As has been customary for more than 20 years, the European Days of Jewish Culture 2022 will take place in early September. A pan-european Festival where the Jewish heritage is opened to the general public, with the aim of promoting dialogue, recognition and exchange.
The European Days of Jewish Culture takes place each year in more than two dozen countries across the continent, and has become Europe’s most successful cross-border Jewish cultural initiative. The Festival is coordinated by the AEPJ, through a large network of institutions dedicated to Jewish heritage and culture. It also has a partnership with the National Library of Israel, which plays an active role in making available to the coordinators a wide range of archival materials and educational resources.
Aimed mainly at local atendees, it seeks to educate about the role of Jewish heritage, culture, and history in local, regional, and Europe-wide context, among other things in order to demystify the Jewish world and promote understanding. Since its first edition more than two decades ago, the Day has evolved into “Days” of Jewish cultural and heritage activities that in some countries take place before and after the official date.
In this context, we are very pleased to announce that the kick-off of this year’s edition, with the central theme Renewal, will take place in the French town of Schirmeck, in Alsace, France, next 4 September.
The reason behind the choice of this location is highly symbolic. In a historical act, the Sefer Torah of this small town will return 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 be 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, Shcirmeck was liberated and Ernest Bohn had the opportunity to hand over his treasure to an Algerian rabbi serving in the French 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 began to take shape, 77 years later.