Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Romania: Vandalism of Jewish Cemetery of Ploiesti Highlights Difficulties in Romania

Romania: Jewish Cemetery of Ploiesti Vandalized
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Lucia Apostol of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania (FedRom) writes that last week the Jewish cemetery in Ploiesti, Romania, was vandalized. About five tombstones were entirely destroyed.

According to the survey of Romanian cemeteries sponsored by the US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, the Ploiesti cemetery is large with as many as 5,000 gravestones, though according to the 2001 site visit, approximately 75% of all stones were broken or toppled. This needs to be checked, and I do not know what repair work at the cemetery has been done in the years since (readers are encouraged to send information and photos).

There are signs that FedRom is taking a stronger stance after years of seemingly half-hearted efforts to confront continuing anti-Semitism in Romania, including the seeming indifference of authorities to the vandalism of Jewish sites.

Dr. Saul Vainer, President of FedRom, said on television that "we cannot accept anymore the explanations that these are irresponsible acts of few disoriented teenagers. The fact is that it repeats itself, and Jewish Cemeteries at very different sites and locations have been vandalized, and we urge the authorities to inquire these as acts of antisemitism."

In the wake of the recent Prague Holocaust-Era Assets conference, it will be interesting to see what Romanian officials do, and whether other governments will pressure Romania to take more action. The small Jewish community of Romania cannot manage their cemeteries alone. With approximately 800 cemeteries throughout the country, most in places where Jews no longer reside, event monitoring the condition of the cemeteries is a daunting task. In discussion I had with FedRom this past March, I learned that efforts are being made to set up a computerized database and a better system of information gathering about sites. Still, this will not solve the problem of shortage of skill and engaged workers and adequate funds for maintenance and repair of cemeteries and synagogues.

This is an issue that is about history, culture, the rule of law, respect for religious and human rights, and also property rights.

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