On January 4, 20 students from University of Kansas Hillel (KU Hillel) will travel to Bulgaria and Romania. Through KU Hillel’s European Leadership Mission (ELM). KU Hillel has paired up with the Entwine division of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to provide an insider trip to these two countries.
ELM, funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City’s Israel and Overseas Committee, is a high-level trip for top Jewish student leaders at the University of Kansas. ELM will give students a deeper understanding of the economic and social issues that the Jewish communities in Bulgaria and Romania experience on a daily basis.
Bulgaria and Romania both have small, yet thriving Jewish communities. The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City supports the revitalization of Jewish life in both of these countries and helps meet the needs of the community’s most vulnerable members including the elderly, children and families at risk.
“I am so excited to add the European Leadership Mission to our program offerings,” said Jay Lewis, KU Hillel’s Executive Director. “It is vital that the future leaders of our Jewish communities have a deep understanding for and appreciation of global Jewish peoplehood. This experience is going be incredible for the participants, but it’s impact will be felt throughout the KU Jewish community and the Jewish communities that these students connect with after graduation.”
The students will interact with the local Jewish communities, their leaders, and volunteer at many of the projects that the Jewish Federation supports. ELM is a way for students to see the issues first hand that Eastern European Jews are facing and then bring their knowledge back to their communities.
This trip allows students to take the leadership skills they have acquired over the years and apply them to a new and unfamiliar environment. Students will not only learn about issues such as anti-Semitism and poverty, but also see these issues in the everyday life of Bulgarians and Romanians.
Before the trip, all participants will participate in four pre-trip sessions, including a Shabbat dinner hosted by two of the participants. These sessions allow students a chance to meet the other participants of the trip, learn more about what the JDC is and Kansas City’s partnership communities of Sofia and Bucharest as well as prepare them to better understand the goals of the trip.
“This trip will be an eye-opening experience,” said KU Senior, Allison Kohn. “As a civically engaged, socially aware citizen and Jew, I believe we have an obligation to help others and make our community a better place to live, whether that’s on campus, our hometown or around the world.”
Jay Lewis, KU Hillel’s Executive Director, Carly Stein KU Hillel’s Director of Development, and Jen Berman, JDC’s Program Assistant and KU Hillel alum, will lead the trip to Bulgaria and Romania, departing on January 4 and returning January 13.