As the author of National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe, and the coordinator of the web site www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu, I conduct an illustrated virtual tour of far-flung synagogues, shtetls, Jewish cemeteries, and other Jewish heritage sites in a variety of countries in East-Central Europe. I describe personal experiences and discuss the many changes I have witnessed in a quarter century of exploration of Jewish heritage. These include efforts at reconstructing Jewish life, with new forms of Jewishness, Jewish practice, and religious and cultural expression. I describe how I coined the term “Virtually Jewish” to describe non-Jewish involvement, embrace, appropriation and engagement with Jews and Jewish culture — and what that means in today’s changing conditions. There are new realities and new authenticities; new definitions of “Jewish.” In places like Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter of Krakow, for example, community and commercialism can both combine and collide.
presentation on a panel at the conference: Contemporary Jewish life in a global modernity: Comparative European perspectives on a changing diaspora
The conference takes place 11 December: 2 – 6:30 pm; 12 December: 9:30 am – 1:30 pm
The fall of the Iron Curtain has opened possibilities for a Jewish revival across Europe. In the past twenty-five years, parallel trends of secularization, grass roots movements, religious pluralization and new discourses on the definition of Jewish identities have emerged. The conference brings together international scholars to explore the different forms of Jewish life in contemporary Europe and the challenges and possibilities these present for the future.
Where: Old Building, second level, Great Hall
Registration required: www.jmberlin.de/contemporary-jewish-life
For the Spring Semester 2015 (January-May) I have been named the Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina
Ruth takes part in a conference she co-organized as director of Jewish Heritage Europe.
The challenges and opportunities posed by Jewish heritage tourism and travel in Europe are the focus of this three-day conference and raise many important issues both in places where there is an active local Jewish population and in places where there are sites of Jewish heritage but no organized Jewish community.
The conference will focus on issues that reflect the growing diversity and energy of Jewish and Jewish-themed tourism in Europe, both for Jews and for others. But it would also address both the specifics of Jewish heritage tourism and how it fits within heritage tourism/travel in general. Special emphasis will be given to the ways in which technology influences and possibly changes Jewish heritage tourism.
This conference is the latest in a series of international conferences on Jewish heritage and follows on from a number of major international conferences on Jewish built heritage issues that have taken place since 1990.
Ruth is conversation with Shaul Bassi, marking 25 years since Jewish Heritage Travel and 15 years since Virtually Jewish were published.
The even takes place during the conference on Jewish Heritage Tourism in the Digital Age.
Talk at the IAJGS conference
Over the past 3 decades, I’ve helped pioneer the (re)discovery and documentation of Jewish heritage sites in East-Central Europe and championed them as travel destinations. My talk will reflect on the changes I’ve witnessed since the first edition of my book “Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe” came out in 1992. Back then, almost all Jewish heritage sites in the region were places of “dark tourism.” Often ruined, dilapidated, and abandoned. Very few people even knew “what was there.” Since then, there’s been a revolution. Ruins still abound, but hundreds of sites have been restored/rediscovered and many are now full-fledged tourist attractions. I will examine these changes, focusing on certain places and certain specific facets, such as restored synagogues and cemeteries, and new Jewish heritage routes, but also reflecting on issues such as the commodification of Jewish culture and growth of a commercial Jewish heritage tourism industry.
A talk at the IAJGS conference:
Since we went online in 2012, www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu has become a key web portal to Jewish heritage news, info, resources and insights. We’ve added many new features such as a dedicated section on Jewish cemeteries, personal op-eds, a section on memorials to Jewish soldiers killed in WW1, and more. As of early 2018, we have a brand new web site design that incorporates new search possibilities and highlights our unique JHE news feed: a searchable database of more than 1,200 news items on Jewish heritage issues that is growing almost daily. As JHE director, I’m responsible for all content on the site. In my talk, I’ll discuss the new design and new. and planned new, features, including interactive use. I’ll also be looking for feedback to aid in the continuing development of the site.
I’m to chair a session at the annual meeting of the Association of European Jewish Museums. The session topic is: