Heritage tours pull in the crowds on culture day

By Jay Grenby, September 12, 2008

Sunday’s British contribution to the European Day of Jewish Culture and Heritage kicked-off a programme which will see over 10,000 people attend 75 connected events.

This year, much of the programme is based on a musical theme, prompting an emphasis on performances of classical, liturgical and popular works. Also organised are exhibitions, walks, guided tours and open days.

Historic shuls opened their doors at the weekend. Culture day joint national co-ordinator Valerie Bello pointed out that their location "gives a clue to the path of Jewish migration – and subsequent integration". Participating in the programme for the first time was the tiny Cornwall Jewish community (Kehillat Kernow), where more than 90 people turned out for tours of the rarely opened Penzance Jewish cemetery, as well as a lecture on medical ethics and an evening concert of Israeli and Chasidic songs.

Other synagogues on view included Bradford Reform, Plymouth, Cheltenham, Ramsgate and Lincoln’s Grade I-listed medieval premises. In York, a hardy few braved torrential downpours for a soggy trek through the city’s Jewish heritage trail. Conditions were better in Wales, where 20 people took a walking tour of Bangor’s Jewish history.

In London, actress Miriam Margolyes was among the 120 people at the annual meeting of the Jewish East End Celebration Society, featuring a tribute to writer and human rights campaigner Emanuel Litvinoff. The AGM was at East London Central Synagogue, one of a number of East End shuls involved in culture day. And as a new twist on traditional tours of Jewish interest sites, Clive Lawton took a St John’s Wood route for "Great London Jewish Arguments", offering an insight into community politics and intrigue.

Mrs Bello was thrilled by "the enthusiastic response. What is so impressive is the outreach to the wider community, introducing them to aspects of Judaism and Jewish culture".

Last updated: 6:07pm, September 11 2008