Belarus, a historically important center of Jewish learning in eastern Europe, is home to between 10,400 and 25,000 Jews. The presence of Jews in Belarus can be traced back to the 14th century, when what was then called Belorussia was a region of Poland-Lithuania.
After World War II, Belorussia remained under Soviet control, antisemitism continued to be prevalent in the region. The postwar years saw a gradual decline in the Belorussian Jewish population as a number of Jews emigrated to Israel and the United States. During Perestroika, there was a revival of Jewish life in Belorussia as a number of Jewish cultural institutions were established in cities throughout region.
Currently, the main Jewish communal representative organization in Belarus is the Union of Belarusian Jewish Public Associations and Communities, which is comprised of about one hundred Jewish organizations from nearly twenty Belarusian cities. Jewish charitable organizations provide food, homecare, and medical care to needy Jews. Among these organizations are the public charitable Jewish organization Chesed Rachamim. The JDC financially supports the Union of Jewish Associations and Communities.
Around 30 campers come to Szarvas Camp every year. Here, they meet their pals from the FSU region, and make new friends with campers from Israel, Europe, Northern America, and India, they have fun, and learn about Judaism together. Szarvas is a safe place where everyone, including Belorussian camper, embraces who there are and feel comfortable around like-minded.
The Bulgarian Jewish community is a vibrant community that brings together people of all ages all year long. From our toddlers in the kindergarten to our Golden Age folks, we make sure that everyone is cared for and enabled to participate on all levels of Jewish life across Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian community aspires to continuously facilitate an empowering environment for young people to become leaders either in their own communities or in other parts of the world.
Apart from our own local summer camp Jewgaton, every year Bulgaria sends a delegation of at least 80 chanichim to Szarvas.
Learn more about the Bulgarian Jewish community here: https://www.shalom.bg
Czech Jewry is represented by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Czech Republic, an umbrella organization that represents Jewish communities and other institutions across the country.
The Jewish Community of Prague is the main organization in the country. There is a powerful history around the Jewish Prague, on its history (from middle age), the Golem, Kafka and sadly from Terezin.
The Lauder Schools in Prague are the only-full time Jewish educational institutions in the country and include a kindergarten, an elementary school, and a high school in which both Jewish and non-Jewish students study together.
Czech Republic is very active sending kids to Szarvas, as every year around 80 campers join one of the summer sessions.
The small but united Jewish community in Estonia has become one of the centers of Jewish life in the region. Positive and Innovative in many ways, the community has been reinventing its Jewish institutions. Gradually building from basic infrastructure to the opening of the new Jewish school. The Estonian Jewish Community unites under one roof the welfare center, JCC Tallinn, Tallinn Jewish Museum, and other Jewish organizations and institutions.
Around 10–20 campers from Estonia, every year enjoy their summer at Szarvas Camp. Here, with their friends from other Baltic states, they meet new people from other countries, enjoy the educational and team-building activities, and of course, fave fun.
More than half of the Jewish community in France live in Paris and its suburbs, but there are other substantial Jewish communities in Marseilles, Toulouse, Nice, Strasbourg. In addition, there are a dozen smaller communities, each with some 2,000 Jews, scattered throughout the country.
Many French Jews are either secular or traditional. The major organized religious denomination in France is Modern Orthodoxy. Zionist organizations are also active in France and there are several local youth movements. Despite the variety of outlets for Jewish expression, only around 40 percent of the community is officially affiliated with, or members of, synagogues or Jewish organizations.
Many years ago there was a separate French group in Szarvas. Nowadays, a few French Jews come to the camp and join the International group.
Learn more about the German Jewish community:
Following the dark years of the Shoah and the Soviet occupation, the Hungarian Jewish community was reborn in 1990. Nowadays Hungarian Jews of all ages and backgrounds can find their place here. Budapest, where the majority of Jews live, offers a wide range of opportunities to explore your Judaism through education, religion, culture, and community.
When you think of Szarvas, you might think of a campsite, but for us, it is much more. Due to the community’s diversity, tensions might arise and there’s a need for a unifying force. Szarvas Camp serves as a common ground, playing an important role in our community’s life by raising our leaders and teaching us responsibility for our general society and future.
Learn more about the Hungarian Jewish community and its organizations (at the bottom of the page): https://2020kozosseg.org/english-about/
The Bene Israelis are an ancient community who settled on the western coast of India after a shipwreck more than 2000 years ago. Committed to keeping their Jewish identity alive, they preserved their traditions and today live as a tiny but thriving community. The JDC supported Mumbai EPJCC has been a hub for Jewish learning and engagement for generations.
Since 2001, Szarvas has welcomed our madrichim (counselors), trained them to become leaders, connected them with global Jewry, and opened their eyes to the wonders of the Jewish world. In 2016 and 2017, we also had chanichim (campers) being a small group of just four. They joined the international group and gained so much from the diversity! These teens here in India are a part of the JYP (Jewish Youth Pioneers) Juniors group.
Almost 7 million Jews live in Israel today, making it the largest Jewish community in the world. The Jewish society in Israel is very diverse: religiously, geographically, and ideologically.
About 140 Israeli campers come to Szarvas every year; they are chosen with this diversity in mind and represent most sectors of the Jewish society. They come from all over the country, from most religious denominations, and with very different backgrounds.
Israeli campers come to Szarvas to meet and connect with Jewish teens from other countries, but they quickly find out that meeting teens from their community for the first time is just as important and meaningful.
Today, between approximately 3,300 Jews live in Kazakhstan. They are mostly Russian-speaking and identify with Russian culture. Approximately 2,000 are Bukharian and Tat (Mountain Jews). Almaty is the main Jewish centre of the country. Smaller Jewish communities are spread out across this large country in places. The Kazakh Jewish community is stable and organized. More than 20 Jewish organizations, both secular and religious, currently work to improve Jewish religious and cultural life.
There are more than 11 schools with some 650 students in 11 different communities. The Jewish Agency for Israel sponsors a moadon (youth center) in several cities, the largest in Almaty. It is a popular hangout for Jewish teens and provides instruction in Jewish culture, history and Hebrew.
In 2015, 10 teens came to Szarvas Camp to meet with other Jews from all around the World, including their pals from the FSU region.
JCC is an important part of the Riga Jewish Community.
It is a place where pre-schoolers (Beyahad Mini 2–5) can meet madrichim for the first time. Get used to being a part of the Jewish community.
This is a point where school-aged kids (Beyahad kids 6–12) can’t wait to see their madrichim again. And enjoy being a part of the Riga Jewish Community.
It is a corner where teens (Beyahad teens 13–17) strive to become just like madrichim. For them, the Jewish community is an inseparable part of their lives.
Finally, JCCRiga is a meeting point for everyone from age 2–65.
Learn more about Riga’s Jewish community on their Facebook or Instagram
Lithuania has a significant place in the Jewish history as one of the very important centers of Jewish life. This has ended with the Holocaust, causing almost a total annihilation of the Jewish community. The current Jewish population is about 5000, mainly living in Vilnius, with a number of Jews in Kaunas, Klaipeda, Ponevezys and others.
Every summer between 20 and 30 campers come to Szarvas with their friends from other Baltic states to meet new people from other countries, to be a part of one of the loudest groups in the dining hall and outside of it, and to have fun!
The history of Moldavian Jews goes back several centuries. Bessarabian Jews have lived in this area since the end of the 16th century. Before the pogroms and World War II, in Chisinau, the Jewish population totaled 46%, 77 synagogues, and 16 Jewish schools were opened.
Today, the Jewish community of Moldova numbers over 14000 Jews, most of whom live in Chisinau. More than 75000 Moldovan Jews live in Israel. In Moldova, Jewish organizations function in nine cities. A variety of organizations and institutions represent Jewish life in Moldova. These are Jewish schools, a Jewish library, synagogues, representative offices of Jewish organizations, JCC, youth movements, volunteer center, and others.
Every year 30 teenagers from Moldova are coming to the Szarvas Camp through JCC KEDEM (supported by JDC), who subsequently take an active part in the life of the community. The experience of the Szarvas helps teenagers to understand the history and values of the Jewish people better; to feel the scale of the geography of the global Jewish community, and to understand their place in their local community.
Szarvas Camp has an essential impact on the Jewish community of Poland. For years it had been a place where young polish Jews could explore, strengthen, and embrace their Jewish identity. Participants were coming from all over Poland, and for many of them, it had been the only Jewish experience, as they came from small communities providing few opportunities to engaged in Jewish life. Today we can see the Polish Jewish community and their members develop, get involved, and take responsibility, while the children grow into leaders capable of addressing their communities’ needs. This wouldn’t be possible without the Szarvas Camp.
Learn more about the Polish Jewish community here:
Currently there are around 8,000 Jews in Romania. 3,500 live in Bucharest, and the rest are spread in 38 communities around the country. Romania enjoys a strong and lively Jewish activity with five regional Jewish community centers, dozens of functional synagogues where most organize a prayer with a minyan on Shabbat, Rabbis in the main cities and several kosher dining halls.
Every year, there are several camps for children of all ages, for the elderly and 3 big family camps in the 3 main regions of Romania. Around 90 campers also join Szarvas Camp’s sessions every summer.
Jews in Russia have historically constituted a large religious diaspora; the vast territories of the Russian Empire at one time hosted the largest population of Jews in the world. Later, under the seven decades of the Soviet regime, Russian-speaking Jews suffered greatly, and as a result, many have lost their identity and connection to their heritage.
Nowadays, the Jewish communities are present in most of the biggest cities. Even though the communities are different, they have common goals. Through targeted educational and immersive programs, communities are building bridges back to Jewish life and culture by supporting members of all ages.
Szarvas serves as one of the uniting forces. Campers who every year travel to the camp bring a variety of experiences, stories about their new friends, and leadership skills that allow them to further develop their local communities and build them stronger.
After the Holocaust, The Jewish community of Bratislava was destroyed, and many people who survived emigrated away from Bratislava. After the war, it had to be rebuilt. Today, we can tell that the local Jewish community is once again solid and nice, and it welcomes many generations. The community is not big, but it sticks together. During each holiday, the community prepares various programs for all generations—from small children to the elderly.
For local Jewry, it is very important to not forget about the religious background, and Rabbi Baruch Myers plays a huge role in implementing religious elements into the community. The main goal of the Jewish community of Bratislava is to create an amazing environment for young Jews that are being raised here and to nurture their leadership skills, as they are the generation who will lead the community one day.
Learn more about the Slovak Jewish community: https://www.uzzno.sk
The Jewish community of modern Spain is primarily based on waves of post-war migration from Turkey, Morocco, from the Balkans, from other European countries, and from Latin America. The “Federacion de Comunidades Judías de España,” which unites Jewish Spanish communities from different parts of the country and works to provide religious, cultural, and educational services.
In Barcelona the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities pray in separate synagogues in the same building. Jewish day schools exist in Barcelona, Madrid, and Melilla. Other cultural centers include “Centro Sefarad-Israel”—a cultural center founded to foster Spanish-Jewish cultural relations and to strengthen Sephardic cultural heritage, as well as the “Baruch Spinoza Center”.
What many people don’t know, is that few teenagers from Spain join one of the International groups in Szarvas, which makes the experience of the whole camp even more pluralistic.
Turkey is a historically sustainable community. It is traditional in character with a plethora of synagogues and centrally positioned Rabbinate. Turkish community has a large infrastructure of Jewish community organizations in the areas of religion, culture, and welfare.
Many young adults make Aliya to Israel, and that is why Madrich training programs nurturing future leaders are very important here. Around 50 teenagers come to Szarvas every summer to meet new friends and learn more about European Jewry. Every teen from Turkey comes to the camp only once, and that is why it is a highly valuable experience one can have.
Ukraine is 603 628 km².
Ukraine is more than 40 million people.
Ukraine is more than 120 official Jewish communities.
Communities are sooo different! And the programs are sooo various! From north to south. From strong religious to social. From 0 to 120 years. From one-time-event to everyday-meeting-program.
But all of them are full of love to their participants. All of the Ukrainian communities have the same goals: to unite all Jews together, to maintain traditions and Jewish culture. And all the communities are trying to do all the best for their members.
The United Kingdom 🇬🇧 is home to over 260,000 Jews, making it the fifth-largest Jewish population in the world. Diverse in terms of religious and cultural affiliation, as well as in socioeconomic terms, the British Jewish community contributes greatly to Britain’s national sense of self and features prominently in all aspects of public life.
The community has close to 300 synagogues and Jewish organizations represented. The community’s vibrancy and diversity are reflected in other ways as well, including the Limmud conference and JW3, London’s impressive Jewish community center, which stands as a fixture for Jewish life and culture in both London and the UK in general.
There are a couple of participants from the UK who join the international group of Szarvas Camp every year or so. Here they can meet pals from Eastern Europe and learn more about the local Jewry.
The North American Jewish community is diverse and dynamic. It is represented by Jews coming from different streams of Judaism mostly identified within the religious denominations of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist. Today there are several other affiliations as well. There are communities across the country in different cities where you will likely find a JCC, different denominational Synagogues, Jewish schools, and many other community organizations. Many of these institutions stand on their own, although there is a network of Federations and other organizations that help support community infrastructure and often provide many educational and social service needs. Historically, the communities are made up of Jews who immigrated to the United States in the last 150-200 years and have worked to establish one of the largest and dynamic Jewish infrastructures in the world.
Close to 100 students come to Szarvas each summer from across North America through the Szarvas Fellowships program. Part of this experience is connecting these students to their past and the cities and communities where their family came from, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to learn about and engage with Jewish life and identity today in Eastern/Central Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Each student is profoundly impacted by the experience and returns home feeling more connected to their own Jewish identity and the global Jewish community.
Learn more about the North American Jewish communities here: https://www.jewishfederations.org/
There are two distinct Jewish communities in Uzbekistan: the more religious and traditional Bukharan Jewish community and the more progressive Ashkenazi community made up primarily of Jews of European origin. There were 94,900 Jews in Uzbekistan in 1989; less than 5,000 remained in 2007 (most of them in Tashkent). There are 12 synagogues in Uzbekistan.
Bukharan Jews have made valiant efforts to preserve Jewish life, even in the face of pressure from the Soviet authorities, intermarriage was almost unknown. The gumbaz Synagogue in Samarkand enjoys the benefits of a Bukharan rabbi who is affiliated with the Chabad movement.
Both Tashkent and Bukhara have Jewish cultural centers. Jewish musicians play a leading role in the local musical scene, performing both Uzbek folk music and classical central Asian music called shash makom.
In 2015, 4 teens came to Szarvas Camp to meet with other Jews from all around the World, including their pals from the FSU region.
“Igra Rock’n’Roll cela Jugoslavija” is a lyric that the Yugo group in Szarvas is known for and still proudly sings, even though the camp is the only place where this country still “exists”. Kids from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia gather every summer, as one group, to reunite with their friends, learn about Judaism, and have fun.
These Jewish communities have been sending their youngest members to Szarvas since 1991. It is the place where chanichim and madrichim from all over the region developed their Jewish identity and learned how to give back to the community.
Learn more about the Ex-Yugo Jewish community here: