If there was a Jewish Nobel Prize, I would give it to Edward Serotta for founding Centropa, which seeks to preserve and protect Jewish life in Eastern Europe. That short description simply does not do justice to the rich mission of this organization. It serves as a photo repository, oral history collection, recipe archive and educational resource center for everything to do with Jewish life behind what used to be the Iron Curtain. Centropa sends researchers into small towns and villages to interview elderly Jews. In doing thousands of such interviews, it has woven a systematic portrait of the Jewish communities of each of the nations in the region. It creates curricula to teach Diaspora Jews about the legacy of Eastern European Jewry. A few years ago, when I first learned about Centropa through Joan Nathan’s profile in the N.Y. Times, I wrote my first post about it.
Ed’s wonderful Nightline program on his search for and attempt to save the Sarajevo Haggadah first brought him to my attention. You can buy the DVD here. He is also a fine photographer who took these wonderful images of the Sarajevo National Library before and after Serbian shell fire destroyed it.
UCLA Hillel and director Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller are bringing an amazing Centropa exhibit to Los Angeles in October: Images of a Lost World: Pictures and Stories of Balkan Sephardic Life from the Centropa Interviews. It will be at the Dortort Gallery starting Sunday, October 28th. There will also be a UCLA Center for Jewish Studies symposium, The Sephardic Experience in the Balkans: Between Past and Present in Royce Hall the same day from 2-4 PM. I urge anyone who lives in L.A. or visits during the time the exhibit is there to visit.
I’ve tried valiantly to find substantive links to any of these programs but either the sponsors aren’t doing a good job of promoting them (at least online) or I’m not doing a good job of researching the links. I’d welcome more information from anyone who has any.