Our first ACE Scholarship recipient of the spring 2017 term, KCL student Ariella Joffe, who is from UCLA, went on a trip to an EU Activism Conference in Brussels. Read about her experience and what she learned on her trip below:
Prior to my trip to Brussels, most of my knowledge of Europe was incomplete. There are two ways to look at how this trip changed who I am and what I am looking for at this time in my life. I now have a knowledge platform of what is happening in Europe, in terms of both politics in the EU and on the group. Coming from the US, only the big news items reach us in the news. But the EU is so much more than I always thought. The EU deals with making this greater Europe ideal that links all the nations of Europe together, in terms of policies and ideas. While the basis for the formation was to prevent further war on the continent, it turned into a united body for different European states. That is what the EU is meant to be. They focus on trade issues, youth, equality, etc. That was all I knew about the EU before my trip. Once there, I learned how the EU is actually structured: the different elements and governing bodies, how people are elected in different countries, committee functions, and foreign relations to a certain point.
Now the purpose of the trip was to deal with the European Jews throughout the continent in terms of their religious freedom, identity, and equality through the political system that is the EU. As a Jew coming from a prominent city in America with a strong and proud Jewish population, I always saw European Jewry as one that died with WWII. I knew that there were still Jews living on the continent, specifically in London and Paris, and other than that, I thought most of the European Jews had left. This came from a mix of seeing so many people in America with European heritage, an influx in immigration to Israel, and from stories that people told me. But one of the strongest points I learned from this trip is the European Jewry is NOT dead. It is alive, thriving, and wishes to be recognized as such. In discourse, I fear there is a failure to realize that the Jews of Europe are the third largest Jewish community in the world. While the history of Jews in Europe is tenuous, it has always existed and continues to exist despite the Holocaust. While the Holocaust forever changed the landscape of Jewish life in Europe, it is vital to realize and acknowledge that it still exists and needs to be cared for.
I personally learned a lot by just meeting other Jews from over the continent and discussing their home situations with them. The easiest way to spread knowledge is through the meeting of peoples in a group environment. Just by grouping us peoples from over different parts of Europe and the US, we could share and connect in ways that are otherwise impossible from just reading the news. From a knowledge of the Jews of Europe, this trip greatly changed the way I will forever think of the continent and the Jewish people living there.
If you’re interested in learning more about the ACE Scholarship or would like to apply, please click here.