The European Days of Jewish Culture 2022, under the theme “Renewal”, kicked off on Sunday 4 September across Europe. More than 400 institutions in 30 countries are organising activities in their cities to celebrate Jewish culture from an open, diverse and pluralistic point of view.
This year, the town chosen to host the kick-off of the festival was Schirmeck in the French region of Alsace. But this election was not fortuitous, the reason behind the choice of this location is highly symbolic. In a historical act, the Sefer Torah of this small town has returned to the synagogue after an extraordinary epic journey, which began with a story of friendship between two young neighbours in Schirmeck, one Jewish and one Christian. When the war came, the two friends were separated. The young Jew did not survive the war, and his friend, Ernest Bohn, was wounded. Seeing how the Nazi troops continually desecrated the synagogue, turning it into a herd of pigs, he decided to rescue the Sefer Torah, which he had had the opportunity to see at his friend’s bar mitzvah.
In early 1945, Schirmeck was liberated and Ernest Bohn had the opportunity to hand over his treasure to a Jewish chaplain (of Algerian descent) serving in the US army, Isaac Rouche. This rabbi had joined the French Resistance soldiers, who organised themselves in Morocco under the Leclerc’s orders. Since then, the rabbi carried the Sefer Torah wherever his destiny took him. His journey crossed Morocco, Algeria, Switzerland and Israel. It is through his son-in-law, who lives in Jerusalem, and who is a member of the Bnai Brith, that they came into contact again with members of the Jewish community of Alsace. The return of the Torah has become a reality, 77 years later.
Present at the ceremony were the deputy secretary general of the Council of Europe Mr Bjørn Berge, Schirmeck municipality’s 1st elderwoman, the Schirmeck Synagogue Association President Mr Jacques Ruch as well as Ernest Bohn’s relatives. Local and national authorities, including the Chief Rabbi of the Lower Rhine and the Consul General of the USA and the consul of Morocco & the president of the Consistoire of Strasbourg were also present at the ceremony.
In order to inaugurate the European Days of Jewish Culture 2022 in the context of this historic event, representatives of the AEPJ board were also present in Schirmeck: François Moyse, President, Claude Bloch, Honorary President, Assumpció Hosta, Secretary General, Thierry Koch, representative of JECPJ-France, and Annie Sacerdoti and Claudia de Benedetti, representatives of the UCEI (Italy).
The following is a compilation of the most relevant news about this event:BFM TV France 3 TV Région Franceinfo Pagine Ebraiche Times of Israel