Images of breathtaking architectural treasures photographed at sites across Europe draw the visitor into the website of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ). AEPJ is an organization that was established in 2004, and now sponsored by a consortium of six Jewish organizations, including B’nai B’rith Europe, which sponsors two major activities, the European Days of Jewish Culture and the European Routes of Jewish Heritage. Both projects were originally initiated in 1987 by the Council of Europe, which continues to provide generous support to these and other AEPJ endeavors. Throughout its history, AEPJ has continually expanded its mission to introduce and educate people of all backgrounds to the development and innovations fostered by Jewish architecture, fine and decorative arts, literature and their role within the context of European history and culture. One of AEPJ’s missions is to keep alive the memory of the Shoah for generations to come.
The European Days of Jewish Culture is an annual celebration which takes place in dozens of cities and towns across the continent every fall, with each year focusing on a multifaceted theme like music, festivals, nature, art and even Jewish humor. Communities, arts organizations, churches and synagogues partner with AEPJ to produce concerts, tours, lectures, film screenings, art exhibits, theatrical productions and interfaith ceremonies that entertain and expand the perceptions of the topic for its audiences. In 2016, “European Days” will explore the myriad aspects of Jewish languages. Those interested in reading more about the past history of these observances can access eleven years of handsomely produced reports and documentary photos archived on a special webpage.
In March, the AEPJ coordinated a week of events that honored the 500th anniversary of the Jewish ghetto in Venice, Italy, culminating in a series of moving ceremonial tributes taking place in the ghetto itself.
Sienna Girgenti is the Assistant Director for the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy at B'nai B'rith International. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
Behold, the "Liberty Bell Chanukah Lamp"
Specializing in rare and important Judaica in all its diversity, Kestenbaum & Company is a New York auction house whose Nov. 19 sale offerings attracted the attention of collectors, curators and archivists around the world. Included among the treasure trove of sacred and secular books, manuscripts, fine art and objects like the guitar once owned by the celebrated performer Shlomo Carlebach, was the “Liberty Bell Chanukah Lamp”. The lamp was created in 1990 by noted folk artist Manfred Anson. Craft and sculpture are blended in this work, which represents a continuation of themes explored in the artist’s iconic, widely known “Statue of Liberty Menorah,” a heartfelt but whimsical tribute to the monument’s 1986 centennial, often seen on display in the collections of the Jewish Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Regarded as an ingenious metaphor for the overlapping trajectory of American and Jewish history, it also references the ways in which Jews, as an itinerant people, have perpetually incorporated the culture of the land in which they have settled into that of their own. A terrific holiday gift which ultimately sold for $8,000, the “Liberty Bell Chanukah Lamp” conflates the Chanukah celebration, commemorating the first successful fight for religious freedom, with the democratic ideals fostered by the American Revolution. It is symbolized by the Liberty Bell souvenir on which the lamp is literally and figuratively based.
Cast to the artist’s specifications, the lamp’s nine candleholders are miniature replicas of the Liberty Bell souvenir. Underscoring the roll that Jews played in American history, each of these is engraved with the name of a Jewish patriot—including Haym Solomon, Uriah P. Levy and Rebecca Gratz—honored for their heroism and beliefs.
Born in Berlin, Manfred Anson (1923-2012) made his living as a successful importer/exporter in Australia for thirty years before immigrating to the United States in 1962. In his later years, he created original works of modern Judaica, in which he incorporated elements taken from the large collection of American memorabilia he had acquired over time.
The Revival of the Celebrated Yiddish Musical, "The Golden Bride"
More than thirty years after a part of its libretto was discovered at the Harvard Music Library, the once celebrated Yiddish musical “The Golden Bride” (“Die Goldene Kale”) has been revived by a team of talented and knowledgeable writers and musicians under the guidance of Zalmen Mlotek. Mlotek is a conductor known for his expertise in the orchestration and performance of repertory from the Yiddish stage. Presented in Yiddish with English and Russian supertitles by the 101 year old National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the fully-staged orchestra production will run from December 2, 2015 through January 3, 2016 in the Edmond J. Safra Hall at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan. A PDF of the playbill can be accessed at by clicking here.
Written by lyricist Louis Gilrod and Joseph Rumshinsky, Second Avenue’s leading theater and film composer, “The Golden Bride” features a young heroine, Goldele, who emigrates from Russia to America to claim an inheritance and find her long-lost mother, with a love interest thrown in for some good duets. An immediate sensation when it premiered in 1923, the show drew thousands of people nightly and later toured worldwide. Enjoying numerous revivals, the musical continued to be popular over the next twenty-five years. After that time, declining numbers of Yiddish-speaking theater goers caused “The Golden Bride” to fade from view.
Maestro Mlotek has noted that “there’s a world of historic works from the Yiddish canon that are just waiting to be repaired and brought to live audiences. [“The Golden Bride” is] culture, it’s education, it’s entertainment.”
Cheryl Kempler is an art and music specialist who works in the B'nai B'rith International Curatorial Office and writes about history and Jewish culture for B’nai B’rith Magazine. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
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