In April 2004 the Hohenems Reading Society was brought to life again.
In 1813 Jews in Hohenems for the first time established a “reading society” in the spirit of enlightenment. Its purpose, “a pleasant company fostering the education of the human spirit”, brought together all those interested in secular culture, meeting “informal gatherings of the members, finding diversion in discourse and the reading of most remarkable passages of periodicals and books”, as it was laid down in the statutes.
The reading society had about 30 members, mostly from the younger generation of the Jewish community, working as merchants and teachers, apprentices and secretaries. The first reading society, founded in the liberal age of the Napoleonic-Bavarian rule in Vorarlberg and Tyrol, survived only a few years, but was followed later by various other associations and formed the beginning of enlightenment and reform in the community. From a list of books, found in the house no. 4 in the Schweizer Street we know, that already about 1800 contemporary philosophy, literature and drama were present in Hohenems.
This tradition was revived in 2004 in the museum’s café “Reading Society”. The newly found association supports literary and intellectual culture by organizing public and internal readings and discussions. The museum’s café, supported by volunteering members became thus a meeting point and center of public life. The new reading society is also involved in the “Hohenems Prize for Contemporary Literature”, every second year awarded to German-speaking writers of non-German mothertongue by the city of Hohenems and the Viertelforum association.