This year’s 118th edition of the SIG Assembly of Delegates was held in Geneva. Guest of honour in the presence of delegates from throughout Switzerland and numerous guests was Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis. The thematic focus of the day was on remembrance, knowledge transmission and future.
The 118th SIG Assembly of Delegates (AoD) was held in Geneva on 14 May 2023. After an interval of several years, 82 voting delegates from 16 member communities once again convened in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The programme of the «Journée FSCI» (SIG day) was divided in two main parts. First on the agenda were the delegate assemblies of the SIG and the Association of Swiss Jewish Refugee Aid and Welfare Organisations VSJF. The second part, in the afternoon, was theme-based and included the visit of this year’s guest of honour, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis.
The SIG successfully on track and new fundraising measures
In his opening speech at the SIG AoD, SIG President Ralph Lewin highlighted several success stories of the past 12 months. The increase of contributions by the Confederation and several cantons to the security costs of the country’s Jewish community entered into force at the beginning of 2023. This represents a considerable financial relief for the Jewish institutions and a milestone for the SIG after years of efforts to secure more support. Only a few weeks prior to the AoD, the Nationalrat (lower chamber of parliament) approved a motion to prohibit Nazi symbols. Both this and the recent government go-ahead for the creation of a national memorial dedicated to the victims of the Nazis are, not least, the result of many years of work by the SIG. Mr Lewin also emphasised the importance of ensuring the SIG’s financial stability for the future and mentioned new measures such as fundraising for specific SIG projects.
After 11 years on the Board of Directors, Mr Ariel Wyler had announced his resignation prior to the Assembly. To replace him, the delegates elected Mr Rolf Halonbrenner, a member of Agudas Achim. Mr Halonbrenner was a well-known candidate, having already served on the SIG Board of Directors from 2000 to 2012.
Thematic focus: remembrance must be linked with knowledge transmission
The official part of the Assembly of Delegates was followed by a theme-based afternoon session under the heading «remembrance, transmission, future». Delegates welcomed Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis as guest of honour and speaker. The focus was on keeping the memory of the Shoah alive within our society. Special mention in this context was given to the project, recently approved by the Federal Council, for the creation of a national memorial dedicated to the victims of the Nazi era. In his speech, Ralph Lewin highlighted the importance of linking remembrance with the transmission of knowledge, describing the SIG’s views on the educational goals to be connected with the Memorial as follows:
«Remembering implies lessons for the present and the future. The Memorial’s educational offers should, in particular, enable young people to critically reflect matters of prejudice and marginalisation.»
Ignazio Cassis emphasises the importance of remembrance
On 26 April 2023, the Federal Council announced its decision to realise the memorial project. The central site will be located in Berne, while a site for cross-border knowledge transmission and networking will be set up in Eastern Switzerland in collaboration with the Canton of St. Gallen. In his introductory speech, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis emphasised the significance of the forthcoming memorial:
«In a time when the voices of the survivors are becoming ever fewer, such memorials are of paramount importance. They will never be able to replace the millions of men, women and children who were annihilated. But they can contribute to keeping these people as alive as possible in our memory, and to remember the survivors’ fundamental promise: Never again.»
The memorial project also served as a starting point in the interview with Mr Cassis, conducted by journalist Lynn Levy, in which he also expressed his personal attitude:
«It is a fundamental responsibility of ours to remember, and to pass this remembrance on to the younger generations.»