Poland: Still Urgency in Preservation of Jewish Sites
by Samuel D. Gruber
A recent article in the Jerusalem Post emphasizes the continuing need for resources (money!) and action to protect and preserve the Jewish heritage sites of
I've written frequently about the work of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ) and its important role of stewardship of abandoned and neglected Jewish historic properties- especially cemeteries and former synagogues - throughout Poland. These are the place the no active Jewish communities - or anyone else - choose to use or care for. The costs in money, labor, materials and education to protect, maintain, preserve and properly present this sites is tremendous, and the real cash resources of the Foundation are extremely limited. General funds are needed for the upkeep of hundreds of cemeteries, and targeted donations can also be used for specific repair, restoration and education projects underway or in the planning stage.
The need for this work is not new. I recently came across this passage from 1947 from artist Louis Lozowick:
"A short time ago I heard a traveller, recently returned from
[Louis Lozowick, "Synagogue Art: Review of Jewish Art in European Synagogues by George Loukomski' Menorah Journal (Autumn 1948), pp. 380-384. cited in Mark Godfrey, Abstraction and the Holocaust (
Many of appeals I wrote in the early 1990s while Director of the Jewish Heritage Council of the World Monuments Fund have similar urgency.
Even before the Holocaust many historic Jewish sites were rundown. Forgotten by many is the fact that some Jewish sites received government support for repairs since they were recognized as national historic monuments. But after the general destruction of war and the targeted destruction as part of the genocide of the Holocaust, came decades of neglect under Communism. As I have written elsewhere, only in the 1980s did this begin to change - for a very few sites (such as the former synagogue in Tykocin, Staary Synagogue in Krakow, and the Nosyk Synagogue in
In recent years with the slow, often erratic but continuing process of communal property restitution - responsibility for a great many sites has shifted to the Jewish Communities in
Last month it was announced that
I do support continued international support for the preservation of Auschwitz and other death camp and Holocaust-related sites – and I praise the conservation initiative – one begun twenty years ago. I continue to believe, however, that similar efforts must be made to protect and find new and appropriate use for the remaining physical traces of the Jewish cultural and religious life and achievement that was destroyed.
For more information about how to help fund Jewish heritage projects in