It’s summertime, and a number of volunteer initiatives to clean up Jewish cemeteries in various countries have been taking place. These initiatives — one-day efforts, or “work camps” that may last two or three weeks — are sponsored by a variety of NGOs, non-profits and other organizations. Here is a sample…
In his blog Vanished World, Christian Herrmann again writes about the SCI/SVIT (Civil Service International) volunteer program that works each summer in the sprawling (and very overgrown) Jewish cemetery in Chernivtsi (Czernowitz), Ukraine. This year it takes place August 1-20. Christian writes there were fewer volunteers this year — because of the volatile political situation in Ukraine, and the fighting in the east of the country:
It is a miracle that this workcamp takes place. Many people are afraid to come to Ukraine because of the war in the east of the country. And SVIT faced big challenges. The organization has its headquarters in Artemovsk, which was temporarily occupied by “separatists”. The infrastructure had to be moved to Kharkiv, bank accounts registered in Artemovsk were temporarily closed. The by Russia stirred up war has an impact on Ukrainian civil society and on the opportunities of young people for international exchange. […] There are fewer volunteers than in recent years, but they do their job with the same sense of duty and the same joy as all of them before. They are young people from Poland, the Czech Republic, Ireland and of course the Ukraine.
Another recent clean-up took place in Budapest on August 8, when people from the Canadian Embassy cleared vegetation from around a Holocaust memorial in the long-neglected Jewish cemetery in Salgotarjani street — next to the city’s monumental Kerepesi cemetery, where national heroes are buried. Many Jewish notables are buried in the Salgotarjani street Jewish cemetery, with grandiose family tombs and some remarkable sculptural monuments by, for example, the noted art nouveau/art deco architect Bela Lajta, who also designed the ceremonial hall.
In July, the Green Party in Vienna organized a one-day a clean-up operation in Vienna’s disused and overgrown Jewish cemetery at Währing — and another is planned for September 14.
Various clean-up operations have been taking place in Poland.
Two groups of volunteers worked in the Jewish cemetery in Oswiecim, Poland (the town when the Auschwitz camp was built), in August. (Before the Holocaust, most of Oswiecim’s residents were Jewish.) There was a “summer camp” for Polish and German volunteers organized via the German non-profit Action Reconciliation. They worked together for a week with American volunteers from the Atlanta, Georgia-based Christian Matzevah Foundation. In June Matzevah also worked with local students on clean-up work in the Jewish cemetery in Krzepice, Poland.