« New article by Stewart Cherlin on Chicago live performances | Main | 5th Annual KlezFest, Kiev, Ukraine, Aug 15-20, 2004 »

International Conference Opens to Address future of Jewish Heritage in Europe

150 activists, cultural experts, scholars and philanthropists gather in Prague from 24-27 April to discuss the role of Jewish museums, archives and historic sites in a changing Europe

Conference programme on-line at www.mittelpunkt.biz/jewishheritageconference


Interest in Europe's Jewish heritage has grown remarkably in the last decade. But what place does it occupy in today's Europe? And what role can cultural heritage sites and activities play in shaping modern Jewish communities? These and other questions will be discussed by 150 activists, scholars, philanthropists and heritage experts who will gather for three days in Prague to consider the state of Jewish heritage in Europe.

The thirty speakers include prominent writers and historians, as well as distinguished museum directors and curators, Jewish community activists, historic preservation experts, and representatives of Jewish philanthropies. Conference participants will be attending from twenty-five countries in Europe, and from Israel and the United States.

The Hungarian Holocaust survivor, political dissident and writer György Konrad will open the conference on 25 April with an address at the session on Jewish heritage in the context of European heritage. His speech is entitled 'The Modernization of the Jews'.

Conference organizers maintain that despite the resurgence of antisemitism in Europe in the past few years, the overall climate for the acceptance and appreciation of Jewish culture has never been better. The number of and attendance at cultural events continues to increase, and the number of historic Jewish sites, including synagogues and cemeteries now being restored is greater than at any time since the Holocaust.

New museums have been founded and older ones have been transformed. A great many historic sites have been surveyed and documented, and some have been conserved. Programs such as the Jewish Heritage Grant Program of the New York-based World Monuments Fund have helped fund over fifty restoration projects. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has made the return of Jewish communal properties and in their restoration for contemporary Jewish use a priority in the Former Soviet Union.

Nonetheless, funding remains sporadic and disconnected, and overall coordination and cooperation between the many current efforts still needs to be improved.

The focus of the conference will be on setting priorities, encouraging good practice, developing audiences and facilitating co-operation and co-ordination. It will shed new light on the role of the heritage sector in enhancing Jewish life and in representing Jews and Judaism in European societies. It aims to chart a course for continued and improved efforts to protect and develop these resources and will be the first such conference to unite concerns about Jewish museums, archives, and historic sites.

Samuel Gruber, Director of the Jewish Heritage Research Center in Syracuse, New York, and one of the conference organizers, says that 'while some sessions will address the extraordinary demands increased security is putting on many institutions, a central theme of the conference, that Jewish Heritage is an important part of European heritage, is considered the best weapon to ensure the long-term appreciation and understanding of Jews and Jewish culture' in Europe.

Antony Lerman, Chief Executive of Hanadiv Charitable Foundation in London, one of the conference sponsors, says: 'Above all, the conference will provide a unique opportunity to develop policies and strategies to protect and promote Jewish material culture in Europe. Beyond that it will be a rare opportunity for a lot of people doing similar work to meet each other, compare notes, and develop partnerships for the future.'

The conference is sponsored by the World Monuments Fund; a number of philanthropic foundations including Hanadiv Charitable Foundation, the Cahnman Foundation, the Rich Foundation, the Charles and Andrea Bronfman Foundation, the Gilbert Foundation and the Haskel Foundation; and the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee.

Conference programme on-line at www.mittelpunkt.biz/jewishheritageconference


Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)