The newly formed World Jewish Heritage Fund (WJH) this week unveiled a planned global digital platform to protect and promote Jewish cultural heritage around the world. The unveiling was held during an event at the chic haute-Israeli eatery “Balaboosta” in the heart of New York’s trendy Soho neighborhood.
WJH Founder Jack Gottlieb, an American expatriate based in Tel Aviv, introduced the project with an e-book, “Israel’s Top 100 Ethnic Restaurants, ” serving as a digital appetizer to a wider menu of planned technology, including mobile applications, which will put the power of online, collaborative communications in the hands of the Jewish community to preserve Jewish heritage.
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“We decided that what was needed was a kind of UNESCO for Judaism, ” Gottlieb said. “Think of us as a cross between UNESCO, Wikipedia and Trip advisor, with Jewish heritage and culture being the unique components tying it all together.”
Gottlieb founded the WJH as a non-profit to preserve and protect the world’s Jewish heritage sites after he realized that no other organization was solely dedicated to that mission. After a trip to see Jewish sites in Belarus and Ukraine, Gottlieb said he realized “they had no voice; no one knew about them and they were falling into disrepair. I thought, ‘Can we do something about this?’” he said.
“Using digital-tourism tools in order to push more and more visitors to Jewish heritage sites and cultural events will create incentives for countries, local authorities and organizations to keep preserving and investing in their Jewish heritage assets, which will further promote tourism to these sites and events, creating an eco-system of Jewish heritage tourism” Gottlieb explained.
The first type of heritage the organization is set up to preserve is Jewish culinary heritage, via its new e-book about Israel’s hidden ethnic culinary gems, and an e-book series to follow, about Jewish cuisine in North America and Europe. “We chose food as the first aspect of our heritage we’re trying to preserve, as it represents such an important part of our culture, ” Gottlieb said. “It’s the stories behind the food, and behind the people who make it, that are the gateway to so many other aspects of our heritage.”
The WJHtravel, a travel app serving as a “Jewish trip advisor” according to Gottlieb, is currently in beta testing, and is available on the App store; the WJHpedia, a community-based resource, fully integrated with both the app and the e-book, is available online for users to share their experiences of Jewish heritage travel all around the world.