In the past couple of years the city of Jerusalem has made an effort to provide a cultural and social scene for the young adults who have moved to the city. The organization Jerusalem Village has gone a step further and worked hard to create a community for many of the immigrants who have made Jerusalem their new home.

Recently Jspace spoke with Emily Ziedman, founder of Jerusalem Village, to learn more about what they are doing to make Jerusalemites feel more connected to each other and their city.

Why and how was your organization founded?

Jerusalem Village was founded in 2010 with the goal of creating a pluralistic community for young adults from around the world who were visiting or living in Jerusalem. Founders, Lisa Barkan and Emily Ziedman felt there was a strong need amongst young newcomers to the city to find and maintain a connection to Jerusalem, Israeli peers, and each other.

Funded by the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, the organization developed the first community Shabbat program in Jerusalem that welcomed young adults from a variety of Jewish backgrounds, offering a comfortable environment in which to celebrate Shabbat. With an additional theme of “Shabbat Unplugged” each dinner stressed the importance of networking face-to-face in today’s hi-tech world. At each dinner, volunteer community members served as community ambassadors, introducing new Jerusalemites to their Israeli peers.

How has it evolved over time?

While the Community Shabbat program did fill a need amongst young adults in Jerusalem, it became increasingly clear that this population still faced many other challenges while acclimating to life in their new city. In 2011, Jerusalem Village began expanding their team and programming to further accomplish the goal of bringing together new Jerusalemites and native Israelis. Going beyond Shabbat Dinners, Jerusalem Village began offering other special events, including alternative tours of the city, special workshops, and enrichment clubs. All programming and events are planned with the intention of providing young adults with resources to thrive in Jerusalem.

At the same time, Jerusalem Village developed an online community and popular notice-board system, publicizing the plethora of incredible events already being organized in Jerusalem by young Israeli organizations. Jerusalem Village believes that the best way to feel connected to the city is to participate in activities with young Israeli peers, in order to get a sense of the unique young Jerusalemite culture and aesthetic.

What is the main focus today?

Today, every project initiated by Jerusalem Village is motivated by the idea of creating a sense of belonging for the global young adult community in Jerusalem. This sense of belonging is crucial for the maintenance of a strong relationship between young adults from around the world and the city, and encouraging their investment in its future.

This is done in the following ways: (1) Laying a foundation of language and awareness when newcomers arrive, (2) Helping young adults from abroad find their niche in Jerusalem by introducing them to unique places and people, and (3) Encouraging and supporting new immigrants as they pioneer their way to stability by channeling their passions and skills towards local community efforts.

How does this work line up with Jewish values?

Jerusalem Village is built upon the Jewish values of community building and welcoming the stranger, and embodies these values in everything we do. Furthermore, Jerusalem Village aims to strengthen the city of Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people, through the expansion of the Jewish/Jerusalem experience, attracting members of the next generation to visit, study, build their homes, work, and volunteer in Jerusalem.

.ORG-Connection: Jerusalem Village has volunteers and community members from around the world.