In December 2021, 1,700 flags were raised to commemorate 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany. “Auf das Leben!” German for: “To life!” (l’chaim). This Jewish toast can be read on these flags, flying high in state parliaments, synagogues, churches, universities, museums, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and many more public places.
A series of celebrations, exhibitions, events and commemorations throughout Germany, the festival year #2021JLID is being extended until July 31, 2022.
The campaign is an initiative of the association “321-2021: 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany,” taking a stance against anti-Semitism in Germany.
The history of Jews in Germany dates back to the year 321 when the Roman Emperor Constantine issued an edict that marked the earliest evidence of Jewish life in Germany. The story of the edict is quite fascinating since it was born out of a profane need: the city council of Cologne had to repair a damaged bridge but lacked the financial means. A Jew named Isaac offered monetary assistance but required a professional position in the city council to do so. Emperor Constantine granted the ensuing request for permission, resulting in the first firmly written evidence of Jewish life in Europe, North of the Alps.
Despite a varied history and the unspeakable crimes against humanity of the Nazi regime during the Shoa, Jews resettled in Germany following World War II. Today, more than 200,000 people have made their home in about 100 Jewish Communities across the country. They contributed greatly to the development of Germany in the arts, philosophy, science, medicine and economic landscape, and became an inseparable part of our society.
Places of Jewish heritage can be found throughout the country: the Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin, the Synagogues in Cologne, Erfurt, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Ulm, Bayreuth, Augsburg, the Jewish Cemetery ‘Heiliger Sand’ in Worms, the ShUM Sites on the Rhine, the “document” at the Neupfarrplatz in Regensburg, the timber-framed synagogue in Celle, the New Synagogue in Dresden and the Ohel Jakob Synagogue in Munich are just some examples.
The anniversary year conveys aspects about Jewish culture, traditions and customs and sends a clear message against anti- Semitism. Events are organized nationwide under the name #2021JLID – Jewish Life in Germany, including concerts, virtual exhibitions, music, podcasts, video projects, theater, and films.
The Shared History Project was initiated by the Leo Baeck Institute – New York | Berlin (LBI) and supported by #2021JLID – Jüdisches Leben in Deutschland e.V. with funding from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI).
A joint initiative between the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Catholic, Protestant churches and other groups provides cultural and historical exhibitions about Jewish life and faith in the country as well as commemorations, postage stamps, and the production of a Jewish food guide.The wide-ranging activities – almost 1,500 overall – both in analog and digital form, have one goal in common: to strike a balance between past, present, and future.
The events throughout the year 2021 brought a sense of new confidence to light, allowing many Jews to show their culture and customs in the streets of Germany, resulting in an experience of togetherness between Jews and non-Jews.
The federal government has followed requests and decided that the festival year #2021JLID will be extended until July 31, 2022. For the project partners whose events could not take place in the planned form due to the Covid-19 pandemic (e.g. with an audience or with guests from abroad), this provides the opportunity to carry out the events after all. The “Jewish Traveler” e-brochure highlights 65 cities and towns with special travel tips and contact details of Jewish organizations and institutions.
A collection of resources on Jewish Life in Germany today provides current and upcoming radio programs, links to activities of government and public institutions, as well as state, city, and local authorities.
The following calendar provides insight into a variety of celebrations honoring Jewish culture in Germany.
Augsburg, Bavaria: The Jewish Museum in Augsburg shows two exhibitions reflecting on Jewish life in the city. The exhibition “Jews through the Eyes of Others” (until September 4, 2022) questions clichés, prejudices, exaggerations, generalizations, and categorizations and asks the question: what role do Jewish museums play in perpetuating such projections?
The exhibition “The End of the Testimony” (until June 5, 2022) focuses on memories of contemporary witnesses, and the question of how to maintain statements of oral history for the next generations. It shows written testimonies and video interviews of contemporary witnesses and focuses on the question of how we want to deal with this legacy in the future.
Bayreuth, Bavaria: “Jewish Life in Bayreuth” program includes lectures within the established series “Bayreuth City Talks”, workshops, a weekly series in the local newspaper in cooperation with the Nordbayerischer Kurier, an app, and more.
Bamberg, Bavaria: Exhibition, “Medieval mikvah in Bamberg.” In the area of the new “Quartier an der Stadtmauer” in the middle of Bamberg is a medieval mikvah (mikveh) – a Jewish ritual bath – from the first third of the 15th century as well as a baroque house from the 18th century, for which Jewish residents are proven. In order to convey Jewish life in historical times, a small documentation center was developed at the authentic site of the mikvah. It is the oldest still visible monument of the Jewish community in Bamberg.
Berlin: “SHARED HISTORY Conference on 1,700 Years of Jewish Life in German-speaking Lands” (video recordings available). The Leo Baeck Institute – New York | Berlin (LBI) is marking the occasion of 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany by launching its “Shared History Project.” As the name suggests, the lives of Jews have always been tightly interwoven with the history of the regions and countries where they lived. But to what extent can we truly speak of shared experiences during the past 17 centuries in Central Europe? What forms have the social, economic, and scientific exchange between the Jewish minority and Christian majority taken? These questions will be highlighted from several perspectives.
The New Synagogue which opened in 1866 is today the home of the Centrum Judaicum, which sees itself as a link between the past and the future. It serves as a site of research and documentation and brings Berlin’s vibrant Jewish history to life. The exhibitions “Under the wedding sky – weddings in Jewish Berlin” and “Telling Jewish Berlin. Mine, yours, ours?” (until June 12, 2022) unfold a mosaic of stories, experiences, and emotions, revolving around individual perspectives and personal relationships.
The 28th Jewish Film Festival Berlin | Brandenburg (JFBB), the largest Jewish film festival in Germany, will take place this year from June 14 to June 19, 2022, in numerous venues in Berlin and Potsdam. The JFBB program aims to enliven political and historical debates, counter anti-Semitism, narrate Jewish themes beyond stereotypes, and offer points of contact for the audience. On the program are feature films, documentaries, retrospectives, international films of all genres, high-end TV series, (contemporary witness) talks, and panel discussions.
Büren-Wewelsburg, North Rhine-Westphalia: Guided tour, “An insight into the history of Jewish life in the Paderborn region.” The former Hochstift Paderborn has a fascinating Jewish history. During a tour of the historical museum of the Paderborn monastery as well as the Wewelsburg memorial and memorial site 1933–1945, the varied history can be rediscovered.
Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia: Exhibition, “SHALOM COLOGNE – discover Jewish life in Cologne, participate and set an example.” SHALOM COLOGNE is an innovative educational program that encourages to deal creatively and digitally with Jewish culture. The SHALOM-BOX contains more than 50 suggestions in the form of worksheets, videos, teaching ideas, links and hands-on tools. For the XXL poster, everyone is invited to send in selfies and pictures to create a strong motif for tolerance and respect. The big SHALOM CHALLENGE calls for artistic contributions dealing with Jewish culture.
Project: “Jewish Cologne – on the right bank of the Rhine.” Two centuries of Jewish history are closely connected to the Jewish cemetery in Cologne-Deutz. It forms the bridge between the Middle Ages and the modern age, and is also the link to Cologne on the right bank of the Rhine, the “Schäl Sick”. The project “Jewish Cologne-rechtsrheinisch” uses digital media to make history visible behind weathered inscriptions.
Dresden, Saxony: The exhibit “Rethinking City History: Perspectives on Jewish Stories and Present Lifes” (until March 31, 2022) retraces the complex Jewish life in the capital of Saxony. Until today, objects of the Jewish past can be found in living rooms, basements, or garages, finding a new place within the exhibition. Guided tours, a blog series and a YouTube video provide a deeper insight into the project.
Franconia: The anniversary is especially significant in Franconia since Jewish culture thrived in the region for almost 1,000 years. Jewish scholars, Franconian-Jewish dialects, foundations, synagogues, and more than 100 Jewish cemeteries had a significant impact on all aspects of life. This ended abruptly with the almost complete annihilation of the Jewish population during the Third Reich. Today, there are again Jewish communities in Franconia, as well as important institutions, including the Jewish Museum Franconia in Fürth, the “Museum Shalom Europa” in Würzburg, and the “Fränkische Schweiz Museum” in Tüchersfeld. Guided tours offered in many towns also invite visitors to explore the history and present state of Jewish culture.
Frankfurt, Hesse: The Jewish Museum Frankfurt is showing “Our Courage – Jews in Europe 1945-48” (until January 18, 2022). The exhibition is the first project of its kind to present the diversity of Jewish experience in the early post-war period from a pan-European, transnational perspective. The program is available for download here.
Hamburg: Movie: “Talmud Torah School Hamburg 2005-2015.” A video project with students connects the past and the future in the former Hamburg Talmud Torah school.
Koblenz, Rhineland-Palatinate: Dialogue, City Tour, App: “Digital stumbling block memorial routes.” In the Koblenz app, three commemorative routes can be explored which remind of former Jewish citizens, leading to stumbling blocks laid for them throughout the city.
Munich, Bavaria: Exhibition, “The Joys of Yiddish.” A roof frieze by the conceptual artist Mel Bochner at the Haus der Kunst in Munich reflects the Jewish language and the past. His work is shaped by reflections on the relationship between language and image. Born in Pittsburgh in 1940, Bochner grew up in a traditional Jewish family. The word-chain on the roof frieze of the Haus der Kunst in Munich consists of colloquial terms from Yiddish.
Nuremberg, Bavaria: Concerts, “World music and Klezmer in the Villa Leon.” Villa Leon is known for its world music and klezmer concerts. The series “World Music and Klezmer in the Villa Leon” presents the once only instrumental wedding music for Jews from Eastern Europe. The Villa Leon offers the oldest existing series of klezmer music in Germany. In addition, numerous associations or individuals organize their own concerts in respective areas.
Trier, Rhineland-Palatinate: Publication, Audio: “Jewish life in Trier.” Alongside Cologne and Mainz, the city of Trier was the earliest place on German territory where Jews settled. The long history of the Jewish community in Trier is reflected in the collections of the city. The library, for example, has the largest collection of Hebrew and Aramaic binding fragments in all of Germany. In the festival year # 2021JLID – 1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany, a series of tours, exhibitions, readings and lectures will take place in Trier dedicated to the diversity of Jewish life. Topics include civil courage, and the story of the photographer Hilde Hubbuch. The Scientific Library of the City of Trier is dedicating episodes of the podcast series “Veni, vidi, audivi” to the city’s Jewish history.
More information at German National Tourist Office, New York, NY 10018, 212-661-7175, www.germany.travel.
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