Experts gather in Poland to rescue Jewish heritage for future generations

Campo del Ghetto (Ghetto square), Venice

Heritage experts from around the world will gather in Poland to find new ways of protecting and reviving historic Jewish buildings at risk in towns and cities across Europe.

The University of Birmingham is co-hosting with the London-based Foundation for Jewish Heritage a major global conference in Krakow from 3 -7 September, where experts will discuss how new and sensitive uses can be found for neglected Jewish heritage sites in European towns and cities.

Working in partnership with Villa Decius and the City of Krakow, the Conference will welcome over 130 delegates from over 40 countries to the event which is being supported by the City of Krakow and the Villa Decius Association.

Part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the Conference has attracted speakers from Austria, Australia, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, UK and USA.

The conference will examine the challenges faced by often forgotten or neglected Jewish heritage in towns and cities across Europe and how this can be protected, preserved and sensitively re-vitalised so as to tell the story of Jewish culture and contribute to the diversity of urban heritage. The event will map out a blueprint that could help to preserve decaying synagogues and Jewish cultural sites across Europe.

Professor Mike Robinson, Director of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, said: “Over the centuries, cities across Europe and around the world have been hugely influenced by their Jewish communities but, if we are not careful we will lose the remaining tangible reminders of this history and the cultural diversity it represents. We must identify new thinking to preserve and sustainably manage Jewish heritage.

“As a global ‘civic’ university, we have a responsibility to enrich the life of the wider world. The University of Birmingham is proud to join our partners in welcoming our international delegates from many disciplines and from the heritage sector to help us protect Jewish heritage at risk of being lost forever.”

Professor Robinson will open the conference alongside Michael Mail, Executive Director of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage; Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland and Dame Helen Hyde DBE, Chair of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage.

Michael Mail, Executive Director of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage commented: “Sites of Jewish heritage are repositories of Jewish life, art and customs with unique, beautifully constructed buildings of real architectural and artistic achievement. They are testimony to the remarkable Jewish contribution to world civilization.

"However, the story of Jewish people in the 20th century is one of transition, population loss and displacement. Without an active community of users, Jewish cultural heritage has been under attack – through neglect, natural forces, and human actions – and today is in crisis.”

Professor Daniel Walkowitz, from New York University, will give a keynote speech on his upcoming book ‘Remembered and Forgotten Jewish World: Jewish Heritage in Europe and the United States’.

There will also be a special European Commission workshop on ‘Jewish Heritage and the European Ideal’ with Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, and Elżbieta Bieńkowska EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

The conference will feature a strong mix of academic papers and sessions led by representatives from European towns and cities, museum professionals, and practitioners involved with conservation and development of Jewish heritage in urban areas.

Opening at the Tempel Synagogue in the historical Jewish district of Krakow, the conference will move to the Villa Decius, outside the city centre. 

ENDS

For more information, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

Notes for editors

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage is dedicated to research, postgraduate education and professional engagement with all aspects of heritage.
  • The Foundation for Jewish Heritage is dedicated exclusively to the preservation of Jewish architectural sites, working internationally to ensure a future for historic synagogues, Jewish monuments and places of cultural significance.
  • The European Year of Cultural Heritage will see a series of initiatives and events across Europe to enable people to become closer to and more involved with their cultural heritage.