The Likrat Public mediators have returned from the Alpine regions following three weeks of wholehearted dedication. The mediators and their information guides helped boost the sense of togetherness between Jewish guests and locals and strengthen mutual understanding in Arosa, Davos, and the Saastal. The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) firmly believes that this project is essential.
A place that, a week ago, was still bustling with Jewish guests strolling around, shopping, and hiking, has now taken a rather quiet turn. The three weeks after the Tisha B’Av day of fasting and mourning are now over, which also signals the end of the high season for Jewish guests in Switzerland’s Alpine regions. Among those making their way back home were also the Likrat Public mediators who had been out and about in Arosa, Davos, and the Saastal during this time with hopes of educating people about Judaism and fostering understanding between the locals and the Jewish guests. When asked for an initial conclusion, Project Manager Jonathan Schoppig said: “The dedication of the Likratinos was unbelievable. They spent ten to twelve hours a day on the ground committed to the cause. And this commitment was worthwhile – as confirmed by everyone we met.”
Two years in the making culminating in full-scale implementation
After two years of planning, researching, looking for partners, and completing test runs, the pilot season of the Likrat Public summer project got under way in June 2019. The first step involved the two tourist associations Switzerland Tourism and hotelleriesuisse publishing the «Jewish guests in Switzerland» information guide, which raises awareness about the Jewish culture, tradition, and religion, as well as the diversity of Jewish life. As a second step, SIG also published the «Welcome to the Swiss Alps» information guide for Jewish guests, which explains Swiss culture and helps them understand local practices.
The third measure in the project was finally launched on August 12, with Jewish mediators spending time in Arosa, Davos, and the Saastal since then. Experience gained during this time showed that educating people on the ground and distributing information guides was largely met with a positive response. The Jewish guests seemed surprised that they were being approached on the street and assisted in Hebrew or Yiddish. The tourist information offices found it easier to advise Jewish guests. The locals also welcomed the project with open arms. The mediators were clearly able to create a basis of trust, as demonstrated by a steady increase in direct contact from people reaching out with questions or problems.
The inauguration of a Torah scroll paired with a clarifying encounter
The inauguration of a Torah scroll in Davos attracted a great deal of attention, with the rare event drawing in around 2,000 people. The resulting traffic hold-ups and the size of the approved gathering led some of the locals to express their displeasure on social media. However, the mediators and SIG were able to respond quickly. Specifically, the locals were able to find out about the background to the celebration with the help of the local paper ‘Davoser Zeitung.’ A Likrat Public meeting, open to the general public in Davos, was a further opportunity to spread information. The basic principle of a Likrat encounter is simple: Likratinos and Likratinas listen, clarify, and explain everything relating to Judaism. More than 50 locals showed up on this Thursday evening in a cafe, having heated debates with one another for more than three hours.
The same again in 2020?
The debriefings and analyses are still in progress, but what we can already say is that the commitment of the mediators, as measured by the positive feedback, was met with great approval. SIG also continues to rely on its dedicated and involved project partners. This means that there is already little in the way of relaunching this pioneering project again in 2020.