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Exhibition on Judaism in a Democratic Society is a Big Hit in Switzerland

An exhibition, a theme of which is Judaism in a democratic society–specifically Switzerland–was visited by more than 12,000 persons during the first 10 days after it opened in Zurich on March 18 under the auspices of the Swiss Jewish community and the Zurich municipality. It is the first exhibition of its kind in Switzerland since World War II.

The purpose is to bring Jews and non-Jews together in an understanding of the reality of Judaism today and the sufferings of Jews in the past. Pictures and television films stress the unity of Jews and their strong ties to tradition.

The symbols of the faith responsible for Jewish survival are presented in the displays which also delineate the role of women in the family, religion and the synagogue, the bonds of language, in which many Swiss-Yiddish idioms are presented and the relationship between the Swiss authorities and Jews who were bom in or immigrated to this country.

There are photographs of Jewish refugees seeking asylum in Switzerland during World War II and letters of gratitude to the authorities for their assistance indicating that neutral Switzerland did its humanitarian duty at the time, however limited it may have been.

The exhibit has been visited by many school children accompanied by their teachers. Some of the youngsters expressed astonishment because they “did not know before what the Jews were and how they lived.” Many children were heard asking their elders why Anne Frank suffered or why Jews were persecuted during the war.

For older non-Jewish visitors too, the exhibit seens to be a revelation of how Jews suffered during the years 1939-1945. One was heard to remark, “I remember that I had a pupil in my class who was Jewish. I knew we had let his family in, but we did not know the thousands which were turned bock. This exhibition tells us about that.”

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