A Tale of Leaky Buckets

Jared Gimbel
February 20, 2014
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As a student of today’s Jewish Life in Europe, I have had to think about the nature of both Israeli expatriates in European countries as well as Olim from these countries to Israel. In a globalized world where choosing your culture or separating from it is easier than it ever has been in human history, the idea of being unsettled is extraordinarily familiar with people of all ages, especially younger ones.

When I was enrolled at Hebrew University, the subcultures that were wrestling with each other were creating a mixture of exchanges like that of a blender. In the Ulpan classroom, everyone became everyone else.  The cultures, languages, interests, and values all became mixed with each other. Home –especially of the figurative variety—could not stand still, nor could one stay in it.

After a few years, when I lived in various European countries, I noticed the same exchanges. The nationalities of Europe, in the Jewish communities as well as outside of it, were all in the processes of creating new homes for themselves, sometimes the version of the old home in a new place. Whether it was the Spanish students in Krakow or Israeli entrepreneurs in Amsterdam, settling and unsettling became the rule of law, and the changes in the resulting dialogues were too many to count.

Since a few years ago I had been endlessly fascinated by multiculturalism, which has been present to various degrees since Sumerian times but is definitely the strongest now. I have previously thought of multiculturalism as a recipe—add various “ingredients” to your nation, and you will have a finished product with combined traits of all of them.

In November 2013 I went to Helsinki. Finland has often been described in countless travel literature books as a place with very insignificant immigration. However, intrigued by an under-studied and under-reported Jewish community, I went there for a short time, ready to gather knowledge and perspectives.

One American Jew living in Finland told me that Finnish Jewry is like a leaky bucket—it has water leaving it—people moving to the rest of Europe (mostly Sweden), the U.S. or Israel, but that it has more water being poured into it that leaving it—namely, the people moving there from these exact same places.

Thinking about it while walking around glass buildings and sculptures of all sorts, it occurred to me that in today’s world, everywhere is that leaky bucket, with various amounts of holes and water being poured in. This holds true especially with the Jewish Diaspora and Jewish life in Israel, too.

We are entering a world that is a cultural water park, with all of these leaky buckets taking in water and letting it leave. Unlike the water park, in which the water sources are indistinguishable, it seems that, for the time being, the various cultures will retain most of their characteristics and languages for the long term.

I will readily be reminded of the new water park every single time a product appears in a supermarket with ingredient labels in ten languages.

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Jared Gimbel is the founder of “Present Presence,” an initiative devoted to fostering positive images of communities throughout the Jewish Diaspora to North American and Israeli Audiences. He is currently a Masters Degree Candidate at Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg, and has been a Jewish community activist while living in the United States, Israel, Poland, Sweden and Germany. Jared has served as a tour guide, editor and translator at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Cracow, and was also a fellow at the Paideia Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden. In 2011 he wrote his Bachelor’s thesis on non-human species in European mythologies, and his upcoming Masters’ Thesis focuses on perspectives and portrayals of Jewish Life in Finland and in Greece. When he’s not working, he enjoys collecting pop music from many different countries, and is always in the process of learning a new language.

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