(Courtesy of Ohr Torah Stone) Ohr Torah Stone (OTS), the modern Orthodox network of 27 institutions that are transforming Jewish living, learning and leadership worldwide, has launched its first Jewish education grant program to help strengthen seven small European communities in Helsinki, Finland; Riga, Latvia; Oslo, Norway; and Warsaw, Szczecin and Wroclaw, Poland.
The first cohort of Ohr Torah Stone Grants to Small European Communities, which total $50,000, will support an updated siddur for the Jewish community of Helsinki and another for Jewish camping programs in Warsaw; projects to create Shabbat and holiday experiences for children, adults and seniors; and the teaching of Hebrew. The communities selected to receive grants were chosen by a joint committee from OTS and the Conference of European Rabbis.
«One of the cornerstones of Ohr Torah Stone’s mission is the engagement and strengthening of Jewish communities around the world. We are responsible for all Jews around the world,” said OTS President and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Kenneth Brander.
Over 40 proposals were received from European communities with up to 5,000 members in cities with a Jewish population of up to 15,000 people. Priority was given to projects that had matching funds from a foundation or existing community grants; where the OTS grant funding of $5,000 to $8,000 would not replace existing support of donors/resources; and where the project aimed to improve the quality of Jewish education in the community or through Jewish life-cycle events.
The finalists are:
1. The Jewish Community Of Helsinki, Finland—Finnish Heritage Siddur
Produced in cooperation with Koren Publishers in Jerusalem, the siddur will offer greater understanding of the liturgy, including to the many Finnish Jews who do not read Hebrew, and preserve the Finnish-Jewish nusach of the early 19th century. It is also hoped that providing scholars, journalists and educators access to a Jewish prayer book will help combat anti-Semitic stereotypes and sentiment in Finland.
2. JCC of Warsaw, Poland—Camp ATID Siddur Project
Summer and winter family camps and Camp ATID, an overnight Jewish youth camp, are fundamental community-building programs of the Warsaw JCC. The strong, informal education they offer is a primary source of Jewish knowledge and experience for many campers. Shabbat is the highlight of each program, and each requires a new siddur, which can now be produced and will be used in the synagogues throughout the year.
3. Hillel Poland Foundation, Warsaw, Poland—Themed Shabbat Dinners
Themed Shabbat dinners will create a network of Jewish young adults in Poland who otherwise would not have a chance to meet, teach them Jewish tradition and ritual and make Shabbat an enjoyable experience to be recreated at home for family and friends and for the next generation.
4. Jewish Community in Szczecin, Poland—Jewish Holiday Celebrations
The community, which has no rabbi, will now be able to invite one to celebrate the main Jewish holidays with them, to lead prayers, Passover Seders and educational programs that will help build Jewish identity for adults and children alike.
5. Jewish Community of Oslo — Det Mosaiske Trossamfund—Read Hebrew Now!
As an Orthodox congregation, it is essential to DMT to teach and train young members to read Hebrew, enabling them to follow and even lead services. An improved and more effective Hebrew education system is being designed. The primary goal of the congregation’s weekly afternoon cheder is to encourage students to feel love, dedication and a sense of ownership of their Judaism.
6. Migdal Community, Riga, Latvia—Culana Mishpacha
Young families with children and homebound seniors will celebrate Jewish holidays together. Ten to 12 families will benefit from seniors’ more expansive Jewish knowledge, while seniors with no immediate family, and perhaps suffering from poverty and isolation, will enjoy an improved quality of life and be better able to observe mitzvot. Each family would deliver a holiday celebration right to a senior’s residence.
7. Gmina Wyznaniowa Żydowska We Wrocławiu, Wroclaw, Poland—Chewre Sunday School
Jewish parents in Wroclaw want their children to learn about Judaism. However, having grown up under Communism, they themselves do not possess the knowledge to pass on to their children. The hope is Chewre will give parents the opportunity to learn with their children and make Jewish friends and through that create a real future for the Jewish community in Wroclaw.