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German-Jewish Dialogues

Project Overview

An event bringing together Jewish-American and German students in Washington, DC to participate in discussions while they enjoyed a Shabbath dinner.

Identifying the Problem

Through their internship with the American Jewish Committee, their own experiences as a non-Jewish German student and her connection to Jewish-American university students, Francis grew more aware of  the lack of spaces for interreligious and intercultural dialogue. They learned about the damaging stereotypes that persisted, as well as the interest in knowing more about modern German society and the growing antisemitism in Europe. They found that there is a lack of knowledge about Judaism among non-Jewish German students and that the people wishing to learn more about these issues did not know where they could do so.

Creating A Solution

During their Lantos-HIA Congressional Fellowship, Francis decided that creating the opportunity for non-Jewish German students to experience a Shabbath dinner and service could provide a space for dialogue about important issues. Thus, they organized two Shabbath dinners, one at American University and the other at Georgetown University, in cooperation with the universities’ Hillels (Jewish campus organizations), the American Jewish Committee, the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace and the German Embassy in Washington, DC. 

Both events were attended by more than 50 students, including Jewish Americans, non-Jewish Americans, Europeans and other non-Jewish students. The round tables were organized in a very informal way in order to foster dialogue between people who were meeting each other for the first time.

The event also included a Shabbath service and a short presentation by Francis, the German Embassy and the Action Reconciliation of Peace. The presentation was followed by a discussion, which focused on combating stereotypes, the German-Jewish community and growing antisemitism in Europe.

Lessons Learned

While the German-Jewish dialogues held at the two universities were a great success, Francis had hoped to include more universities. They had initially contacted all the Hillels of all the universities in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, they found that many universities were not interested in hosting such a dialogue. Another challenge she faced was that it was often difficult to get in touch with certain universities to even propose their idea.

Francis was also somewhat surprised to find that while many non-Jewish German students were excited to participate in a Shabbath dinner, others expressed apprehension and even fear at the idea. And while Francis wanted to focus the dialogue on issues of modern German society and the rise of antisemmitism in Europe, they found that the discussion sometimes moved  to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which they say was always more challenging to facilitate.

Funding

It was very important to Francis that the German-Jewish dialogue be free for students. They successfully raised $1,600 for this project, and because the event was sponsored by the German Embassy, attendance was free.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2010

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