FJC’s EuroStars, ran by YAHAD young adults platform, has been in the spotlight recently, with everyone suddenly paying attention to the program that brings over a thousand FSU young adults to Europe every spring, connecting them to Jewish heritage during the visit.
But there is more to EuroStars than meets the eye.
This year, about a third of EuroStars’s thousand plus students have reached the three trip maximum, which means they cannot go on any more free trips according to program policy. Nevertheless, these students continue to attend weekly two-hour classes, learn and grow with the program. “We succeeded in lighting the wick that is sustainable, coming to weekly classes on Jewish tradition became a second nature for many of these students,” said YAHAD director Rabbi Mendy Wilansky in an interview last week.
EuroStars learning is based on a unique curriculum, specifically developed for the program by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. It takes into consideration the specifics of the population EuroStars works with, and provides information on different levels, so it is accessible to beginners but is also interesting to the more advanced students. Most of the class is given by the community rabbi, but the last half hour is taught by a local club leader – YAHAD’s Leadership School is another young adults initiative that successfully complements EuroStars by providing participants with top notch leadership and informal education skills they bring back to their communities.
This season EuroStars is present in eight countries and 50 cities, with 300 young adults in Moscow alone. “When we started five years ago with only four cities and about 90 total participants there were places where we thought we’d never get a following, such as Sochi, Tumen, Khabarovsk, Birobidjan – now all of them have strong and active EuroStars clubs,” Rabbi Wilansky said.
Besides learning, EuroStars activities also include volunteering events, such as house visits and elderly support. This year EuroStars is teaming up with Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service to teach those who are interested invaluable first aid skills from best trained professionals.
And of course there is the big trip. Taking place in early May this year, the trip is going to take the group to Western Europe, visiting Switzerland, Austria, the Cheque republic and finishing up in Poland for the memorial ceremonies at concentration camp sites. Along the way there are also plans to organize a mini-forum with intensive learning and high-impact meetings and presentations, but the program has not finilized yet. “Importantly, the trip is about having fun, too. These students learned the entire year and we want to show them the appreciation for it,” added Rabbi Wilansky.