Jewish Community opened ist doors

Source: Der Standard

May, 20, 2012

Jewish Community invited all interested parties for the first time to “show that we do not live secluded”

Vienna – The Jewish Community of Vienna held an open house day for the first time in its history. “I would like to position the Jewish community as a part of Austrian society”, explained Oskar Deutsch, President of the Community. People should be familiarized with Jewish holidays and traditions. And “we also want to show that we do not live secluded”, said Miriam Tenner of the organizing committee.

There exists an interest in Jewish culture, said Deutsch while looking towards the entry. Already before the official opening at 11:00 am many people were patiently waiting in front of the Community building at Seitenstettengasse. Also responsible for the long wait were tight security measures: bags and electronic equipment were checked; the invitation suggested that all visitors should carry photo ID.  

Astonishment over menu plans
The expectations of one visitor: “ I would like to learn more about the Jewish faith, traditions and way of life. I have never been to Israel”. And this is exactly what was waiting for her at the Community center. Many visitors were astonished by looking at the poster about kosher food.

Comments like “That’s unbelievable” or “this is complicated” could be heard. How many dishes are in accordance with the regulations after all was reflected in the rich buffet.  For the Pesach, Sukkot and Schawuot holidays, visual menus were presented. “Today, we only eat it like that on holidays”, the attendees learned.  

The 150 year old city temple was busy, too. A box full of Kippots was placed next to the entry, while community Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister answered questions inside. At noon, visitors saw a Kantor concert by head cantor Schmuel Barzilai and Chief Rabbi Chaim Eisenberg, according to Deutsch a highlight of the event. “On Sabbat it’s not as crowded here”, Mr. Eisenberg said. The two Jewish musicians played for a good half hour, the audience applauded after the encores.

President Deutsch emphasized here, too, how important the opening of the community is to him. He would also like to see more schools visit the Community. “Stereotypes can only be reduced by presenting them openly”, but until now the Jewish Community has not done enough to that effect. An open house day by itself is not enough, according to Deutsch. A commission is working on further measures.

The number of visitors was hard to estimate, said Ms. Tenner. In 2008, when the Channuka fest was held as an open door event, “we were run over. I hope that we will see up to 1,000 visitors today”. “There has been a long queue since eleven o’ clock. We counted 400 visitors during the first hour. If it continues like that, we’ll have over 2,000 visitors”. The Jewish Community of Vienna currently has 8,000 registered members (APA).