An overbooked crowd of more than 80 young adults packed into a D.C. eatery Monday night to chat about Jewish communal efforts in Argentina.
Organized by Entwine, a relatively new division of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee that annually sends 500 Jewish young adults to countries around the world, Monday’s “Salud, DC: A Night of Wine Tasting Celebrating Argentina’s Jewish Community” at Mio Restaurant featured a member of an Argentinian community Skyping in to discuss how the work of an Entwine crew had affected him as a Jew and as a person.
The program began with two Entwine alumni discussing their experiences and their knowledge of Jewish Argentina.
Afterwards, the group of mostly 20-somethings had the chance to hear from Kevin Olesker, an Argentine Jew. By way of the Internet-based chat program Skype, Olesker spoke about his life-changing experience with JDC and his current involvement in programs like a local retirement home, Hillel and a Jewish youth group. The “greatest enemy” of Argentina’s Jewish community, he said, is assimilation and the resulting dissolution of communities.
Olesker’s wide range of involvement makes him, in the view of Entwine executive director Sarah Eisenman, “one of those young leaders that we really want all of our young adults to aspire to be.”
Olesker went on to talk about how Argentina’s Jewish community, the seventh-largest in the world, was impacted by the 2001 economic crisis and JDC’s work to help it out of the financial crisis.
He noted that today, the community is starting to return to form, and that it offers many aspects that interest him, primarily his youth group. He said he’s found some of his closest and most loyal friends through it.
According to Eisenman, who also serves as JDC’s executive vice president, Entwine’s goals are aimed at improving education, service and leadership. She described those issues in question form: “How do we, in real ways, involve young Jews in global issues, and how do we get young Jews to see global issues as part of their core responsibilities? How do we inspire a sense of mutual responsibility” between Jews at home and abroad?
She explained that the program originated from a survey showing that, while young Jews were very interested in helping those in need and knew about global issues affecting communities worldwide, they did not have the same knowledge of specific issues that plague the smaller groups in those communities.
“We sought to change that,” she said. In terms of leadership, Entwine aims to teach students and young professionals how to engage and lead in a world that is highly globalized.
Sean Savett was an attendee on Monday.
“It was really nice to hear about the Jewish community from one of its young leaders,” he said. “I had no idea there were so many Argentine Jews, or that they were the world’s seventh largest Jewish population.
“I came away impressed with the rich culture and am definitely interested in visiting to see the sights, learn about the community and, most importantly, trying the food.”
JDC celebrated its 100th anniversary in December. The organization also works in the former Soviet Union and Israel, and conducts international disaster and crisis relief.