Vive L’Alliance – Going into 2012 with a European spirit

Leonie Lewis, JVN Director

Ok, so first off, I’m not talking about the Merkozy alliance (we don’t do *that* political here!) but instead about a European alliance which is rather more tangible and positive of Jewish Communities.

I briefly mentioned, before the Winter break, about going to the European Association of Jewish Community Centres conference on Volunteering (also supported by American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Fonds Social Juif Unifié)  in Brussels, but Matisyahu’s beard rather grabbed headlines that week!!

Jo Zhrien of President of EAJCC opening the Seminar

But it was such an important event that I really wanted to revisit it.  JVN, as a partner of the EAJCC, was asked to help shape a seminar for Jewish communities in Europe, as part of the overall European Year of Volunteering. So, off Joanne and I went to Brussels where we were overwhelmed and delighted with so many opportunities for networking and knowledge-sharing on our favourite topic – volunteering!

Joanne, our communications specialist and I presented a session on networking to delegates – and our cousins! – from 14 European countries (France, Belgium, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Holland, Russia, Spain, Italy, Estonia, Latvia, Lithunia, Ukraine – and the UK).

John Macdonald Head of EU Taskforce for the EYV2011

Our session covered the basics of how to network and why the JVN itself, as its name suggests, is a network of networks.  Our focus was on how networks can recruit, retain and sustain volunteering, with the big hairy goal of supporting Jewish community.  Joanne particularly focused on using social media and mentioned this blog and our Facebook and Twitter, and how we use it to promote ideas, individuals and their charities.

From the discussions that ensued with delegates after our session, it seems that JVN, and how it connects people and organisations to volunteering, was something that could be easily replicated and tailored to the needs of the various European communities and we’ve been exchanging emails ever since!

Why do volunteers benefit from volunteering - at Jewish Care's workshop

From our side, we really gained from understanding what makes the different countries in Europetick.  Talking with delegates from countries formerly under Communist Regimes was particularly interesting, as it became apparent that volunteering as we know it was not a concept they fully understood, due to the almost total undermining of civil society generally and the fears involved in organising Jewish community specifically.  From the Western European perspective, our French-speaking cousins, lived up to their reputation as the great philosophers of Europe – having deep and spirited discussions over the definition of volunteering and sharing that they prefer the term – militante – or activist!  We also very much enjoyed the sessions held by Jewish Care on various aspects of managing and motivating volunteers, which were very well-received.  We even managed to fit in the odd Belgian beer or two and some lovely kosher food at the truly fantastic Centre Communautaire Laïc Juif inBrussels, which had a nursery, restaurant, cinema and lots of communal spaces under one roof!

Our European Jewish Volunteering Alliance aka the Seminar delegates

With the spirit of Jewish European alliance in mind, next week we’ll be featuring a blog by Agata the Volunteer Coordinator of JCC Krakow, a community centre which is challenging conceptions about Jewish life inPoland.  Be sure to subscribe to the blog (see to the right) to make sure you don’t miss out!



Categories: JVN News, Leonie's View


Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.


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  1. Agata Mucha – JCC Krakow living L’chaim – part one! | The Jewish Volunteering Network Blog - January 13, 2012

    […] week we told you about the really enjoyable and inspiring European Jewish seminar on volunteering we went to in December and, as promised, wanted to share with you the great volunteering work […]

  2. Volunteering, schmolunteering – does the word volunteering really matter? | The Jewish Volunteering Network Blog - April 20, 2012

    […] written about this before, noting that our French volunteering colleagues were very precise separating out an social activism – militantisme – from volunteering […]

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