The leadership of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage shares in the world’s shock at the unfolding events in Ukraine that is causing unimaginable distress and the immense loss of life of men, women and children.
We acknowledge that of course the safety of human life is paramount. However, historic buildings should also be carefully protected.
As part of its research, the Foundation had worked with the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, mapping the historic synagogues of Europe and this included the 400+ extant synagogues in Ukraine.
In January 2021, this work was transferred to trusted military partners representing European and western powers, including the UK Ministry of Defence.
The Foundation for Jewish Heritage has been active in Ukraine, and we are assisting organisations involved in the monitoring of cultural heritage protection in the country. We are aware of the reported damage to the important Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site. All armed forces have an absolute responsibility to protect cultural property and places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples are protected during war under:
• the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, signed by more than 130 countries, and its two Protocols (1954 and 1999)
• the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions
• customary law, such as the 1907 Hague Regulations.
Intentional damage to buildings dedicated to religion can be a war crime, prosecutable at the International Criminal Court.
Jewish heritage sites in Ukraine have special significance given that they are linked to Jewish communities that were decimated or annihilated in the Holocaust. They stand as testimony to man’s potential for inhumanity with crucial lessons for today.
Dame Helen Hyde, Foundation Chair, commented, “we need to ensure that important sites of Ukrainian heritage, which includes its historic Jewish heritage, remain undamaged during this tragic conflict”.
Michael Mail, Foundation Chief Executive, commented, “the Jewish presence in Ukraine goes back many centuries and this is reflected in the remarkable Jewish heritage in the country. While people’s lives are the utmost priority, we need to ensure that heritage sites are also protected from harm.”
For further information, please contact Michael Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 7968 529609.