In his blog on Jewish art and monuments, Sam Gruber reports on the new agreement signed last month between the U.S. and Kosovo aimed to protect cultural heritage sites, especially of religious and ethnic minorities. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and Kosovo’s President Atifete Jahjaga signed the Agreement on the Protection and Preservation of Certain Cultural Properties in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 14, 2011.
In her remarks — see FULL TEXT here — Clinton called the agreement “really important” because “the United States has a special interest in helping to preserve cultural heritage sites in countries around the world, because the vast majority of Americans are immigrants and descendants of immigrants.”
The Agreement is the latest in a series of treaties worked out over the past 20 years by the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad with two dozen countries: the Czech Republic, Romania, Ukraine, Slovenia, Slovakia, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Estonia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Armenia, Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Georgia, Montenegro, and Italy, as well as Kosovo. A major aim aim is to “protect and preserve properties, including places of worship, monuments, cemeteries, and related archives that are important to the cultural heritage of their residents and former residents.”
Over the years there has been a particular emphasis on Jewish heritage sites, especially cemeteries. The Commission has sponsored detailed inventories of Jewish sites in several countries.
In his report, Sam Gruber notes the recent vandalism of the recently-restored Old Jewish cemetery in the Kosovo capital, Pristina and cites the work of Ivan Ceresnjes, former head of the Bosnia Jewish Community and now a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in documenting that and other endangered sites, particularly in the former Yugoslavia.
In January 2012, he made his fifth visit since 2002 to the New Jewish Cemetery in Pristina, at Dragodan, next to Serbian Orthodox cemetery, and reported to JHE and others that the site was steadily deteriorating and sent a series of pictures documenting the damage.