The Jewish Agency has laid the cornerstone for a new Israel Cultural Center in Budapest that could serve as a testing-ground for similar Israel-Diaspora centers worldwide.
Modeled on other nations' foreign cultural services, such as the British Council or the Alliance FranÃ§aise, the center will "bring under one roof a wide range of activities connected to Israel, and will expose visitors to a many fields of Israeli culture," according to a statement issued by the Jewish Agency on Sunday.
The center is being built through a cooperative venture of the agency and Israeli and local Jewish donors, including Israeli industrialist Moti Zisser and entrepreneur Arik Yom Tov. But its significance could be broader.
A series of meetings held by the Olmert government to investigate new ways of connecting between Israel and Diaspora communities raised the possibility of bringing Israeli culture into scattered Jewish communities through centers of Israeli culture run by Israeli educators.
The Budapest center will serve both functions: as a bridge between Israel and nearby Jewish communities, and a source for information about Israel for the general population. Its board will reflect this combined purpose, consisting of representatives of the local Jewish community, the Jewish Agency and the Israeli donors.
For the general audience, it will host changing exhibits of Israeli modern art, theater productions, concerts and cinema. It will offer public lectures and seminars on social issues in Israel, and will work to connect between the Hungarian arts and culture world to their counterparts in Israel.
But it will also function as a meeting place for members of Jewish communities in Budapest and nearby cities, including Belgrade, Vienna and Bratislava. More than 100,000 Jews are thought to live within 200 kilometers of the center, with some estimates claiming much higher figures.
"The center will host special activities for youth, students, academics and businesspeople," explains the Jewish Agency's emissary for Central Europe, Eran Elbar, one of the planners responsible for the center's establishment.
The center "will run a program for learning Hebrew, Israeli music and poetry and Israeli cooking. It will be the home of an Israeli-style cafÃ© and a library with the best of Israeli literature and television screens playing Israeli TV channels," Elbar said.
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