As Europe celebrates Jewish culture day, Brussels museum reopens


(JTA) — Some 30 countries celebrated the 15th European Day of Jewish Culture, which was marked in Brussels with the reopening of the Jewish Museum of Belgium several months after a deadly shooting there.

This year’s events are focused on women in Judaism.

In Italy, performances, exhibits, lectures, concerts, guided tours and other activities were organized Sunday in more than 70 towns and cities, including large Jewish culture festivals in Rome and Milan.

“We believe that culture is the principal means to combat prejudice [and] help society grow and progress,” said Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. “We also want to demonstrate our solidarity with all the women who are victim of discrimination and harassment and to denounce the inacceptable conditions in which women in many parts of the world live still today.”

More than 25 Spanish cities presented programs. A Jewish network of 26 cities where authorities have undertaken conservation and restoration of Jewish heritage sites will focus its activities during the week of Sept. 14 on the role of women in Jewish culture.

In Barcelona, the city is organizing a scientific conference led by the writer and translator Moriah Ferrus on the subject — part of a five-day program on Judaism that started Saturday. Opting for a less intellectual approach, the city of Cuenta assembled a food fair to celebrate the gastronomical inventions of the Sephardic housewife.

Many of the cities are offering concerts of Ladino music, with a special emphasis on music written and performed by women.

In Brussels, a plaque commemorating the four victims of the museum shooting in May was unveiled on Sept. 9 at the museum entrance. The previous day, the City of Brussels increased the museum’s annual budget for security from $6,500 to $38,000.

Belgian and French prosecutors said the murder was perpetrated by Mehdi Nemmoche, a French Muslim who is believed to have fought with jihadists in Syria. He is standing trial in Belgium.

In Belarus, the Jewish educational nonprofit Limmud FSU and the Israeli Embassy in Minsk announced a plan to center the nonprofit’s next conference in the former Soviet country around the family history of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was born in what is now Ukraine but whose parents both hailed from Pinsk in Belarus.

The day of Jewish culture was launched as an expansion and outgrowth of a Jewish heritage program in France. Each country’s programs are organized locally; the overall theme is  loosely coordinated by the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage.

Recommended from JTA