Education of local experts and learners would not have been possible without the excellent partners of ESJF.
Centropa is a Jewish historical institute dedicated to preserving 20th century Jewish family stories from Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and working with teachers to use those stories to engage their students in conversations about history, civics, and ethics.
Since 2000, Centropa conducted 1,200 oral history interviews with elderly Jews in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as digitalized more than 22,000 of their family photographs. Our collection tells about 20th century Jewish life in a deeply personal way – through family, school, vacations and everyday life, from the happiest times to the darkest ones. The interviews and photographs we have collected are available to the public on our website, www.centropa.org. Using our stories, we create 21st century educational materials such as short multimedia films, exhibitions and apps perfect for classroom use, and work with educators in over 500 schools in 18 countries.
The Foundation for Jewish Heritage was established to work internationally on preserving Jewish built heritage; a heritage that faces profound challenges as a result of the great upheavals faced by the Jewish people in the 20th century which left many centuries-old historic sites around the world orphaned and at risk.
The Foundation’s activities have four core elements:
• research – creating an inventory of Jewish heritage sites, and prioritising those at risk
• advocacy – making the case for Jewish cultural heritage and promoting interest in specific sites
• expertise – providing professional advice and guidance to create solutions for vulnerable sites working with local partners, and nurturing expertise in Jewish heritage preservation
• resources – securing funding to invest in Jewish heritage sites at risk to ensure these are preserved, given a sustainable use, and saved for the future.
The Foundation commissioned unprecedented research to map all 3,300+ historic synagogues of Europe in order to identify the most important ‘at risk’ buildings (the map). It has also mapped the Jewish heritage of Syria and Iraq, worked with the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), and taken part in another EU-funded project to create a network of Jewish towns. It was appointed the expert body to guide the Council of Europe’s investigation into the state of Jewish heritage preservation in Europe, the final report of which was passed by the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly in 2019.
However, the Foundation views its role as primarily educational – working to save these remarkable buildings in order to spread the word about the lives and contributions of the Jewish community, building awareness, understanding, and empathy. Its mantra is ‘preserving the past, shaping the future’.