Monday, July 21, 2014

July Jewish Heritage Newsletter: Czech 10 Stars; Photo Galleries

Bimah and reconstructed Ark in the synagogue in Mikulov. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Please take a look at the July edition of the monthly newsletter of Jewish Heritage Europe -- the website on Jewish heritage issues that I coordinate as a project of the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe.

Access it by clicking here -- and sign up for regular monthly delivery.

This issue has two main "cover stories," plus links to other news from Poland, France, Austria, Hungary and elsewhere.

One cover theme  is the launch of new Photo Galleries on JHE -- galleries that readers are encouraged to contribute to.

The other is the inauguration in June of the wonderful Czech 10 Stars project, one of the most ambitious single Jewish heritage projects in Europe, linking 10 synagogues and associated Jewish heritage sites, in 10 towns all over the Czech Republic: in Úštěk, Jičín, and Brandýs nad Labem to the north; Plzeň and Březnice to the west; Nová Cerekev and Polná in the south-central part of the country; and Boskovice, Mikulov and Krnov to the east.

Synagogue interior, Polná. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

They have all been renovated (or re-renovated) with a mono-thematic exhibit installed in each to form 10 regional centers of Jewish culture and education (and tourism) -- sort of a nationwide Jewish museum..... (See previous JHE posts on the progress of the 10 Stars project HERE and HERE and HERE.)

Carried out by the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, the 10 Stars was financed by an approximately €11 million grant from the EU, with further funding from the Czech Culture Ministry.

I traveled hundreds of kilometers over the past few weeks to visit seven of these sites -- and have posted galleries of pictures from most of them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jewish Heritage Europe launches monthly Newsletter

Door to the orthodox synagogue in Presov, Slovakia

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Jewish Heritage Europe -- the web site that I coordinate -- has just launched a monthly newsletter! The first edition came this week and contains a description of the web site's features as well as highlights from our regular almost-daily news feed.

JHE is an expanding web portal to news, information and resources concerning Jewish monuments and heritage sites all over Europe. A project of the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, we foster communication and information exchange regarding projects, initiatives and other developments: restoration, funding, projects, best-practices, advisory services and more.

Our newsfeed is updated almost daily, and by now, with well over 500 posts, it represents a major searchable database of information on the contemporary status of Jewish built heritage in Europe.

Please take a look -- and subscribe and share!
Click here to see the Newsletter

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Balagan Cafe in Florence is Back for the Summer

by Ruth Ellen Gruber

Going to Florence this summer? Well, Balagan Cafe is back -- the weekly open house/garden party on the tree-shaded grounds of the city's magnificent synagogue.

Just about every Thursday evening through August, the Jewish community invites the public for what they call an "apericena" -- a combination aperitivo drink and cena, or dinner -- with kosher food, wine and fancy cocktails.

In addition to the edibles and libations, each night programs concerts, talks, performances or other events, not to mention stands selling books, CDs and souvenirs.

Click here to see the full program.

The first edition of the Cafe was a big hit last summer -- with hundreds of people attending each week. They included members of the Jewish community but also many members of the mainstream public.

As I wrote last November in an article for The Forward:

Each Café featured music, lectures, discussions, performances and other events. There were free guided tours of the synagogue and stands selling books, CDs, Judaica and Balagan Café T-shirts depicting a full moon over the synagogue dome. Performers and featured participants included nationally known figures such as the rock singer Raiz, the Tzadik label klezmer jazz clarinetist Gabriele Coen, and the architect Massimiliano Fuksas, who designed, among other things, the Peres Peace House in Israel.
Meanwhile, food stands sold kosher meals and kosher wine to crowds eager to sample couscous, baked eggplant, beans with cumin and harissa, spicy chickpeas, Roman-style sweet and sour zucchini and other specialties. One evening saw a “competition” between Sephardic and Ashkenazic cooking; another featured a lesson in challah-making.
About 300 people turned up for the first Café in early June — most of them Jewish community members and their friends. But each week the numbers grew, thanks to enthusiastic local media coverage as well as word of mouth.
“It conquered the city,” journalist Fulvio Paloscia wrote in La Repubblica. By the summer’s last Café, on Aug. 29 — where I was featured in a public conversation ... about Jewish culture and mainstream society — the event drew 800 people. Crowds milled about the garden and listened to two concerts, one by a klezmer band and one by Sephardic singer Evelina Meghnagi. They also mobbed the food stand, where some 450 kosher meals were sold.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thousands visit Rome Jewish Museum, show Solidarity to Brussels

Visitors to Rome Jewish Museum Monday night. Photo: Shalom7

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

This post also appears on my En Route blog for the LA Jewish Journal

Thousands of people lined up to visit the Rome Jewish Museum, which was specially opened for free Monday night to show solidarity with the Jewish Museum in Brussels and honor the victims of Saturday's shooting attack, which left four dead.

Other Jewish institutions in Italy also opened Monday night -- including the Shoah Memorial in Milan.

“This is our response to the attack, a ‘white night’ against fear,” Rome Jewish community president Riccardo Pacifici told the Italian media.

In Rome, Jewish leaders and political figures including the presidents of the Lazio and Puglia regions addressed the crowd before they entered the museum. The ambassadors of Belgium and Israel also were in attendance at an opening ceremony broadcast live on Italian TV.

"The Brussels assassins wanted to strike in the heart of culture, in a place where one wants to learn," Pacifici said. "They wanted to intimidate the Jewish community and the general public. Tonight the museum opens its doors to whoever desires to get to know it."

"There is no choice more just than to find ourself in a place of culture in order to respond to hatred and ignorance," Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio region, said. "The act of us all being here sends out the message that whoever carries out an act of ignorance will always have the eyes of the world upon them."

Dario Disegni, the president of the Italian Jewish Cultural Heritage Foundation, issued a statement Monday urging the more than a dozen other Jewish museums in Italy to also open to the public for free one day this week. “We feel confident that civil society in our country will want to feel the moral imperative to bear witness, through solidarity with the victims of the crime, to a firm commitment to safeguarding democracy and to the construction of a future of peace, justice and liberty,” he said.

The Association of European Jewish Museums issued a statement about the Brussels attack:
A murderous attack has taken four lives in the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels on Saturday 24 May. The AEJM is deeply shocked by this atrocity directed against an institution that for many years stands for mutual understanding, tolerance and intercultural exchange - a symbol for the only possible future of Europe. We lack the words to describe our feelings of horror and we humbly want to express our solidarity with our friends. Hopefully the murderer will be identified and caught soon and it will be possible to shed light on this crime. We mourn with our colleagues of the Jewish Museum in Brussels and the families of those who lost their loved ones in this attack.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jewish Culture, etc Festivals 2014

Jewish Culture Festival, Krakow. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

As usual, I am trying to put together a list of as many as possible of the numerous Jewish festivals -- culture, film, dance, etc -- that take place each year around Europe. Please help me by sending me information!

The big culture festivals and other smaller events make good destinations around which to center a trip. Some, like the annual Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow, are huge events lasting a week or more, which draw thousands of people and offer scores or sometimes hundreds of performances, lectures, concerts, exhibits and the like. Other festivals are much less ambitious. Some are primarily workshops but also feature concerts. Many of the same artists perform at more than one festival.

The list will be growing and growing -- and again, I ask my readers to please send me information and links to upcoming events. Thanks!

ALL OVER EUROPE -- September 14 --  15th European Day of Jewish Culture (This year's theme -- Women in Judaism)


May 18-27 -- Vienna -- Jewish Culture Festival


July 10-13 -- Boskovice -- 22nd Festival for the Jewish Quarter

July 28-August 2 -- Trebic -- Shamayim Jewish Culture Festival


June 5-9 -- Copenhagen -- Jewish Culture Festival


June 10-26 -- Paris -- 10th Aimer Festival of Jewish Cultures


March 30-April 13 -- Berlin & Potsdam -- Jewish Film Festival Berlin & Potsdam

July 19-August 16 -- Weimar -- Yiddish Summer Weimar

August 5-9 -- Weimar -- YSW Festival Week


June 8 -- Budapest --  7th Judafest Jewish street and gastronomic festival


May 29-June 1 -- Rome -- European Jewish Choir Festival

Every Thursday June 12-Sept 4 -- Florence -- Balagan Cafe

September 13-16 -- Milan -- Jewish and the City festival


April 30 - May 4 -- Leeuwarden -- Jiddisch Festival

September 13-16 -- Amsterdam -- International Jewish Music Festival and Competition


March 18-21 -- Szczeczin -- Adlojada Days of Jewish Culture

April 22-27  -- Warsaw -- Jewish Motifs Film Festival

May 10-11 -- Poznan -- 2nd Jewish Street Festival

May 22-25 -- Warsaw -- 5th New Jewish Music Festival

May 25-28 -- Warsaw -- 17th Jewish Book Days festival

June 6-10 -- Wroclaw -- 16th Simcha Jewish Culture Festival

June 15-15 -- Chmielnik -- 12th Meeting with Jewish Culture

June 7 -- Krakow -- 7@Nite festival (Night of the Synagogues)

June 13-15 -- Bialystok -- Zachor Festival Color & Sound

June 25-28 -- Oswiecim -- Oswiecim Life Festival

June 27-29 -- Zdunska Wola -- Festival of Three Cultures

June 27-July 6 -- Krakow -- Jewish Culture Festival

July 7 -- Szczekociny -- VII Jewish Culture Festival "Yahad"

July 12-26 -- southeast Poland -- In the Footsteps of Singer festival

August 19-23 -- Kazimierz Dolny -- Pardes Festival

August 23-31 -- Warsaw -- Singer's Warsaw Festival 


June 14-17 -- Bucharest -- Abraham Goldfaden Days


May 20-25 -- Oviedo -- Israel Week

June 9-14 -- Cordoba -- International Sephardic Music Festival

June 10-15 -- Barcelona -- Jewish Film Festival


May 15-19 -- L'viv -- Days of Yiddish in L'viv

May 26-30 -- Drohobycz  -- Bruno Schulz Festival


March 28-20 -- Youlgreave (near Matlock) Derbyshire -- KlezNorth

Monday, February 10, 2014

Prague Jewish Museum opens new visitor center

Photo: Jewish Museum Prague

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Prague Jewish Museum is the most visited museum in the Czech Republic -- drawing more than half a million visitors a year.

So in a way, it's high time that it has opened a new visitor information and reservation center.

The new facility opened Feb. 3 at Meiselsa 15, close to the historic synagogues that house the museum's collections, as well as to other Jewish sites such as the Old-New synagogue, the Old Jewish cemetery and the Jewish Town Hall.

According to the museum’s announcement on its web site:

This new site provides visitors with a multimedia information space and offers a range of additional services. It is an interactive information gateway with basic details about the monuments and permanent exhibitions in the Jewish Town, as well as about specific Jewish monuments in Prague and the rest of the Czech Republic. It also contains information about current educational and cultural programmes held by the museum and related organizations and institutions. Visitors will also be given useful tips on where to find kosher meals and on services provided by travel agencies specializing in Jewish heritage tours. [...] As well as providing services for individual tourists, the new centre will also accept bookings from guides, school representatives and travel agencies. It also includes a rest area with refreshments and toilet facilities, as well as disabled access and a baby changing table.

In October, the museum will mark 20 years since it was given back to Jewish ownership by the state, and the new visitor center is just one of the initiatives and changes that are being implemented this year to mark the anniversary.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recent updates from Jewish Heritage Europe

Postcard showing Chmielnik synagogue and the Archangel Gabriel

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

As I have begun to do on a regular basis, I'm posting here last week's updates from, the web site that I coordinate as a project of the Rothschild Foundation Europe. There's news mainly from Poland, Ukraine and Belarus.

I post on the JHE newsfeed several times a week, to keep content dynamic on what we aim to make the go-to web site for Jewish heritage issues in Europe. JHE will celebrate two years online next month, and we are planning to expand the enhance the site with new features.

Meanwhile -- please subscribe to the JHE news feed! You can use the subscribe buttons on the home page or on any of the news pages. The deal is that, on days that I post on the JHE news feed, you will receive one email with the links to the posts. Easy, convenient and informative, no? And you won't miss any of the feed.

Look at all the news we ran last week:

"Shtetl Routes" under development with EU grant in Poland-Belarus-Ukraine border region

An ambitious, international “Shtetl Routes” tourism itinerary through a score or more of towns in the Poland-Belarus-Ukraine border region is under development with a more than €400,000 grant from the European Union’s Cross-border Cooperation Programme Poland-Belarus-Ukraine 2007-2013.

Call for Papers: Conference “Urban Spaces of Lviv/Lwów/Lemberg: Imagination, Experiences, Practices”

Call for papers: New Research on Memory in Eastern Europe conference in Warsaw

Aim of the workshop is to discuss specificity of the collective memory and research of that memory in Ukraine and Belarus

Dariusz Stola named director of Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Report on Jewish Cemeteries in Silesia Province Published

The Brama Cukerman (Cukerman’s Gate) Foundation in Będzin, Poland, has recently published “Our Cemeteries,” a detailed, 50-page report on the state and status of the dozens of Jewish cemeteries in the Silesia Vojvodship (Province).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

This past week's updates from Jewish Heritage Europe

Murals of the Holy Land from Beit Tefilah Benjamin in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

As I did last weekend, I'm posting here this past week's updates from, the web site that I coordinate as a project of the Rothschild Foundation Europe. There's news from Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Italy and the UK....

I post on the JHE newsfeed several times a week, to keep content dynamic on what we aim to make the go-to web site for Jewish heritage issues in Europe. JHE will celebrate two years online next month, and we are planning to expand the enhance the site with new features.

Meanwhile -- please subscribe to the JHE news feed! You can use the subscribe buttons on the home page or on any of the news pages. The deal is that, on days that I post on the JHE news feed, you will receive one email with the links to the posts. Easy, convenient and informative, no? And you won't miss any of the feed.

Great news, thanks to the indefatigable Jasna Ciric

Launch of online catalogue of Romanian archives

Rich new resource

New digital uploads of old synagogue postcards from the Rosenthall collection

Fantastic images and great resource -- for the armchair traveler, too

Technology: 3d scanners help digitize weathered inscriptions

Science in action to benefit historic research!

Update: Bradford Synagogue received first tranche of lottery funding for restoration

A shining example of Jewish-Muslim cooperation

“Visions of the Holy Land” in northern Romanian synagogues

Explanation of beautiful murals that decorate synagogues

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy 2014 (& beyond) -- and catching up...

Preserved fragments of the wheel of the Zodiac on the synagogue in Chmielnik, Poland, now restored as a Jewish museum. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Happy new year!

I've been woefully neglectful of this blog in recent months....mainly because I have been concentrating a lot of energy on the web site that I coordinate --

I post on the JHE newsfeed several times a week, to keep content dynamic on what we aim to make the go-to web site for Jewish heritage issues in Europe. JHE will celebrate two years online next month, and we are planning to expand the enhance the site with new features.

Below are the links to the most recent JHE posts -- I'm sure readers of this blog will find them of interest.

Meanwhile -- please subscribe to the JHE news feed! You can use the subscribe buttons on the home page or on any of the news pages. The deal is that, on days that I post on the JHE news feed, you will receive one email with the links to the posts. Easy, convenient and informative, no?

As befits the change of year and change of seasons, I'm posting some examples of the wheel of the Zodiac, a traditional synagogue decorative device, from synagogues in Poland, Romania and Ukraine.

Cycle of the Zodiac in the replica of the ceiling of the wooden synagogue in Gwozdziec, now installed at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Recent JHE posts:

Plans/hopes for synagogue restoration work in Romania in 2014

"Miracle" clean-up and care of Jewish cemetery in Myslowice, Poland

January - calendar of Hasidic pilgrimages in Poland to tombs of Tzaddikim

Happy 2014 -- Gallery of Zodiac paintings from synagogues in Romania, Poland, Ukraine

Irish Jewish Museum gets OK for expansion; NIMBY objections overruled

Zodiac on ceiling of Beit Tfila Benjamin synagogue in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Zodiac on ceiling of disused synagogue in Siret, Romania. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Scholar in Residence fellowship -- call for applications

Candlesticks hands in blessing mark women's gravestones in Gura Humorului, Romania. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

by Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University  has issued its call for applications for the summer or fall 2014 Scholar in Residence program.

It's a wonderful opportunity -- I was the Scholar in Residence at the HBI in early 2011, when I worked on my Candlesticks on Stone project about the visual representation of women in Jewish tombstone art.

In addition to the creation of the project web site, I present a paper about my project, which has been posted online as part of the Donna Sudarsky Memorial Working Paper Series.

You can view my paper HERE -- unfortunately it does not include the pictures, but you can see those on the Candlesticks on Stone web site.

Here are the details about the Residency and call for applications. 

The HBI Scholar-in-Residence programs provide scholars, artists, writers and communal professionals the opportunity to be in residence at Brandeis University while working on significant projects in the field of Jewish women’s and gender studies. 
Scholars-in-Residence receive a monthly stipend and office space at the Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center. Applicants living outside the U.S. and those whose work has an international dimension are especially encouraged to apply. 
Helen Gartner Hammer Scholars-in-Residence Program – Summer or Fall 2014 
Scholars are invited to apply for residency at the HBI to carry out significant research and artistic projects in the field of Jewish women’s and gender studies. Papers written while at the HBI are included in the Donna Sudarsky Memorial Working Paper Series
Residencies range from one month to the full academic semester. Scholars may begin the residency in August but should note that not all members of the Brandeis community will be available until the start of the academic year in September. 
Application deadline: January 30, 2014 
A decision will be announced by April 17, 2014