Friday, November 19, 2010

Austria -- parliament approves funding for Jewish cemeteries

Jewish cemetery, Eisenstadt, Austria. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

The AP reports that the Austrian Parliament has approved €20 million euros for the restoration and upkeep of the more than 60 Jewish cemeteries around the country. As I reported at the time, the funds were initially pledged last December.
The bill foresees annual government payments of €1 million ($1.4 million) into a special fund over the next 20 years. The country's Jewish community will supplement the government's contributions each year through €1 million in donations.

The measure, which takes effect in 2011, also asks local municipalities where such cemeteries are located to maintain them for at least 20 years after they have been restored.
 The Austrian Jewish Community web site has an extensive page listing all the cemeteries and giving their history, size, location, condition and notes on any current or recent restoration efforts.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Poland -- New director at Galicia Jewish Museum

The ground-breaking Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow's Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, has appointed a new director, Kazimierz-born Jakub Nowakowski. Nowakowski has worked at the museum since 2005, most recently as its education direction. He will replace  Kate Craddy who has returned to England, to take up an appointment at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham. Craddy herself became director after the death in 2007 of the museum's founder, the British photographer Chris Schwarz. The museum's core exhibition is formed by Chris's photographs of Jewish heritage sites, taken mainly in the 1990s -- they also form the basis for the book Recovering Traces of Memory, with text by Jonathan Webber.

Nowakowski has an MA in History from the Department of Jewish Studies at the Jagiellonian University, as well as a postgraduate diploma in Management and Marketing from the Kraków School of Economics and Computer Science.  He also holds a Tour Leader’s Licence from the City of Kraków.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Krakow --Cheder Cafe

There's an ever-growing number of venues in Krakow's old Jewish quarter Kazimierz where you can  eat, drink, hangout.... and they have expanded far beyond the Jewish-style cafes that first began appearing on Szeroka St. 18 years ago....Only a fraction of the venues are now "Jewish" or "Jewish-style." The Krakow Post highlights one of the latest in this grouping -- the Cheder cafe, an offshoot of the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, which opened about three years ago in a former prayer room in the High Synagogue complex.
Conceived as something more than just a hangout with a Middle Eastern feel to it, Cheder (pronounced “headair”) also serves as a cultural and educational centre – perhaps no surprise given that this is an offshoot of the Jewish Culture Festival Association.

On entering the venue, guests are enveloped by a soothing ambiance - especially so for those who enjoy cosy, library-like surroundings. This comparison is not random – high wooden shelves with ornamental carvings in the shapes of Hebrew letters (which form a lion – symbol of Jerusalem and Jewish culture) are heavy with books, and guests are welcome to browse amongst them. Other Jewish ornaments are discreetly placed in such surprising spots as coat racks or a menora-shaped lamp embedded in the wall. This distinctive design, along with matching Oriental, yet kitsch-free music, made me want to linger a little longer.

Monday, November 8, 2010

France -- Festival (and stereotypes?)


Affiche du IXème Festival JazznKlezmer
Poster for Jazz 'n' Klezmer festival

I've just posted a link to the 9th edition of the Jazz 'n' Klezmer festival in Paris, which takes place Nov. 21-Dec. 13, with some big names taking part -- David Krakauer, Balkan Beat Box, etc.

What I find interesting are the iconic stereotypes used in the poster (see above) -- a sexy Black woman to symbolize jazz and a (sort of sexy) beardless Hasid to symbolize klezmer.....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Romania/Ukraine/Moldova -- New Book by Simon Geissbuehler

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Swiss diplomat Simon Geissbuehler, who has just completed a posting in Bucharest (and moved on to a new one in Warsaw), has published another book on Jewish traces in Eastern Europe. This one is called "Like Shells on a Shore: Synagogues and Jewish Cemeteries of Northern Moldavia" -- it is a slim monograph, essentially a travelogue that  documents journeys that Simon took through neighboring parts of today's northern Romania, Ukraine and Moldova, mostly in an area demarcated by the Siret and Dniester rivers. An abbreviated account can be viewed online HERE.

Simon documents the Jewish sites her finds in the region, mainly synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, but he also gives thoughtful views on the nature of heritage, Jewish heritage and memory in these places -- memory that is fast receding if not already extinguished. He reluctantly concludes that there is little will or desire there to remember the destroyed Jewish world preserve its physical relics.

The most striking places that Simon documents in his book are the huge abandoned Jewish cemetery outside the remote village of Vadul Raskov, Moldova on the bank of the Dniester -- also documented in words and images in the Moldova Impressions blog

Photo: Moldova Impressions blog
-- and the ruins of a magnificent 18th century synagogue at Raskov,  just across the river, in the self-proclaimed state of Transnistria.
Photo by Sergey Bulanov, at