EU gives nearly $1 million to map, protect Jewish cemeteries
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EU gives nearly $1 million to map, protect Jewish cemeteries

European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative hopes to defend continent’s thousands of burial sites from threats posed by deterioration, vandalism and development projects

Gravestone engraved in Hebrew at the Jewish cemetery in Buchach, western Ukraine. (Public domain)
Gravestone engraved in Hebrew at the Jewish cemetery in Buchach, western Ukraine. (Public domain)

The European Union has awarded close to $1 million to a project that aims to map and survey at least 1,500 Jewish cemeteries in the continent’s east.

The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, or ESJF, announced on Thursday its winning an EU tender affording it 800,000 euros, a sum equivalent to $922,000. Since the group’s establishment in 2015 with a German government grant, it has helped protect over 120 Jewish cemeteries in seven Central and Eastern European countries.

The mapping process, to be undertaken using state-of-the-art technology specially designed for the project, involves engineering drones surveying and photographing the sites from the air, following an in-depth historical research process of centuries–old records across many countries and languages, ESJF said.

Around the cemeteries that ESJF maps and demarcates, the organization typically sets up perimeter fences that it says dramatically reduce the risk facing the site.

Eastern and Central Europe have well over 10,000 Jewish cemeteries in various degrees of risk.

“The aim of our unique and sacred mission is to rescue and preserve Jewish cemeteries, the resting place of our forefathers,” said Rabbi Isaac Schapira, Founder and Chairman of the ESJF Board. “Today, there are many different threats to these cemeteries due to deterioration, vandalism and anti-Semitism, but also where they are threatened for financial reasons and expanding local city planning ordinances.”

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