What is Open Jewish Homes?

Open Jewish Homes is a programme made up of small-scale, private commemoration gatherings, in which memories of events and people are being recalled.

The focus is on Jewish life in these houses before, during and immediately after the war. Joël Cahen, managing director of the Jewish Historical Museum, thinks of Open Jewish Homes as “… a beautiful way of commemorating. You can visit the house where the people used to live.” Maarten-Jan Vos, project coordinator Open Jewish Homes 2014, is telling about residents who took the initiative to form a work group in their city and about how they handled this.

History comes to life during Open Jewish Homes. Direct witnesses, descendants and connoisseurs tell stories about persecution, resistance and liberation on the basis of photographs, films, diary fragments, poems, literature and music. Everyone is welcome to listen, to express themselves and to commemorate.

What happens during a commemoration?
Every gathering begins by naming the persons who are being commemorated at the address concerned. Subsequently someone tells their life story in 15 to 20 minutes and explains his/her personal motivation to tell this story. After this visitors have 15 to 20 minutes to respond, to ask questions or to contribute to the commemoration otherwise. The gathering is brought to a close after approximately 45 minutes, so that visitors have the opportunity to get to the next address in time.

Who organises Open Jewish Homes?
The Jewish Historical Museum organised in 2012 the first edition of Open Jewish Homes in Amsterdam. Since then local work groups have been organising Open Jewish Homes in various other cities in the country as well. Everyone is free to initiate Open Jewish Homes in his or her place of residence. You find how to deal with the organisation here.

Why commemorating in the way Open Jewish Homes does?
Open Jewish Homes fits in with the Jewish tradition of commemorating by putting the focus on the importance of the location (the house). Moreover, commemorating on site corresponds well with the contemporary interest in the private, personal story in history. Remembering events that took place in the streets and neighbourhoods that are familiar to visitors, contributes to the intrusive nature of the commemorations.

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