United States Ambassador to Latvia, Christopher Robinson, with Cabinet Mission Chairs, Kira Finkenberg and Aaron Ganz, as well as Cabinet Co-Chairs, Jacob Shapiro and Lauren Danneman
A group of 175 leaders from Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet just returned from Latvia and Hungary for the group’s annual International Study Mission, where they saw the effect of the war in Ukraine, learned about the scars the Holocaust has left, and witnessed the reemergence of Jewish life in this region of the world. These young leaders, all in their 30s and 40s, represent more than 40 local Federations across the United States and Canada.
During the mission, Cabinet members bore witness to the past and honored those lost during the Holocaust, as well as those who fought and continue to fight to ensure that this history is preserved and never forgotten. They engaged with leaders of Jewish communities today, and learned what is needed so that these communities can flourish into the future. Through visits to key sites, including the Historic Synagogue and the Rumbula Forest in Riga, Latvia and the Ghetto walls and Shoe Memorial in Budapest, Hungary, and conversations with local leaders, participants learned about Latvia’s recently passed Holocaust restitution law and the ongoing struggles in the Hungarian Jewish community for government acknowledgement of its role in the atrocities that took place in Hungary.
Focusing on the present and future generations, the leaders had the opportunity to witness the transformative work of Federations’ core partners, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), The Jewish Agency for Israel, and World ORT, to revitalize Jewish life in Hungary, through Jewish camps, schools, and other identity-building programs for youth and young adults. The participants experienced the key work happening in Federation-supported institutions like the ORT School in Riga and the Budapest JCC to help build Jewish identity and engagement in a part of the world where many do not discover that they are Jewish until they are teens or older.
Participants also engaged deeply around the impact of the war in Ukraine in the region. In Riga, they met with the United Stated Ambassador to Latvia, Christopher Robinson, who spoke about the U.S.-Latvian strategic relationship and the impact of the war on his country. In Hungary, they visited JDC Camp Szarvas, a hub of Jewish life in Central Europe for over 500 campers from more than 30 countries each year. Participants met with Jewish women and children from Ukraine who are being hosted at two-week respite camps at Szarvas and heard their stories of living through the war and the support they have received from the North American Jewish community.
“Traveling to Latvia and Hungary with Cabinet and leading this trip to see first-hand the impact of Federation dollars on these Jewish communities, is a true honor,” said Cabinet Study Mission co-chairs Kira Finkenberg and Aaron Ganz. “This Mission has enriched the meaning of mutual responsibility and made the transformative power of our tzedakah so vivid for us. The stories from this past week are embedded in our minds and hearts and the values we saw in action will deepen our own commitment as Cabinet leaders.”
“Cabinet’s Study Mission is core to supporting Cabinet members’ understanding of how the Federation system, together with our partners, is uniquely positioned to impact Jewish communities around the world. These hands-on experiences, along with leadership training and high-level learning on the issues facing our communities, prepare our members to lead in their Jewish communities now and into the future,” said Senior Director of National Young Leadership Cabinet for The Jewish Federations of North America Ben Schindler. “The success and impact of our Study Mission is a testament to a strong Lay-Professional partnership, and the committed leadership of Kira Finkenberg and Aaron Ganz, along with our National Co-Chairs, Lauren Danneman and Jacob Shapiro.”
Cabinet - which is celebrating its 60th year - is the premier pipeline for Jewish leadership in the North America Jewish community. In 2022, Cabinet members raised over $3.725 million for their local Federation annual campaigns, representing the largest Cabinet campaign in Jewish Federation history.
Cabinet now has over 450 current members and 4,200 alumni across North America, including many who have gone on to hold senior leadership roles in Jewish communal organizations, public service and the private sector. Notable alumni include Rep. Kathy Manning, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, and the CEO’s and Board Chairs of many Jewish institutions, including Jewish Federations of North America Board Chair Julie Platt and President & CEO Eric Fingerhut, and Chairman of the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel and previous Board Chair of Jewish Federations of North America Mark Wilf.
Applications for National Young Leadership Cabinet are open through May 19th. For more information contact Ben Schindler at firstname.lastname@example.org.