About us

In April 2016, the Israel Jacobson Netzwerk für jüdische Kultur und Geschichte e. V. (IJN) was founded as a registered non-profit association. Regional institutions, scientific and cultural institutions as well as interested private individuals from the districts and cities of Braunschweig, Wolfsburg, Salzgitter, Gifhorn, Goslar, Helmstedt, Peine and Wolfenbüttel are committed to researching and communicating the Jewish culture and history in our region, which is rich in the past and present.

The Israel Jacobson Network sees itself as a forum in which members and interested parties regularly exchange information about their ongoing projects and initiate joint projects from their various fields of activity. The network provides impulses for topic-related cooperation involving contemporary Jewish life in the region. The IJN is open for permanent and temporary partnerships with actors from different areas. The members contribute to the network with their topic-oriented activities and cooperate with each other. The cooperation with the Leo Baeck Institute New York and the Bet Tfila - Research Centre with its partner institution at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem gives the network enormous charisma not only nationally but also internationally.

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One of the aims of the IJN actors is to take people to the authentic places of Jewish life - both from the region and beyond. In close cooperation with other partners from the region, the members offer appropriate tours for individual travellers and groups (from descendants of emigrated Jews to school classes, from culturally interested people to student excursions and groups of Jewish communities...) - of course not without views of the numerous other cultural and scenic highlights of the region. During the regular tours "On Jewish Traces...", historically significant places such as the former Jacobson School in Seesen and the former agricultural school of the Simon'schen Foundation (Tessenow House) in Steinhorst find new destinations and an appropriate function as places of information, joint learning, and discussion.

Together with our partners, we bring exhibitions on Jewish history and culture to the region, organise events such as tours on the theme "In Jewish Footsteps...", or issue publications. On our interactive map you will find over 60 buildings, sites or objects that provide an overview of Jewish life in the region between the Harz Mountains and the Heath. Since 2020, we have initiated Jewish Culture Days in the region. Since 2019, the Stolperstein initiatives of the region have come together under the umbrella of the IJN.

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Named after Israel Jacobson

The network is named after Israel Jacobson (1768-1828). Jacobson, who was born in Halberstadt, worked as a rabbi and banker in Braunschweig. As a staunch advocate of Jewish enlightenment, he founded an early Jewish reform school in 1801 in the then Brunswick town of Seesen, which quickly became one of the most important places of enlightened Jewish education and soon after its foundation also accepted Christian pupils. It was thus a pioneer for the legal and lived social equality of the Jewish population.

Jacobson was also a champion of the Jewish reform movement: In the courtyard of his school in Seesen, he had the Jacob Temple built, the first synagogue building designed for the Reform rite. The Jacobson School and the Jacob Temple sent out important signals of the Jewish community's departure from tradition into modernity. To this day, countless Jewish communities throughout the world refer to the reform movement initiated in Seesen.

With the work of Israel Jacobson, the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, had one of its centres in the Duchy of Brunswick in the 19th century. His Reform School and the Jacob Temple in Seesen were just as groundbreaking for the movement of Jewish civilisation as his commitment to the legal equality of the Jewish population. In 1807 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Helmstedt for his work.

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Region for Enlightenment and Tolerance

In our region, which can be considered a "model region" of German-Jewish culture and history since the time of the Enlightenment, there are numerous authentic places, fascinating topics and remarkable personalities of German-Jewish culture and history. Some of them are still waiting to be discovered and appropriately presented to a broad public.

Jewish culture and history in the region

As early as the Middle Ages, there were significant Jewish communities in the towns between the Harz Mountains and the Heath. However, they perished in the pogroms of the late Middle Ages and early modern times. Since the 18th century, the region has once again gained great importance for the history of German-Jewish culture. Fascinating places, ensembles and objects still bear witness to this today. The Braunschweig chamber agent Alexander David (1687-1765) was one of the most important Jewish court factors in the German nation and is regarded as the founder of the Jewish community of Braunschweig. He was one of the first to make his Judaica collection accessible to the public. In doing so, he established the tradition of exhibiting Jewish objects, which is continued today by the Braunschweig State Museum. Its exhibition centre Hinter Aegidien houses parts of David's collection as well as the interior of the synagogue in Hornburg as its main exhibit.

About Lessing and Mendelssohn

In Wolfenbüttel, the former seat of the principality of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, the Enlightenment writer and librarian at the Herzog August Library, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, and his friend, the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, met in Lessing's home, now the Lessing House. Lessing memorialised the founder of the Jewish Enlightenment in his drama "Nathan the Wise" with the character of Nathan. Lessing created this work, a key document of enlightened tolerance, in his study, which can be visited today.

Jewish education, Jewish engagement

With the Samson School, founded in Wolfenbüttel in 1786/1796, another educational institution widely known in the Jewish world existed in the region until the 20th century. Among others, Leopold Zunz, one of the founders of the science of Judaism, and Samuel Spier, one of the founding fathers of the SPD, taught there. The impressive school building in Wolfenbüttel has been preserved to this day.

Jews often strove very successfully in the 19th century to be recognised as part of the middle classes. Industrialists like Max Jüdel (1845-1910) from Braunschweig, founder of the Eisenbahn-Signal-Bauanstalt (today Siemens), made outstanding contributions to the economic development of the region. However, in keeping with Jewish tradition, they were also active as philanthropists and benefactors - not only for the Jewish community, but for all citizens. The Gifhorn Cider Ball, which still takes place today, goes back to a donation by Alexander Menke, an honorary Jewish citizen of the city.

Two other places of Jewish cultural history in the region that are of supra-regional significance can also be traced back to the foundation of a Jewish entrepreneur: the agricultural training centres of the Simon'sche Foundation in Steinhorst (district of Gifhorn) and Peine, founded in 1909 and 1912 respectively, where Jews were trained in agriculture and horticulture in order to better integrate them into society. The architect of the two institutions, which have been preserved as buildings, was Heinrich Tessenow, one of the pioneers of modern architecture.

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