Most Jewish cemeteries in Eastern Europe are ‘orphaned’ and highly vulnerable.
Yet these places also offer opportunities for locals and visitors interested in exploring the often forgotten Jewish pasts in cities, towns and villages across the region. This is the driver behind two webinars hosted by the Foundation for Jewish Heritage.
The first, on 10 May, brought together tour guides working in Eastern Europe encouraging them to explore how Jewish cemeteries could be used as visitor destinations. The second, on 24 May, is being held for the wider Jewish heritage tourism industry. You can secure your place on Eventbrite.
The events are part of an EU-funded project exploring the preservation and promotion of Jewish cemeteries in seven countries in Eastern Europe, jointly organised by the Foundation together with ESJF and Centropa.
Opening the 10 May event, Dame Helen Hyde, Chair of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, explained the aims of the EU project and the work of the Foundation. This was followed Dr. Paul Darby presenting the findings of his report "Jewish Cemeteries as Visitor Destinations – Exploring Current Practices, Current Challenges, and Sustainable Futures in Seven European Countries,” research commissioned by the Foundation.
Helise Lieberman, Director of the Warsaw-based Taube Center for Jewish Life and Learning, shared her insights into the vital role that Jewish cemeteries can play in Jewish heritage education. Her presentation highlighted the significance of these sacred spaces as repositories of cultural and historical knowledge.
Olga Bauer, representing the NGO "Eco-Culture," presented her first hand experiences organising excursions and projects centred around memory preservation and intercultural dialogue. Rabbi Chaim Weiner showcased the Jewish heritage tours he runs to various European destinations and his particular text-based approach which also incorporated cemetery visits. Krisztina Frauhammer from the EU-funded project REDISCOVER shared her work integrating digital technologies to enhance visitor engagement with Jewish cemeteries, both on-site and virtually. Frauhammer presented the Szeged Jewish route which offered a guided cemetery tour and she explained how this was used in elementary and middle school.
Witold Wrzosiński, Director of the Okopowa Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw, provided an in-depth overview of his work in preserving and promoting the historical and cultural significance of the Okopowa Jewish Cemetery.
The event ended with a Q & A session and discussion facilitated by Michael Mail, Chief Executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage.
The webinar was organised by Dr Rachel Lichtenstein who has been working for the Foundation for Jewish Heritage on the EU Jewish cemeteries project. It is anticipated that the insights shared during the event will contribute to the development of appropriate practices in the field.