Every year on Jewish Heritage Europe we post round-ups of various initiatives and projects aimed at restoring and cleaning up Jewish cemeteries that take place throughout the spring and summer all over Europe. Most are carried out by volunteers, and some initiatives take place within the framework of longstanding international volunteer programs. Some are organized by Jewish communities or civic bodies. This year, some clean-ups are going ahead as planned, but others — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — have either been cancelled or postponed.
- The 2020 projects of the Matzevah Foundation, which organizes yearly clean-up sessions in a number of cities in Poland
- The initiatives of Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, a German-based NGO that organizes Jewish cemetery clean-up summer camps in Central and Eastern Europe every year.
Here is a first round-up other Jewish cemetery clean-up initiatives, including those that have been cancelled or postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic emergency, and those that have taken place or are still planned. If you don’t see your project on this list, let us know!
Mogilev, throughout spring/summer. Work on the cemetery continues, including the removal of bushes and the application of herbicides to rampant vegetation
Yanovichy — summer. Clean up work began in early June; a memorial will be constructed, too.
Havlickov Brod, June — Scouts have begun cleaning up a Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of town.
Holešov April/May — The Brno Jewish community carried out extensive restoration of the entrance area to the Jewish cemetery, to better accommodate the hundreds of pilgrims who annually come to visit the tomb of Rabbi Sabbatai ben Meir ha-Kohen called Schach, a noted scholar who served as rabbi in Holešov from 1648 to 1663.
Přistoupim, June 7 – a village in the Kolín District in Central Bohemia, a clean-up session at the local Jewish cemetery is foreseen for June 7th. The initiative is organized by the NGO OPRISE, that since 2018 organizes two volunteer clean-ups per year at the local cemetery, one in the fall and another one in the spring.
Kibuci Bucik activities, postponed – The Kibuci Bucik is a youth group from the Lauder Javne Jewish School in Budapest that every year organizes a clean-up session in a different Jewish cemetery in Hungary. It has postponed this year’s summer camp to the fall. The clean-up will take place at the Jewish cemetery in one of the following villages in the Budapest area: Zsámbék, Budakeszi, or Pomáz.
Kozma utca Jewish cemetery, Budapest, cancelled/postponed – In a Facebook post the NGO Friends of Budapest Jewish Cemetery, which is working in the vast Kozma street Jewish cemetery announced that a clean-up planned for March with students from a Jewish high school from Baltimore had been cancelled, while an international volunteer clean-up planned for July has been postponed indefinitely.
Tapolca, May – in this city in north-western Hungary, the Women’s Club for the Beautification of Tapolca (Tapolcai Városszépítő Egyesület Nőklubjának, in Hungarian), carried out clean-up of the cemetery over the past couple of months. Because of the epidemic restrictions, only between 8 to 10 volunteers could work each day; they cleaned around 150 tombstones. For this activity, the group received a grant of 650.000 forints (around €1.880) from the Hungarian Pantheon Foundation (Magyar Pantheon Alapítvány, in Hungarian), and 300.000 forints (around €870) from the local government.
Białystok, Bagnówka cemetery, postponed from August 2020 til August 2021. The Bialystok Cemetery Restoration Fund writes: Our concern is not only with travel and availability of supplies, but more so with the health of our volunteers – this year from the United States, Germany and Israel, and the health of our equally dedicated Bialystok volunteers. Planning is already underway for 2021 with the possibility of extending the length of Summercamp to compensate for this year’s postponement.
Czarny Dunajec, Spring/Summer – This year the Centrum Foundation, the foundation created by former Olympic athlete Dariusz Popiela, is working at the Jewish cemetery in Czarny Dunajec, in southern Poland. The works include the construction of a fence, clean-up and restoration of the cemetery. As in the cemeteries that have already been restored by the foundation in Krościenko nad Dunajcem and Grybów, a monument dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust is expected to be erected in September. Contacted by JHE, however, Popiela said that the inauguration will probably be postponed due to pandemic travel restrictions.
Kielce, mid-May – in this city in south central Poland, volunteers from the Jan Karski Society organized a clean-up session at the Jewish cemetery in mid-May. Another session is planned in July in the context of the anniversary of the 1946 Kielce pogrom, however the date is yet to be announced.
Volunteer carried out a clean-up on June 4 organized by the cemetery custodian, Sławomir Pastuszka
Suchowola, May/July – in this village in north-eastern Poland, a clean-up of the Jewish cemetery took place in May, carried out by the Center of Three Cultures (Centrum Trzech Kultur) and local municipal workers. Much brush and other vegetation was cleared. The Center is organizing another clean-up initiative in the context of the 3rd Multicultural Festival to be held in July. If the emergency remains by then, the volunteers will work in different hours to avoid crowding.
Łódź, Summer – the local NGO Guardians of Remembrance (Strażnicy Pamięci), which organizes clean up work in the Jewish cemetery, informed JHE that it will organize a clean-up action June 21.
Warsaw — Okopowa st Jewish cemetery — Volunteer clean-up sessions have started up again, on Sundays starting at 11 a.m. Tools and gloves are provided. “Men are required to wear a hat, but if you forget your hat, we’ll also provide it.” The work takes place under religious supervision.
Warsaw — Radosc/Wawer, June 20 — Volunteers cleaned up the small Jewish cemetery in this suburb of Warsaw, in an action organize by the Foundation for Cultural Heritage
Dolný Kubin, mid-May – the historic Jewish cemetery faced an unusual form of vandalism, when nine trees were cut down causing damages to the cemetery’s concrete fence. The local NGO Aktiv – Relax organized a volunteer action in mid-May, to repair the fence and clear brushes and weeds.
Kysucké Nové Mesto, Kotešová, and Rajec – volunteers carried out clean up work in April and May, wearing face masks and keeping social distance.
Námestovo, April and May – the local civic group Pamätaj (Remember), worked during April and May in the local Jewish cemetery, which had been attacked in December by vandals who toppled and damaged at least 60 tombstones. In May, the civic group announced that a memorial designed by the Atelier Holly had been built in one of the cemetery’s corners.
Kysylyn (Volyn region) — Clearing and clean up is being undertaken by the ESJF and local muncipality. The cemetery will be fenced.