss it intelligently is important.”
Among the events they participated in was a “Kippah Walk” in Berlin. The walk, in partnership with the German Student Union, was designed to make a statement and show solidarity against the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Germany today. It was a powerful moment, they said.
Both said they were impressed by Germany’s commitment to Holocaust education and “Never Again.”
“There’s a deep sadness, but also ownership. Not a whitewash,” said Greenman.
Pious added that anti-Semitism is not tolerated by the government, which also supports Israel.
The Kippah Walk was a response to the harassment of a young person who was wearing a kippah.
The second leg of the trip, in Budapest, was filled with proof of how the Alliance’s overseas partners, the Joint Distribution Council and Jewish Agency for Israel, benefit the Jewish community of Hungary.
Greenman and Pious got to see programs in action that the Rhode Island community supports, like Camp Szarvas, about two hours from Budapest, where Hungarian Jewish children as well as Jews from across Eastern and Central Europe, can come and celebrate their heritage.
They heard from partners such as JDC and JAFI about the impact of donations coming from local groups in the United States, including the Alliance.
Greenman and Pious said that learning about the Jewish communities in Germany and Hungary was energizing, and answered questions we frequently ask ourselves about the impact of our donations both locally and internationally.
“Supporting the broader Jewish community around the world is an important part of having a vibrant local Jewish community,” they said.
“One of the things that makes us Jewish is our connectedness to Jews around the world,” said Pious.
FRAN OSTENDORF (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editor of The Jewish Voice.