The European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage – France Association (JECPJ-France) brings together French municipalities, institutions and associations to promote Jewish heritage, real estate, furniture and culture. It coordinates the French European Days of Jewish Culture, which take place mainly in September. Numerous and varied activities and presentations will welcome visitors throughout France. Here’s our interview with Thierry Koch, President of JECPJ-France.
Jguideeurope: What are the main challenges in preparing a program around the demanding theme of Memory?
Thierry Koch: The theme of Memory was chosen at European level at the start of 2022 as part of the European Union’s CERV (Citizens, Rights, Equality and Values) program, in response to a call for projects from the European Commission on European Memory, including the memory of the Holocaust. A consortium of a dozen organizations – including JECPJ-France – coordinated by AEPJ* obtained the inclusion of EDJC 2023 “Memory” in this CERV program, as well as financial support from the European Commission. Nevertheless, we felt that this demanding theme should not be dealt with exclusively from the angle of the Shoah, and a fortiori from that of commemoration, a fortiori of a “duty to remember”. For this reason, it was decided that the “Memory” theme would address not only the Shoah and the tragic ordeals endured by the Jewish people, but also the importance of memory in Judaism and its structuring contribution to Jewish thought and culture. As for the Shoah itself, it was to be approached principally through a “work of memory” giving priority to the artistic expression given to it.
(*) : European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage
Do all regions take part in the EDJC?
Most regions with a Jewish heritage, tangible or intangible, or the presence of a large Jewish community, will be taking part in the 2023 European Cultural Days. At the top of the list of participating regions is the Grand-East region, with rich programs on offer in Lorraine and Alsace, but activities are also proposed in Champagne around the memory of Rashi of Troyes. Paris will be very active this year, with a program proposed by a dozen players in Jewish culture… and even non-Jewish (such as the Théâtre du Soleil)! The memory of the Holocaust, the memory of Jewish communities that have disappeared (notably those of the former Ottoman Empire), and the safeguarding of endangered traditions (such as Purim Shpil) will be addressed through exhibitions, theatrical performances, readings, concerts and more. In Occitanie, we have already secured the participation of Montpellier (Institut Maïmonide). In the Provence-Côte d’Azur region, we’ll have an interesting program in Antibes, Cannes and Nice, while the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, one of the four cities of the “Pope’s Jews”, has prepared a program to evoke the memory of its Jewish community and, more generally, that of the Jews of the Comtat Venaissin.
What events will open the Days?
No national event is planned to launch the 2023 Days, but in each of the regions already mentioned, particularly significant events will take place on Sunday September 3 to mark the opening of the 2023 Days. In Paris, the program will open on September 3 with a day at the MAHJ (10:00 am to 6:00 pm). On the same day, the Chief Rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia, will visit the Thann synagogue in Alsace to give his vision of what Memory represents in Judaism. In Metz, a full day (10:00-18:00) of lectures – with a particular focus on genealogy – and concerts is scheduled at the Consistorial synagogue. The first events will take place on August 26, while the final activities of EDJC 2023 will take place in November, up to and including Sunday November 26.