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PAGE 24A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 28, 2000 some youn 15 By Ben Harris STOCKHOLM (JTA)--A lapsed Polish Catholic cites the "Jewish sparks in his soul,' when explaining his affinity for klezmer and his desire to foster intercultural exchange through Jewish music. A 25-year-old Hungarian born to intermarried parents and working to create an Israeli cultural center in Budapest says he would not be crushed if his children decide not to engage in Jewish life. An Armenian Christian wants to start a Judaic stud- ies seminar at an Armenian universitythatwouldhighlight shared elements of Armenian and Jewish history. A German Jewish journalist who became interestedinJuda- ism through an ex-giflfriend aims to start an Internet show focusing on the weekly Torah portion and Israeli culture. Welcome to the emerging Jewish Europe, where Jewish consciousness is rising-- among Jews and gentiles alike--amid some of the most secular societies in the world. At a time when religious identity in Europe is at his- toric lows--in Sweden, only about 3 percent of citizens at- tend church regularly--once- assimilated Jews are emerging from the shadows and seeking to reassert their Jewish identi- ties. The trend has been in evi- dence in Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of com- Participants in Paideia's project-incubator meeting in Stockholm the Jerusalem-based ROI, a program to foster Jewish innovation. munism 20 years ago paved Jewish culture across Europe. the way for many to rediscover "So even people that three Jewish roots. But even in West- generations ago were Jewish ern Europe, the emergence of and knew about it, until quite the European Union coupled recently they never said aword with the growing diversity of about it," Urwitz said. "Now all the region's population has of a sudden they feel they can prompted a reassertion of somehow search that rootand national identities, including to some extent promote it and among Jews. find their own way into it." "With that sort of multi- The reclaiming of Euro- culturalism, and I think with peanJewishidentity--Barbara the united Europe, your roots Spectre, Paedeia's founding become more important," said director, calls it "dis-assimila- Gabriel Urwitz, a leader of the tion"--is on the march. But Stockholm Jewish community rather than taking on religious andthe chairman, of Paideia, an forms, dis-assimilation among academic institute in Stock- young Europeans often has a holm working to promote distinctly secular quality. FLORIDA osb Paideia in August with Beto Maya (!), the project manager for Many young Europeans nothing about his heritage. embracing Jewish culture Kenesei, whose mother is come from small communi- not Jewish, was sent to a Jew- ties where established Jewish ish high school to avoid the institutionsrangefromweakto anti-Semitic harassment his nonexistent, the opportunities older brother had endured in forJewishreligiouscommunity Hungarian public school. As a are minimal and the likelihood result, Keneseigrew interested that they will marry within the in Judaism. faith is low. As he "came out" as Jew- "Theydon'thavethosecom- ish, Kenesei says, he found ponents and yet they choose he had to overcome the sense to be Jewish," Spectre said. that reclaiming Judaism was "The question is, of course, a "sickness" and the province why would one do this? It's a of"losers" unable to find their tremendously important ques- placeinpost-CommunistHun- tion. And I think that they can gary. Today Kenesei isworking act as sort of informants to us, to establish an Israeli cultural the rest of the Jewish world." center in Budapest. Jewswhofitthisprofilemake "I felt this huge gap in the up a majority of applicants to family that we have this Jew- Paideia's flagship program, a ish thing but nobody knows one-year fellowship in Jewish anythingaboutit, soitwas sort texts that aims not only to im- of a mission for me to discover mersestudentsintheliterature thispartofthe famityandbring of the Jewish people, but to things back," Kenesei said. prime them for activist roles Paideia, formed in 2001, is in promoting Jewish life across the product of a commission Europe. The institute also runs formed by the Swedish govern- a 10-day project incubator over ment in the 1990s to investigate the summer, supported by the the country's role during the European Jewish Fund and Holocaust. Though the com- UJA-Federation of New York, missionultimatelydetermined which offers training and net- that Sweden bore little legal workingopportunitiestosocial responsibility for the loss of entrepreneurs with projects to Jewish property, the govern- invigorate Jewish culture, ment opened discussions with Paideiareceives sixtimesas the Stockholm Jewish com- manyapplicantsforthefellow- munity to find a way to make ship as itaccepts, most of them some sort of moral restitution. fromindividualswhowerenot The result was Paideia, raised asidentifiedJews.Some whose name comes from the aren't Jewish at all but are Greek concept that culture welcomed because they have can be transmitted through demonstrated a commitment education rather than blood- to advancing Jewish culture, line. It was a notion appealing Marcell Kenesei from Bu- to a Swedish government then dapest completed both pro- at the forefront of efforts to grams.Aself-describedsecular transmute dozens of national Jew, Kenesei was born to identities into a single pan- a Jewish father who knew European union. But it also has particular implications for Jews living in a place steeped in secularism, increasingly cosmopolitan and heterogeneous, and after the tribulations of the last century, often unable to trace their ethnic origins along purely Jewish lines. Paideia believes that partici- pants committed to Jewish cul- ture can acquire a post-ethnic Jewish identity through study rather than conversion. That's why the fellowship is open to non-Jews interested in Jewish life who demonstrate a com- mitment to promoting Jewish culture. Piotr Mirski, who completed the fellowship program this year, is a klezmer guitarist fromLublin, aPolishcitywhose population once was 40 percent Jewish. Though not Jewish himself---Mirski was raised as a Polish Catholic, but left the Church--the experience of separation from his homeland's dominant religious group offers some insight into the experi- ence of Polish Jewry, he says. "I realized that I shared somehow the experience of Jewish people in Poland, and it drives me to make something against it, against exclusion,', Mirski told JTA. "My main goal is to build bridges between people." Mirski's project, which he calls Jazz Midrash-The Hebrew Songbook, aims to produce two CDs, including one with original Polish-language songs based on Jewish stories. Mirski wants to promote the book and CDs with a series of street festivals in Polish towns that once were centers of Jewish life. While some are skeptical that Jewish culture absent any religious component is suffi- cient to sustain Jewish identity across the generations, Paideia participants insist it is. "Culture and history is much stickier glue in Europe than it is in the United States," said Shawn Landres, an American who staffed Paideia's recent in- cubator program, which ended in mid-August. Still, Spectre acknowledges that sometimes she wonders whether cultural projects will be enough to sustain Jewish identity in the long run. "A nonethnic definition of Judaism changes the whole dynamic," she said. But, "if you mean by culture the way a Europeanwoulddefineit be- ing literate," she said, "if we're talking about forming com- munities of learning--I would claim that that's the sustainable element in Judaism." Paideia Swedish singer Anne Kalmering Josephson performis Jewish music for Paideia project- incubator participants on Aug. 11 at the Jewish community center in Stockholm.