December 11, 2018

Ukraine Jewish cemetery gets protective fence with German funds

BERLIN (JTA) — A new protective fence has been erected at one of Ukraine’s largest Jewish cemeteries with German federal funds.

The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF), a German-based organisation, announced this Monday that its fencing project at that late-16th century Buchach cemetery in Western Ukraine has been completed. Among the city’s illustrious progeny were Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon and Austrian Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. It is also the birthplace of Sigmund Freud’s parents.

The site, located in a region that was part of Poland prior to World War II, is home to some 2,000 gravestones, stretched over around three hectares (7.5 acres), making this the largest of all 107 fencing projects undertaken by the ESJF to date. Several more projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

According to the group’s website, the first priority in this sort of preservation work is the construction of walls around the boundaries of the cemetery site, along with the installation of a locking gate and a general cleaning of the site.

Founded in 2015 as an international nonprofit, the ESJF is funded by the German government. It has fenced Jewish cemeteries in seven Central and Eastern European countries, many of which are located in towns and villages whose Jewish communities were murdered en masse during the Holocaust. According to the foundation, there are virtually no Jewish communities remaining in these areas to look out for the sites.

With no one left to care for them, most Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe have been neglected and vandalised over the decades.

Rabbi Isaac Schapira, who chairs the cemetery initiative, said in a statement that the Buchach community dates back 500 years and was home to “many great figures” whose works “still affect us today.”

“[W]e owe our ancestors this mark of respect by ensuring their final resting places are restored and preserved,” said Schapira, who lives between London and Switzerland.

Philip Carmel, CEO of the ESJF, called the project “a last minute rescue.”

He said that not only do the fences help secure cemeteries from vandalism, they also remind local non-Jews that “there were significant Jewish communities in these areas and hopefully helps create a sustainable link to a Jewish past across Europe.”

From source

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