EuroStars annual European journey took place in the beginning of May, and once again the trip was a great success. 700 Jewish university students came together from over 30 cities in Russia. At first, the group went to the Auschwitz concentration camp memorial in Poland for Holocaust remembrance day. After participating in the ‘March of Living’ ceremony, the students then toured Spain and Gibraltar, learning about Jewish life and heritage in those countries. Along the way they also got to know each other closer, forming long-lasting friendships and, even, relationships.
“We were amazed by the Jewish community in Gibraltar, vibrant with life and extremely open and welcoming,” says Misha Fridman, trip participant from Petersburg. “There we saw Judaism as not just a tradition, but a real, practiced way of life.”
“In Cordova we visited the places where Rambam and Yehuda haLevi lived, which also intensified the feeling of connecting with our history,” says another participant, Michail Sharf.
“In Toledo there is also a lively Jewish community, where many people are increasingly interested in their roots,” adds Oksana, also from Petersburg. The entire group spent Shabbat together in Malaga, dancing and singing in the main square of the capital together with their rabbis and chief rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, joined by ministers and the city mayor, who wished them a ‘Shabbat Shalom’.
“One of the main results of this trip is not just the opportunity for our young people to learn about Jewish history in these counties, but to see and to feel that Judaism is alive, it’s not just a faith one keeps in his pocket,” explains one of the trip rabbis, rabbi Zvi Pinsky. “It’s also a massive community thing, which they are a part of, and that is very inspiring,” he said.
The entire trip was filled with the sense of Jewish spirit – in the towns and villages the students visited; in the local residents they met; and, most importantly, in the group atmosphere they created. There was an emphasis on connection, exemplified by the fact that few of the students who met on last years’ trips returned as married couples. And this year’s trip was also topped with a romantic surprise: young man from the city of Nizhny Novgorod proposed to a young lady from Samara on the main square of Seville.
All of the EuroStars participants have been studying in the program throughout the year, and the trip comes as the culmination of an eight-month intense curriculum. The program is made possible by the generous support of the Or Avner foundation headed by FJC’s President Mr. Lev Leviev, the IFCJ headed by rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the Eli Horn Foundation, the Meromim Foundation and JLI International.