Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bratislava Seminar on Jewish Heritage -- Promotion, Preservation

Information at synagogue in Samorin, Slovakia, now an arts center. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Last week I attended an international seminar in Bratislava on strategies for the preservation, management and promotion of Jewish built heritage in (mainly) post-communist Europe.

In the past 10 or 15 years, many buildings -- including former synagogues -- have been restituted to Jewish communities in these countries. Some (most?) are in poor condition. What can/should be done with them? This was the core issue of what turned out to be a very intensive meeting that combined discussion with on-site visits.

Representatives of Jewish communities in about 15 countries attended, along with a group of experts (including myself). My brother, Sam Gruber, who is president of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments and also blogs on the subject, was one of the organizers and served as the chief moderator. The seminar was sponsored/organized by the JDC (Joint Distribution Committee), the Cahnman Foundation, the World Monuments Fund, the Rothschild Foundation, and Maros Borsky (who heads the Slovak Jewish Heritage Center).

The meeting touched on many aspects of the broad issue -- from Jewish law (Halacha) regarding synagogue buildings and cemeteries to fund raising to tourism promotion.

I will try to post several short reports, touching on specific aspects of what was discussed or emerged, rather than an overview.

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