Vienna: EnerJew Youth Movement Shabbaton Surprises Jewish Teenage Refugees

When EnerJew’s teenage members from Riga and Tallinn arrived for an experiential Shabbaton Seminar in Vienna, the capital of Austria, they didn’t expect to be joined by another seven EnerJew members from the movement’s branches in Ukraine who are now refugees temporarily residing in the city.

Over 40 Jewish teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17, members of the FJC’s FSU Jewish youth movement in Estonia and Latvia, participated last month in a unique 4-day Shabbaton seminar in nearby Vienna. The seminar aims to grant the participants a positive and experiential Jewish experience and encourage them to enroll in Jewish High institutions in the future. When the seminar was planned, no one imagined the current situation that has developed in Ukraine. No one could believe that hundreds of Jewish teenagers, members of EnerJew across Ukraine, would end up scattered across Europe and Israel.

The group of seven teenage refugees, originally from Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv, were just as shocked and delighted as their hosts. They are far from settled down, and the unifying experience with their fellow members excited and touched them deeply.

“This was way beyond what we expected,” one of the participating girls explained. “This unique feeling of mutual responsibility, unity, care, and love, between fellow Jews – despite never having met each other before – has completely changed my perspective on life. I enjoyed 4 days packed with attractions, study, spiritual experiences, good friends, and so much more, but the highlight was undoubtedly the shared experience with teenagers my age, that I realized I so strongly care for.”

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