What it Means to be Jewish – Italy

Young Jews in Italy seem to prefer being involved with Jewish life through unofficial structures rather than through their local Jewish communities or other official bodies. Realizing this, the Hans Jonas Association of Jewish Culture, the project’s implementers, is focusing its efforts on 18-30 year old students who have shown academic ability and interest in exploring a deeper understanding of their Jewish identities and a more significant connection to Jewish life.

Through a focus on ‘what it means to be Jewish’, a question posed by Ben Gurion in 1958 to prominent Jewish intellectual and religious figures from around the world – the project is working with 25 young adults each year to engage them and strengthen their bonds to Jewish culture and heritage. Program implementers seek to work with the project’s participants to help them realize their own Jewish identities through an intense year-long course aimed at their developing their own contemporary responses to Ben Gurion’s question. The project also hopes to encourage these young adults to consider future leadership roles and involvement in their communities.

The project is comprised of three components:

  1. A one-day conference, where the Ben Gurion question and the original responses from 1958 are introduced and the relevance of the question in today’s world is discussed.
  2. A Leadership Training course, comprised of four 1-day session or eight hours each, explore issues related to Jewish identity and contemporary responses to the Ben Gurion question. Course staff will guide the activities, collect the materials produced during the group work and prepare these materials for the project archives.
  3. The development of educational materials that will focus on 15 (original) responses to the Ben Gurion question, together with historical, cultural and biographical background. These materials will also be available on the internet.

The Pincus Fund for Jewish Education has prioritized young leadership programming and is excited to be involved in this creative project. Utilizing a new approach for exploring their commitments to being Jewish and their connections to their own Jewish communities, this project is providing a unique way to reach out and involve Italian Jewish young adults.

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