In time for Shavuot, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the reception of the 10 Commandments from God, Sally Berkovic, the CEO of the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, has written a long, thoughtful essay proposing “10 Commandments” of Jewish Heritage — her hope is to spark and intensify debate, discussion and further elaboration of the subject in the tradition of Jewish scholarship and learning. Jewish Heritage Europe is a project of the Rothschild Foundation.
As she puts it:
The 10 commandments, received on Shavuot, are conceptually divided as commandments between God and Man (e.g. loving God, obeying God) and those between Man and Man (e.g. not to kill, steal or commit adultery) Another term for God is Makom, literally ‘place’ and this essay offers a complementary set of 10 commandments that are between the Place and Man, and between Man and Man (and of course, Woman).
Jewish heritage refers to everything that touches upon Jewish life, culture, art, ritual, history and literature, everything that touches upon Jewish space and Jewish time. A Jewish language, a Jewish building, the Sabbath, the rise of Zionism, Sephardi wedding dress, cantorial music, your grandmother’s Passover plate, an illuminated manuscript, and in our digital age, Jewish websites are all part of a broad definition of Jewish heritage.
This essay introduces a set of 10 commandments – and like any Jewish text, could and should be debated, argued and developed further. These thoughts are based on my experience as CEO of the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe and as such, tend to focus on Jewish heritage in Europe, but with the obvious exceptions of Holocaust-related memorials, could be applied and adapted to other countries.
I would also like to acknowledge the stellar work of specialists in the field who have dedicated their professional lives to preserving Jewish heritage and disseminating information about the challenges of maintaining Jewish heritage. I fear they will scoff at the way I have merely touched the surface of the topics raised, but these ‘commandments’ are construed to introduce readers to the breadth and complexity of the issues, rather than focus in depth on any one particular area.
Here are the basic points she posits — please read the full essay for the detailed description and please add your comments to continue the discussion!
1. Thou shalt not treat every old, derelict synagogue as sacrosanct
2. Thou shalt draw on the stores of knowledge contained in Jewish cemeteries and be programmatic about their ongoing preservation
3. Thou shalt guard your archives and implement an effective collection policy
4. Thou shalt acknowledge the complex role of museums and encourage their on-line presence
5. Thou shalt listen, record and document the voices of experience
6. Thou shall not make it cool to visit the death camps
7. Thou shalt ensure appropriate, sensitive and multi-lingual signage
8. Thou shalt acknowledge and support the selfless individuals caring for Jewish heritage
9. Thou shalt integrate a broad understanding Jewish heritage into the contemporary Jewish educational landscape
10. Thou shalt stay informed, think big, centralise information and embrace the digital age