Community Scholar Program (CSP)
The Preservation of Jewish Monuments in Eastern Europe, Part 2 – Preserving Cemeteries
Seventy-five years after the Holocaust, and thirty years after the fall of Communism, how is the Jewish past being preserved and presented in Eastern Europe? In these three illustrated lectures Dr. Samuel Gruber reviews efforts in Eastern Europe by government and private agencies, institutions, and organizations to document, protect, conserve, and maintain Jewish historic and religious sites, especially synagogues, cemeteries, and Holocaust-related sites. In the decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the quantity and quality of this work keeps growing, as well as increased engagement Jewish and non-Jewish communities, and the interest of travelers from around the world.
PRESERVING CEMETERIES – For Jews, cemeteries are inviolable sacred sites, but Nazi and Communist regimes carried out policies that ruined Jewish cemeteries and often stripped them entirely of their gravestones and even despoiled graves. For decades, the only Jewish cemetery in Eastern Europe that was well known was the Old Cemetery in Prague. Since 1990 enormous strides have been taken in the identification and documentation of thousands Jewish cemeteries in Central and Eastern Europe. Some of these have often stunningly beautiful remaining matzevot (gravestones), but many have been stripped of their stones and have even been paved or built over. Beginning in 1991, as Research Director the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Aboard, Dr. Gruber was a leader in the identification and documentation of thousands of these sites. Since then efforts to protect and preserve these sites have been erratic, but there have been hundreds of successful interventions – ranging from simple cleaning of sites by local school and church groups, to full-scale restorations of walls and re-erection of gravestones and mausolea by Jewish communities, government agencies and private foundations. Today several organizations are carrying out extensive mapping, fencing and conservation projects.
Sponsor: Community Scholar Program (CSP)