ROME, Aug. 4 (JTA) — Anxiety over terrorism and instability in Europe and the Middle East won’t stop next month’s European Day of Jewish Culture, an annual one-day celebration of Jewish history, art, culture and traditions that takes place in more than two dozen countries across Europe. “The European Day of Jewish Culture will take place this year in a climate of great international tensions, of serious risks of terrorist attacks, in a climate of fear,” said Amos Luzzatto, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. Organizers had asked themselves if it might not be better to call off events, he said. But “we decided that this would not be right, because it is just at times like these that culture becomes even more important,” Luzzatto said. Culture “does not represent a luxury for times of ease and tranquility. On the contrary, it is one of the most important weapons at our disposal to react against violence, bloodshed and destruction. “If we had cancelled everything,” Luzzatto said, “the terrorists would have won. We cannot allow fear to stop us.” Luzzatto was speaking at a recent outdoor media event in the garden of Rome’s Great Synagogue held to announce the Italian program for EDJC, which takes place this year on Sept. 4. As every year, hundreds of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, Jewish museums and other sites of Jewish heritage will be open to the public in 26 countries, and exhibits, concerts and other special events are planned. Last year, EDJC events across the continent drew some 150,000 visitors. This year marks the sixth annual EDJC. The event is organized by B’nai B’rith Europe, the European Council of Jewish Communities and the Route of Judaism in Spain. Participating countries include Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. The unifying theme for this year’s events is “Jewish Cuisine and Culinary Traditions.” “There will be seminars, exhibits, lectures, food tastings, art installations, banquets and other events at which Jewish culinary traditions and kashrut will take center stage,” said Annie Sacerdoti, a Jewish leader from Milan who is on the international organizing committee. In addition, she said, organizers have launched an initiative to collect recipes from Jews around Europe, to put together a compendium of local and regional Jewish cooking traditions. They are also sponsoring a recipe contest. In Italy, last year’s EDJC festival drew 37,000 visitors — more than the total number of Jews in the country. This year, there will be events in 45 localities up and down the peninsula, including many in areas where no Jews live. The presentation to the media in Rome provided a taste of the culinary variety to be explored. Rome’s top kosher caterer offered a selection of dishes drawn from the cuisine of all regions of the peninsula and from the various traditions that make up Italian Jewry. These included Sephardi and Ashkenazi culinary traditions and ancient local Italian traditions, as well as cuisine imported by post-World War II immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East. Italy’s culture minister, Rocco Buttiglione, sat next to Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, and sampled delicately flavored couscous; cholent; sardines with pine nuts and onions; matzo fritters with honey; and fresh-baked challah, all washed down by kosher Italian wine. Buttiglione, a devout Roman Catholic, said initiatives such as the European Day of Jewish Culture are an important means of promoting tolerance and combating anti-Semitism. “Jews have lived in Rome for more than 2,000 years, longer than Christians,” he told JTA. “Christianity was born out of Judaism. Jews and Jewish culture are an important component of Italian culture. It is important that everyone should be aware of this, that Jews are not ‘guests’ here. We cannot speak of them in terms of ‘we’ and ‘they.’ ” For information on the European Day of Jewish Culture events in participating countries, see www.jewisheritage.org.
Preparations on for Jewish cultural day