A new digital project: Judaica Europeana


Judaica Europeana, a ground-breaking digital project has been awarded a major grant by the European Commission eContentplus Programme to provide multilingual access to Jewish culture collections through Europeana, Europe's archives, libraries and museums online.  It is one of only a dozen targeted projects co-funded by the EC for Europeana. 

Europeana is a flagship project of the European Commission that will provide a common  point of access to millions of digital objects housed at Europe's museums, libraries and archives.  A multilingual search engine will enable the users to find, view and compare cultural and scientific resources dispersed across the continent. 

The Consortium of Judaica Europeana partners is led by the European Association for Jewish Culture in London and the Judaica Collection of the Goethe University Library in Frankfurt/Main.  Project partners include the Alliance Israélite Universelle in cooperation with Paris Yiddish Centre - Medem Library,  The British Library (London), Hungarian Jewish Archives (Budapest), Jewish Museum of Greece (Athens), Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage (MiBAC, Rome), Jewish Historical Institute (Warsaw), Jewish Museum London and Amitié (Centre for Research and Innovation, Bologna).  The Central Zionist Archive (Jerusalem) and Makash (Centre for ICT applications in education, culture and science, Jerusalem) are associate partners. More associate partners will be invited to join.

Judaica Europeana will document Jewish contribution to Europe's cities

Jews are the oldest minority in Europe with Jewish inscriptions in Greece dating back to the 3rd Century BCE.  The presence of Jews through the centuries has been inextricably bound up with the development
of European cities. In the first half of the 20th Century London's East End and the Belleville quarter of Paris were thriving Jewish areas with Jewish shops, cafes, schools, libraries and prayer houses.  One third of Warsaw's population was Jewish in 1939. In the harbour of Thessaloniki, before World War I, economic activity stopped on the Day of Atonement. Yiddish and Judeo-Spanish press flourished and was widely available in many European cities.

Occupational specialization has led to the identification of Jews with specific streets, buildings and neighbourhoods across Europe.  Jews were instrumental in the development of commerce: they were often owners of small shops and pioneers in the development of department stores. They were prominent in the medical and legal  professions and in the cultural field. They were intellectuals, artists, musicians, writers and journalists as well as owners of newspapers and publishing houses.  Jewish communal life flourished through religious observance, education, mutual support, politics, theatre, music and publishing.  This pre-World War II Jewish world was to a large extent destroyed in the Holocaust, but today there is a vibrant Jewish life in many European cities and a renewed interest in Jewish culture has been taking place across Europe over the last few decades.

Abundant Jewish cultural expressions are documented through hundreds of thousands of objects dispersed in many collections: documents, books, manuscripts, periodicals, audio recordings, pictures, photographs, postcards, posters and films as well as  through buildings, monuments and cemeteries all over Europe.

Judaica Europeana will begin by digitizing millions of pages and thousands of other items selected from the collections of its partner libraries, archives and museums.  The next stage will be to aggregate other digital collections on Jews in European cities - wherever they may be.  ‘Jewish culture has been predominantly text-based; it will be a particular challenge for us to bring in as much audio-visual material as possible' said Lena Stanley-Clamp, the project's manager and director of the European Association for Jewish Culture. 

Judaica Europeana will reach out to diverse audiences across Europe and beyond

The target audiences for Judaica Europeana are university teachers and students, schools, cultural heritage professionals, cultural tourists and the general public - indeed anyone interested in the history of European cities or Jewish culture.

Judaica Europeana will reach out to universities with presentations and workshops to stimulate the use of the Judaica Europeana archive.  The partner institutions will involve school teachers and students and encourage them to develop projects and lessons. They will also curate virtual exhibitions showcasing Judaica material. 

‘It is a great opportunity for cultural heritage institutions to promote European Jewish culture internationally and to stimulate research', said Dr Rachel Heuberger, the Head of the Judaica Collection of the University Library at the Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main, the largest Judaica and Hebraica collection in Germany. 

More information on Judaica Europeana at  www.judaica-europeana.eu