For Jewish Europe to have Jewish continuity, we need to provide it with stable and continuous Jewish leadership.
The problem, however, is that most of the institutions in Jewish Europe are staffed by shlichim (emissaries) who – though wonderful men and women who choose to come to Europe from Israel or elsewhere for a few years as teachers, youth leaders, community workers, Rabbis and Rebbetzens – are ultimately individuals whose roots are not from Europe, and individuals who don’t see their future in Europe.
Just like a soccer team that is constantly changing their manager which means that the soccer team never quite finds their focus, when European Jewish communities fail to secure long-term communal leadership, they struggle to map out their continuity.
Of course, there are exceptions, and there are a number of fabulous men and women who have made their choice to stay in Europe. Still, they are the few, not the many, and when shlichim do come to Europe, by the time they truly understand the needs and culture of the location where they are based, it is not long before they are flying home.
Beyond this, there are not an insignificant number of communities in Europe whose Rabbis are so part-time that they spend only some Shabbatot and Chagim with their community and much of their time in Israel or elsewhere. They don’t want to uproot their families. But like so many of the examples I have mentioned, and notwithstanding the long history of Jewish Europe, many of us feel that our community is merely a temporary abode for many of the leaders and educators who service our community.
Given this, for Jewish Europe to have Jewish continuity, we need to provide it with stable and continuous Jewish leadership. We need to grow educators for Jewish Europe. Youth leaders and Community leaders for Jewish Europe. And Rabbis and Rebbetzen’s for Jewish Europe. We need our scholars who understand our needs. And our own leaders who understand our culture. For Jewish Europe to find its focus, it needs more stable, home grown communal leadership. And for this to occur, it must begin from within.
But to do so, we need to incentivize and support the Jewish youth of Europe for the sake of our future. They must be educated so they are qualified for these roles. They must be given respectable salaries to justify their staying in Europe. And they deserve to be respected as leaders beyond Europe – especially since their work portfolio is generally far deeper and far broader than their counterparts in the US, the UK or Israel.
Ultimately, while Jewish Europe appreciates all our shlichim, the time has come to invest in, and to prioritize some more home grown talent – for the sake of our future.
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