Young Jewish activists meet in Budapest

Cnaan Liphshiz

BUDAPEST (JTA) — Young Jews from 15 countries gathered in the Hungarian capital for the 10th session of a multi-million dollar program designed to encourage Jewish activism.

The more than  activists arrived in Budapest Monday for a conference titled “From Me to We,” which attempts to reconcile Jewish communities’ struggles to meet their own specific needs with young Jewish activists’ desire to become involved with universal causes such as encouraging sustainability, reducing hunger and fighting diseases, organizers said.

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“The most power result is achieved when the two happen simultaneously, and these are the meeting points we need to seek out,” said Manchester-born Nigel Savage, a member of the organizing team and president of Hazon, a U.S.-based not-for profit organization which is committed to creating healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world.

Savage said that shmitta — the Jewish custom of leaving agricultural land fallow for one year once every seven years – “is a good example of when a particular Jewish value meets a universal value, in this case sustainability.”

Participants included Adam Steinberg, a 28-year-old doctor from Melbourne who recently completed a stay of several months in the Philippines as the coordinator of the aid operation launched by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

The meeting in Budapest was co-organized by the Jewish networks Siach and Minyanim and belongs to the Global Connection Points program — a series of 11 sessions that the Charles and Lyn Schusterman Philanthropic Network has sponsored since December on four continents for a total of 500 young Jews.

Another participant, Oliver Lewis, is a British Jew who is currently completing the first major study of mental health facilities in Zambia and Uganda as part of his work as director of the Mental Disability Advocacy Center — an international not-for-profit based in Budapest and London that is promoting the rights of mentally disabled people in Europe and Africa.

“We try to give a voice to the voiceless, sometimes very literally so,” he said.