CULTURE & HERITAGE - EDJCH
B'nai B'rith European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage celebration in the United Kingdom
Thursday, 01 December 2011Once again a rich and varied programme of Jewish cultural and heritage sites attracted its usual cross-section of visitors from many strands of religious representation. With Heritage Days organisers Valerie Bello and Barbara Nathan stepping down to take a well-earned sabbatical, there was, initially at least, some concern about the event's future. Whatever reservations were expressed proved to be worries without foundation.
Lydia Drukarz, appointed to take over the organising mantle, managed the running of what has become one of the beacons of UK Jewish cultural events with a quiet efficiency that ensured the event's success.
Despite heavy rain, the first Sunday, 4th September, saw a surprisingly large number of people visiting the various sites.
As always, the guided tour of London's historic Willesden Cemetery proved a popular attraction, with Rachel Kolsky, a Blue Badge London Guide, providing an informative commentary about the many distinguished Jews buried there. She also led a large group on a walking tour of London's East End, the former home of so many Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century. Immigration is also the theme of the London Museum of Immigration and Diversity where some 200 visitors, mostly non-Jewish, came on the Sunday, with another 900 expected during the week, which included an evening when Michael Horovitz, OBE, enthralled an international audience with a selection of poetry and prose readings. Nearby Fieldgate Street Synagogue also welcomed large multi-faith groups.
Other synagogues across London opened their doors, too, such as the magnificently refurbished Hampstead Synagogue, the Grade 1 listed New West End Synagogue and the main Sephardi Synagogue
B'nai B'rith UK has a close link to the Jewish members of the British Armed Services, so that the display at the Jewish Military Museum was of interest, while at the wonderful refurbished Jewish Museum a fascinating exhibition "I didn't know he was Jewish! Behind the scenes of British Cinema" revealed the amazing involvement of Jews in the film industry.
As always, Klezmer music, organised by the Jewish Music Institute in Regent's Park, attracted literally hundreds of people to an afternoon alive with music, singing and dancing and - of course, delicious picnics.
Jewish Heritage and Culture in the United Kingdom is of course in evidence throughout the land, not only in London. Synagogues in various towns were open to the public. Our association with the national English Heritage Open Days helped to publicise the EDJCH to a wider public.
Visitors were attracted to a concert of Jewish music at Singers Hill Synagogue in Birmingham, to the "High Victorian" Middle Street Synagogue in Brighton, to Princes Road Synagogue in Liverpool where some people even had to be turned away due to a limitation on numbers. Guided tours of the Montefiore Synagogue and Mausoleum in Ramsgate, Kent introduced visitors to the life and work of the philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore. Not far away Thanet Reform Synagogue mounted an exhibition on 'Facing the Future', while in Bradford, the Reform Synagogue, a Grade II listed building, and the oldest Reform Synagogue outside London, attracted the local press and BBC TV cameras.
In the regions, the EDJC always enjoys support even amongst the smaller communities, such as Cheltenham, (a record number of visitors), Canterbury, Chatham, Norwich, Lincoln and Exeter, whilst in Manchester, home of the second largest Jewish community in the UK, the Jewish Museum and the Higher Crumpsall Synagogue are enthusiastic participants in the annual Multi-Faith Cheetham Festival, organised by a partnership between B'nai B'rith, English Heritage and Faith Network Manchester.
The B'nai B'rith European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage has now become an increasingly popular event. The organisers are to be warmly congratulated.