Jewish Heritage Europe

Essays, op-eds, and other articles

JHE has published a number of essays, personal reports, and op-eds on a variety of issues related to Jewish cemeteries. Access them — and some other key JHE articles about Jewish cemeteries — here by clicking on the links.


The Old Jewish Cemetery at Lesko: a Poem and Photos

Jewish heritage sites have long inspired artists and writers, and we occasionally like to highlight examples. This Have Your Say is a poem about the Old Jewish Cemetery in Lesko, Poland — one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to the middle of the 16th century — which we present with a photo essay showing some of the 2,000 or so gravestones that remain. 

The poem, from 1954, is “Old Jewish Cemetery at Lesko,”  by the Polish poet Tadeusz Różewicz: we present the English translation by Joanna Trzeciak Huss. (Click HERE to see the Polish original, Stary Kirkut w Lesku.)

Maximizing Jewish Cemetery Protection in Europe

By Philip Carmel. July 3, 2017

The ESJF European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative was founded in 2015 to protect Jewish cemeteries across Europe, particularly in eastern Europe outside the EU. ESJF CEO Phil Carmel reflects here on the progress made since then, and on the importance of cemetery surveys now launched in Ukraine and Belarus.

Epitaphs: Poignant Connections to a World Now Gone

By Heidi M. Szpek. February 13, 2017

Dr. Heidi M. Szpek has been involved with the restoration of the Jewish cemetery at Bagnówka in Białystok, Poland for the past decade. Her new book Bagnówka: A Modern Jewish Cemetery on the Russian Pale was recently published by iUniverse.

She describes in this essay how she was drawn to translate the epitaphs on the cemetery’s gravestones and thus reveal vivid portraits of Białystok’s Jews, their lives, and their community.

Working towards Reconciliation: A Christian’s involvement in Jewish cemetery restoration

By Steven D. Reece. December 2, 2016

Steven D. Reece is a Baptist minister in the United States who works to restore and maintain Jewish cemeteries in Poland. The idea of reconciliation underlies his involvement. In this essay, he writes about the moral questions faced in this work. Reconciliation, he writes, is an action via which there can be transformation – cemeteries and communities being set right and rectified; literally being healed, renewed and honored.

Houses of Life: A Letter from the Hohenems Diaspora

By Hanno Loewy. October 13, 2016

Family history often provides tangible connections to Jewish memory and heritage, with Jewish built heritage as a touchstone. The year 2017 will mark 400 years since Jews settled in Hohenems, a small town in western Austria on the border with Switzerland. Today, few Jews live in either Hohenems or the surrounding Austrian region of Voralberg, but the town has a Jewish museum, a former synagogue, and a Jewish cemetery that bear testament to its past. Hanno Loewy, the director of the Hohenems Jewish Museum, is traveling around the world to connect with members of the “Hohenems Diaspora” and find traces of their history. In this essay he describes a recent stop on this journey, in Trieste, Italy.

“We Can’t Live on Air” — Why the Litvak Cemetery Catalogue put its database behind a paywall

By Sergey Kanovich. July 25, 2016

Since it was founded, Maceva, the Litvak Cemetery Catalogue, has documented around 40 of Lithuania’s 200 or so Jewish cemeteries. Strapped for funding, it recently put its digital database behind a paywall for most users.

Maceva founder Sergey Kanovich says he knows this move is controversial – and in this essay explains why this step was taken.

Why I Am Writing a Field Guide to Jewish Cemeteries – for Poles

By Witold Wrzosiński. July 3, 2016

Witold Wrzosiński is the co-founder and co-director of the Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries in Poland. Currently, with a grant from the Polish Ministry of Culture, he is writing a Field Guide to Jewish Cemeteries, mainly aimed at local Poles. In this “Have Your Say” essay he tells us why he feels this project is important.

Saving Jewish Cemeteries: We Owe It to the Murdered,

by Michael Lozman. February 7, 2016

Since 2001 Dr. Michael Lozman has worked to protect and preserve more than a dozen abandoned Jewish cemeteries in Belarus and Lithuania. In this personal essay, Dr. Lozman, a New York orthodontist, reflects on how he became interested, how he enlists and organizes U.S. college students and other volunteers, and how he arranges cooperation on the ground with local authorities, schools, and townspeople.


Jewish cemetery clean-up in Nasielsk, Poland: first-hand report

By Jay Osborn

Jay and Marla Raucher Osborn, of the Rohatyn Jewish Heritage project and Gesher Galicia, recently joined other volunteers for two days of a  three-day Jewish cemetery clearing and cleaning project in Nasielsk, Poland, north of Warsaw. In this crosspost from  the Rohatyn Jewish Heritage web site, Jay describes the experience in Nasielsk.

Report: JHE Coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber’s visit to historic Jewish cemetery in Nis, Serbia

Nis Jewish cemetery 2012April 12, 2012

The Jewish cemetery in Nis is believed to date back to the 18th century. It was expropriated by the communist authorities in 1948, and burials were barred in 1965. After that, Roma families occupied about one-third of the site, building homes among the tombstones and creating a village without proper plumbing, sewage treatment or garbage disposal. Industry also encroached on the area, and the cemetery was long used as dump for rubbish and human waste. Vandals over the years broke open tombs, scattering bones.

A major clean-up operation in 2004 removed tons of garbage and waste that had covered the site to the depth of 1.5 meters and also installed a sewage system for the Roma village. But the cemetery has received little care or maintenance since. And despite being listed as a National cultural heritage site in 2007, it still faced several threats at the time of th 2012 visit.