Inspired by the late Rabbi Hugo Gryn and late Lady Jakobovits, CONNECTIONS was established in 1990 by a group of women dedicated to playing a part in the challenging rebirth of Jewish life in Eastern Europe.
Its main focus has been the support of Jewish students in Former Yugoslavia who could not have continued their studies without help from CONNECTIONS. Funds are raised primarily via an annual Musical Evening and through sponsorship of individual students.
In the first year CONNECTIONS assisted 15 refugee students from Bosnia living in Serbia. During 20 years since its inception the programme has helped over 400 students to complete their studies.
Students who receive a CONNECTIONS scholarship are required to meet three criteria –
Members of the CONNECTIONS committee visit the communities once a year to interview all applicants. The committee also maintains close contact with individual students throughout the year.
It costs £600 to provide each student with an annual scholarship. These scholarships make a huge impact on the lives of each student as well as on their communities. CONNECTIONS’ students have had a significant influence on the Jewish communities where they live - helping to rebuild and renew not only their own lives but also those of their communities.
In the words of one of the CONNECTIONS committee, who came to the UK with the help of WJR (formerly CBF), from Bosnia as a refugee in the 1990s:
"They can take away your home but education is one thing they can never take away from you"
One of CONNECTIONS' students, now a doctor in California, recently wrote: " It was not easy to leave the place where I was born and grew up, and my heart is still aching when I think of my old country and dear friends and family who still struggle there. But I had to move on and fortunately I have found this land to be the land of opportunity and doing what I love the most fulfills my heart and helps me to move forward. I cannot thank you enough for your amazing work. Your example makes me a better man."
As the economic situation in Serbia has improved over the years we now only support a few students who are finishing their degrees. However CONNECTIONS continues to support students in Bosnia where the economic situation is still very depressing. With unemployment at 44% our support is much needed to help families survive.
Click here to see a film made by one of the students who has been sponsored by Connections.
If you are interested in sponsoring one of our students just click here.
CONNECTIONS is now embarking on a new challenge. Working with the dynamic director of the KRAKOW JCC, opened in 2008 by HRH Prince of Wales, we are now offering scholarships to young Poles of Jewish origin to encourage them to study in Krakow where they will have the opportunity of engaging in Jewish life. These young people are the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors who hid their Jewish identity after World War II. It is only now that these young Poles are discovering their Jewish heritage. We must take this opportunity to bring back these "lost" Jews to the Jewish world.
26 - 29th April 2013: Insight Trip to Krakow to coincide with the 5th Anniversary of the opening of the Krakow JCC. This will be a wonderful opportunity to visit the historic city of Krakow, see Kazimierz, the old Jewish Quarter, and to witness the re-birth of Jewish life in the shadow of Auschwitz. Click here to download the booking form.
June 20th 2013: Our 21st Musical Evening. An evening of wonderful music and delicious food in a beautiful private home. This is always a 'hot' ticket so book early to avoid disappointment.
In 2012 our Connections musical evening raised £16,000, with performances by Serbian musician Masa Babic and the Barbican Piano Trio.
If you would like to book for a CONNECTIONS events please contact Vicki Russell at the WJR office on 020 8736 1250 or email email@example.com
Here is our latest film showing the amazing impact the Connections scholarship programme has had on the lives of six students