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The international community has recently placed the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage on the world agenda. Acknowledged as a leader in the field, the Center for Jewish Art has participated in the following major international events:

World Bank–UNESCO: "Understanding Culture in Sustainable Development" Washington, D.C., September 28-29, 1998

Dr. Ismail Serageldin (World Bank), Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, Prof. Harmen Thies (Technische Universitaet Braunschweig), Prof. Bezalel Narkiss, Dr. Michael Cernea (World Bank) at the symposium in Washington: "Preserving the Architecture of Historic Cities and Sacred Places."

Dr. Ismail Serageldin (World Bank), Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, Prof. Harmen Thies (Technische Universität-Braunschweig), Prof. Bezalel Narkiss, Dr. Michael Cernea (World Bank) at the symposium in Washington: "Preserving the Architecture of Historic Cities and Sacred Places."

Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, Director of Center for Jewish Art, was one of the main speakers at the prestigious World Bank-UNESCO conference on the crucial place of cultural heritage in the rapidly changing world. Cohen-Mushlin, joined by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor, Britain's Lord Rothschild and other luminaries in two days of discussions.

"The material culture is most susceptible to change and destruction in today’s rapidly changing societies," said Cohen-Mushlin. "Special effort must therefore be invested to protect or at least record it as it is the most effective tool for educating our younger generation about its tradition and history."

Cohen-Mushlin specifically spoke about the Center’s documentation philosophy and methodology to “virtually” preserve Jewish art, which is technologically possible and economically viable. She stressed that this approach to cultural preservation can be applied to developing countries throughout the world and that cooperation with the international community is essential.

As a result of this meeting, the World Bank, the Center for Jewish Art and other world institutions co-sponsored a four-day symposium, from May 3-7, 1999, on Preserving the Architecture of Historic Cities and Sacred Places. Held at the headquarters of the World Bank, the symposium involved 17 institutions and brought together 300 participants from over 40 countries. Underlying the event was the belief articulately stated by World Bank President James Wolfensohn in the Opening Plenary, "Development must relate to the national histories and cultures…It has to have a sense of identity linked with the past and with cultural history… It is through the knowledge of their past that people can proceed creatively towards the future."

The first two days were comprised of plenary sessions in which Center founder Professor Bezalel Narkiss made two presentations on The Synagogue and its Sacred Space and another on Church-Synagogue-Mosque: A Comparison of Typologies.

The last two days included Expert Gatherings, of which two sessions were planned by the Center for Jewish Art.

In the Expert Group on Technical Applications, the Center’s partners and other participants, such as the Getty Conservation Authority, presented state-of the-art technologies being implemented in measuring, recording and computerizing synagogues, churches and mosques. One extra day was devoted entirely to Jewish Heritage, bringing the Jewish built heritage to the attention of cultural leaders throughout the world by way of presentations of the work being carried out worldwide in synagogue documentation and preservation.

Travel grants provided by Yad Hanadiv, the World Bank and the Alfred Freiherr von Oppenheim Foundation allowed the Center for Jewish Art to invite its documentation partners from Israel, Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union for exposure to innovative technologies.

Council of Europe, November 1998

Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin led a Jewish delegation to the Council of Europe’s November 1998 meeting on Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property.

Other participants included representatives of the Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Reform churches and the Muslim community. While the Council has already worked with the European Union, UNESCO, customs officials and police, this was the first time that religious communities gathered to discuss the issue of art theft and its illicit trafficking.

In addition, the group discussed the enhancement and conservation of sacred art. Each of the seven delegations presented a report on each of these issues. In Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin’s presentation she pointed out how the meticulous records kept in the Center’s Index of Jewish Art helped retrieve sacred objects after they had been stolen.

Dr. José Maria Ballester, Head of the Cultural Heritage Department of the Council of Europe, stressed the importance of the European religious heritage and Europe’s role in promoting tolerance and understanding. Europe’s diverse religious heritage has not only shaped present day Europe but has enriched the European cultural scene.

The conference resulted in a Final Declaration, including eleven recommendations to protect, conserve and develop cultural property of a religious nature, even if the community now lives outside the political boundaries of the state in question.

Dr. Cohen-Mushlin also made a presentation at the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly's Sub-Committee on Cultural Heritage in Avila, Spain in March 1999 on the subject of Conservation of Major Religious Buildings. Cohen-Mushlin discussed the devastation of thousands of synagogues throughout the world due to the last century of wars, revolutions and mass immigration, and called upon the parliamentarians to take responsibility for the minority cultures within their countries.

In response to the Council of Europe's commitment to creating awareness of its common culture and UNESCO's efforts to save endangered culture throughout the world, both the Council's Secretary General, Mr. Daniel Tarschys, and UNESCO's Director General Mr. Federico Mayor gave their patronage to the Center’s two 1999 international events: The symposium co-sponsored by the World Bank on Preserving the Architecture of Historic Cities and Sacred Places held in Washington, D.C. in May 1999; and the Sixth International Seminar on Jewish Art, Scripture and Picture: the Bible in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art held in Jerusalem a month later.

International Conference on Jewish Heritage in Europe, January 1999

Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin and Boris Khaimovich were invited to participate in this three-day conference in Paris which was organized by Max Polonovski in charge of Jewish patrimony in the French Ministry of Culture. Organizers brought together Jewish and non-Jewish experts from all over West, Central and Eastern Europe involved in the preservation of Jewish culture in Europe. The main issues discussed were inventories, conservation, protection and accessibility of the Jewish material heritage to the public. Cohen-Mushlin talked about the Rescue Operation of Synagogues and Ritual Objects and Khaimovich discussed Jewish Monuments of Romania.

European Council of Jewish Communities, January 1999

As a result of the Center's intensive documentation of Jewish art and architecture in Europe, an ongoing working relationship has been established with the European Council of Jewish Communities. The Center's director, Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, and researcher Boris Khaimovich participated in the Council's meeting in Paris, during which they discussed future efforts to preserve and promote Jewish heritage in Europe. The meeting's recommendations included as top priority continued inventory and documentation, exchange of information, and training programs for field workers.

Council of Europe, January 2000

Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin led the Jewish delegation at a meeting of the Council of Europe which was held in Strasbourg from January 24-26, 2000. This was the second official meeting of representatives of the Churches and Religious Denomination and Communities of the Council of Europe’s Cultural Heritage Department.

The meeting again discussed illicit trafficking in cultural property in preparation of a pan-European forum to take place on this issue later this year.





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