Who is JEU's first columnist Benjamin Fischer? What does he do? Read? Think about the present and future of European Jewish life?
How old are you?
Benjamin: 25 years old (turning 26 in 2 weeks)
Where are you from, and which place do you call home right now?
Benjamin: I was born and raised in Germany where I lived and studied in: Hamburg, Cologne and Berlin. Since 2015 I've been living and working in Brussels, Belgium. My mother is from Israel, where all of her family is living today. Hamburg, Berlin and slowly even Brussels are places I feel the most familiar with. But due to the many moves and travels I feel home wherever my friends and family are.
You are currently the president of EUJS. What made you apply to that position?
Benjamin: I was very lucky to be elected as EUJS president in the summer of 2015. The driving factor that lead to the decision [to run] was the desire to professionalise and further the social and political activism I was committed to on a national level. Besides, EUJS is an organisation that, with its moral compass and structure allows fast and progressive action.
What does your position consist of?
Benjamin: As president I chair the board of EUJS, which means that I am the main representative of the organisation. Mainly I am concerned with political activism, outreach, programming and fundraising. The job is very diverse and demanding but I am part of a group of volunteers and full time employees who make it all possible.
European Jewish communities are quite diverse, but is there anything young people have in common?
Benjamin: I think with regard to some challenges and characteristics European Jewish communities have a lot in common: traditionally, there is a lack of opportunities and participation for the age group of 18-35 (which is what we're working on). Apart from that,
I feel that our generation, the third generation, is searching for their own Jewish narrative.
What worries you about European Jewish present?
Benjamin: EUJS’ approach is binary: we work within and outside of the Jewish community. In both areas I perceive worrying tendencies, some are also intertwined:
Within the community:
Young Jews are leaving the communities. The predominantly old male leadership is not serving their needs and their own grassroots initiatives are not being supported. At the same time their identity is often built on a negative foundation of:
- Perceived and experienced antisemitism
- Wrong Holocaust education and
- A dogmatic Israel education.
Outside of the community:
I am truly worried by the rise of extremism and populism in Europe. My identity as a universalist and as a communitarian both feed my motivation to fight and advocate for the European idea.
How do you see the ideal European Jewish future?
Benjamin: Three factors are important for me: Inclusivity, innovation and empowerment.
A pluralistic community, that is open to all denominations and allows a multifaceted Jewish life. A community, that allows young people to create their own independent initiatives; and supports them that builds up a positive Jewish narrative.
Why (do you) write for JEU?
Benjamin: JEU is an initiative that is of utmost important for a European Jewish identity. I often feel, that there are strong Jewish voices from Israel, the US and sometimes from the UK. JEU offers the opportunity for people from the rest of Europe to spread their views in Europe and beyond. It is important to have these voice being heard internationally, also as part of the European idea. Lastly, JEU is exactly the kind of initiative we believe in at EUJS: It is grassroots, young, positive and innovative. Kol hakavod! :)
Favourite Jewish read?
To read more from Benjamin, take a look at his column!
Anything else you'd like to know?
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