Monday, June 28, 2010

Poland Backlog

 Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

I'm in Poland, and I have a lot to post about Jewish heritage in the little (rather depressed and depressing) town of Piotrkow Trybunalski -- and also my impressions from Krakow, where I am attending the latest edition -- the 20th --  of the Festival of Jewish Culture.

I doubt if anyone out there is holding their breath for these reports..... but I'll get to them! Meanwhile a photo or two from the wonderful Jewish cemetery in Piotrkow....

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Italy -- Jewish Heritage Route in Pesaro opens

A Jewish heritage route in the Italian city of Pesaro will be operative this summer, as in past years, every Thursday afternoon through September.The route includes the old Jewish quarter, the synagogue, whose complex includes a mikvah and a matzo oven, and the Jewish cemetery.

 The synagogue, probably dating from the early 17th century, is noted for its beautifully decorate vaulting, is on via delle Scuole and will be open from 4-7 p.m. .The cemetery is nearby on the San Bartolo hill, and will be open from 5-7 p.m.

For information, call +39 0721 400858, or +39 335 1746509

For Italian speakers, here's what the newspaper Il Resto di Carlino says:
Collocata nel cuore dell’antico quartiere ebraico, la sinagoga sefardita (o di rito spagnolo) è uno degli edifici storici più suggestivi del centro che risale alla metà del XVI secolo. E’ questo un periodo d’oro per Pesaro che vede il suo porto ampliato, per boicottare quello di Ancona, da Guidubaldo II Della Rovere. In città accorrono molti ebrei portoghesi che hanno l’esigenza di continuare i propri studi mistici.

Infatti la struttura in cui è inglobata la sinagoga (o scola, termine con cui un tempo si indicava appunto la sinagoga), ospitava anticamente le scuole di studi cabalistici, di musica e materna. All’interno dell’edificio, perfettamente recuperato, si possono ammirare ancora oggi gli elementi architettonici legati alle funzioni che quel luogo svolgeva per la comunità, come il forno per la cottura del pane azzimo o la vasca per i bagni di purificazione.

Accanto alla sinagoga, anche il cimitero ebraico (strada panoramica San Bartolo c/o n. 161), è aperto da giugno a settembre il giovedì dalle 17 alle 19 (info Ente Parco Naturale Monte San Bartolo 0721 400858, 335 1746509). Adagiato sulle pendici del colle San Bartolo, fino a metà novecento lo spazio appariva come una scoscesa pendice campestre con rade alberature; nel 2002 è stato poi recuperato dalla Fondazione Scavolini che ne ha reso possibile la fruizione.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Italy -- Jewish Venice

 Chabadniks outside Chabad house in the Ghetto square. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

My latest Ruthless Cosmopolitan column is about disconnects and complexities of Jewish Venice.

In Venice, a Jewish disconnect between locals and visitors

By Ruth Ellen Gruber · June 16, 2010

VENICE, Italy (JTA) -- It was a Friday afternoon in the heart of the historic Venice Ghetto, and I was chatting with the city's chief rabbi, Elia Richetti, when his cellphone beeped.

"It's a text message from Gam-Gam Goodies, the Chabad-run pastry shop around the corner," said the bespectacled Richetti, whose wispy white beard spills down to his chest.

He read me the message, a reminder that there were still some chocolate, poppy-seed and cream-filled kosher pastries left -- and still time to pick them up before Shabbat.

"They really know how to use technology," Richetti said, smiling.

Many of the circles that make up Jewish Venice converged in that moment.

Richetti, who is also the president of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly, was speaking with me in the well-stocked Jewish bookstore and kosher cafe that form part of the Venice Jewish Museum, an institution founded by the Jewish community in 1953 that encompasses several of the ghetto's centuries-old synagogues.

Jews have lived in Venice since the Middle Ages; the old Jewish cemetery on the Venice Lido was founded in the 1300s. Venetian rulers established the ghetto as Europe's first enclosed place of Jewish segregation in 1516 on the site of an old foundry -- or getto, in the Venetian dialect.

The museum draws nearly 70,000 visitors a year, and locals say the annual number of Jewish visitors to Venice far exceeds that.

But the Venice Jewish community itself numbers fewer than 450, only a handful of whom live in the ghetto area. Only a few local Jews seek contacts with the tourists, other than as customers in their shops or bodies to make up a minyan.

"There is a paradox here," said Shaul Bassi, who heads the Venice Center for International Jewish Studies, an institution founded last year aimed at fostering intellectual and cultural interaction between Jewish visitors and Jewish Venetians.

"The Jewish community as such is eroding, and many are unaffiliated or disaffected," Bassi said. "But at the same time the ghetto has never been so famous. There has never been such a profound interest in the ghetto as a site of memory."

Picking up the slack, as far as foreign tourists go, is Chabad-Lubavitch, which in two decades of activity here has become the most prominent public face of Judaism in Venice.

Read full story HERE

I spent several days in Venice a couple of weeks ago, in part to visit with an aunt and uncle who were there on vacation, and in part to update myself on the varied components of Jewish life in the Lagoon City, which I wrote about in this piece.

Besides sampling the new Chabad-run pastry shop, Gam-Gam goodies (down the street from the long-established Chabad kosher restaurant Gam-Gam), I also stopped in a new glatt kosher restaurant and cafe garden, Balthazar, located in what used to be the Jewish old-age home (and where a few elderly members of the Venice Jewish community still live.)

 Outside the Balthazar restaurant. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

I also made it a point to go out to the Venice Lido to visit my friend Aldo Izzo, a retired sea captain who takes care of the historic Jewish cemeteries there. The old cemetery dates from the 14th century. Here are some pictures of it.

 Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

 Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

 Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bosnia -- Jewish cemetery in Zenica

If people know anything about the Jewish history and sites of Bosnia-Hercegovina, it is about Sarajevo, where there is a wealth of fascinating attractions.

Here is link to a collection of photos I have run across about the Jewish cemetery in Zenica, a town in the center of the country, northwest of Sarajevo, which has been cleaned up.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book -- Catalogue of Synagogues in Lithuania

 Two former synagogues in Kedainiai, Lithuania, 2006. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem has announced the publication of the first volume of its ambitious catalogue of Synagogues in Lithuania.

This publication offers a catalogue of the extant synagogues in Lithuania: 96 buildings in 59 cities and towns, among them 17 synagogues built of wood. Until World War II there were about 1,000 Jewish prayer houses in Lithuania, while today only 10% exist, many abandoned and in different state of deterioration. Only three synagogues are active.
The catalogue consists of 59 geographical entries. Each entry includes a short overview of the history of the Jewish community in the town where a synagogue is preserved, comprehensive information about the vanished synagogues in that town and a detailed description of the extant synagogue building or buildings. The entries are richly illustrated with archival historical photographs and architectural designs of the synagogues, and recent documentation of the extant buildings with measured architectural drawings. The catalogue has two introductory articles: “Synagogues in Lithuania: A Historical Overview” by Dr. Vladimir Levin and “Synagogue Architecture in Lithuania” by Dr. Sergey Kravtsov.
The first volume of the catalogue includes the following entries:
Alanta, Alsedžiai, Alytus, Anykščiai, Balbieriškis, Biržai, Čekiške, Daugai, Eišiškes, Jonava, Joniškelis, Joniškis, Kaltinenai, Kalvarija, Kaunas, Kedainiai, Klaipeda, Krekenava, Kupiškis, Kurkliai, Laukuva, Lazdijai, Linkuva, Lygumai, Marijampole, Merkine.
The second volume is due for publication at the end of 2010 and will include the entries:
Pakruojis, Panevėžys, Pasvalys, Plungė, Prienai, Pušalotas, Raguva, Ramygala, Rietavas, Rozalimas, Salantai, Seda, Šeta, Šiauliai, Šilalė, Simnas, Širvintos, Skaudvilė, Švėkšna, Telšiai, Tirkšliai, Troškūnai, Ukmergė, Utena, Vabalninkas, Veisiejai, Vilnius, Vištytis, Žagarė, Zarasai, Žasliai, Žemaičių Naumiestis, Žiežmariai.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lithuania -- Jewish Library in Vilnius is Opening

After years of fighting, it looks as if Wyman Brent has won the battle to establish a Jewish library in Vilnius. An article in the Baltic Report covers  an inaugural event and says the Library will open this summer.

Brent, a native of San Diego and a Christian, came to Vilnius in 1994 and said he fell in love with the country and with the Jewish history of Vilnius, which stretches back around 700 years. The library currently has no permanent home, but it already has around 5,000 items, which will eventually increase to around 200,000. It is expected to open to the public by late July and will likely be based at Gedimino 24, the building that houses the Vilnius Small Theater.“Jewish culture was and is a part of Lithuania’s past, present and future. I came here and I fell in love, but I did not know for what reason — then when I had the idea for the library, Vilnius was again the Jerusalem of the north. It is the greatest center of Jewish culture in Europe,” Brent said at the opening in the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute in Vilnius.

Read full story HERE

For prior posts on this ambitious project, click HERE

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Greece -- The synagogue in Rhodes

The Jerusalem Post runs a story about the synagogue in Rhodes, the oldest in Greece.

The spacious, Sephardi-style house of worship has a beautiful wooden bima in the middle of the men’s section and an exquisite, traditional white pebble floor with black pebble decorations. Behind the synagogue is a museum, funded by far-flung descendants of the Jewish community, displaying textiles and documents which explain the daily lives and the rituals of the Jews of Rhodes.

Read more HERE

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Poland --Heidi Szpek explores remaining mikvahs

Once again, I want to highlight a fascinating article by the scholar Heidi Szpek in the online Jewish Magazine. In this piece Szpek, who has written extensively about the Jewish cemetery in Bialystok and also collaborated with the local Bialystok researcher Tomaz Wisniewski, describes her exploration of surviving mikvah buildings in the Bialystok region, particularly that in the village of Bocki.
On my first visit to Bocki in May of 2005 no sign indicated that this was the mikvah; no plaque upon the mikvah marked this structure as an artifact of Jewish heritage (fig. 2). No one was present to inquire if I might walk through the waist high grass and weeds beside the Nurzec River and visit the mikvah. Electric company workers engaged in repairing a junction box on the bridge with their entourage of youthful onlookers were oblivious to my presence as I made my way toward the mikvah. The mikvah's appearance had changed since the 1986 photo in my guidebook.3 Gone were the wooden shake roof and chimney. The vertical wooden planks and wooden roof that covered the mikvah bath proper were likewise gone. No remnants of wood remained on the ground; no doubt, they had been used for some other purpose. Halfway to the mikvah, I observed that the walls had begun to buckle inwardly in places. Yet 'brick and stone' was not a completely accurate description for the building materials of this mikvah, rather the exterior walls were of variegated fieldstones, expertly joined by mortar. The foundation was of red brick as were the window frames, jambs and the frame of an upper door that once must have exited to a small balcony. The front façade also held three small circular windows again bordered by brick. As I drew near the mikvah, the large wooden plank entrance doors still remained – the right one slightly ajar as if someone had just entered. And so, too, did I enter. The inside was as overgrown as the outside, tall shrubs as well as weeds and grass had reclaimed the interior. The mikvah proper was filled with shrubbery. The river, from which the mikvah once drew its water supply, was now blocked by a copse of shrubbery trees, suggesting that for a long time the proximity of the mikvah and river had remained distant. The wrought iron bands that created multi-squared windows beside and opposite the entrance still remained, the back window looking out to a farm field that very well may have been a farm field in the past (fig. 3). Inside, too, were the fallen remains of the brick window frames, yet in places the interior plaster whitewash still remained intact. Remnants of interior walls suggested a multi-room, two-story structure.
On the ground, too, I discovered the fractured pieces of a once simple but delicate soft gray lintel that no doubt graced each window (fig. 4). It lay where it had fallen when the window frames gave way, in pieces like a puzzle that could easily be connected. But they would not be connected. For though they lay undisturbed the elements would slowly break down this composite substance, returning it to the earth from where it had once come. How soon, too, would the remaining walls give way of their own accord, or perhaps by the farmer whose electric wire line extended past the back side of the mikvah towards the river, or to construction needs of the tall brick building nearby? Twenty years had passed since the guidebook's photo and great changes were evident.
          Read full article HERE

Szpek includes photographs that clearly show the way that the building has become more degraded and overgrown in the years since she first saw it.
Outside of the mikvah, the grasses and stinging nettles grew so tall as to make circumventing the mikvah nearly impossible. Yet someone now brought greetings. Cows from the nearby farm grazed on the grasses about the mikvah, literally drawing near to my greeting of "Dzie Dobry". From the mikvah's window facing the river, a tiny white and burnished- red barn cat peered out. The red of its fur nearly blended with the window's red brick frame.

Poland -- Festivals (not Krakow....)

 Synagogue in Chmielnik, 2006. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

By now, the Festival of Jewish Culture in Krakow, which marks its 20th edition this year (June 26-July 4), is wellknown around the world. But Poland is host to many other Jewish culture festivals of one sort or another, which frequently take place in towns and villages where Jews no longer live. This month, for example, there are at least three: in Bialystok, Sejny and Chmielnik.

The Zahor: Color and Sound Jewish culture festival takes place June 13-15 in Bialystok. It features lectures, concerts and films.

Another edition of the annual Musicians' Raft  series of workshops/concerts/events on Yiddish culture, held in Sejny, near the Lithuanian border, June 13-19 and organized by the Borderland Foundation, a wonderful foundation dedicated to presenting and preserving minority cultures in Poland and elsewhere.

Young music bands from Central Europe, Israel, Turkey, Denmark, New York and Great Britain will to participate in the project: Steve Swell (NY), Mikołaj Trzaska (Gdańsk), Mark Sanders (London), Olie Brice (London), Raphael Rogiński (Warszawa), Paul Brody (Berlin), Gökçe Kilincer (London), Tahir Palali (London), Peter Ole Jørgensen (Kopenhagen) and Klezmer Band from Sejny. The meeting of experienced musicians, who refer to tradition, and young artists, who prefer the new sounds, will be really interesting. Rummy music experiments are expected! The seminars about the yiddish culture in Central-Eastern Europe are the integral part of the project. The seminars are set to lead by well-known scholars and attended by 15 students who would like to learn more about Jewish history.

June 18-20, the 8th annual "Meetings with Jewish Culture" takes place in the small villages of Szydlow and Chmielnik, in south-central Poland. No Jews live in either village, but both  boast huge historic former synagogues.



18-20 JUNE 2010

Friday, 18 june 2010 – Szydlow

17:00 (5 p.m.) - Theatrical spectacle: “Chasidy Stories” by Jewish Theatre.

18:00 (6 p.m.) - Theatrical spectacle in execution of young people from Szydlow’s school.

19:00 (7 p.m.) - Open the exhibition called "I see faces, hear steps" made by Malgorzata Gladyszewska and the painting-sculpturing of the Plastic Arts Association in Kielce.

19:20 (7:20 p.m.) - The "Qartet Klezmer Trio" team from Krakow concert on the market.

20:35 (8:35 p.m.) – finish show.

19 – 20 JUNE 2010 – CHMIELNIK

Saturday, 19 june 2010 - the House of Culture in Chmielnik

17:00 (5 p.m.) – open the photo exhibition by Ryszard Biskup and drawing & graphic arts by Cezary Zdrojewski.

17:35 (5:35 p.m.) – premiere the videoclip of “Chmielnikers” band.

17:40 (5:40 p.m.) - dancing show inspired by the Jewish music made by children from the Elementary School in Chmielnik.

18:00 (6 p.m.) - Theatrical performance called "On the world borderland" made by Poem Theatre "In Radziwill" from Szydlowiec.

18:40 (6:40 p.m.) - Theatrical performance called "Jonash – The Prophet" made by Theatre Team "Bonteo" from Krakow.

19:15 (7:15 p.m.) - dancing show inspired by the Jewish music made by children from the Basic School in Chmielnik.

20:00 (8 p.m.) – “Jidisze Perl” – Jewish religious songs by Nina Stiller. Piano – Artur Jerzy Zielinski.

21:00 (p.m.) - finish show.

Sunday, 20 june 2010.

12:00 (12 noon) - The solemn holy mass in the Church in Chmielnik.

In the Synagogue in Chmielnik:

13:30 (1:30 p.m.) - Open the exhibition called "Jews from Chmielnik story" made by Leszek Wawrzyk.

13:45 (1:45 p.m.) – Performance called “This cities wasn’t there…” – singer Ewa Warta Smietana, recite Jerzy Trela.

15:00 – “Around Chopin music” – piano Krystyna Man-Szczepanczyk.

At the time: 13:00 - 20:00 at the Synagogue on the Sienkiewicza and Wspolna street will be the introductions of handicraft, Jewish food, plastic performances as well as the demonstrations of Jewish art of boiling, illumined the performance of klezmer team called the "Klezmafour".

On the Market:

16:00 (4 p.m.) – Shows by the children and youth:

- dancing show inspired by the Jewish music made by children from the Elementary School in Chmielnik.

- “Szmoncesy” - theatrical performance by children from Elementary and Basic School in Chmielnik.

16:15 (4:15 p.m.) – Jewish dance practice part 1 – by Ewa Gajo.

16:45 (4:45 p.m.) – The final of the Second Youth Jewish Songs Contest in Chmielnik.

17:30 (5:30 p.m.) – Band “Chmielnikers” concert.

18:15 (6:15 p.m.) – Results of the Second Youth Jewish Songs Contest in Chmielnik.

18:30 (6:30 p.m.) - dancing show inspired by the Jewish music made by girls from the Basic School in Chmielnik.

18:45 (6:45 p.m.) – Jewish dance practice part 2 – by Ewa Gajo.

20:00 (8 p.m.) – Leonard Cohen’s songs “The deep of the heart” by Pawel Orkisz & Band.

21:30 (9:30 p.m.) – finish show.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ukraine -- Profile of Meylakh Sheykhet

 Meylakh Shekhet, Sam Gruber, and me in L'viv

I'm delighted to share this link to a profile in Canada's National Post  of my friend Meylakh Sheykhet in L'viv, who has devoted much of his life to identifying and preserving Jewish cemeteries and sites of WW2 mass execution.  Specifically, it describes one of Meylakh's current projects, an attempt, with Canadian aid, to restore the Jewish cemetery in Sambir, near L'viv.
Ever since he ventured into the Ukrainian countryside and saw the remnants of bulldozed Jewish cemeteries, and ever since he saw Holocaust mass graves that lie unkempt in the forests there, Meylakh Sheykhet has fought for the right to remember.

Over the past 20 years, Mr. Sheykhet has found and worked to restore more than 150 Jewish cemeteries in Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus, cemeteries that were destroyed or forgotten under Soviet rule.

With his greying beard and traditional Jewish dress, Mr. Sheykhet is known in Ukraine and beyond as the guardian of Jewish cemeteries. His voice is calm but impassioned as he speaks of his mission to preserve the history of a once-thriving Jewish community.

“When I witnessed the lost cemeteries for the first time, with their tombstones broken and bowed to the earth, I felt deeply connected,” said Mr. Sheykhet, who is in Toronto this weekend to address Ukrainian and Jewish audiences on his efforts. “I cannot explain it, but they called out for my protection.”

Among the villages assailed by the Nazis is the western Ukraine town of Sambir, which is home to Mr. Sheykhet’s latest quest: A centuries-old Jewish cemetery, where a Holocaust mass grave also lies.

On the first day of Passover in 1943, more than 1,200 Jews were shot and buried at the cemetery in Sambir, which was called Sambor when the town was part of Poland. Today, the cemetery — its tombstones destroyed in 1974 — doubles as a garbage dump and an overgrown pasture for cattle grazing.

Mark Freiman, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, made his own pilgrimage to the cemetery in 2007, paying homage with his brother to their grandparents and aunts and uncles who perished there during the Holocaust.

“All of my instincts told me I had to undertake an effort to memorialize this place,” Mr. Freiman said from his Toronto home. “Seeing the place, touching the stones, and lighting a memorial candle in front of the mass grave made the history entirely real and entirely personal.”

Mr. Freiman’s partnership with Mr. Sheykhet began in the fall of last year, and has so far sparked the beginnings of a historic assessment of the site. Their work, sometimes lonely and with few allies, picks up where another Canadian’s efforts left off.
Read more by clicking here

Meylakh was on a speaking tour in Canada and several articles about him and his worked appeared. Click HERE   for a lengthy piece in Shalom Life.

He told Shalom Life that initially, he decided to take part in volunteer work to preserve the graves, while continuing his professional career.

“I meant (to just do it) for a while but it has happened for life,” said Meylakh who is also the director for Ukraine for the Union of Councils for the Jews in the Former Soviet Union. He added that he eventually realized it was not possible to do both and decided to focus on preserving Jewish cemeteries full time.

Meylakh has made it his mission over the last 10 years to protect and preserve as many Ukrainian Jewish cemeteries and mass graves as possible.

He explained that during Soviet times, the authorities denied the legitimacy and existence of Jewish cemeteries and mass graves, while using propaganda to accuse Jews for all sorts of crimes and turning the Star of David into an evil symbol. As he was familiar with this history of falsification, he felt that he could be useful in navigating the complex bureaucracy in Ukraine; during that early days after communism fell, Western visitors and dignitaries were getting the run around from the government which was giving them all sorts of excuses why it could not protect the cemeteries.

The cemeteries had even been removed from all maps and any mention of their existence was erased as if Jews never existed. Prominent Jews and rabbis who visited the country were even told that there were no laws on the book to protect cemeteries when the opposite was true.

“I made everything possible to show that they were mislaid and that the rule of law did exist for the burial sites and that the bureaucracy must follow it up and they have to respect the Jewish grave sites as required by international agreements and the rule of law of Ukraine,” he said.

So far, Meylakh has been involved in investigating more than 150 sites, producing documentation and physically protecting a third of those. However, he explained that there are literally thousands of such sites, currently in poor condition, that need to be protected.

“They need a lot of work, they need a lot of monetary investment and most important, they have to be reconstituted in a legal way because they have to be put back on city and town maps,” he said.

One would think after so many years of heroic dedication and hard work, the job would now be easier; sadly, today it is the exact opposite because of the short-sighted economic policies of the Ukrainian government.
 Read More by clicking HERE

Friday, June 4, 2010

Virtually Jewish available as ebook

I happened to look at the page for Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe and was delighted to see that it is available as an e-book on Kindle. (Which now can also be read on other e-readers including IPhone and IPod Touch).

More on the YIVO online Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe

I posted a brief note about the online publication of the YIVO  Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe a few days ago.  I was too lazy (or, rather, pressed for time.....) to post most than a publication notice. But Bob Cohen has posted a very informative review, noting some of the highlights, on his Dumneazu blog -- worth reading.
The new YIVO site brings together contemporary leaders in Yiddish culture like Prof. Dovid Katz on the history of Yiddish, Judit Frigyesi on liturgical music, and even a section of Hungarian Jewish literature by János Kőbányai, editor of the Hungarian Jewish magazine Múlt és Jövő. The YIVO is a unique institution: founded in Vilnius in 1925 as the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut. YIVO preserves manuscripts, rare books, and diaries, and other Yiddish sources YIVO was initially proposed by Yiddish linguist and writer Nochum Shtif (1879–1933). He characterized his advocacy of Yiddish as "realistic" Jewish nationalism, contrasted to the "visionary" Hebraists and the "self-hating" assimilationists who adopted Russian or Polish.

Book -- New Book about Bialystok, Poland

 Monument to the destroyed main synagogue in Bialystok. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Jewish Bialystok and Its Diaspora, by Rebecca Kobrin, a new book about Bialystok and the Jews who both lived and left there, has been published by the University of Indiana Press. From the description, it sounds as if it shows how memories of "the old country" are connected with the reality of the New World.
The mass migration of East European Jews and their resettlement in cities throughout Europe, the United States, Argentina, the Middle East and Australia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries not only transformed the demographic and cultural centers of world Jewry, it also reshaped Jews' understanding and performance of their diasporic identities. Rebecca Kobrin's study of the dispersal of Jews from one city in Poland -- Bialystok -- demonstrates how the act of migration set in motion a wide range of transformations that led the migrants to imagine themselves as exiles not only from the mythic Land of Israel but most immediately from their east European homeland. Kobrin explores the organizations, institutions, newspapers, and philanthropies that the Bialystokers created around the world and that reshaped their perceptions of exile and diaspora.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Paris -- Festival of Jewish Cultures

I just added a link in my annual list of Jewish culture festival  (see the sidebar of this blog)  to the 6th Festival of Jewish Cultures (Festival des Cultures Juives), which takes place in Paris June 13-28.

The program includes an international roster of music, art, theater, film and more in several locations around the city -- and particularly in the old Jewish neighborhood of the Marais. Most of the events are linked to Russia and Jewish culture there.

Le Festival des Cultures Juives propose 15 jours de manifestations culturelles éclectiques et originales (conférences, concerts, expositions, films, théâtres, visites) destinées à faire découvrir la richesse et la diversité de la culture juive de par le monde, dans un esprit d'ouverture, de dialogue et d'échanges.
Sa vocation est triple :
  • Découverte d'une culture juive plurielle
  • Mémoire et héritage d'un patrimoine qui a marqué les âges
  • Ouverture et affirmation d'une culture juive ouverte sur la Cité

Un concept original

Un Festival au coeur du Marais
Le Festival des Cultures Juives se déroule tous les étés, au mois de juin dans le Marais, quartier emblématique de l'histoire de la communauté juive qui y a inscrit sa culture.
Une programmation éclectique et de qualité
La programmation est à la fois festive (concerts, représentations théâtrales, spectacles), ludique (expositions, ateliers, projection de films) et académique (conférences, tables-rondes).
Un festival ouvert à tous les publics
Le festival s'adresse à un large public, amateur ou connaisseur, ainsi qu'à tous les âges.

L'engagement de la Ville de Paris

Fort de son succès populaire, le Festival est inscrit au calendrier officiel de la Ville de Paris au même titre que « Paris plage » ou « Nuit blanche ».
Le Maire de Paris accueille chaque année la soirée d'ouverture du Festival à l'Hôtel de Ville.

Les partenaires : une collaboration originale

Depuis sa création, le Festival a réuni 80 partenaires institutionnels, associatifs, publics ou privés.
  • Fonds Social Juif Unifié, porteur du projet
  • Municipalités (Mairies des 3e et 4e arrondissements, Mairie de Paris)
  • Ambassades (Israël, Pologne)
  • Institutions et associations culturelles
  • Hauts lieux culturels de la Capitale

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

YIVO Encylopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe is online!

The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe is online -- though the official launch is next week.

A fabulous resource!

The only resource of its kind, this encyclopedia provides the most complete picture of the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe from the beginnings of their settlement in the region to the present. This Web site makes accurate, reliable, scholarly information about East European Jewish life accessible to everyone.
 But oh, I can already feel that I'm going to be spending many hours on this site....