The history of Jewish communities across Europe as well as that of the Holocaust, is not only relevant to Jewish history, but also to European history as a whole! Understanding Jewish contributions to life in towns and villages across Central and Eastern Europe can help local people to form nuanced attitudes towards cultural heritage, which in turn will contribute to intercultural and interfaith dialogue in a multicultural and diverse Europe.

Alongside fencing, we therefore work closely with teachers and students as well as local historians, librarians and museum workers. Through our outreach programmes, participants learn about the history of their local Jewish community through Jewish cemeteries as a historical source. Focusing on local spaces emphasises not only the close connection between Jewish life and the current communities living there, but also serves to de-mystify 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 be represent the last physical testament to Jewish presence. It is therefore vital that young people learn about this material heritage and how to place it in its larger historical and socio-cultural context.

Each year we reach hundreds of people during our educational activities under EU and German funding. The results of these programmes are a key component in building a sustainable future and ensuring the long-term protection of Jewish cemeteries.

The German grant

Under funding from the Federal Republic of Germany, we visit our previously fenced Jewish cemeteries and encourage local communities to take ownership of their region’s Jewish heritage, and to take proactive steps to protect it in the future. Between 2016 and 2023, we have conducted around 50 events in person and online (due to restrictions imposed by Covid-19). We have a variety of events for different ages and groups of people:

  • For teachers and their students, we have developed a course that allows groups to explore the cemetery on their own, with an accompanying manual to help plan expeditions. 
  • For students-architects and engineers, a programme has been created about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in cemetery research, along with  a special manual for this course.
  • Two projects were created for local historians, librarians, teachers, and activists, including lectures with a practical component and a competition seeking local preservation projects. 
  • To attract the public, we have also installed information stands at cemeteries fenced under the German grant, and have developed guides to include necropolises in city tourist routes

The EU grants

Building on the success of work carried out during two previous EU pilot projects, the ESJF’s current EU preparatory action aims to raise awareness of Jewish cemeteries in local communities; spearhead educational projects with the goal of incorporating Jewish cemeteries into school curricula; and help empower local actors to preserve their Jewish cemeteries.

The project consists of a series of activities such as a Hackathon, Masterclasses for engaged leaders, creation of regional cemetery associations and an online forum for local and regional leaders, legal research and support to map issues around ownership and monument protection laws relevant for designing preservation projects for jewish cemeteries in each project country as well as webinars on legal issues and drone usage in heritage preservation and much more! 

The grant is a joint effort by three leading Jewish heritage NGOs (ESJF European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, Centropa, and the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, taking place across 7 European countries: Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine. More information can be found here.

EU Youth Competition

Over the course of the 2020-2021 EU-funded project “Protecting the Jewish cemeteries of Europe:

Continuation of the mapping process, stakeholders’ involvement and awareness raising (EAC/S10/2019)”, ESJF joined forces with NGOs Centropa and the Foundation for Jewish Heritage to raise awareness of Jewish cemeteries among teachers and students. Under the leadership of Centropa, the consortium organised seven interactive training seminars for 250 teachers in seven countries, put out a call for teacher lesson plans, and ran an international digital storytelling competition for youth. Despite COVID-19 restrictions and school closures, the consortium received 98 student entries to the competition. Below are the winning youth competition entries. Congratulations to all!

Educational Events