Portalet of the Juderia of Sagunto. Photo by Joanbanjo – Wikipedia

Built on the ruins of the Roman city Saguntum and also called Murviedro, Sagunto probably bears witness to one of the oldest traces of Jewish presence in Spain, probably dating from the 2nd century. Lead plaques with Hebrew inscriptions have been found on the city’s castle.

When the city was conquered by the King of Aragon, the Vives family was given a bakery as a thank you for their efforts during the siege. Many other personalities such as Salomon de la Cavalleria and Joseph ibn Saprut also served the monarchy. The medieval Jewish quarter was located between the streets Segovia and Ramos. In 1321, the Jews were allowed to fortify their quarter to protect themselves from attacks.

Taking refuge in the fortress during the persecutions of 1391, the Jews of Sagunto remained one of the only communities in the area following the persecutions. At the turn of the century, the Jewish population, estimated at 600, enjoyed relative freedom and royal protection, becoming one of the largest in the Kingdom of Valencia. The development was such that at one point the Jews represented almost a third of the population of Sagunto.

Mikvé of Sagunto. Photo by Joanbanjo – Wikipedia

However, following the Inquisition of 1492 and the massive conversions, most of the Jews left the city, mainly to take refuge in Oran and Naples. The  synagogue was probably located at the corner of Sang Vella and Segovia streets. A wall has been preserved.

However, the old Jewish quarter is one of the best preserved in Spain thanks to the protection given during the persecutions of 1391. Its entrance is located at the  Portalet de la Juderia, near the Roman Theatre. This gate, built during the fortifications of the neighbourhood, is one of the only remains of Jewish life at that time.

A mikveh has also been found in the neighbourhood, which can be accessed by descending some steps. On a hill near the castle there is an important  Jewish necropolis, some of whose artefacts are on display in the castle. The lead plaques mentioned at the beginning of this article are currently on display in the city’s  Historical Museum.

Sources : Redjuderias.org, Encyclopaedia Judaica, Wikipedia

Tarazona. Photo by Diego Delso – Wikipedia

The Jewish presence in the ancient city of Tarazona dates back to at least the 12th century. So old, that it may even have been present in Roman times. This presence developed especially in the following century. The town’s location, next to Navarre and Castile, contributed to its commercial and strategic development.

The Jewish community of Tarazona was one of the most important in the kingdom of Aragon, enjoying long periods of prosperity, with some great families such as the Portellas. The central figure was Moshe de Portella, a financier to the King of Aragon, whose name is now borne by an association that researches the city’s Jewish cultural heritage.

Juderia of Tarazona. Photo by LBM1948 – Wikipedia

This development materialised to such an extent that there were two Jewish quarters, one preceding the other in time. Each had a synagogue. The old quarter was located between the streets  Rua Alta and Conde. A street in the district is still called “Street of the Jews”. The remaining façade of the synagogue can also be found here. The more recent neighbourhood was located near  Rua Aires. A Jewish cemetery was located near these areas.

The situation of the Jews of Tarazona developed somewhat differently in the late 14th and early 15th centuries compared to other Spanish cities. They even enjoyed official protection by the municipal authorities and a period of prosperity under Alfonso V and Juan II in the 1430s and 1440s, before the inevitable Inquisition decreed by the central power in 1492.

Some sixty medieval documents in Hebrew were found in Tarazona at the turn of the 21st century and this has led to further local research. A festival on the return of the Sephardim to Tarazona was subsequently organised.

Sources : Encyclopaedia Judaica, Redjuderias.org, Jta.org

Tui. Photo by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez – Wikipedia

The Jewish presence in Tui probably dates from the early Middle Ages. However, as municipal archives have been lost, the first written traces referring to this presence date from the 15th century.

Some of them refer to orders made by a cathedral to Jewish goldsmiths, Abraan and Jago. The Jews practised a variety of activities, including medicine and trade.

Regional conflicts and the growing climate of intolerance in the 14th and 15th centuries made this life very difficult. The synagogue was converted into a stable.

Cathedral of Tui.Photo by Grzegorz Polak – Wikipedia

Documents also refer to a probable mikveh and a kosher butcher shop, which have also disappeared. According to research, the  ancient synagogue was located in the Juderia near the streets of Las Monjas and Bispo Castanon, which still have many houses reminiscent of the medieval past. In the latter is the former house of the merchant Salomon Caadia. The Sarmiento-Celeva manor house was built on the site of the synagogue. Tyde Street was home to a significant number of Jews at that time.

On the  cathedral of Tui, there is an amazing engraving of a menorah. In the  Diocesan Museum there are exhibits related to this past. Among them are five paintings evoking the Inquisition and its crimes.

Sources : Redjuderias.org

Puerta del Sol of Plasencia. Photo by Olarcos – Wikipedia

The Jewish presence in Plasencia probably dates back to a few years after the foundation of the city in 1186 by Alfonso VIII. They lived mainly in the Mota neighbourhood, around the synagogue. Nevertheless, some families settled in other parts of Plasencia.

The 13th century witnessed different degrees of tolerance. After a few decades of allowing the development of Jewish life, rights were limited. Jewish citizens were also subjected to additional taxes, especially concerning contributions to the royal treasury. By the end of the next century they constituted only about 50 families.

The persecutions that followed, especially those of the Inquisition in 1492, encouraged their departure.

Parador of Plasencia. Photo by Paradores – Wikipedia

There were several synagogues in Plasencia. One of them was transformed into a church, named Santa Isabel, after the queen. Another suffered the same fate, becoming the church of San Vicente. The Jewish cemetery was also confiscated.

Traces of this Jewish life remain in Plasencia today. Especially in the old Jewish quarter. The remains of one of the two former synagogues can be found under the  Parador Nacional de Turismo. In what is called the “new Jewish quarter”, near Trujillo and Zapateria, plaques have been put up, remembering the Jewish families who lived there. The ancient  Jewish cemetery can be visited, located in the area of El Berrocal. Numerous medieval documents have been found and studied by Professor Roger Louis Martinez Davila and his students as part of research leading to a publication.

Sources : Redjuderias.org, Encyclopaedia Judaica, Times of Israel

A magnificent travelling exhibition offers to (re)discover the Portuguese Jewish history. It has the particularity of including this history in that of modern Europe and thus covers six centuries. Among its descendants, are Baruch Spinoza and Pierre Mendès France. Here’s our interview with Livia Parnes, who conceived this exhibition proposed by the Chandeigne publishing house.

 

Livia Parnes & Anne Lima

Jguideeurope : How did this exhibition project come about?

Livia Parnes : Chandeigne publishing house, which specialises in the Portuguese-speaking world, presents this exhibition as an extension of one of its collections, Péninsules, founded and directed by Anne Lima. Publishing documents and essays on the question of identity and acculturation, notably under the prism of relations between religions, the collection seeks to make better known the specificity of Portuguese Jewish history, which remains lesser known, or too much associated with that of Spanish Judaism. Yet, the history of Portuguese Judaism has different characteristics that will have major consequences on its evolution. It is a religious, socio-economic, intellectual and world history that we wanted to share and make known. The exhibition places the history of the Portuguese-Jewish diaspora within the context of the history of modern Europe. It covers six centuries.

In such a perspective, the idea of this exhibition answers to one of the ambitions of Chandeigne which is to expand the books beyond the paper, and to link them to other artistic forms. For years, Chandeigne has been organizing cultural events, producing musical readings, concerts, workshops and theatrical adaptations… The exhibition intends to share the richness of the abundant history of Portuguese judaism and make it accessible to a very wide audience, both informed and uninformed. Synthetic, didactic and richly illustrated (photos, reproductions of paintings, manuscripts, frontispieces, maps, etc.), the exhibition contains 20 panels, which can be easily adapted to different spaces and presented in various places: libraries, cultural or research centres, museums, town halls, schools, etc.

 

Paradesi Synagogue in the Jew Town street of Mattancherry (Cochin). Enrico Isacco, 1981. © AIU Library – Paris

One of the fascinating elements is the number of countries where the Portuguese Jewish diaspora migrated, how do you explain this?

First of all, this history is about persecution and about people being hunted by the Inquisition, established in 1536 in Portugal. One of the big differences with Spain is that these migrants had been forcibly converted (1497); they left as “new Christians”. Among them were many merchants, some of them quite wealthy. They migrated in search of places to practice their Judaism more or less freely, especially in the Ottoman Empire, but also in search of better living conditions. The time was right: it was the dawn of mercantilism, and for the Portuguese it was the beginning of maritime expansion and colonialism. Thus, both victims and agents of colonial empires, they quickly became involved in all the sectors of the emerging Atlantic trade and the first “world economy”: spices, sugar, tobacco, textiles, wine, precious stones, money. Some also participated in smuggling and the slave trade. Their family, commercial and financial networks spread across the globe: from Lisbon to Goa, via Northern Europe or the Middle East, but also from Lisbon to the Caribbean and the Americas. Finally, as we see in the exhibition, various local authorities (princes, dukes, municipalities) welcomed them, granting privileges and religious protection, interested in the benefits they hoped to gain from the Portuguese Jews’ merchant activity and trade networks. This kind of “mercantile philosemitism” was particularly the case in Italian cities (Ancona, Livorno, Venice, Ferrara), in France, in Amsterdam, in London, in Hamburg…

 

Touro synagogue, the most ancient one in the US (1763)

What discovery during the research for the exhibition particularly surprised you?

Without it being a real discovery, the exhibition allowed us to really grasp how, despite the great geographical but also religious dispersion of this diaspora, the Portuguese-Jewish Diaspora will create over the generations a dynamic inter-community space, whose unifying factors are mainly expressed through language, literature, liturgy, architecture, patronymics or even funeral art. Although composite in nature, this diaspora has been able to share a community of destiny and to nurture a strong memorial link with Portugal while leaving its mark on the host communities. This dispersion even gave rise to a new form of collective belonging, referred to as “A Nação” (the Nation) or “the Portuguese Jewish Nation”, which perpetuates the memory and their Jewish and Portuguese ties.

Likewise, the exhibition makes perceptible the fact that the first Jewish presences in North America from the 17th century onwards – first in New Amsterdam (future New York), and then in five other cities – were communities of Portuguese and Spanish Jews, before the great wave of Ashkenazi Jews. It was also interesting to note that the liberal Jewish current originated in the Portuguese Jewish communities (Charleston, Savannah…).

Finally, the few months in which the exhibition has been presented confirm in a way our starting point and what motivated us to conceive this project, namely that this rich and long history of Portuguese Judaism is still very little known. People who have visited the exhibition seem to discover a whole new side of Jewish history and European history, which for us is one of the greatest merits of this exhibition.

 

Inside view of the Jewish nation synagogue of Livourne. Drawing by Moisé Joseph del Conte, 1791. © ACEL

Which cities will host the exhibition next, and will it also be accessible online?

In Paris, after several places that hosted the exhibition before the summer (the Marguerite Audoux library, the Paris Centre town hall), the exhibition will be presented as part of the France-Portugal cross-over season at the Maison du Portugal – Cité internationale universitaire Bd Jourdan, 75014 Paris. From 10 September to 4 October 2022.

On 27 September at 8pm, we are organising a solo piano concert and a four-handed piano concert Musical Paths, with an original programme of works by composers of Jewish and Portuguese origin from the 20th century to the present day, in which motifs from Jewish music are mixed with traditional Portuguese tunes. Galerie Hus – 4 rue Aristide Bruant – Paris 18. For more information: galeriehus@gmail.com 

Punch bowl with lid. Multicoloured painting representing a view of the Portuguese synagogue. Porcelain, 1779-1790. © Rijksmuseum

In Blois, the exhibition will be presented as part of the festival Les Rendez-vous de l’histoire. Hall INSA – 3 rue de la Chocolaterie, Blois, 41000. From Monday 3 October to 9 October 2022.

In Lisbon, a Portuguese version of the exhibition will be presented in partnership with the Hagada Association and the future Jewish Museum of Lisbon at the Biblioteca Palácio Galveias. From 12 to 29 October 2022.

In Bourges, the exhibition will be presented at the Town Hall, located at 11 rue Jacques Rimbault, 18000 Bourges. From 20 October to 3 November 2022, with a conference scheduled on the first day.

In Bordeaux, the exhibition will be presented within the frame of the 140th anniversary of the synagogue of Bordeaux (an extremely important city in the history of Portuguese Jews, where the family of Pierre Mendès France is based, among others!) It takes place at the synagogue from 9 November to 15 December 2022.

The exhibition includes about fifteen QR codes that link to a companion site Travelling exhibition – The Portuguese Jewish Diaspora, which offers extensions to the visit for those who wish to go deeper into certain aspects. Articles, additional images and some videos can be found on the website.

The Saphir Gallery has been an essential part of Jewish artistic life for nearly half a century. It is above all the work of Elie and Francine Szapiro. A couple involved in (re)discovering and sharing a cultural heritage that refuses to be lost, despite the blows of history. Confirmed artists and revelations, so many were exposed on the first floor of the gallery or in the basement which is an architectural work in itself, dating back several centuries. Francine Szapiro welcomes us, evoking the genesis of the gallery, but also its contemporary role. In particular in the context of the European Days of Jewish Culture, with the exhibition “Plastician struggles: tribute to Ukraine”.

 

RYBACK Issachar – The apple carrier

Jguideeurope: How was the Saphir Gallery born?

Francine Szapiro: In 1979, I was a journalist with a passion for art, working for the Ark, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and other media. My husband was a doctor with a passion for history and a founding member of the French Commission for Jewish Archives. In this period of Jewish cultural reconstruction, we had the common dream of opening a gallery where all aspects of this culture would be presented, its manifestations, ritual objects and ancient books… without enclosing it in a ghetto, motivated by the desire to show the reciprocal contribution of the surrounding cultures.

 

Who were the first artists to be exhibited?

There were so many! My husband and I were passionate about sharing our favorites and discoveries in a place where we could meet and exchange. And the dream finally came true. Our first gallery was located on the boulevard Saint-Germain, and was inaugurated by Elie Wiesel with an exhibition on postcards and Judaism to show the diversity of the Jewish world. We began by exhibiting Alain Kleinmann, then Shelomo Selinger. This small 15 m² gallery has hosted many other large events since then.

 

KIRCH Michel – The 5th Day

How do you perceive the evolution of interest in Jewish art?

I would love to be able to sit down one day and tell this story in detail. My husband and I were part of the generation that wanted to rebuild a heritage that had been destroyed or dispersed during the war. We knew at the time great collectors like Victor Klagsbald, who is the father of Laurence Sigal, the former director of the mahJ. In the aftermath of the war, these collectors searched everywhere for evidence of Jewish life in the past, at the flea market or in other sales places. My husband organized the first international judaica sale. People then realized that it could have a market value, and saved pictorial and written objects from loss and destruction. Thus, we have seen two generations in the gallery. The one of those who wanted to reconstruct the dispersed life, then the one who wished to affirm its insertion in the century, the will of integration and assimilation, moving away a little from this quest at all costs of traces. This did not prevent some young people from being very interested and involved in the search for the Jewish cultural heritage. This desire was particularly evident during the European Days of Jewish Culture. This European desire to gather is very important. We have had the pleasure of participating in these days since the beginning.

 

KANTOROWICZ Serge – Synagogue

During the EDJC 2022, Ukraine is in the spotlight at the Saphir gallery.

We presented the exhibition “Plastician struggles” just before the summer with various artists that we will resume. Among them, the writer Hubert Haddad who we discover as a painter impregnated with Kabbalah or Bruno Edan, artist who died in 1981 at the age of 23 and to whom the art historian Delphine Durand has devoted a magnificent monograph. Three artists of Ukrainian origin also participate. Serge Kantorowicz, who was a refugee in France during the war, and who lost a large part of his family in Ukraine during the Shoah.

HADDAD Hubert – La lettre de l’abîme

He rebuilt himself through painting, working in the Maeght studios where he made friends with great artists. Sam Szafran is his cousin. Serge has developed a very poetic and personal world that leaves the traditional representations. We also welcomed to the gallery the work of Igor Pototsky, a Ukrainian refugee we met recently, considered a great writer, poet and illustrator. And finally the young Ukrainian artist Yana Bystrova. This artist is going through difficult times, not knowing what happened to her works that were left in Kiev for an exhibition. Many Ukrainian artists and writers come to us, souls in pain who try to find links. Other artists are presented during this exhibition.

BIRGA Sergio – A Dream

Among them, Sergio Birga, who died a year ago. A Florentine who went to meet the great German, Austrian and Belgian expressionists who had survived the Holocaust. He immersed himself for 50 years in the world of Kafka, building a very expressionist work around the writer. Birga was also a great wood engraver.

So we wanted to break down the fields of creation between engraving, sculpture, painting and even photography. By presenting, for example, the works of the contemporary photographer Jorge Amat, author of a beautiful film on Serge Kantorowicz and many others on art and cinema. Not to mention the work of Michel Kirch, son of a rabbi, whose work is the testimony of a quest for identity and spirituality.

The gallery is above all a place of encounters, reunions and sharing of a Jewish culture, and in the context of this exhibition it celebrates the vitality of a fighting Ukraine.

Saphir Gallery, 69 rue du Temple, 75003 Paris

 

Other events organized in Paris during the European Days of Jewish Culture:

“Ukraine and its borders” on September 4 at the mahJ

“Promenade through yiddish culture” on September 18 at the Maison de la culture yiddish

“Exilonde” on October 16 at the Comédie Nation Theatre

“Musical Conference on Klezmer” on October 18 at the Medem Center

“Letter to Antonio Saura” on November 24 at the Cervantes Institute

The European Days of Jewish Culture 2022 are an opportunity to celebrate in Lorraine, as reflected in the theme of Renewal chosen this year, the past and the present in a spirit of sharing and enthusiasm. A very varied program in its partnerships its content (Benjamin Fondane exhibition, Tsuzamen concert, plays by Hanokh Levin and J-C Grumberg, events in support of Ukraine …) Here’s our interview with Désirée Mayer, President of EDJC-Lorraine.

Désirée Mayer

Jguideeurope: What event will open the Festival in Lorraine?

Désirée Mayer: We have never perceived the European Days of Jewish Culture as a festival. There are several reasons for this. First of all, because European Jewish history is not a “festival” and the Jewish culture that we wish to share through our programs must reflect this history: tragic, but also constructive, generous and resilient. Metz has had an intense Jewish past: from Rav Gershon Meor Hagolah in the Middle Ages to the first major Yeshiva in France in the 19th century. The idea was therefore not to limit this moment to a festival or a day, but to make this cultural sharing part of the existence of our fellow citizens through a long-term artistic and cultural program. We therefore propose an annual cultural season, over a period of four months, or even five months for the 2022 edition.

September 4th

The first event, as a preview to the European launch on September 4, will be a double exhibition dedicated to the poet and philosopher Benjamin Fondane, which will take place at the Municipal Archives of Metz, in the superb Cloître des Récollets. In this approach, the Renewal (theme 2022 of the EDJC), is a bit like “repair”. The Fondane exhibition at the Shoah Memorial and especially the pictorial works of the artist Marina Haccoun-Levikoff, which illustrate Fondane’s poems, give new life – if not to the man exterminated in Auschwitz – at least to his work. Entitled “At the Edge of Time,” this exhibition is organized in close collaboration with the Société d’études Benjamin Fondane.

Benjamin Fondane exhibition

What other events are planned?

In order to share Jewish culture, we are not content with a visit to the Synagogues, a concert, a conference or a symposium. Our program, which is deliberately very varied, takes place in different spaces (sometimes 40 different places in Metz and its surroundings alone) and gives great priority to institutional and associative partnerships. Thus, on September 4, the day of the European launch, with the support of the City of Metz, we offer the public a festive inter-associative event. Still in the Récollets, in order to enliven our exhibitions, a dozen associations and institutions will offer theater, music, workshops, a recording studio, films, a little Jewish food and a lot of conviviality … Whether the radio RCF Jerico Moselle, Cinéart, the Cercle Lyrique, municipal libraries and others who will be present, we target a diversification of audiences and activities. The rest of the annual program is also based on partnerships. This allows us – among other things – to offer some very prestigious events. Among them, the Tsuzamen concert by the Sirba Octet (02/10) at the Arsenal, with the Metz Cathedral Choir, the annual colloquium at the City Hall, in partnership with the National Academy of Metz (27/11), the Naoni Orchestra from Ukraine, a beautiful film festival, a play by Hanokh Levin, or “The Most Precious Commodity”, by J. C. Grumberg, at the Opera-Theatre of Metz… In short, five months of artistic and cultural sharing!

Raphael Glucksmann

Ukraine will also be honored, it seems.

In March 2022, in the middle of the war, Czernowitz and Metz were twinned. When our Mayor, Mr. Grosdidier, went to sign the twinning, Ukrainian journalists recalled that Czernowitz was once called “the little Jerusalem of the East”. Several thousand kilometers away, in a territory of war, they mentioned the EDJC-Lorraine and asked if partnerships could take place at that level too. Honored by this notoriety, we are partners today. We are going to bring a musical ensemble from Czernowitz, the Naoni concert, with about 40 folk instruments that will play Jewish and Ukrainian music, in the presence of the mayor of Czernowitz. On September 29, this concert will take place in the prestigious Arsenal hall, in the musical city of Metz. Many events will take place with the support of the city of Metz, the Eurometropole of Metz and the association Échanges Lorraine Ukraine (ELU). On November 24, the European deputy, Raphaël Glucksmann, a specialist on Ukraine, will give a conference in this context.

Sirba Octet concert

With this year’s theme of renewal, are you seeing a renewed interest in Jewish cultural heritage in places where it had been forgotten or a resettlement of Jews in certain cities?

Both. The city of Metz, which has the privilege of having a Jewish school and a college, has encouraged the arrival of people or families wishing to settle in a city where life is very gentle and intercommunity or intercultural relations are particularly peaceful. The Moselle Consistory and the Jewish community of Metz have made efforts in this direction, with some success. This is true for settlement or resettlement.

As for the interest of our fellow citizens in Jewish heritage, two years ago we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the EDJC. The activities in the various places of Metz, such as the synagogues, are always full. With the visits, conferences, concerts, we welcome annually more than 1000 visitors on the national heritage day.

Play by Jean-Claude Grumberg

Cultural and not religious, very open to the city, our association is recognized and supported by the DRAC, the Grand Est Region, the Moselle Department, the Eurometropole, the City of Metz… and also by patrons and organizations that appreciate our work of social harmonization. We have been asked by neighboring towns, such as Forbach in Moselle, to offer Jewish cultural events. Crossing borders, we have been asked by the Saarland Region, in Germany, to lend us a very beautiful exhibition “Salon Judaïca”, conceived by the EDJC-Lorraine and created by the artist Jean-Christophe Roelens. The opening of this exhibition will take place on September 21st in the Saarland regional hotel, in Germany, as part of actions against anti-Semitism.

Consistorial Synagogue of Metz

The interest in Jewish cultural heritage is also evident in other cities in the region. Verdun has been able to rebuild its Florentine-style synagogue, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Foundation. Its community is small but dynamic. In Nancy, the community center organizes many events, particularly during the EDJC. In Sarreguemines, in the Vosges and elsewhere, Jewish culture comes to bring a little of its multi-millennial treasures to our fellow citizens

We can therefore say that the European Days of Jewish Culture have contributed to a revival of cultural vitality and openness to others in the region, and have allowed us to reconsider the Jewish cultural heritage from another angle. Our job is to share it, to explain to everyone what Madame Trautmann said so beautifully when she was Minister of Culture, namely that “Jewish cultural heritage does not belong only to Jews, but to everyone who is interested in cultural heritage and culture in general.

MEIS was a challenge from the moment it was built: to transform a place of confinement into an open and inclusive space. Meet Rachel Silvera, Director of Communications at MEIS, who tells us about this important place in Italian Jewish cultural heritage and the many projects it organizes.

MEIS building. Photo by Bruno Leggieri

Jguideeurope : Can you present us some of the objects shown at the permanent exhibition dedicated to Jewish Italian history?

Rachel Silvera : In our permanent exhibition “Jews, an Italian Story” we display objects loaned by other Italian museums, reconstructions, and multimedia installations. For example, our visitors can admire the relief from the Arch of Titus showing the spoils of the Temple, a plaster reproduction made in 1930. The relief depicts the triumphal procession of Titus in Rome after the military campaign in Judaea, parading the spoils looted from the Temple of Jerusalem. You can also find the reconstructions of Jewish Catacombs, in Rome (like Villa Torlonia and Vigna Randanini) and in the South of Italy (Venosa).

How do you perceive the evolution of interest in Shoah studies in Italy?

It is a fundamental way: 1) to know the history and strengthen awareness 2) to offer useful tools to the students and transmit values to the next generation 3) to fight Holocaust denial and distortion.

Which educational projects focusing on the Shoah are being conducted by the Museum? During the pandemic we have organized two important online events for school students devoted to the Shoah and the future of the remembrance. We have reached more than 12.000 students. Every year we also offer an online course addressed to teachers focused on Shoah history and the relationship with new medias. We are working also on a project financed by the Ministry of Public Education along with a high school from Ferrara (Liceo Roiti) and the Institut of Contemporary History of Ferrara: the students are working with us to create an exhibition focused on the Racial Laws and the persecution.

Jewish catacombs. Photo by Marco Caselli Nirmal

Can you tell us about a moving encounter at the Museum with either a visitor or exhibition participants?

The Museo Nazionale dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della Shoah (National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah) is in Ferrara, in the former prisons of via Piangipane. During the war, its walls imprisoned antifascist opponents and Jews, including the writer Giorgio Bassani, Matilde Bassani and Corrado Israel De Benedetti. The challenge was to transform a place of confinement into an open, inclusive space.

During the last International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we unveiled a commemorative plaque that remember the story of this place. The special guest was Patrizio Bianchi, the Italian Minister of Education. It was a really touching moment.

What will the next temporary exhibition be about?

The exhibition will dwell on the many meanings of the Feast of Sukkot. The opening will be on October 14. The idea is to present to the public an insight into the religious precepts, the ways the festivity is celebrated, its’ connection with nature and the many expressions it generates. The exhibition will be carried on by MEIS Director Amedeo Spagnoletto, Curator Sharon Reichel, and Architect Giulia Gallerani.

The exhibition narrative starts from the assessment of the Festival of Sukkot, with the description of the seven days of the festival, an introduction that will give the visitors the basic notions to understand the rest of the exhibition, since from then on, they will be encouraged to engage directly, discovering content through interaction. We will also display the 10 panels of the “Sukkah of Praglia”, painted wooden panels from a sukkah, produced in the Venetian area probably in the late eighteenth or nineteenth century, owned by the Abbazia di Praglia in Teolo (Padua).

The Praglia sukkah includes ten panels, painted with biblical subjects and accompanied by Hebrew writings. Some panels evoke the Jewish holidays Pesach and the construction of the sukkah (Sukkot). Others illustrate several important biblical personages, such as Abraham, Melchizedek, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel, Joshua, King David, Moses, and Elijah.

Interview with Zanet Battinou, Director of the Jewish Museum of Greece, about the events organized within the framework of the European Days of Jewish Culture, including the Hannah project, fighting anti-Semitism through education and knowledge.

Torah scrolls, menoroth and other ritual objects of Jewish heritage displayed at the Jewish museum of Greece
The Jewish Museum of Greece in Athens. Photo by Tilemahos Efhtimiadis – Wikipedia

Jguideeurope : Are you participating in this year’s European Days of Jewish Culture ? If so, what will be organized in Athens ?

Zanet Battinou : We are. We will offer an educational program for families with children aged 9-15 entitled “Words and letters through time”, based on the new art exhibition “The Art of Memory and Commemoration”. Additionally, we organize a national conference – in the framework of the “CHallenging And DebuNkiNg Antisemitic MytHs (HANNAH)” project and we will offer a guided tour on the new contemporary exhibition “Stone Paths – Stories Set in Stone: Jewish Inscriptions in Greece” , combined with the screening of a documentary film – part of the documentary series of the HANNAH project, which focuses on Jewish history, culture, and life, the phenomenon of antisemitism and different approaches on combatting it in five European cities: Athens, Dresden, Hamburg, Krakow and Novi Sad.

Talith and robe of ancient jews in Athens displayed at the Jewish museum of Greece
The Jewish Museum of Greece in Athens. Photo by Tilemahos Efhtimiadis – Wikipedia

Are there educational projects proposed by the JMG and how is the city of Athens participating in the sharing of Jewish culture?

The city of Athens usually organizes events in October – when the city was liberated, and they include some exhibitions or lectures based on Jewish testimonies. Furthermore, on the 27th January, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, many commemorational events take place. This year, the building of the Parliament presented a relevant lit slide commemorating the Holocaust on its façade for the first time.

 

Which aspects of Greece’s Jewish culture are the summer tourists mostly interested about?

Basically, we’ve noticed that they are interested in visiting all the Jewish sites in the areas they visit – in Athens the JMG is one of their main interests, as well as the synagogue.

Few people know it, but the Jewish Museum of Lecce is built in the area where the Jewish community was located in the Middle Ages. A look back at the ancient history of Lecce and a discussion of the museum’s plans and ambitions with Fabrizio Lelli, Associate Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature at the University of Salento 

Hebrew writings on the walls of the city of Lecce
Hebrew inscription found in Lecce’s giudecca

Jguideeurope : Can you tell us how the museum was created?

Fabrizio Lelli : The Jewish Museum of Lecce (hereafter the JM) was opened in May 2016. The project started from the initiative of private investors who aimed to cast light on a little-known piece of local history. Unlike most Italian cities, Lecce seems to have erased every trace of its Mediaeval past. In spite of the almost total absence of material testimonies, archives document the significant role played by Jews in Lecce over ten centuries, when the town was an important centre of economic and intellectual activities.  

The Jewish community was among the most vital groups that populated Mediaeval Salento: a copious and strongly rooted presence since the beginnings of the Jewish Diaspora in Western Europe dating to Roman times. Throughout the Middle Ages Jews played significant social roles – particularly from the 14th century onward, when they settled in the district where the Museum is currently located. 

The project is constantly growing and, thanks to the help of those who believe in it, the Museum has become a cultural centre that organises events and exhibitions addressing both locals and international visitors. We focus on Jewish identity and intercultural dialogue from the past to the present. School teachers and students are welcomed to attend seminars, in-depth workshops, temporary exhibitions and theatre performances.

night view of the city of Lecce in the region of Puglia
City of Lecce. Photo by Tango7174 – Wikipedia

Are there educational projects proposed by the museum and how is the city of Lecce participating in the sharing of Jewish culture?

Since its opening, the Jewish Museum has always offered to locals and non-locals a wide range of educational projects including historical itineraries, guided tours, and workshops aimed at students of primary and secondary schools. Our activities, varying according to the age of the participants, aim to develop an engaging and stimulating approach to the knowledge of the Jewish history, traditions and culture of our territory. Most recently, the JM added to its educational offer the virtual reproduction of the ancient Jewish district of Lecce. By means of visual technologies, visitors can immerse themselves in Mediaeval Lecce and take a virtual stroll in the ancient Jewish district.

Are you participating in this year’s European Days of Jewish Culture?

The Jewish Museum has always played an active role in the past editions of the European Day of Jewish Culture: we have organised art and documentary exhibitions, concerts, theatrical shows. This year, the JM proposes a rich calendar of events focused on the recently enhanced virtual tour experience. 

Inside the Museum of Lecce, showing the exhibition
Medieval Jewish Museum of Lecce

Can you share a personal anecdote about an emotional encounter with a visitor or researcher during a previous event?

Working with visitors from around the globe offers us many emotional encounters, such as the many meetings with the descendants of the refugees that were welcomed in the DP Camps of Salento between 1945 and 1947. If I had to choose one, I would certainly mention the time when a local visitor shared with us a story about her grandmother. Even though she was Christian Catholic, she had the tradition of lighting a candle on Friday evenings, thus suggesting that in Lecce the traces of Jewish converts survive until nowadays. This is a demonstration of the important role played by our museum to revive the lost traces of a long forgotten community. 

Synagogue of Wintzenheim. Photo by Rauenstein – Wikipedia

The Jewish presence in Wintzenheim seems to be very old and important, the city having been the seat of a rabbinate since 1808.

If we find traces of a synagogue in the 18th century, the one which remains today probably dates from 1750 and benefited from restoration works in 1828 and 1870.

The  synagogue was classified as a historical monument in 1995. In 2000, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the synagogue, a great ceremony was organized. In the presence of many political and religious personalities, but also of descendants of Wintzenheim Jews. This anniversary marked its re-inauguration, following work on the roof, the stained glass windows and the interior of the building.

Sources : judaisme.sdv.fr

Synagogue of Westhoffen. Photo by Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia

The Jewish presence in Westhoffen seems to be very old, as evidenced by the existence of a prayer room in the 17th century, probably dating from 1626. At that time, there were about 100 Jews in Westhoffen.

The following century, the community benefited from a synagogue, built in 1760. The synagogue, faced with the development of Jewish life, soon proved to be too small, as the town had nearly 300 Jews at the time of the French Revolution.

The decision to build a new  synagogue was taken by the city council in 1860 and it was inaugurated in 1868. Nevertheless, the community diminished over time, with only 147 members at the beginning of the 20th century.

Synagogue of Westhoffen. Photo by Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia

The synagogue, in the neo-oriental style, was classified as a historical monument in 1990. Among the personalities who came from this city were the Prime Minister of the Popular Front Léon Blum and the Prime Minister of General de Gaulle, Michel Debré.

In 2019, the  Jewish cemetery suffered a desecration of a hundred graves, adding unfortunately to a long series of such criminal events. But the magnitude of this vandalism sent shock waves through France and strengthened the national mobilization against anti-Semitism.

Sources : judaisme.sdv.fr, dna.fr

Synagogue of Soultz-sous-Forêts. Photo by Lamoi – Wikipedia

The Jewish presence seems to be quite old. A synagogue welcomed the faithful in the 19th century. It was inaugurated in 1827 and restored in the 1860s. At that time, Soultz-sous-Forêts played an important role in Jewish religious institutions.

Nevertheless, it was demolished in 1897 to be replaced by a new  synagogue. Destroyed during the Holocaust, the synagogue was restored after the war and reopened in 1962. But becoming too large for a diminished Jewish population, despite the arrival of Jews from North Africa, it was divided into several parts. If an oratory was maintained, a space for young people was created.

Classified as a historical monument, the synagogue was again transformed from the inside to accommodate the Cercle d’Histoire d’Alsace du Nord. The synagogue is regularly open to visitors during the Heritage Days and the European Days of Jewish Culture, as was the case again in 2018.

In 2013, restoration work was carried out at the  Jewish cemetery of Soultz-sous-Forêts.

Sources : judaisme.sdv.fr, dna.fr

Synagogue of Saverne. Photo by Ikar.us – Wikipedia

The Jewish presence in Saverne seems to date from the 12th century. Nevertheless, its perpetuation dates rather from the 17th century. An oratory dating from this century would have been located in the Judenhof of the time. On the eve of the French Revolution, a synagogue was built in the same area. However, it was destroyed by fire in 1850.

In 1898 the construction of the new synagogue officially began under the direction of the architect Hannig. The  synagogue was inaugurated in 1900 in a neo-Gothic and Oriental style. An adjoining building was used for school and community activities.

This same synagogue, which was inaugurated by the German authorities in 1900 when they occupied the region, was ransacked during the Holocaust forty years later. The Jews of Saverne, who numbered more than 200, were expelled and arrested and 32 of them were murdered. On April 4, 2022, 13 Stolpersteine, or “stumbling stones” of remembrance, were laid to honor the victims of the Holocaust.

A reconstruction was undertaken after the war. The re-dedication took place on September 3, 1950. Despite the gradual decline of the community, many initiatives kept it active. In 2001, the community consisted of about 40 people. A ceremony was held in 2021, accompanied by the publication of a brochure, to celebrate the synagogue’s 120th anniversary.

Sources : judaisme.sdv.fr

Synagogue of Guebwiller. Photo by Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia

The Jewish presence in Guebwiller dates back to at least the 13th century. About ten families lived there. This encouraged the inauguration of a synagogue at the beginning of the 14th century.

Nevertheless, following the persecutions of 1349, this community ceased to exist. As in other cities in the region in the following centuries, their presence was very limited and generally reserved for daytime trade.

Following the emancipation of the Jews of France during the Revolution, Guebwiller attracted Jewish families, which numbered 40 at that time, and then 80 families on the eve of the 1870 war. Designed by Hartmann in a Roman-Byzantine style, a  synagogue was inaugurated in 1872. Partially destroyed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, the synagogue was restored in 1957. Now owned by an association, it was listed as a historical monument in 1984.

Sources : Encyclopaedia Judaica, judaisme.sdv.fr, leparisien.fr

Ancient synagogue of Bischwiller. Photo by Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia

The Jewish presence in Bischwiller dates back at least to the 14th century, since during the persecutions of 1349, references to those committed in the town were found. As in many other towns in the region in the following centuries, Jews were allowed to stay there during the day for certain economic activities, but not to reside there.

Thus, it was not until the consequences of the emancipation of the Jews on the national territory during the French Revolution that they settled in the city. As the industrial revolution opened up the city, Jewish families settled in the early 19th century, but their presence evolved slowly. In 1826, 17 Jews lived there. In 1851, there were less than 100 Jews, most of whom came from other towns in the region. The Jews of Bischwiller actively participated in the economic development of the town. In particular in the manufacture of sheets with Maurice Blin, known for their quality (as evidenced by the silver medal obtained at the Universal Exhibition of 1867) and whose factory provided many jobs in the region until 1976.

The demographic development accelerated in the 1850s, reaching 246 Jews in 1866. This development led to the decision in 1856 to build a synagogue. A  Jewish cemetery was made available in 1857. A year later, the construction of the synagogue was undertaken at the corner of rue Leclerc and rue des Menuisiers.

Destroyed during the Holocaust, a plaque was placed in 1997 on the building where the synagogue was located. The Shoah claimed 37 victims among the Jews of Bischwiller. After the war, the community was rebuilt. A new  synagogue was inaugurated in 1959. There were at the time about sixty Jews in Bischwiller, but this number decreased to a few families at the turn of the century. Bought by the town hall in 2009, the synagogue was transformed into Espace Harmonie three years later. In 2015, a commemorative plaque was placed on the building.

Sources : judaisme.sdv.fr, dna.fr

JCC Ljubljana with new facade. Photo courtesy of the JCC

Established in 2013, the Jewish Community Center of Ljubljana aims to share the diversity of Judaism, with an emphasis on culture and understanding, opening its doors to all Slovenian Jews and tourists. It is based on three pillars: history through a museum tracing the history of Slovenian Jews from its beginnings to the Shoah, religion in its synagogue and its festival hall and finally culture with a place dedicated to workshops and exhibitions. The synagogue was opened in 2016. Services are held there for Shabbat and major holidays. Here’s our interview with Robert Waltl, Director of the JCC Ljubljana…

Jguideeurope: Are there educational projects proposed by the Center and how is the city of Ljubljana participating in the sharing of Jewish culture ?

Robert Waltl: The very idea of establishing the JCC grew out of the realization that Slovenian children (and adults) know practically nothing about the presence of Jews on the present-day territory of Slovenia and that their knowledge about the Holocaust is narrowed down to the events that took place elsewhere than in Slovenia. So, after conducting surveys among schoolchildren, we decided to start various educational programs and to erect a colonnade in front of the houses of Holocaust victims in Ljubljana, Lendava and Murska Sobota.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor with JCC director Robert Waltl. Photo courtesy of Srdjan Zivulovic / Bobo

The first were the educational mornings about the Holocaust, which we carried out within the Festival of Tolerance, mainly with Holocaust survivors, double Oscar winner Branko Lustig and rescued Jewish boy Tomaž Zajc, and partisan survivor Dr. Anica Mikuš Kos. Various other experts also take part in the talks. The principle was that we first watched together a film or a theater performance on the subject of the Holocaust and children in the Holocaust, such as “Villa Emma”, “Run Boy Run”, “Belle And Sebastien”, “Framed: The Adventures Of Zion Man”, “Fanny’s Journey”, “The Jewish Dog”,… After the performance there was a discussion with a Holocaust survivor and various experts.

JCC Holocaust educational morning with Tomaž Zajc. Photo courtesy of the JCC

Shalom – Playful Learning about Judaism is a program enabling us to explain the basic concepts of Judaism, holidays, beliefs, life and death. The programs are tailored to age groups. We also have special programs for adults (Slovenian and foreign visitors) on the history of the Jewish presence on the territory of today’s Slovenia. In addition to theater and film, we often organize various exhibitions, concerts and lectures alongside our educational programs.

The City of Ljubljana cooperates with us in the Stolpersteine project by installing paving stones for the victims of the Holocaust and raising awareness of the Holocaust in Ljubljana. The City of Ljubljana also supports some of our theater projects, such as “The Jewish Dog”, “The Diary of Anne Frank”, “Amsterdam”… We are currently working with the City Museum of Ljubljana on the first permanent exhibition about the Holocaust in Ljubljana, which will be on display in our museum from September.

Holocaust survivors, Erika Fuerst and Branko Lustig, meeting after 70 years at the Mini Theater festival. Photo courtesy of the JCC

Rabbi Alexander Grodensky organizes thematic lectures on Judaism and religion and teaches Torah for the members of the community. One of the problems encountered is that the Jewish Cultural Center does not have the permanent support of the city or the state, which do not recognize the importance of our Center for the citizens and residents of Slovenia.

In times of intolerance and renewed war in Europe, our mission becomes even more important. We also appeal to the world Jewish public to help us, because a small Jewish community like ours in Slovenia cannot bear the financial burden alone.

Rabbi Grodenskyin. Photo courtesy of the JCC

Can you share a personal anecdote about an emotional encounter with a visitor or researcher during a previous event?

In the years before the Corona, between 4-5,000 visitors came to our center. We have hundreds of moving accounts from our visitors who have recognized our efforts and tremendous efforts in trying to revitalize Jewish life in Slovenia, as well as our Holocaust awareness programs. If before 2013 there was not even a single memorial to the Jewish presence in the history of the city, today we have a memorial plaque on the site where the medieval Ljubljana synagogue stood until 1515. We also have 68 stolpersteine for 68 victims of the Holocaust.

JCC Shabbat. Photo courtesy of the JCC

In September, we are opening a stolperschwelle for another 150 Jewish refugees, mostly expelled from NDH-Croatia in 1941. In the Museum, before the beginning of the renovation, we had three powerful art installations dedicated to the Slovenian victims of the Holocaust, which evoked an immense power of remembrance and emotion in the visitors.

Along with the stolpersteine, there was also an art collection of portraits “Undeleted”, by the intermedia artist Vuk Čosić, which brought the faces of our ancestors back to life from the memory of oblivion. Of course, the atmosphere of the 500-year-old, half-ruined house in which we worked until the renovation for 2 years now with our own funds also contributed to the feeling. In addition to a small museum, we will open a memorial synagogue dedicated to the Slovenian victims of the Holocaust, managed by the Liberal Jewish Community of Slovenia.

Public lightening of hanukkah in front of the Center. Photo courtesy of the JCC

The building will also house the exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust in Ljubljana, a Judaica collection, a meeting room and library, as well as common spaces shared with the Mini Theater, a café and guest residences.

Guests have often shown their appreciation through their donations, which have made it a little easier for us to cover our running costs. We hope that with the renovation of our center and new activities, more visitors from all over the world will come to visit us every year.

Heddy Lammar performance. Photo courtesy of the JCC

What is organized in Ljubljana for this year’s European Days of Jewish Culture ?

From the very beginning, the European Days of Jewish Culture have been of particular importance to us and have been prepared with special care every year.

This year will be no different. We are already starting the program August 30, when we will be staging a street performance, a mini spectacle, Jewish Life in Ljubljana, on the street in front of our center. I have prepared the script and the text together with prolific Slovenian writer and director Vinko Moederndorfer and put it together in 8 pictures.

Synagogue restoration works 2022. Photo courtesy of the JCC

The play is directed by the Israeli director Yonatan Esterkin. The show is co-produced with the Yiddish theater from Tel Aviv, so that the cast will include 3 actors from Israel, 4 from Slovenia, 5 musicians and a group of extras for the war scenes. I am very much looking forward to this project.

Then, on 2 September, we are going to unveil a memorial Stolperschwelle in front of the former Factory-Cukrarna, for the 150 Jewish refugees, mostly from Croatia, who stayed there in 1941 until their deportation to Italy. On that day, we are also particularly looking forward to the inauguration of our new Synagogue on our premises.

We are expecting several visitors from abroad, and the program will be led by Rabbi Alexander Grodensky and Cantor Nikola David. In the evening there will also be a Special Shabbat ceremony.

Workshop with Ciril Horjak Horowitz. Photo courtesy of the JCC

Are there other cultural events planned for this autumn?
From September 5th until the 21st we will be holding the 8th House of Others Festival / Festival of Tolerance. It will feature several films on the Holocaust, films from Israel and the Diaspora, as well as several educational programs for young people, various lectures and concerts for adults. The program will be very rich, including several of our successful theater performances such as “Seven second eternity”, “All kinds of Birds”, “The Jewish dog”…
And to round it all off, this year we will also be opening the Holocaust in Ljubljana exhibition.
So that this year, practically the whole of September will be dedicated to European Jewish Culture Days. In September we will also print the first Slovenian-Hebrew-English Kabbalat Shabat, the first Jewish prayer book in the Slovenian language, of which we are extremely proud.

Synagogue of Mulhouse. Photo by Reinhardhauke – Wikipedia

The Jewish presence in Mulhouse is ancient, probably dating back to at least the 13th century, but following massacres and expulsions, it did not become permanent until the end of the 18th century. There seem to have been two synagogues in the Middle Ages, but the few Jews allowed to reside there left the city in the 15th and 16th centuries.

When Mulhouse had the status of a Swiss Republic (1515-1798), Jews and Catholics were forbidden to reside there. Before the French Revolution and its consequences for the emancipation of the Jews of France and the attachment of Mulhouse, the Jews were forced to live in the surrounding villages. Mainly those of Pfastatt, Rixheim, Dornach, Zillisheim, Habsheim and Streinbrunn-le-Haut.

Gradually, therefore, professional and civic limitations were lifted, allowing a diversification of occupations and places of residence within the cities, including Mulhouse. Jews contributed greatly to the economic development of the city, especially in the weaving industry, as did Raphaël Dreyfus, the father of the famous captain. The Jewish population increased from 165 in 1808 to 2132 in 1890.

René Hirschler, 1939. Photo by lthe Hirschler family – Wikipedia

synagogue was built from 1847 to 1849 by the architect Jean-Baptiste Schacre, in a neo-classical style.

Among the great rabbinical figures of this period was Samuel Dreyfus, the first student to graduate from the École Centrale Rabbinique de France. Under his leadership, the synagogue was built, as well as the École Israélite des Arts et Métiers and the Hôpital Israélite. Following the defeat of 1870, many Jews, like other Mulhouse residents, chose to leave the city to remain French.

Alfred Dreyfus was born in Mulhouse in 1859. The city played an important role in the Affair, as some of the major supporters and opponents were from there. The city therefore experienced great tension during the Affair. Much later, following the rehabilitation of Captain Dreyfus, the city named a street in tribute to his courage.

After the First World War, the community regained its stature. This was largely due to the two emblematic rabbis Jacob Kaplan and René Hirschler. Jacob Kaplan officiated in Mulhouse from 1921 to 1928, before becoming Chief Rabbi of France. He allowed the community to develop, particularly from the point of view of social and youth associations, with the creation of a branch of the Éclaireurs Israélites in 1928, the second after that of Paris.

Jacob Kaplan, 1978. Photo by Claude Truong-Ngoc – Wikipedia

He was succeeded by René Hirschler, who was barely 23 years old. He favored the development of youth movements and harmony between the different movements. He also placed great emphasis on women and the celebration of the bat mitzvah. In 1930, Rabbi Hirschler and Simone Lévy, who later became his wife, founded the Jewish thought magazine Kadimah. As early as 1933, René Hirschler actively campaigned for the reception of Jewish refugees from Germany, organizing their reception and integration. A community center opened in 1938. Very active during the Shoah to help the dispersed and hunted Jewish population, René and Simone Hirschler were captured, deported and murdered. A commemorative plaque was placed on the Mulhouse synagogue in 2016, in the presence of their descendants.

The Shoah claimed many victims in Mulhouse. The occupiers emptied the synagogue. On the occasion of its centenary, it was rebuilt under the direction of a commission appointed for this purpose and headed by Gaston Weill. A large celebration was held there in 1950, attended by Jacob Kaplan and other rabbis of the region, as well as political, religious and military representatives. The arrival of North African Jews in the 1960s gave the Mulhouse community a new lease on life.

An old Jewish cemetery was located on the site of Salvator Park. Jews were buried there from 1830 to 1890. Before that, the cemetery in Jungholtz and others in the area were used. At the end of the 19th century, the graves were moved to the new  Jewish cemetery.

Sources : judaisme.sdv.fr, dna.fr

Synagogue of Sélestat. Photo by Olivier Lévy – Wikipedia

The Jewish presence in Sélestat seems to date from the 14th century, marked in particular by the presence of a synagogue on rue des Clefs. Destroyed in 1470, a building was acquired by the community in rue Sainte-Barbe to establish a new synagogue.

Expelled several times from the 14th to the 17th centuries, the Jews were allowed to participate in fairs and markets during the day. The French Revolution and the emancipation of the Jews as citizens led to a settlement in the cities at a relative pace. Thus, only six Jewish families lived in Sélestat in 1814, then about twenty in 1836. In that year a new synagogue was built in a building adjacent to the previous one.

Jewish cemetery of Sélestat. Photo by Oie blanche – Wikipedia

The development of the Jewish community in the second half of the 19th century encouraged the construction of a  synagogue in 1890 according to the plans of Jean-Jacques Stamm and Antoine Ringeisen. Inspired by the Romanesque exterior, its interior decoration is quite modest. It had a mikveh. During the Shoah it was desecrated by the occupiers. The synagogue was restored in the 1950s with the help of the Ministry of Reconstruction.

The  Jewish cemetery of Sélestat dates from 1622 and was founded by the Jews of the city and the region. In 1948, a Memorial of the Deportation was erected there. The cemetery was classified as a historical monument in 1995. 4000 graves have been identified. Visits are organized, especially during the European Days of Jewish Culture, as was the case again in 2021.

Sources : judaisme.sdv.fr dna.fr

Synagogue of Schirmeck. Photo by Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia

In 1905, a wood merchant sold his land, on which a synagogue was built. At that time there were 36 Jews in Schirmeck, 23 in La Broque and 19 in Wisches. The synagogue allowed the Jewish inhabitants of Schirmeck and the surrounding villages to have a place of worship for a community of 79 people.

The  Schirmeck cemetery was opened to the Jewish community in 1895. Previously, the Jews were buried in the cemetery of Rosenwiller. The Jewish section of the Schirmeck cemetery contains 54 graves. The last burial took place in 1979.

During the Holocaust, the  synagogue was ransacked. The official reopening took place in 1946. The declining number of members led to the closure of the synagogue at the end of the 1970s, and the place was only used for summer camps. Restoration work was undertaken in 2006 on the facades and the roof. Then, having been one of the winners of the “Engagés pour le patrimoine” prize in 2021, the restoration, already set up by a support committee, received significant support from the Fondation du patrimoine.

The work carried out in 2022, allowed the installation of a wooden ceiling, interior walls and an emergency exit. Jacques Ruch, president of the Association of Friends of the Schirmeck Synagogue, received a call in 2016 from a man whose grandfather had been a rabbi and liberated the town with American troops. He told him that the Torah that was in the synagogue at the time had disappeared and was currently in Israel. This Torah will find its place in the synagogue of Schirmeck during the European Days of Jewish Culture, marking also the reopening of the place.

Sources : judaisme.sdv, dna.fr, france3-regions

Synagogue of Rosheim. Photo by Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia

The Jewish presence in Rosheim seems to be quite limited in the Middle Ages, but it is attested from the beginning of the 13th century.

Expulsions, wars and famines prevented the perpetuation of a Jewish life. But one person made history, Josel de Roheim. This lawyer and representative figure fought against anti-Semitism and for the improvement of the status of the Jews.

The perpetuation of Jewish life began at the end of the 17th century, when Rosheim had 16 Jewish families. The Jews were allowed to practice certain trades which the Christians did not want, such as the trade in old metals and clothes. Then, they practiced the trade of horses.

On the eve of the French Revolution, 53 Jewish families lived in Rosheim. At that time Lehmann Netter wrote a manuscript in which he described community life: the trades practiced by the men, the social activities of the women, the large number of rabbinical students, but also the civil information of each of these families.

Since the synagogue was destroyed by fire, the Jews of Rosheim prayed in oratories during the 18th century. A synagogue was inaugurated in 1835, then replaced by another one, in neo-roman style, in 1882.

As a sign of the improvement of the condition of the Jews in Rosheim, Aron Blum was elected mayor in 1852. The defeat of 1870 caused many Jews to leave the town, wishing to remain French. The Jewish population, which had reached its peak at that time with 310 people, gradually declined, reaching 69 people in 1936. The Shoah claimed many victims among the Jews still present.

Thus, in 1953, there were only 29 Jews left in Rosheim. The  synagogue was re-inaugurated in 1959 but is no longer in use. Its facade remains intact, but the interior has been transformed into guest rooms.

Sources : judaisme.sdv.fr, dna.fr

This year, the European Days of Jewish Culture have a larger meaning in Krakow. The Jewish Community Center has always been very involved but with the war wages by Russia in Ukraine its role has evolved. Here’s our interview with Agnieszka Kocur-Smoleń, Director of Programming at the JCC of Krakow.

Photo courtesy of JCC Krakow

Jguideeurope : Can you tell us how the Jewish museum was created?

Agnieszka Kocur-Smoleń: The JCC was opened in 2008, during an official ceremony, by the Prince of Wales. The center provides social and educational services to the Jewish community of Krakow. But it has also different purposes. First to participate in the resurgence of Jewish life in Krakow and foster Polish-Jewish relations. For such purposes, it was also important to provide a symbolic location, in the heart of the city’s historic Jewish quarter, Kazimierz.

Are there educational projects proposed by the museum and how is the city of Krakow participating in the sharing of Jewish culture?

We have a whole variety of educational projects, activities, events for the community as well as for people who would like to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the Jewish world. We work with the local school, cooperate with universities, other non-profit organizations, museums, cultural centers. All of this in order to share Jewish culture broadly.

Photo courtesy of JCC Krakow

Are you participating in this year’s European Days of Jewish Culture ? If so, what will be organized at the museum ?

Each year we participate in the Jewish Culture Festival as the partner organization and we prepare the rich program of accompanying events. The Festival is supported by the city of Krakow. We have created a program of 38 events during the festival lasting 7 days – lectures, talks, city games, culinary show, sightseeing, dance workshops, genealogical consultations, debates, activities for kids and seniors, yiddish classes, Shabbat dinner, etc.

Photo courtesy of JCC Krakow

You have been involved in helping Ukranian refugees. Can you give us some details ?

The JCC and its partners have helped over 80 000 Ukranians in the first four months of the Russian attack, and continue doing so. Both refugees who have fled to Poland and Ukrainians on the other side of the border, not differentiating between the cultural and cultual affiliations. The JCC serves as a distribution point for food, medecine, toys, clothes… Over 12000 hotel nights have been provided. Summer camps are also organized for Ukrainian kids. A hotline has been set up to answer all types of questions and problems, and also a team of 12 psychologists. We have also partnered with a local university and an Israeli NGO to train 68 more psychologists to deal with such a crisis. And many more actions to diminish the suffering of the civil population.

Interview with Barbara Haene, Head of research and events at the Jewish Museum of Switzerland

Barbara Haene. Photo by Elena Haschemi Schirazi

Jguideeurope: What events are planned for the European Days of Jewish Culture?

Barbara Haene: The Jewish Museum of Switzerland has been in charge of the organization of the European Days of Jewish Culture in Switzerland since its initiation in 1999. There is a varied program at the museum this year. For example, a “show cooking” where the challa is cooked, or an event where an art expert evaluates Jewish cult objects live. The city tour “In Herzl’s footsteps through Basel” and the guided tour of the synagogue are also very popular every year.

Can you introduce some of the objects in the “Jewish for beginners and experts” exhibition?

As a historian working on the Jewish history of Switzerland, I of course have certain preferences. I particularly like objects that bear witness to the simple life of the Jews in the Endingen Lengnau countryside, for example a Torah coat originally used for a woman’s dress.

Museumsnacht 2022. Photo by Elwira Spychalska

Or a pocket watch from La Chaux-de-Fonds that testifies to the importance of Jews in the watchmaking industry in Switzerland. Of course, the first Zionist Congress, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, is also of great importance for Basel’s Jewish history. The Jewish Museum holds numerous objects relating to the first Zionist Congress. For example, a collotype showing the participants of the congress is worth seeing.

Have you noticed a change in public expectations in recent years?

Over the last few decades, the knowledge of young people has changed. They used to be relatively familiar with the biblical stories, especially the ones concerning Adam and Eve, Moses and the Ten Commandments, Rachel and Leah. They knew the Old Testament characters from church, from religion classes, or from their children’s Bibles. Today, secularization has greatly increased.

Few young people visit churches. Almost no one reads the Bible either. But today, those same young people know more about Jewish customs. They know about Hanukkah and Shabbat, about bar / batmitzva holidays and about kosher regulations.

Via Egnatia 2021. Photo by Elena Haschemi Schirazi

Diversity is in vogue. Young people encounter Jewish culture in school, on Netflix and Youtube, in pop music and in food. Their knowledge of Judaism is marked by hummus, falafel and bagels, among other things.

Can you tell us about an encounter with a visitor or speaker at a cultural event that made a particular impression on you?

A few weeks ago, we welcomed Rabbi Bea Wyler to the museum. We have her prayer shawl, her talith, in our collection. Bea Wyler was the first woman to serve as a rabbi in German-speaking Europe after the Holocaust. When she was ordained in the 2000s, she was confronted with many opposing currents as a woman in an all-male profession.

Today, she is the first in a series of young female rabbis. Women are valued, enjoy a certain prestige and are only experiencing headwinds in some Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox circles.

Interview with Dr Mirjam Wenzel, Director of the Jewish Museum Frankfurt concerning two amazing exhibitions: the new permanent exhibition celebrating the Jewish presence in Frankfurt from the past to the future, as well as the amazing exhibition on the theme of revenge, exploring its perception in the Bible, the work of Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds), that of Marvel (including the character Magneto) and other surprising references.

Exhibition part “Judith und Holfernes” and “Simson defeats the Philistines”. Photo by Norbert Miguletz @ Judisches-Museum

JGuide Europe: You are currently showing “Revenge. History and Fantasy.” What is special about the exhibition?

Dr. Mirjam Wenzel: Basically, everything. It is the first exhibition in the world that explicitly deals with the various aspects of revenge in Jewish cultural history. Our exhibition spans an arc from acts of revenge in the Thorah to thoughts of retribution after the Shoah and relies on images and narratives of popular culture. Originals on display include the painting “Judith and Holofernes” (on loan from the Uffizi Gallery), the baseball bat from the film Inglourious Basterds and comic books. The exhibition draws its emotional power from the calls for revenge by people who were murdered during the Shoah. You can get a first impression in my short guided tour through the show: Revenge: History and Fantasy – Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt (juedischesmuseum.de). The catalogue (Hanser Verlag) is available in English, as well. Due to popular demand, we have extended the exhibition until October 3 – so we would of course be delighted to welcome you and your readers to the museum!

What has been the reaction to the exhibition?

In the last room of the exhibition, our archive of the present, includes a feedback wall. This wall is a continuation of the dialogue between me and the curator about the subject of the exhibition that is put on display throughout the whole space. In the last room we as the visitors about their thoughts and feelings. Many thank us for an interesting and informative exhibition that proves that marginalized minorities do not necessarily develop a victim mentality. Others are concerned with the question of how they themselves would react, if their families were threatened, or worse. Most commented that they had not heard of Jewish acts of revenge until now. In General, we have received an overwhelming positive response to the exhibition – both on this wall, on Social Media and in the press.

Pop Up Boat welcoming cultural events in Frankfurt
Pop Up Boat. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Museum Frankfurt

Can you share a personal anecdote about a previous Festival?

In 2016, the Jewish Museum Frankfurt opened its Pop-Up Boat on the Main river on the European day of Jewish culture. The Pop-Up Boat was a space for encounters that included a Pop-Up exhibition, participatory displays, a Tel Aviv beach bar, lunch talks and workshops introducing the issues and themes addressed by the new Jewish Museum, such as: What is Jewish art? What are family ties and how long do they hold together?

In the evening it was a platform to experience contemporary Jewish culture with concerts, readings, panel discussions, performances and film screenings – cheeky and serious, conscious of tradition and provocative, unsentimental and confrontational. Right before the opening of the Pop-Up Boat it was raining heavily. There seemed to be almost no place on the boat where one could stand without getting wet. But all of a sudden, right before the Lord major appeared for the opening ceremony, the sun came out and we were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow right above the boat – an almost biblical experience.

Frank family portraits displayed at the exhibition
Family portraits of the Franks. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Museum Frankfurt

Can you tell us about the Museum’s exhibition “We are now”

“We are now” is the title of the new permanent exhibition in Rothschild-Palais dedicated to the Jewish experience of modern life in Frankfurt from emancipation until today. Displayed on three floors of the Rothschild-Palais, it offers different approaches to Jewish history and culture in one of the main centers of Modern Jewish life Europe: Starting in the presence, the permanent exhibition tour outlines major historical events and conflicts, reflects on Modern changes of traditions and rituals, and tells individual stories in a mixed media setting, from a Jewish perspective. A special focus lies on renowned fine artists, like for example Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, and scholars like Samson Raphael Hirsch, Martin Buber, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno.

Old postcard of Frankfurt
Frankfurt postcard of the 13-year-old Robert Frank to his parents Michael and Alice Frank, 1899. © Anne Frank Fonds Basel

Jews shaped the cultural, economic, scientific and social development of Frankfurt decisively, even after the Holocaust. Based on their own experience of migration they gave distinction to municipal cosmopolitanism as well as to the European meaning of Frankfurt as a city of publishing, scholarship, trade and finances.

In order to offer a personal approach to this extraordinary history, a special focus of the exhibition is dedicated to Jewish families, like Anne Frank’s family whose history is presented exclusively with original objects and documents of family inheritance or to the world-famous Rothschild family whose success story is being presented in the historical setting of the representative rooms they once lived in.

Börneplatzsynagoge, ca.1890

Which particular place related to Frankfurt’s Jewish heritage do you feel should be better known?

The Börneplatz synagogue. Inaugurated in 1885, the sandstone building offered a room for 800 prayers observing the conservative liturgy. It was situated right at the end of the former Judengasse beside a vived marketplace. During the Weimar Republic the synagogue became the epicenter of what is called the Jewish Renaissance and attracted a lot of intellectual rather secular Jews like for example Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Siegfried Kracauer, Samuel Agnon. Destroyed in the November pogrom of 1938, the synagogue left hardly any traces in the memory of the city, today.

This year, the theme of the European Days of Jewish Culture is “Renewal”. A theme well adapted to our time of political and health uncertainties, but also in reference to beautiful attempts to enable Jewish culture to live (again) in the big cities and small villages of Europe. Here’s our interview with Thierry Koch, President of the European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage – France.

Thierry Koch

Jguideeurope : What does the theme of “renewal” chosen this year mean to you?

Thierry Koch : These Days, as their name indicates, are European Days organized simultaneously in more than thirty European countries. For me, it is impossible to think of these Days in a purely French context. Therefore, the word “renewal” evokes for me first of all the revival of Jewish culture and the rescue of Jewish heritage in several Eastern European countries as well as in Turkey. I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that our “movement”, which has been working since the beginning in close cooperation with the Council of Europe, has as its potential field of action all 47 member countries of this institution. Of course, if we return to France, the largest Jewish community in Europe, the situation is totally different. The word “renewal” refers to concepts that are at the heart of religious life and in particular the renewal of the meaning of the Torah and its prescriptions, in connection with the renewal of generations. “Renewal” also evokes for me the decisive contribution that the arrival of the Jewish communities of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria made to French Judaism in the years 1950-1960. Finally, “Renewal” also evokes the audacity shown by a certain number of cultural actors – often members of JECPJ France – in proposing an extremely modern Jewish cultural offer that is open to our diverse French society.

EDJC 2021 Paris at l’ECUJE

How many French cities are participating?

One of the particularities of the European Days of Jewish Culture in France is that this “festival” offers events in very large cities (Paris, Lyon, Nice, Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg, Montpellier, etc.) or medium-sized cities (Cannes, Antibes, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Cavaillon, etc.) as well as in villages. The presence of a structured Jewish community or, on the contrary, the presence of an ancient Jewish heritage trace of a Jewish community that has disappeared can lead, either way, to the organization of an event proposed in the program. So rather than cities, I would prefer to speak of places. Our objective – in line with previous editions – is to propose events in a hundred different places.

EDJC 2020 Reichshoffen

Do you see an evolution in the activities proposed and in the expectations of the public these last years?

It seems to me that the public is more and more attracted by the concerts but also by the tours, walking or cycling, linked to the discovery of the Jewish heritage in a town or a small territory.

You act for the preservation of sites, can you give us a recent example of this action?

The opening of a Jewish heritage site during the European Days of Jewish Culture is a unique opportunity to highlight the dangers to which this heritage is exposed and to take stock of its state of preservation. This motivation to draw the attention of all stakeholders (municipalities, owners, public, media) was the basis for the launch in 1996 of the very first “open house” dedicated to Jewish heritage.

EDJC 2019 Clermont-Ferrand

This work pays off, sometimes after many years. For example, on September 4 in Schirmeck (Bas-Rhin), the renovated synagogue – after major work to bring it up to standard and improve safety – will be inaugurated by the authorities, with the return of its Torah scroll. This scroll, miraculously saved by a soldier during the Second World War and then entrusted to a private individual, was kept for several decades in Israel until its provenance was finally established. The synagogue in Schirmeck will now function as a historical information center in connection with the memory of Nazi oppression in this area of the Bruche Valley and, in particular, the Natzwiller-Struthof camp.

Jewish cemetery of Ettendorff. Guided visit during the EDJC 2021. Photo by DNA

Can you tell us about a particularly memorable encounter with a visitor during previous days?

My experience is still relatively limited after only three editions of the European Days of Jewish Culture. Nevertheless, I like to be present in the field, especially in the region where I live, Alsace. I have had the opportunity to blend in with the public or, on the contrary, to intervene as a commentator during the visit. I particularly keep a very rich memory of this last experience. Seeing how people – including young children – can be so interested in understanding how a ritual bath worked in the Middle Ages never ceases to amaze and challenge me. Even if, as an amateur guide, I do my best to arouse the curiosity of my listeners. Having to interrupt a dialogue that has barely begun, because the next group of visitors is already getting impatient, is sometimes a real heartbreak…

Interview with Jacob Guzman, historian and active member of the Jewish community of Bern

Outside view of the synagogue of Bern
Synagogue of Bern. Photo by Janz – Wikipedia

Jguideeurope : What motivated your commitment to the development of Bern’s Jewish cultural heritage?

Jacob Guzman : This heritage is in danger of disappearing if we don’t take the trouble to make it known to the population. We need other media than history books.

How did the big exhibition about Albert Einstein work out? 

The director of the history museum contacted the community in Bern to get some information about Jewish life in Bern at the time of Albert Einstein. We have given some ritual objects, a Torah, and a towel that belonged to Einstein on long-term loan.

Albert Einstein. Photo by Oren Jack Turner – Wikipedia

What opening events are planned for the European Days of Jewish Culture?

We are participating in the European Days of Jewish Culture, but do not have this year’s program yet.

Can you tell us about an encounter with a visitor or speaker at a cultural event that particularly impressed you? 

One example among many: the meeting with the architect Ron Epstein who wrote a book on the architecture of synagogues in Switzerland. We had the privilege in Bern to have, for several years, a series of lectures on Jewish themes. These paid lectures were, although organized by a member of our community, open to everyone. This gave us the opportunity to have contact with many speakers and allowed the non-Jewish public to know some aspects of Jewish culture.

Interview with Michaël Iancu, Doctor in History and Director of the Maimonides-Averroes-Thomas Aquinas University Institute, concerning Montpellier’s involvement in the European Days of Jewish Culture.

Michael Iancu, Doctor of History and Director of the Maimonides-Averroès-Thomas Aquinas University Institute.

Jguideeurope : What event will open the next European Days in Montpellier?

Michaël Iancu : The visit on September 4 at 2pm of the medieval Mikveh (12th century) in Montpellier; then the visit of the medieval Jewish quarter, including the synagogal building of the 12th/13th centuries, a Hebrew worship space of the 12th century, declared a “historical monument” in 2004; then a tour of the alleys of the medieval Jewish habitat (in the seigniorial fiefdom of the Guilhem family) will be proposed to the public, with the apprehension of seven historical explanatory windows on the intellectual impact of the Jewish populations in the city in the Middle Ages.

Which speakers will participate in the other events?

I will be speaking at 4 p.m., as part of the 2022 “Renewal” theme, for a conference: “Between the medieval and contemporary eras, the renewal of Occitan Judaism.”

Outside view of the entry of the Midieval mikveh of Montpellier
Midieval mikveh (XIIth century) of Montpellier. Photos by Hugues Rubio, City of Montpellier and Michaël Iancu, Maïmonides-Averroès-Thomas Aquinas Institute.

Do you notice any changes in audience expectations compared to the pre-Covid period?

The public has returned in large numbers after the Covid-confinement period even though vigilance is still required. We now film all our events and post them on our YouTube channel. This way, people who cannot travel do not miss out on the Maimonides program.

How do you explain the great success of the Midi Libre’s special issue devoted to Occitan Judaism and is it still available online?

There is a growing interest in better understanding our common history. Montpellier and more broadly the Languedoc region were, for the medieval period, a land of passage and mixing, of Judeo-Christian encounters around the Greek-Arabic legacy. For a long time, all Jewish origins, whether familial or patrimonial, were denied. Today, without going so far as to be proud of it, there is a real curiosity about the Jewish roots of France and Europe, roots that are eminently Christian but also Hebraic. The success of the special issue can be explained in part by this.

Interview with Géraldine Roux, doctor and teacher in philosophy and Director of the Rachi Institute, concerning the European Heritage Days

Géraldine Roux

Jguideeurope: What event will open the European Heritage Days?

Géraldine Roux : A concert, free and open to all, specially designed for this event will open the European Heritage Days on the evening of 17 September, by the vocal ensemble La Compagnie des Humbles. The specificity of La Compagnie des Humbles is to offer concerts based on the research carried out by the Aube Musique Ancienne association to discover a rich and little-played repertoire from the Renaissance to the Baroque, updating musical scores, putting them online free of charge to pass on this heritage to as many people as possible, and organising concerts to bring these works to life.

The Compagnie des Humbles will therefore propose, in the conference room of the Rachi Institute, a memorable evening under the sign of Universal Harmony, in reference to the eponymous musical treatise written in 1636 by Marin Mersenne. This musical production will allow the public to hear Catholic, Protestant and Jewish music from the 17th century with extracts from works by composers from the Auvergne such as Pierre Bouteiller and Nicolas Metru, Johann-Sebastian Bach, Claudio Monterverdi, Girolamo Kasperger and, for the first time in Troyes, a performance of Psalms set to music by Salomone Rossi, an Italian Jewish violinist and composer from the early 17th century. A discovery under the sign of “Sustainable Heritage”, the national theme of these days this year!

What other main events will be organised during the Days?

In addition to the concert on Saturday evening, there will be many events on Sunday, including two conferences. The first, in the morning at 10:30 am, will be given by me, on the theme Discovering fantastic beings in the Bible and the Talmud, in search of the Golem and the land of the giants, from Leviathan to the Behemoth and the Na’ash. Most of them have disappeared and yet haunt the pages of the Torah and the Talmud with their silent, disturbing or burlesque, melancholic or droll presence. Depending on the interpretation. This lecture is intended as a journey into the other side of the world with the help of the Midrash, the Talmud and Rashi’s commentaries.

The second lecture will take place at 4 p.m. on “The Dreyfus Affair: a gallery of portraits from the Champagne region”, by Jean-Michel Pottier, lecturer in French literature at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, member of the Zola group (CNRS-ITEM) and who has been teaching for the past three years, at the Rachi Institute, the only course in France entirely devoted to the Dreyfus Affair, for students of the History degree and the Master’s degree in Heritage and Book Studies at the University of Reims Champagne Ardenne. This conference will focus on how Champagne was directly or indirectly involved in this affair.

A reading of Mediterranean tales, for children from 5 years old, will be proposed by Evelyne Rousseau, accountant at the Rachi Institute. Michel Degardin, a volunteer, will be present throughout the day to introduce the public to our library, mainly Hebraica, with its 8,000 volumes, and the exhibition “Rachi and the Jews of Troyes in the Middle Ages” can also be visited throughout the day, for the first time in a dedicated place. All these meetings will of course be free and open to all.

Do you observe any organisational changes compared to the pre-Covid period?

During the two years of Covid, the Rachi Institute was able to participate in the European Heritage Days, without interruption, but the organisation was indeed quite heavy with the gauges to be respected, the sanitary measures and then the health pass. Volunteers spontaneously offered to help us so that we could be present at this important moment of the beginning of the Rachi Institute. So, in a way, this organisation was able to show a real surge of solidarity but with a much heavier structure and a much greater legal and ethical responsibility than in previous years.

Could you share a personal anecdote about a highlight of a previous festival?

I have a very strong memory of the 2019 edition of the European Heritage Days. The national theme was “Arts and Entertainment”. Thomas Schauder, a philosophy teacher and, at the time, part-time librarian at the Rashi Institute, offered to close the day with his group of singers and musicians “Les Clés de Scène”. The Rachi Institute was then organising a concert for the first time on the occasion of these Days and, as the speciality of this Savinian musical group was to organise amateur shared stages, jams, we had all thought of organising the concert in the courtyard of the institute, hoping for good weather… It was pouring with rain!

Tucked away in the conference room, the group started to play and, an afternoon concert that was supposed to last an hour, ended at more than 8 pm, with people from the audience coming on stage, some with a guitar, some with their voice, one person even with a violin to sing together French music but also in Hebrew and Yiddish. All together, even those who did not know the language. All together carried by the music. A magical, intense moment. Out of time.

For more information about the Institute’s programs, follow this link: https://institut-rachi-troyes.fr/

Interview with Xavier Nataf, creator in Marseille of the first festival devoted to Israeli cinema, which pays a tribute June 22th – 28th to Ronit Elkabetz.

 

Jguideeurope : You have been involved for a long time in the influence of Jewish culture in Marseille. How do you perceive the evolution of public interest?

Xavier Nataf : I think we can say that there has been an evolution; several decades ago Jewish culture was surprising, interesting, and certainly strange to most people. Today, it seems to me that it is a culture that, like the others, is part of the Marseilles landscape. Of course, I’m talking about specific cultural aspects; I’m not talking about the community and the Jews, who have always been an integral part of the greater Marseille community.

 

Which place linked to the Jewish cultural heritage of Marseilles deserves to be made more known?

Of course, the great synagogue is a remarkable place to discover but to be honest, I have a particular affection for the old Jewish cemetery of Saint-Pierre. It tells the story of the Jews of Marseille for centuries.

 

Xavier Nataf

You created the first Israeli Film Festival in France. This year, you are honoring Ronit Elkabetz by screening Cahiers Noirs. What did she do for you?

I was lucky enough to be contemporary with her rise as an actress and director. She was one of the very first guests of the festival and we accompanied her to the end. The most striking thing about her when you knew her was the incredible mix of strength and fragility. She had a hypersensitivity that was quite fascinating.

 

For the past two years, you have hosted the Nonobstant podcast, dedicated to Jewish pop culture. What recent discovery in this field has particularly surprised you?

With this podcast I try to share my passions for movies, TV shows, comics… every week in five minutes, I show the richness of the production in the field of Jewish identity… in the field of comics, I have to say that Jean Dytar’s comic book # j’accuse really blew me away. In the field of cinema, I loved Gabriele Mainetti’s Italian film, Freaks Out.

More info about this year’s festival: https://www.festival-rci.com/

Interview with David Weis, President of the Liberal Jewish Community of Luxembourg

Jguideeurope : Can you tell us about the recent cultural events organized in Esch in 2022?

David Weis : Early this year we organised an Israeli inspired TuBiShevat Seder. We coorganised the national IHRD commemorations at place de la synagogue in Esch in January. For Purim we did an online reading of the Megillah in multiple languages. This is turning out to be quite a nice tradition now. We also enjoyed a potluck dinner in the synagogue for Purim as well as activities for the children. On Yom Hashoah we had a presentation by Maître François Moyse about the “spoliations agreements”, which determine how non-Luxembourgish Jews who died or suffered in WWII while in Luxembourg can receive a compensation from the Luxembourg State. For Yom Haatzmaut we organised a very well-attended BBQ and debate on progressive Zionism. Shavuot was also marked by a community dinner and a diverse Tikkun Leyl Shavuot programme.

 

Shavouoth in Esch

How is Jewish culture shared by the local authorities?

We fully coordinate with local authorities and share our respective events with each other. They are advertised in any official communication.

 

Which events will be featured in 2022?

We are planning a few open-door events, Israeli dances, Chazzanut concerts, talks and museum visits. For more updated info visit www.jewish.lu or our facebook page. 2023 will be a very special year as we are hoping to launch our first Limmud Luxembourg event, in the framework of the ‘Memories’ future’ project of Limmud Europe, which is funded by the European Union.