Across Europe, in 25 countries, the European Day of Jewish Culture (EDJC) has taken place on Sunday 5th of September 2004 in order to enable the public to discover the cultural and historical heritage of Judaism. Thanks to open doors, guided tours, exhibitions, lectures or concerts, the wider public was invited during one entire day to visit the synagogues, the cemeteries, the ritual baths or the ancient Jewish town quarters and to get to discover the place of education in Judaism. Following last year’s theme of “Judaism and the Arts”, this year, the coordinating partners of the EDJC chose “Judaism and Education”. This theme enabled a new approach to Jewish heritage where the transmission of religious teaching to all generations and communal and family life experience have crucial places.
Thus, in Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, solidarity enabled the uniting of over 10 000 volunteers and institutional persons working to organise all these events. Jewish associations, history groups, tourist boards, municipalities, museums, artists, students, all worked toward the preparation of this day, the official programme being spread through the Inte et site, which was created for this purpose, namely www.jewisheritage.org
Launched in 1996 in the Bas-Rhin (Alsace/France), under the Open Day formula by the Jewish association B'nai B'rith Hirschler in Strasbourg, in partnership with the Agence de Développement Touristique du Bas-Rhin, (Tourist board of Lower Alsace), the day was progressively extended and became the European Day of Jewish Culture in 2000. This year, for the fifth edition, the event was co-organised on the European level by three structures : B’nai B’rith Europe, the European Council of Jewish Communities and the Spanish Route of Judaism (Red de Juderias de Espana) and its success and growing appeal were confirmed. More than 500 activities organised in 300 cities across 25 countries gathered over an estimated 100 000 visitors.
Beyond this extraordinary day devoted to the encounter with the public, the organisers wish to promote and help preserve Jewish heritage, which is an integral part of Europe's cultural heritage. The creation of European Routes of Jewish Heritage (which is to been seen as extending the European Day of Jewish Culture) passed a decisive step this year. Recognized officially as a Cultural Itinerary of the Council of Europe, the European Route of Jewish Heritage has just been launched. The first plaque highlighting the European Route of Jewish Heritage which will be put up on a Lithuanian wooden synagogue will be inaugurated on the 9th of September 2004.