The forgotten Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe: two special Foundation for Jewish Heritage

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    The vast majority of Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe are today ‘orphaned’, without local Jewish
    communities to look after them, and therefore neglected and highly vulnerable. Yet they also offer
    unique opportunities for locals and visitors interested in exploring the hidden Jewish past in cities,
    towns, and villages across the region.
    Two ground-breaking reports by the Foundation for Jewish Heritage on the Jewish cemeteries of
    Eastern Europe has just been released.

    The first is by Prof Joanna Michlic and is entitled – ‘Jewish Cemeteries as an Educational Resource in
    High School Education: exploring current practices, challenges and future opportunities in Teaching
    about Jewish Heritage and the Holocaust in seven European countries.
    The second is by Dr. Paul Darby and is entitled – ‘Jewish Cemeteries as Visitor Destinations: Exploring
    current practices, current challenges, and sustainable futures in seven European countries.
    These reports are part of an unprecedented initiative funded by the European Union to preserve and
    promote awareness of the 1,700 Jewish cemeteries in seven countries in Eastern Europe – Georgia,
    Hungary, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine, being implemented by three consortium
    partners – the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF), and

    In many places, the Jewish cemetery is the last physical evidence of once-thriving Jewish life. Indeed,
    the very existence of these Jewish communities has become largely marginalized and forgotten,
    which is why this project is of such importance. Not only does it address the preservation of
    cemeteries, but it is preservation with a special purpose, to ensure that the Jewish presence in
    Eastern Europe is recalled, understood, commemorated, and celebrated.


    Prof Michlic’s report addresses the specific educational potential of Jewish cemeteries – how Jewish
    cemeteries can serve as ‘outdoor classrooms’; a profound tool for teachers to use in educating pupils
    on the Jewish story of their town. The study focuses on secondary school systems and authorities,
    investigating the possibility of integrating the Jewish experience into school curricula. The report also
    explores decision-making processes within the education system and assesses the readiness of
    teacher training institutes to address the topic.

    Dr. Darby’s report examines the potential of Jewish cemeteries as recognized heritage sites and
    visitor destinations. He considers the appeal of Jewish cemeteries as historical and cultural
    landmarks, shedding light on their capacity to attract visitors and tourists seeking to engage with
    Eastern Europe’s rich Jewish heritage, and the benefits that can accrue.
    The approach taken by both Prof Michlic and Dr. Darby involved listening carefully to voices from the
    region, and those with a particular interest in and expertise on the subject.
    These two reports represent important new research and a significant statement on the current
    possibilities, while also addressing the very real challenges and sensitivities.

    The full report is available in English, and each country report is also available in the local language.

    Click on the following link to read Dr. Joanna Michlic’s full report.
    Click on the following link to read Dr. Paul Darby’s full report.

    The Jewish experience inevitably touches upon what is now considered fundamental European
    values – human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Finding ways to engage with the Jewish
    legacy in Europe has a special importance today.

    Dame Helen Hyde, Foundation for Jewish Heritage Chair, stated, “We have been delighted to be a
    part of this unique EU-funded project, working with our consortium partners to understand and
    promote awareness of the Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe. These two important reports are a
    crucial outcome of the project and shed new light on what has been a largely ignored topic.”
    Michael Mail, Foundation for Jewish Heritage Chair, added, “The Jewish heritage that remains in
    Eastern Europe should concern us; a heritage that stands as a testament to the once vibrant Jewish life
    in what were the heartlands of the Jewish people. This legacy is in a highly vulnerable state. These
    reports are an important contribution to the debate on how we can preserve and promote Jewish
    cemeteries, honoring those buried there and the communities that were so tragically lost in the

    Prof Joanna Michlic commented, “This report confirms that Jewish cemeteries have great potential
    to serve important educational aims: to witness, preserve, and to learn about Jewish heritage; and to
    learn about and commemorate the Holocaust. The cemeteries, in all seven selected countries, are an
    essential resource in multicultural and global citizenship education and education against
    antisemitism and racism. They are open-air museums wherein high school students familiarise
    themselves with the history of local Jews and the rich pre-1939 Jewish life. Thus, Jews and their
    identities become more than myth and hearsay.”

    Dr. Paul Darby remarked, “This research provides an overview of how Jewish cemeteries are currently
    being sustained and promoted as visitor destinations in seven East European countries. The report
    gives a picture of how a variety of stakeholders are engaging visitors with the heritage of the Jewish
    cemetery and promoting that heritage as part of Europe’s story. The report’s findings demonstrate
    both a commitment to and challenges for, the long-term sustainability of these sites.
    Recommendations seek to spread understanding about innovative practices and suggest ways in
    which partnerships and networking can provide solutions for those working to safeguard this
    heritage for Europe’s future citizens.”

    The Foundation for Jewish Heritage is a London-based charity that works internationally on the
    preservation of Jewish heritage at risk.

    For further information, please contact Michael Mail on m: +44 7968 529609 and e:

    New York Jewish Travel Guide

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