Q&A offers an update on the pulse of various Jewish Communities across Europe.
Robert Waltl, manager of the Jewish Cultural Centre in Ljubljana, offers answers to some defining questions for his community.
When was your community established and how many members does it currently have?
The JCC was established in November 2013, and currently, we have 20 [active] members.
It was established through cooperation with the Jewish Community of Slovenia, special Mrs. Polona Vetrih, drama artist, and Rabbi Ariel Haddad, Chief Rabbi of Slovenia, as well as staff members from Mini Teater and other Slovenian, Croatian, USA, EX-YU, Brasil, Austrian and Israely Jews and artists.
Does your community identify with one particular stream of Judaism?
No. The JCC is an independent unit, cooperating with the Slovenian Jewish community; and all those who might help and have good intentions.
Name 3 things that define your community:
We see culture as an instrument for creating tolerance. Culture, unlike religion, offers the gift of discussion about various issues with different people. Our Jewish center provides opportunities for cultural enriching and acquiring knowledge, openness and generosity.
What are the greatest struggles your community is currently facing?
We need help with co-financing our programme and for the renovation of the Jewish Cultural Centre in which the new Jewish museum, library, and a place for gatherings will be. We also need support for our extensive public programs, youth education, and curatorial initiatives to promote Jewish history and Slovenian identity beyond Ljubljana. Such support will help us build a strong and connected community across nations and cultures.
What do you hope never changes about your community?
During World War II, a prosperous - and culturally prominent well-organized Jewish community in Slovenia and in Ljubljana became almost obliterated. Therefore, the JCC [brings together] not only the members of the Jewish Community of Slovenia, but also the rest of the Jews who have Jewish roots as well as people who have a special sympathy for the Jews, Jewish culture, tolerance, fight against anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism, and against all forms of intolerance in society.
In our center religious people and atheists work together. We do not want that to ever change.We open the Jewish Center to the society in which we live. We opened our doors, so that local people can join us, and we celebrate every Year Hannukah togheter on the street in the front of JCC, so that an international audience that's interested in Jewish past and present in Slovenia can join our events, celebrations and [engage with] Jewish history and Jewish presence today.
What do you hope would change?
Considering the complexity and historical neglect of the Jewish presence in this territory, as well as the contemporary history of Israel and the diaspora, the Jewish Cultural Center Ljubljana uses a public-friendly approach to encourage both young and adult visitors to rethink history and attempt to understand it better.
We believe that a rigorous examination of the Holocaust will help people reflect on the uses and abuses of power, as well as the roles and responsibilities of individuals, organizations and nations, as they confront violations of human rights; and contribute to a greater understanding of the possibilities of a repeated genocide in the contemporary world.
What is your relationship to the wider community and other religious communities in your area?
The Jewish Cultural Centre Ljubljana has become an important place of culture and meeting. Our guests at events are the highest representatives of Slovenian authorities: we have hosted all the Slovenian presidents so far - Milan Kučan, dr. Danilo Türk, Borut Pahor - the current Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković, Vice-Mayors of Ljubljana, former Mayors and representatives of local authorities, Slovenian parliament representatives, the highest representatives of other religions, among them the archbishop of Ljubljana, Mr. Zore, and many other Slovenian catholic bishops, and the highest representatives of the Muslim religion.
Our guests are also the highest representatives of other countries, ambassadors and diplomatic personnel, the most important Slovenian artists and intellectuals, in addition to many foreign artists and lecturers from different parts of the world, mostly from Israel and the United States. Our Centre is widely open for all Jews who find their way to Ljubljana, but is mostly geared toward locals from the region.
What pieces of literature, music, movies or other art would you suggest that best introduce and describe your community and setting?
Danilo Kiš, including his first novel, Mansarda, translated as The Attic, written in Belgrade in 1962 and finding its twenty-seven-year-old author in an unfamiliarly buoyant mood. Brodsky wrote of the later, darker Kiš that his was an art “more devastating than statistics,” in which “tragedy gets redefined as an occasion for time’s high eloquence.”
Vienna Tango Quintet ft. Isidoro Abramowicz: Bei Mir Bist Du Shein
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