The Jewish Diaspora
The National Library of Israel took part in the European Days of Jewish Culture in late 2017, a project of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage, celebrating Jewish culture in dozens of cities throughout Europe annually in early September.
The theme of the program, “Diaspora,” presented an opportunity to give a brief overview of the fascinating story of the Jewish diaspora in Europe stretching over two millennia as told through a panel exhibition and a short film that included selected historic and contemporary materials from the collections of the National Library of Israel.
The first panel, “Jewish Journey,” set the scene with a historic map indicating journeys from the Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, through the various migrations of the Jewish nations as they sought religious tolerance and economic opportunity, leading up to the mass emigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990's.
The “Communal Life” panel described the internal and external factors that determined the structure and organization of Jewish communities. The panel featured a map of the first Jewish ghetto in Venice founded just over five hundred years ago, and the fascinating Community Protocols (Pinkas Kehilla) from Frankfurt am Main, encompassing three centuries of self-governance. These items were coupled with examples of how Jews integrated into external society and economic life.
The third panel, “Renowned Figures,” featured archival images and photographs of a selection of the Jewish women and men who rose to positions of prominence and participated in European cultural life, especially after the Enlightenment.
The panel, “Longing for Jerusalem,” showed how Jewish life, ritual and prayer remained literally and figuratively facing towards the east- towards Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, the symbolic center of the Jewish world binding together Jews scattered across the globe. Examples of manuscripts and contemporary items portrayed the special connection and relevance that Jerusalem and the Holy Land have held across the generations.
The exhibition and accompanying film were put on display in different cities across 12 countries in Europe including Novi Sad, Vilnius, Maribor, Wroclaw, Barcelona and Dublin – giving thousands of people a glimpse into the rich and diverse Jewish life in the Diaspora as reflected in the NLI collections.