Student activists gather in Paraguay for leadership summit.
The Hillel Latin America family got a little bigger over the summer of 2009! The newest arrival came in June as Hillel Latin America launched a pilot initiative in Asunción, Paraguay.
Akin to the “Small and Mighty” Initiative in the United States, the pilot in Asunción represents the first of Hillel Latin America’s efforts to work with Jewish young adults in the region’s smaller Jewish communities.
“The wider our network, the stronger our family,” said Hillel Latin America Regional Director Gabriel Trajtenberg. “We’re thrilled to kick this initiative off in the ‘small and mighty’ community of Asunción.”
The Asunción pilot is already gaining momentum among the community’s 120 Jewish students and young adults.
“In a small community like in Paraguay, it’s a priority to work with the students,” said Hillel Paraguay Coordinator Eliana Tolces. “As the weeks go on, we are seeing more and more interest and enthusiasm among the students.”
The pilot, which is fully supported by local community leaders, focuses on building Jewish identity and connecting Asunción’s Jewish students to other Jewish students across the region.
“Hillel provides these young adults with a link to Jewish communities in other countries,” said Trajtenberg. “These connections enable the Asunción community to make Jewish friends and explore other ways of being Jewish. We are working to build klal Yisrael.”
In the few months since its launch, the initiative has already held several local programs focusing on Jewish environmentalism and student leadership development. In addition, members of the Asunción community have joined their peers in regional activities such as an alternative break and a mountain climbing expedition in Argentina, and several more regional activities are planned for the coming months.
Trajtenberg acknowledges there are unique challenges in working with a small community and that Hillel is using this pilot to test new approaches.
“Our immediate focus is on finding the right ‘product’ to meet their needs,” said Trajtenberg. “That’s what we’re experimenting with now.”
These experiments are just what the local students want.
“Hillel is what young Jews here need,” said Asunción student activist Jonathan Sosyky. “It’s important for our community so we do not forget our identity.”