Swiss Jews join European Day of Jewish Culture
Jewish communities in Switzerland are to participate for the first time on Sunday in a Europe-wide day celebrating Jewish culture.
The event, supported by the Council of Europe, aims to introduce a wider public to monuments and historic sites, which are normally closed or whose historical context has been largely forgotten.
The main events in Switzerland take place in the three cities where most Jews settled in the 19th and 20th centuries - Basel, Geneva and Zurich - and in the village of Endingen-Lengnau in canton Aargau. The village was home to many Swiss Jews before they obtained full citizenship rights throughout Switzerland in the second half of the 19th century.
The events are being co-ordinated by Switzerland's only Jewish Museum in Basel. The museum itself will be open from 1100, and has organised two guided tours on the social history of Jews, one of which focuses on the life of Jewish women.
A visit is also planned to the Jewish cemetery in Hegenheim, across the border in Alsace, France. The cemetery was used by the Jews of Basel until the Second World War.
The president of the Federation of Swiss Jewish Communities, Alfred Donath, will give a guided tour of Switzerland's largest Jewish cemetery in the Carouge district of Geneva. Both of Geneva's synagogues are open to the public, while lectures will be held about their history.
Similar activities, with tours of cemeteries, synagogues and ritual baths are taking place in Zurich, Lucerne and in the village of Endlingen-Lengnau. Most sites participating in the event will conclude the day with concerts of Jewish folklore.
In canton Jura, the recently restored synagogue in Delémont can be visited. It had decayed over the years because not enough Jews live in the town to make up a Jewish community of at least 10 members.
The European Day of Jewish Culture takes place annually on the first Sunday in September. It was initiated in 1995 by Jewish communities in Strasbourg in the Alsace, historically a centre of European Jewry. The motivation to create a special day came about because many communities couldn't attend to their sites and synagogues due to their falling numbers.
The event quickly grew, and drew support from the Council of Europe. This year, 16 countries are participating in the event, including some East European countries, who have the richest Jewish heritage in Europe.
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