The Tarbut Circle

The Tarbut Circle aspires to contribute to the Jewish future
by inspiring and empowering individuals dedicated to address the needs
of Jewish and civic initiatives as well as communal organizations.

The mission of the Tarbut Circle is to foster a community of lay supporters for the Jewish communities of Budapest and Warsaw by bringing together interested individuals and offering them a space to grow. The Circle is an inclusive, learning-based community aspiring to contribute to contemporary Jewish life. Its aim is to inspire and empower those who as individuals or members of organizations, want to address the needs of Jewish and civic initiatives.

Participants in the Tarbut Circle will receive sophisticated Jewish learning and will find a community willing to support initiatives directed at shaping Jewish communal life. The Jewish learning offered will support participants in obtaining an understanding of Jewish narratives so crucial in Jewish tradition. The program encourages participants to rethink and recreate these narratives.

Through learning together and about one another, the Tarbut Circle participants will develop a shared language that enables discussions among people representing a diversity of perspectives.

As the majority of the Jewish people in Warsaw and Budapest are secular, the Tarbut Circle encourages them to explore Jewish tradition and learn from a secular Jewish perspective to enhance their sense of ownership of and access to Judaism. We believe this sense of ownership will give participants the confidence and courage to shape a Jewish community that they want to be a part of. The Tarbut circle is open to passionate individuals who are already involved in the community as board members or activists, as well as those who would like to be involved in the future activities, regardless of their age or if they have a Jewish affiliation.

Three pillars
of the program


The curriculum will focus on the cycle of the Jewish year and its deeper narrative. It will highlight ways to innovate this narrative in contemporary society. In Budapest we will also offer another track that comprise moments of change, innovation and transition in Jewish history and in Hungarian Jewish history. Members in Budapest will decide which track to enroll in.

Transformative Leadership

Workshops on Sundays will focus on envisioning our future communities. A 21st century well-functioning organized Jewish community that answers to the needs of affiliated and unaffiliated Jews in Budapest and Warsaw.


We are hopeful that participants beyond the Jewish learning will also take an active role in re-shaping the community. To that end, small groups of participants will be asked to create one event through the program of their own design. This part of the program will also focus on establishing a culture of teamwork, optimism, creativity, volunteerism and philanthropy.

Why Tarbut?

The primary meaning of the Hebrew word Tarbut is culture. Before World War II it referred to the network of innovative schools in Eastern Europe. The Tarbut Schools provided high quality secular education while providing a space for Jews to meet and learn together with the rest of society. With the name Tarbut we want to honor that legacy, its excellence, energy and vision.

Why Hungary & Poland?

No other community has contributed as much to the secular world as the Jewish community of Hungary, no other community in the recent past has contributed as much to religious Judaism as the Polish community. Both of those communities have begun to revive themselves in the past 30 years, creating a special power that the Jewish world must learn about. On of the goals of the project to estabilish a shared language in order to allow Polish and Hungarian voices to join the global Jewish conversation.


Cost of participation

Each participant is asked to contribute 250 USD to the program.

The money will be part of a Tarbut Circle fund which will be used for philanthropy. The money will be allocated by the participants through an inclusive democratic process.

Application process

Participation by nomination only. Nomination can happen through email and the website. Process of recruitment is through an application form and a personal meeting. Participants are accepted on a rolling basis, places are limited. The cohort will be announced in March 2024.


2024 Application Timeline

The year-long program starts in April 2024 and it consists of 10 three hour in-person sessions once a month, excluding the summer. Each session includes a Jewish learning component to create a common ground for discussions, and a workshop component to learn about each other’s perspective and the local realities.

Two optional supplementary classes are offered after each session on Zoom to deepen the understanding of each topic.

Beyond the 10 meetings, the program also offers 4 Sunday sessions that focus on community development.

The program will run between April 2024 and April 2025.

The Tarbut Circle is a project of the JDC – an extraordinary
organization creating social impact through humanitarian work and education around the world.

The founder is Rabbi Michael Paley, a senior scholar for the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) living in Budapest, Hungary.
Previously he was the Scholar in Residence of the UJA-Federation of New York and the University Chaplain at Columbia University.

The Tarbut Circle is supported by anonymous philanthropists.

Meet us and apply to join the Tarbut fellows!

For any further information please contact us!


Check out the program for the previous year: