Jewish Heritage Europe is an expanding web portal to a wide range of news, information and resources concerning Jewish monuments and heritage sites all over Europe. It is a project of the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe (RFHE) and builds on and expands a previous version of the site. JHE thanks and gratefully acknowledges the people who worked so hard on the original site, in particular Dr. Sharman Kadish, Dr. Syd Greenberg, Dr. Samuel D. Gruber and Jon Cannon.
The current coordinator of JHE is Ruth Ellen Gruber.
JHE aggregates information, sheds light on Jewish heritage issues, and aims to stimulate discussion and exchanges among professionals and the interested public.
The original JHE was launched after a major conference on the Future of Jewish Heritage, held in Prague in 2004. The current version was conceived as a follow-up to an important seminar held in Bratislava, Slovakia in March 2009 that discussed the state of Jewish heritage sites in Europe as well as strategies for their restoration, use and upkeep. That seminar, attended by international Jewish heritage experts as well as by representatives from Jewish communities in more than a dozen countries, resulted in a statement of specific “Best Practices” about how to deal with Jewish heritage sites.
The statement — the Bratislava Statement — made clear that:
The ongoing struggle for property and resource restitution has often overshadowed the practical issues of how to manage community properties already held, or those returned.
Proper care of these properties; often involving substantial costs, difficult planning and use issues, and demanding historical and architectural preservation concerns, have preoccupied many Jewish communities for years. In many cases, and especially for smaller Communities, the needs of these properties continue to stretch professional and financial resources. Everyday community needs often delay or prevent the attention that properties require.
Each Jewish community faces its own specific situations, and has unique needs, but there are many shared problems and needs that can be addressed collectively. Importantly, there are also solutions – many of which have been pioneered by Communities themselves – that can be shared, too.
(The full text of the Bratislava Statement, with the list of best practices, can be found in the “Resources” section of this web site.)
JHE’s coordinator is Ruth Ellen Gruber, an award-winning journalist, author and researcher who has documented Jewish heritage and chronicled Jewish cultural developments and contemporary Jewish issues in Europe for more than 25 years.
She is responsible for all content on the site, including the News Feed.
Ruth is the author of several books, including National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe, whose first edition came out in 1992; Upon the Doorposts of Thy House: Jewish Life in East-Central Europe, Yesterday and Today; and Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe. Her reports, articles, photographs and essays have appeared in many publications, including the New York Times, Tablet Magazine, the Jewish Quarterly Review, and Jewish Cultural Studies.
Her awards and honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship; a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities; Visiting Scholar fellowships at the Hadassah Brandeis Institute and the Autry National Center; and Poland’s Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit. Ruth was the Arnold Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston, South Carolina, for the spring semester, 2015.
The International Survey of Jewish Monuments (ISJM) defines Jewish monuments very broadly — to include art, artifacts, and sites that are of significance to the history, religion and culture of Jews and Judaism.
Jewish Heritage Europe includes information on museums, exhibitions and more intangible material, but our primary focus in on built heritage, that is, physical sites and places, rather than art and artifacts.
– Archaeological sites with evidence of Jewish activity and/or settlement, or events significant in the history of Jews;
– Buildings such as synagogues, Jewish schools, mikvaot, houses of rabbis and other prominent people;
– Various types of former and actual Jewish quarters, ghettos, settlements, and neighborhoods;
– Cemeteries and other funerary sites and all the art and architectural elements they contain;
To a lesser extent JHE also focuses on Holocaust-related sites including ghettos; deportation centers; concentration, labor and death camps; killing sites and mass graves; memorials and monuments; and other places.
JHE’s primary goals are to promote the identification, description, study, protection, preservation and appropriate use of Jewish monuments and heritage sites in situ and to foster an exchange of news, information, and expertise regarding these places and this process among a growing network of individuals, institutions and organizations.
A key feature of the web site is the News Feed, which is updated on a regular basis with a variety of material.
As the site grows, we will post more and more information and links about where to turn for project funding, how to ask an expert about preservation and other problematic issues, and how to get involved with the preservation process on an individual, grass roots or institutional basis, how to integrate Jewish heritage into education and tourism, and the like.
The site also features an expanding database of resources and links – including bibliographic material, lists of sites, photo galleries, and links to web sites that focus on Jewish heritage sites and issues.
JHE also will include commissioned articles and book reviews by experts, as well as “In Focus” features on historical developments as well as specific sites, issues, projects, personalities, expertise, dilemmas, and experience.