ShUM World Heritage

The ShUM-cities are of central importance for Judaism and Jews worldwide – but what do they mean to non-Jews, what significance can ShUM have for the world? Can Jewish heritage also be world heritage?

ShUM, this means the wise, the educated, it is knowledge and tradition, and it is the gravestones, Mikvaot and synagogues. At the same time, the history and traditions of these three cities and their Jewish sites also reflect how the Jewish community and the teachings developed in the midst of the Christian majority society, but also how they were repeatedly hindered or even destroyed.

ShUM signifies coexistence and interaction, together and side-by-side, times of flourishing as well as the times of decline through expulsion and murder.

The Jewish people have contributed to societal, religious, economic, and social discussions and developments, but also to culture, architecture, law and justice, and other disciplines in ShUM. ShUM was like a Jewish “House of teaching” in many buildings and in three locations, whose significance extended far beyond the concrete place.

The anti-Jewish campaigns throughout history and then the Shoah, left deep marks behind – and yet, bridges were built over these graves, to care for and preserve the common heritage and to convey its value to later generations.

In its World Heritage List the UNESCO would like to portray the world in all its diversity. There are only very few sites on the World Heritage List having primarily Jewish reference. In Israel there are four World Heritage sites listed, among them Masada and the Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv.

The ShUM-cities connect Jewish with European with global history, they are significant for Jews and non-Jews world-wide. The monuments are exceptional and serve as a place for remembrance as well as for one’s own identification in the present.

ShUM offers room for reflection.

ShUM leaves us with key questions, also for the present:

  • How can and should different cultures and religions live together without sacrificing their own roots?
  • How can co-existence succeed?
  • Assimilation or acculturation?
  • How is it possible to live together anew, after pogroms, destruction and expulsion?
  • What do the centuries-old teachings of a Rashi offer, e.g. for modern forms of co-existence, for questions of economic ethics?
  • For what reason should religious texts and commandments be questioned, discussed, and modern approaches and new interpretations be found?

A world heritage ShUM would do justice to the meaning and significance of this unique Jewish tradition.

A World Heritage ShUM would illustrate that ShUM is not only about history, but also about the present.

The communities founded after the Shoah know about the traditions of ShUM.

To take up and live out these traditions reflects the spirit and the teachings of ShUM.