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More than 100 Spanish speaking Jewish leaders gathered online to re-imagine the future


El Salvador, Honduras, Santa Fe; Argentina and Aracaju; Brazil are only a few of the 39 JCCs in 17 countries (see list below) in Latin America and Spain that gathered last Thursday for the first encounter of “Re-Imagining and Creating the Future.” A joint project of CLAM (Confederation of Latin American Maccabi Clubs), Maccabi World Union and JCC Global. The program enlisted more than 100 Jewish leaders that will participate in 6 workshops with some of the best thought leaders and practitioners around the world. The program, entirely tailormade to the needs of Spanish speaking JCCs/Maccabi clubs, will help Jewish leaders address the new landscape as it unfolds and evolves almost daily.


With Latin America being hard it by Covid-19 and with an almost 100% fee for service business model, the JCCs/Maccabi clubs in Latin America are facing a grand pivot. In many of these countries, the governments haven’t been able to lead a suitable strategy to face the crisis and with the financial crisis that was already looming prior to the pandemic, the uncertainties and fears skyrocket. It was especially moving to listen to some of the smaller Jewish communities, one of them with as little as 80 Jews. For them, being invited to such a forum provides an opportunity to narrow the distance and the sense of loneliness that they often feel. We heard, for example, from Ilan Lopez, the Executive Director of the Jewish community of Guatemala, how they were able to lead a religious program with their own local Rabbi that drew hundreds of Rabbis and participants from around the continent and the world. Or Valeria Levin from Rosario, Argentina how spoke about gaining access to first-class music and dance programs from other cities in Argentina through online services. Both large and smaller communities were able to utilize technology and connect locally and continentally. We heard how important it is to facilitate a forum where lessons learned can be discussed and emulated. And perhaps more than anything, participants enjoyed the safe space for openly sharing some of their challenges and testing some of their future dreams.


The sessions will focus on: reconnecting to the Jewish “why”, the use of technology, strategic workshops to re-think the JCC model, resource development, utilizing new research on Jewish identity in Latin America, a dialogue with young adult focus group and more. The conclusion of many participants, following the first encounter, was similar: we all face almost identical realities and we can work together on augmenting our capabilities and resources. This is the best time to collaborate.


The JCCs/Maccabi Clubs in Latin America have been spearheading stellar institutions that are often the focal point of Jewish life in their communities with more than 150,000 members in total. They boast social, reactional, sports and cultural programs and offer programs for all segments of the Jewish community and for all ages. It was apparent that the aggregated experience, knowledge and passion of the online community that emerged, is ready to move mountains.


Participating counties included: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela. We will share additional outcomes and insights in future newsletters.


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