Interview with Caron Sethill, Programme Manager Europea at National Library of Israel. Caron Sethill is part of the Task Force Group for the European Day of Jewish Culture.


On this occasion, we have the great pleasure of interviewing Caron Sethill, Programme Manager Europea at National Library of Israel. Caron Sethill is part of the Task Force Group for the European Day of Jewish Culture.


For two years, NLI and AEPJ have been working together with the objective of developing contents for the participating cities of this project, which this year will revolve around Storytelling. In this way, Caron has been evaluate the work done to this day and to think of different ways to make a greater impact with the European Day of Jewish Culture.


First of all, it has been a pleasure to work with AEPJ and the European Day of Jewish Culture (EDJC), which has offered me and colleagues at the NLI a fascinating glimpse into the activities to promote Jewish Culture across Europe - and of course to collaborate with the wonderful network of coordinators so dedicated to this work. I had no idea of the extent and range of different communities across so many countries where EDJC activities were taking place. In fact it all started with a request from one of the smaller cultural centres in your network - Sinagoga Maribor in Slovenia. In 2016 Marjetka Bedrac, (coordinator at the Museum housed in the former Synagogue in Maribor) approached the National Library's Reference team asking whether we had books in Yiddish and Ladino. We have very many books and different materials in those languages, so I called to ask her for more details and learned that she was putting together plans for the European Day whose theme that year was Jewish Languages. Once I realized that this was happening in many places - not just Maribor - I tried to think about how we can create resources that could be used to complement the activities being planned across the EDJC centres, together with AEPJ, we and decided to create a small exhibition featuring our materials in selected Jewish Languages. This theme really resonated for the NLI, our collections include materials in many different Jewish languages, reflecting the many places where Jewish life has flourished. We were very pleased with the response to the exhibition, and in particular to learn that it continued to be displayed and used to inform people beyond the EDJC itself. The following year's theme, Diaspora, was more challenging as this covers such a huge range of material and themes, so it was very helpful to have the chance to meet the coordinators in person - our wonderful Task force - to discuss how to develop this theme in a way that would be informative, relevant and sensitive to audiences in Europe ? we created another exhibition and a film which we hoped enhance understanding of the 2000 year history of Jewish life in Europe. I was particularly delighted to see that the exhibition was beautifully presented at the Jewish Museum in Girona, where it can still be seen.


This year's theme Storytelling, is particularly compelling for the National Library of Israel, we aim to be the repository for Jewish cultural treasures, telling the fascinating story of the Jewish people in Israel and across the globe. So we decided to do something different this year, not only sharing stories from the NLI collections, but also to inspire people across the EDJC network to tell their own story. We have been providing different ideas and examples these past few months, through the AEPJ newsletter, and have now released a series of 4 films, telling the stories behind some of the treasures in our collections - not just Judaica from Europe, but also from Africa and our Islam and Middle East Collection. Our hope is that these will in turn trigger more stories, creating a fascinating mosaic of different narratives from the communities participating in EDJC. Storytelling is used in so many ways, to help people connect with their history and with each other, so we are very excited to see what emerges from this year's activities. We very much hope we can continue to cooperate with the European Day of Jewish Culture and to think of even more creative ways to contribute towards EDJC, to hear how they are received by your different audiences and to put the NLI on the map for Europe, as a place where you come to read stories and all different types of materials on Jewish life across the world. In the past year we have launched our English blog and are inviting people to contribute and tell us their stories.People who are interested in learning more about blogging for us should email europe@nli.org.il


Futhermore, Caron is leading the development of 'Gesher L'Europa' A Bridge to Europe - Gesher L'Europa, an initiative funded by the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, to provide opportunities for exchange and enrichment between the National Library of Israel and European scholars, library and museum professionals, and educators working within Jewish settings. Caron, in your opinion, what's the scenario of the promotion of Jewish Heritage in Europe? Please, talk a bit about the role of the NLI in the promotion of the Jewish Heritage in Europe.


Our cooperation with AEPJ does indeed come under the Gesher L'Europa programme, which was established in 2014, as part of the NLI's ambitious programme of renewal, aiming to become the Library of the Jewish people, to help people think of the NLI as 'their Library' and to engage with our diverse range of collections. You can see on our website www.europe.nli.org.il the range of different activities we are doing to help support people who are looking after Jewish heritage across Europe. Speaking from the NLI's perspective, we look for ways where our experience and expertise can add value to the very important work being done in the Jewish Heritage sector. We recently ran a two part training programme for archivists working with Jewish collections in the Balkans - so I was delighted to participate in the EDJC events in Novi Sad last year - and this year we are starting an initiative with UCEI, the Union of Jewish Communities in Italy, to help catalogue and preserve Hebrew books held in libraries across the country ? so this year I hope to join the EDJC celebrations in Italy.


We are developing educational resources based on the primary resources in the NLI and look forward to launching our new English education website in September, with a whole range of resources especially created for use by teachers and educators in Europe. The cultural programme within Gesher L'Europa is a very important part of our work to promote Jewish Heritage in Europe, we look for creative and innovative ways to present our materials to enable people to enjoy them and experience them in different contexts, and the EDJC offers us unique opportunities to reach diverse audiences. A driving principle for our work is to prepare carefully, and to listen to people's needs so that we ensure that we - and this means staff from across all NLI departments - are really helping and contributing towards their work. Since the programme began, Gesher L'Europa really has built bridges and strengthened the connections between the NLI and many different European institutions - libraries, archives and museums holding Jewish materials, and to cultural festivals and activities reaching the wider public.


Caron, talk a bit about the NLI resources and their accessibility and usability.


The vision formulated in the NLI renewal plan is: "to inspire, encourage and cultivate an educated, enlightened and diverse society of knowledge" We strive to provide universal access to our collections, which means offering easy access to NLI resources for everyone for professional purposes or personal enrichment, both within Israel and worldwide. Easy access relies primarily on users searching for and locating the resources and content most relevant to them. After users find what they are searching for, we try to enable the broadest possible use of content and resources for various target audiences, through needs-based analysis and continuous learning, in order to offer the highest quality online services. Alongside, the NLI has undertaken a large scale programme of digitization and making our collections accessible to scholars and researchers.


See for example KTIV The International Collection of Digitised Hebrew Manuscripts http://web.nli.org.il/sites/nlis/en/manuscript and our Digital Library including all of our Map Collection and Jewish Press, and others.


Last year, during the European Days of Jewish Culture, just in Italy, involved 422 cities with a participation 179.472 people. These are huge figures for a cultural project. What are your future perspectives on the Day, is there room for further growth? Do you think that there is a need to establish strategies at European level or is it very difficult to take into account the diversity of different national realities?


These really huge and impressive figures - EDJC must be a unique phenomenon. The fact that you maintain contact with that many participating organisations is remarkable in itself - it would be interesting to know how the network could grow and whether there are specific regions where you would like to expand. In the digital age there must be room to grow, and also to explore with your partners what being part of EDJC network means on this scale, and to learn from other models. The diverse national realities are part of the richness of the network, the challenge is how to capture them and to keep a strategic overview. I think the thematic approach is a good way to hold the network together and to create new energy between the different participants each year.


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