Visitors to Jewish cemeteries who don’t know Hebrew can find themselves lost in a sea of unreadable epitaphs. An initiative is under way at the Bagnówka (Eastern) Jewish cemetery in Białystok, Poland (the city’s only surviving Jewish cemetery) to help rectify this and make the experience of visitors more meaningful.
All of the 2,000 or so stones in the cemetery have already been photographed, and their epitaphs have all be translated by the scholar Heidi M. Szpek — and this information is available on Tomasz Wisniewski’s Bagnówka web site.
Volunteers with the “Operation Peace Sign” (Aktion Suehnezeichnen) and the Polish-Israel Center for Civic Education have carried out restoration work in recent years and now, in the cemetery itself, signage is being erected next to some of the stones containing Szpek’s translations of the epitaphs and other information.
“We wanted to put interesting information with interesting tombs,” Lucy Lisowska, president of the Polish-Israel Center for Civic Education and the representative of the Jewish Community of Warsaw, Białystok and Podlasie, told the local edition of Gazeta newspaper.