The students arrived in Spain not sure what to expect from the Olami Accelerator Forum 2019. They headed straight to Avila, the home town of Moshe De Leon to begin the journey of the Jews in Spain. When they arrived at the hotel, they were blown away by the magnitude of 700 young Jews from over 20 countries coming together for a spectacular welcome ceremony designed by the incredible Olami team.
Touring Madrid and Toledo gave the students to encounter the personalities of the Golden Era of the Jews in Spain, including the Abraham ibn Ezra, Isaac Abarbanel and Maimonides. Celebrity actors were flown in, to re-enact famous scenes of the past, bringing the experience to life. With such a vivid portrayal of what took place, the students experienced a swelling of Jewish pride and a heavy duty to play their part in ensuring a vibrant Jewish future.
Celebrating outside the shul in Toledo with Yaakov Shwekey performing and the inspirational words of Charlie Harary in the presence of Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau was an undisputed highlight which moved many of the students to tears. No less than four couples used the opportunity to get engaged, and a German boy celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at aged 20. With the tag lines of "be the change" and "make your impact", all the students were challenged to step up and become leaders for their local organisations, pioneering programmes to engage unafilliated Jews on campuses and cities around the world.
Business leaders and philanthropic giants of the Jewish world had dedicated their time to share, advice and mentor the student leaders. Billionaires Elie Horn and Aaron Wolfson spearheaded the Forum's "Genius Bar" where students could meet in an intimate setting for mentorship. Ralph Herzka and Sol Werdiger led a panel focusing on maintaining religious values in the workplace, whilst Anthony Moshal and Miguel Abadi related more tailored advice to the British audience from Aish UK.
World-class educators like Rabbi Beryl Gershenfeld, Rabbi Akiva Tatz, Rabbi Shlomo Farhi, and Aish UK's CEO Rabbi Daniel Rowe gave some of the astonishingly varied class options on offer. This, together with food prepared by a guest Michelin star chef, merged together to develop an experience that left every single student inspired and passionately committed to building their respective Jewish communities in whatever way they can.
The students of Aish UK have already started work on developing four exciting new initiatives that will radically improve our reach on campuses around the country. The excitement amongst the group to push these initiatives to fruition is palpable.
Gideon attained a BSc (Hons) in Psychology at the Open University and went on to do an MA in Jewish Education at Middlesex University/LSJS. His interests include philosophy as well as reading up on history, politics and current affairs.
In 2016, Gideon and his family moved to Birmingham to run the Aish campus branch, before moving to London to become the Director of Campus programming nationwide. Gideon lives in Hendon with his wife Tamar and their three children.