Interview with Delphine Yagüe, project manager of the Medieval Rachi Route in Champagne and director of the GIP Rachi, about the European Days of Jewish Culture and the many projects underway in Aube in the footsteps of Rachi…

Photo of Delphine Yagüe
Delphine Yagüe

Jguideeurope: What events are planned in Aube for the EDJC?

Delphine Yagüe : Major events include

– Opening of the third fresco of the Rachi Route in the village of Lhuître in the north of the Aube department. Carried out by volunteers from the Passeurs de Fresques association, this site will welcome all visitors free of charge for explanations on the art of fresco painting and the  “Rachi Route” project in the Aube region, which is gradually recalling the memory of the prestigious medieval Jewish communities of Champagne at the time of Rachi and the Tossafists. This artistic, touristic and civic-minded project involves the inhabitants and schoolchildren of the villages concerned in cultural and artistic activities throughout the year of fresco preparation. Each fresco is installed permanently on the wall of a public building. Eventually, some twenty frescoes will be installed in 20 towns and villages in the Aube region, telling the story of these communities and their daily lives at the time of the Counts of Champagne. The Lhuître project will start on September 10 and finish on September 16. This fresco, along with those in Dampierre and Ramerupt, to be completed in June 2022 and June 2023 respectively, are supported by the Arcis-Mailly-Ramerupt Communauté de Communes in northern Aube.

– Inauguration of the Lhuître fresco on Saturday September 23 at 11 a.m. in Lhuître. This inauguration will be the pretext for a major medieval festival organized jointly by the Association La Guilde des Traceurs de Temps and the Communauté de Communes Arcis-Mailly-Ramerupt in Lhuître, on September 23 and 24, 2023 in Lhuître.

– Launch day by CulturistiQ in partnership with the Troyes Tourist Office on September 3, 2023: program of lectures and guided tours on Rachi and the medieval Jewish communities of Champagne).

– A series of lectures, concerts and exhibitions organized by the Institut Universitaire Rachi on September 16 and 17, 2023

Creating the frescoes. Photo de CulturistiQ

Is there a place in the region’s Jewish cultural heritage that you think deserves to be highlighted?

I don’t know about the region, but I do know about the Aube department. I’m talking about the memory of the twenty or so communes in the region that were home to prestigious Jewish communities in medieval times, numbering some 70 sages in the 13th century, all of whom came from the school of Rachi. The Rachi Route is committed to reviving this memory for residents and visitors alike, notably through an original and innovative project: the Rachi Route, which consists in creating 4m x 3m frescoes on the walls of public buildings in the villages of the Aube region that hold this memory. The models for the frescoes are created by artists, the work is carried out by the Association des Passeurs de Fresques, and all village residents are invited to take part in numerous workshops to learn more about the art of fresco and the Jewish heritage that belongs to them.

Frescoe of Ramerupt. Photo by Jean-Pierre Thomas

Can you share an anecdote about a moving encounter with a visitor at a previous JECJ?

During guided tours organized by CulturistiQ on the theme of “Archi Rachi” (architecture in Troyes through the commentaries of Rachi), the public’s astonishment at understanding that the exclusion of Jews in the 13th century from land and craft trades, and the fact that they were relegated to lending with interest in the 13th century, led to this famous stigmatization in relation to money and commerce.

And then, when the Dampierre fresco was inaugurated in June 2022, the pride of the inhabitants in discovering the fictional face of this Isaac from the Middle Ages, welcoming and smiling, great-grandson of Rachi, who is part of their history and their village.

Can you tell us what progress has been made on the Rachi Medieval Route in Champagne (RMRC) project?

The RMRC project is making great strides thanks to the support of the Agence départementale du Tourisme de l’Aube. Over the past year, a “Rachi Route” has been launched in the region thanks to the investment of a community of communes (Arcis-Mailly-Ramerupt) and the three communes of Dampierre, Ramerupt and Lhuître, the first two being the birthplace of famous Tossafists such as Rachbam, Rabbenou Tam and Isaac de Dampierre.

Guided tour Archi Rachi. Photo by CulturistiQ

The project consists of staking out the Aube region with huge frescoes (4mx3m) on public buildings accessible free of charge from the local road network. The frescoes, created by the Association des Passeurs de Fresques on the basis of a model by artists selected in a call for projects, tell the story of the region’s history in the Middle Ages and the encounter between Jewish and Christian communities, highlighted by commentaries by Rachi written in Hebrew and translated into French.

An artistic and civic-minded project that involves local residents and schoolchildren in workshops to “meet” this heritage and these historical figures, and to understand the art of fresco painting throughout the project.

Three other communes are on board for the years 2024-2025. Ultimately, the idea is to create one fresco for each of the twenty or so towns that were home to a Jewish community in the Middle Ages.

A project supported by the French Ministry of Culture, the DILCRAH, the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, the Fondation du Judaïsme Français, as well as by the department and local authorities (CCAMR and municipalities).

At the same time, the RMRC is piloting a scientific project involving the publication of responsa by the Sages of Champagne, the production of a video for the tourist industry to be released in autumn, and a project for a travelling exhibition in the region… To date, a major effort has been made to raise public awareness, with the creation of a free bilingual tourist brochure, as well as training for local tourism and cultural professionals to help them seize on this theme and invent new offers for the region. Already, since 2020, CulturistiQ has been offering groups a number of themed tours to “meet Rachi” through his writings, focusing on architecture, wine, honey, nature, study in the Middle Ages and intellectual exchanges.

Finally, the Rachi Route, supported by the Agence départementale du Tourisme de l’Aube, is an active member of the newly-formed Groupement d’Intérêt Public “Rachi – Troyes Aube en Grand Est”, whose founding members are the French State, the Grand East Region, the Aube Département, the Ville de Troyes and the Consistoire Central. This GIP was set up on 30.06.2023 to support Rachi’s application for the European Union’s “European Heritage” label in 2025. A move that demonstrates the strength and values embodied by Rachi and its school for the local area, France and Europe.