It's no simple task to compress two thousand years of the Jewish Diaspora in Europe into a few exhibition panels and a 5 minute film, but that's the challenge that the National Library of Israel took on for the European Day of Jewish Culture (EDJC) which was marked in early September by Jewish communities and cultural institutions across Europe.
Produced by Amit Dekel
This is the second year that the NLI has cooperated with the European Day of Jewish Culture, a project of the AEPJ, The European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage, celebrating Jewish culture in dozens of cities throughout Europe. Last year we created an exhibition 'Jewish Languages', featuring a range of materials from the National Library's collections, which was very well received and is still being displayed and used for educational purposes.
This year's EDJC theme 'Diasporas', presented an opportunity to give a brief overview of the fascinating story of the Jewish Diaspora in Europe, stretching over two millennia, as told through a panel exhibition including selected historic and contemporary materials in the collections of the National Library of Israel.
EDJC in Wrocław September 2017, photo by Bente Kahan Foundation
Jewish Journeys sets the scene with a map indicating journeys from the Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, through the various migrations as Jews sought religious tolerance and economic opportunity, up until the mass emigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990's.
Communal Life explains the internal and external factors which determine the structure and organization of Jewish communities, featuring a map of the first Jewish ghetto in Venice just over five hundred years ago, and the fascinating Community Protocols (Pinkas Kehilla) from Frankfurt am Main, encompassing three centuries of self-governance together with examples of how Jews integrated into external society and economic life.
Venice map, by Frans Hogenburg, 1572 The National Library of Israel
Renowned Figures features archival images and photographs of a selection of the Jewish women and men who rose to positions of prominence and participated in European cultural life, especially after the Enlightenment.
Franz Kafka, notebook with Hebrew-German word list, Prague, ca. 1922. The National Library of Israel
Longing for Jerusalem shows how Jewish life, ritual, and prayer remained literally and figuratively facing East: towards Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, the symbolic center of the Jewish world binding together Jews scattered across the globe. Examples of manuscripts and contemporary items show the special place that Jerusalem and the Holy Land have held across the generations.
The exhibition and accompanying film have been displayed in cities across at least 12 countries in Europe including Novi Sad, Vilnius, Maribor, Wroclaw, Barcelona and Dublin – giving thousands of people a glimpse into the NLI's collections reflecting the rich and diverse Jewish life in the Diaspora.
The EDJC-NLI cooperation is part of the Gesher L'Europa initiative, creating opportunities for knowledge sharing and cultural exchange between the NLI and Europe.
EDJC in Novi Sad September 2017, photo by Caron Sethill