(JHE) — Mazel tov to JHE friend Dr. Steven D. Reece, who has received a Fulbright grant for a project aimed to “explore and develop a model of cultural stewardship that will unite the various groups who are currently caring for and restoring Jewish cemeteries in Poland.” His grant is effective for the 2022-2023 academic year and will be conducted through the University of Szczecin and the Faculty of Humanities.
Steven, who is Baptist minister, has long worked to restore and maintain Jewish cemeteries in Poland as the president of The Matzevah Foundation (TMF), a US-based NGO. Underlying his involvement is the idea of neglected Jewish cemeteries in Poland as sites of reconciliation — spaces where Jews, Christians, and non-religious people come together and collaborate in their restoration.
The “Coalition of the Guardians,” recently launched by the Cultural Heritage Foundation, with the support of the Foundation to Preserve Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ) and others, attempts to link cemetery initiatives in a loose network.
But, TMF said in announcing the grant, “The current issue is that there is no model that exists on how to unite these diverse groups and mobilize them to care for and restore Poland’s more than 1,200 Jewish cemeteries while addressing long-standing impasses related to Polish-Jewish relations and the preservation of the Jewish heritage in Poland.”
Through teaching, research, and cemetery restoration work, Steven will investigate a cross-cultural and diplomatic model of cultural stewardship to address the long-standing issues resulting from the Shoah and preserving Poland’s Jewish material and heritage.
After the Fulbright, Steven plans to seek grant funding to explore the model’s viability through a series of pilot Polish-Jewish cemetery restoration projects.
The Fulbright project is an outgrowth of the research he carried out for his PhD dissertation, “The Third Space: The Meeting of Jew and Christian in the Act of Remembering, Restoring, and Reconciling – A Case Study of the Matzevah Foundation.”
Reece in 2016 wrote a Have You Say personal essay for JHE, titled Working towards Reconciliation: A Christian’s Involvement in the Restoration of Jewish Cemeteries. It outlined some of his thinking and describe some of his hands-on work.
He also addressed the international conference on Jewish cemeteries that JHE co-organized, held in Vilnius in October 2015.
Though in another country, his Fulbright project may benefit from another recent Jewish cemeteries Fulbright project, which resulted in the valuable web site A Guide to Jewish Cemetery Preservation in Western Europe, created by Marla Raucher and Jay Osborn.
Steven is one of more than 800 U.S. citizens who will conduct research and/or teach abroad for the 2022-2023 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program.
The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the Program.