December 19, 2019

Consortium led by ESJF wins funding from the European Commission for a second pilot project to continue mass surveys of Europe’s Jewish cemeteries

The European Commission has awarded a grant of 1 million Euros to a consortium led by the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF) to continue the mapping and surveying of Jewish cemeteries in Europe, and to facilitate awareness-raising, education, and stakeholder engagement.

The consortium brings together the renowned international Jewish education NGO Centropa, along with the UK-based non-profit the Foundation for Jewish Heritage (FJH) under the leadership of the ESJF, to work towards the project’s stated goals over the next 18 months.

The pilot project “Protecting the Jewish cemeteries of Europe: Continuation of the mapping process, stakeholders’ involvement and awareness raising” (EAC/S10/2019) builds on the pilot project currently in progress with the ESJF, expanding its georgraphical scope and ambition. The new project, much like the current one, will contribute to the objectives set forth by the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 and the European Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage, by spreading the message of the value of cultural diversity in Europe’s heritage.

ESJF Chief Executive Officer Philip Carmel said: “The decision by the European Commission to award funding to our consortium for a pilot that builds on the work done so far is testament to the groundbreaking survey and educational work we carried out this year across Central and Eastern Europe, and recognises the centrality of the preservation of European Jewish cemeteries in the overall protection and preservation of Europe’s cultural heritage. I am delighted that we are able to work together this next year with our colleagues in Centropa and the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, which will enable us to add their key areas of expertise to this project and thereby expand and enhance local engagement in our collective goal to protect this vital heritage.”

Foundation for Jewish Heritage Chief Executive Michael Mail added, “we know the special vulnerability of Jewish cemeteries in the countries of Europe that experienced the horrors of the Holocaust.  ESJF is doing vital and profound work in endeavouring not just to preserve these cemeteries but also to educate wider society on their significance. We applaud the European Commission in recognising the importance of this work through further funding and look forward to playing our own role in delivering this project.”

Fabian Rühle from Centropa said: “Centropa is pleased that the European Commission has awarded funding to the ESJF-led consortium in order to expand this significant survey on Jewish cemeteries and its education program for Central and Eastern Europe. In the past 12 years, Centropa has trained more than 1,000 teachers in seminars on Jewish history and culture, and we are delighted to share our expertise in the upcoming project with our partners from ESJF and the Foundation for Jewish Heritage. Our offices in Hungary, Germany and Austria will organise seminars in seven countries to contribute to this important project.”

The consortium will map and survey a further 1,500 cemeteries in 7 countries: Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

The surveys will be conducted by UAVs (commonly known as drones), with the resulting data being used to develop 3D models to facilitate the creation of ready-made, fully-costed construction models in the coming years. The results of the survey will be displayed in an open access, publicly available database developed for the previous pilot project. Historical overviews will be written for each site by academic historians. A key addition to the new pilot will be its stronger focus on stakeholder engagement: local and national public institutions, NGOS, and private bodies will work in unison to protect Jewish cemeteries, while identifying best practices in the process. The educational work will undergo an expansion as well, with the aim of training educators and engaging students to become the guardians of their own local, multi-cultural heritage.

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