The Maceva Litvak Cemetery Catalogue, strapped for funding, has launched a newly designed web site which includes a new access policy for its digitized cemetery resources that essentially puts its database behind a paywall.
Under the new policy, Maceva will require people wanting to access one cemetery its database of more than 30 digitized Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania to pay $100. It asks a $500 payment for those wishing to access all cemeteries in the digital database.
People who have already in the past made donations of $100 or $500 will be granted access. Also, Macevo founder Sergey Kanovich told JHE, students doing research on cemeteries, donors, and volunteers who take part in clean-up or documentation “will continue having unlimited access.”
Kanovich said he was aware that the move could be controversional. But, he said, it was taken in order to guarantee funding so that Maceva can continue to operate. The two major donors who to-date had supported Maceva’s work had discontinued their support, he said.
“For the past few years Maceva was fighting for the funds in order to be able to continue its activities,” he told JHE. “We can’t live on air.”
He said the average cost of basic clean-up, recording, digitizing and translating epitaphs comes to 5-6,000 Euro depending on the size of the cemetery, with translating alone costing 2 Euro per headstone. Kanovich said it had been a “difficult decision” to apply a mandatory contribution fee to access the database. But, he hope that “it will show in fact how many people do care for the cause.” Current individual donations to Maceva, he said, amount to about $200 a month.
If sufficient funding cannot be raised, he said, Maceva might have to close down its operations and donate its database to another institution.
Maceva was established in 2011 and since then, working with volunteers, it has cleaned, recorded and digitized 31 Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania. The country in its present borders was once home to more than 200 Jewish communities. Most Jewish cemeteries are neglected or were destroyed.
Next month, August 8-20, Maceva — in association with the German Action Reconciliation Service for Peace NGO — is organizing an international volunteer action to work on the Jewish cemetery in Svencionys, including cleaning the grounds and recording the headstones and epitaphs of its more than 3,000 grave markers.
Maceva Project leader Sandra Petrukonyte said Maceva had received “a targeted donation of $6,000 US dollars” for the project.
It will be the second joint project in consecutive years between the two organizations. Some 10-15 young people are expected from Germany, Bulgaria and possibly elsewhere. More information can be found at https://www.asf-ev.de/en/summer-camps/activities/lithuania.html