ESJF 2019/2020 cemetery surveys in five European countries
Within the framework of the European Commission’s call for a pilot project Protecting the Jewish cemeteries of Europe: A full mapping process with research and monitoring and individual costed proposals for protection, the ESJF was awarded 800,000 EUR to survey 1,500 Jewish burial sites across five European countries.
Through ESJF’s educational outreach programmes, secondary school students are encouraged to preserve and maintain the historical memory of local Jewish communities, including cemetery sites. This is of particular importance in the areas in which, in the wake of the Holocaust, Jewish communities no longer exist, as these cemeteries may represent the last physical testament to Jewish presence.
Educational programmes conducted for 10th and 11th grade students in Ukraine’s Artek camp
On March 4, Artek camp invited ESJF head of educational projects Alexandra Fishel to conduct a class on Ukraine’s Jewish cemeteries for Artek students. 40 teenagers from seven regions of Ukraine participated in the class.
ESJF and Centropa conduct successful seminar for secondary school teachers in Thessaloniki, Greece
ESJF has teamed up with Centropa, an NGO that focuses on Jewish education, to organise a seminar for 35 secondary school educators in Greece.
Secondary school educational outreach in Ukraine completed in Vyshnivets
Students from four schools in Vyshnivets and the surrounding towns of Stary Vyshnivets, Butyn, and Bodaki were invited in small groups to participate in excursions to both of Vyshnivets’ cemeteries, guided by ESJF educator Dr. Alexandra Fishel.
ESJF uses unmanned aerial vehicles - drones - to obtain high-resolution geotag images of every Jewish Cemetery we survey. The data is processed to create 3D models of each site, which enabled the team to design protective fences specifically for the location, with individually estimated protection plans. All the geographical data is gathered in the database, integrated with historical information and further details about the cemetery.
The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative
The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF) is a German-based NGO active in Central and Eastern Europe. Founded in 2015, in recognition of the thousands of Jewish cemeteries in Europe that lay neglected and threatened, the ESJF began surveying and fencing Jewish cemeteries with funding from the Federal Republic of Germany. To date, it has protected 123 sites in seven countries across Central and Eastern Europe.
Before World War II, more than seven million Jews lived in Central and Eastern Europe. Jews inhabited these towns and villages for centuries. Across the continent, Jewish burial sites provided direct physical evidence of this presence. Eighty years on, all trace of many of these cemeteries has been lost. They lie overgrown and unprotected – the result of the annihilation of their communities in the Holocaust. Centuries of Jewish settlement in Central and Eastern Europe have been erased from memory, as well as the artefacts bearing witness to that lineage.
In November 2018, the ESJF received support from the European Union for a mass survey project of Jewish burial sites using cutting-edge drone technology. By June 2020, it will have surveyed at least 1,500 cemeteries in five countries (Greece, Lithuania, Moldova, Slovakia, and Ukraine). The ESJF website hosts a database of the surveyed sites in these countries, with photos, maps, and descriptions to make information on Jewish cemeteries in Europe public and accessible to all.