Before the Covid pandemic, Debra Brunner, the co-founder and CEO of The Together Plan travelled to Belarus each year – visiting communities, running summer programmes and working with the team in Minsk. Artur Livshyts, the Belarusian co-founder of The Together Plan based in Minsk – also visited the UK regularly to meet with sponsors, give talks and help load humanitarian aid. However, all of the travelling halted during the pandemic and now with the military incursion of Russia into Ukraine things, as yet, have not been able to resume to the way they were pre-2020.
So when the AEPJ announced there would be a conference in Paris for organisers of the European Days of Jewish Culture Festival 2023, we decided it was time to manoevre. Debra Brunner along with The Together Plan’s new Chairman Mike Segall set off for Paris on the Eurostar – a door to door journey of 5 hours more or less. Artur Livshyts set off on the intrepid journey from Minsk – a 20 hour journey of endless buses and border crossings with a plane ride thrown in for good measure. It was the first time Debra and Artur had met up in person in just under three years! It made for a pleasant change to being either side of a Zoom screen and a great deal was achieved over the few days they were able to spend together at the conference, exploring ideas for Belarus’s participation in the European Days of Jewish Culture Festival 2023.
The European Days of Jewish Culture is a European-wide event, which has been organised since 1999. The aim is to highlight the diversity and richness of Judaism and its local, regional and national historical importance across the landmass that is the continent of Europe.It promotes dialogue, recognition and exchange through conferences, concerts, performances, guided tours and other activities, which take place simultaneously throughout the continent.
The European Days of Jewish Culture festival is held every year around a central theme that serves as inspiration for all the activities that take place in a decentralised, pluralistic and open way from the first Sunday in September. The AEPJ has coordinated this event at European level since its beginnings, giving cohesion, visibility and relevance to the activities that take place across Europe. In addition, the AEPJ offers training, resources and support to any organisation, institution or individual who wishes to organise an activity that allows Jewish culture to be shared with the whole of society.
This project is reinforced by the collaboration with the National Library of Israel, which acts as a means to develop all kinds of exhibition and educational materials, giving an important added value to the festival while facilitating its celebration throughout the continent.
Throughout February 22nd and 23rd, the EDJC Organisers’ and Coordinators’ meeting took place at the Memorial de la Shoah in Paris with the concluding meeting at the UNESCO headquarters. This bi-annual meeting took place under the umbrella of an exceptional programme: the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme of the European Union.
Heritage practitioners, historians, museum personnel, representatives from NGO’s from across the landscape of Europe had the opportunity to spend two full days together training, attending workshops and exploring this year’s theme of the European Days of Jewish Culture – ‘Memory’.
We spent an immersive, thought provoking, complex and challenging few days together where we were able to consider different perspectives and ways to commemorate the rich culture and heritage of European Jewry and to reflect on the role of memory in shaping our understanding of the past and present.
The meeting featured keynote speeches addressing the theme of memory from experts in the field of Jewish culture and heritage, including historian Philippe Boukara, from the Memorial de la Shoah, memorialisation expert Ana Milosevic, from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and Leon Saltiel, World Jewish Congress Representative at the United Nations in Geneva and UNESCO in Paris.
The organisers and coordinators of the European Days of Jewish Culture 2023 were delighted with the content and successful reception of the program and we left with our heads filled, ready to put our event plans and ideas into practice over the coming months. Thank you AEPJ and Paris! You inspired us.