The summer of 2016 was a busy one for The Matzevah Foundation! We had 6 projects all over Poland. Here’s a brief recap of each project. We look forward to announcing where we’ll be working 2017 soon so be sure to check back!
Krzepice, June 2016: Krzepice is located southcentral Poland to the west of Częstochowa. This was our third summer to work in Jewish cemetery located here. Kevin Little of Nashville, TN and board member of The Matzevah Foundation (TMF) lead this work alongside Joe Vaughn, a TMF friend living in Warsaw. With their guidance and the help of many local volunteers, the team was able to clean and clear much of this cemetery. The week concluded with a grill that had all of the traditional Polish fixings, right down to the blood sausage!
Thank you to the wonderful group of students and teachers from the local schools that worked with us this week. Your hard work was great appreciated!
Nasielsk, July 2016: Nasielsk is located north of Warsaw and the Jewish cemetery was established in the second half of the 19th century, but the matzevot were destroyed during World War II. TMF had the privilege of working with Glenn Kurtz and Michael Valihora, Jewish descendants of Nasielsk. We were also joined by friends from Warsaw and from the Foundation for the Preservation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ).
The group worked to clear the cemetery of the tall grass, trees, and other overgrowth. Cleaning was also done in order to identify the original boundaries of the cemetery. This project was in partnership with TMF’s official partner, the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ). It was a great week of work with our new friends and we’re looking forward to rejoining them again in the future!
Markuszów, July 2016: Markuszów is a village located northwest of Lublin, Poland. We partnered with Brentwood Baptist Church in Tennessee and with Dan Oren, his family and friends from Connecticut and New York, to clear and clean the cemetery. We also had volunteers from Studnia Pamieci in Lublin join us each day. Dan Oren is a descent of Markuszów and knew that his great-great grandmother, Sarah Chana, was buried in the cemetery. During the brush removal and cleaning, additional family graves were unearthed including a grandfather who was the chief Rabbi in Markuszów almost 150 years ago.
With such a large group of volunteers, we made great progress each day we worked in the cemetery. Low growing grasses and bushes were removed while trees and vines were cut down. It was wonderful to see the transformation of this ground from darkness to light.
All of the volunteers commented how it was such an honor to do this work and bring restoration to this land and to honor Dan’s family.
Oświęcim, August 2016: Oświęcim is located southwest of Krakow, Poland. Oświęcim is the town where the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp was located during the war. TMF partnered on this project with Dr. Caroline Sturdy-Colls, Fundacja Zapomniane, Auschwitz Jewish Center, and Action Reconciliation. Volunteers worked to clean cemetery and place matzevot in remaining bases (continued from 2015). This was a multi-disciplined project comprised of two components: regional survey of Jewish cemeteries and mass killing sites in Oświęcim area and the Oświęcim Jewish cemetery.
A unique part of this project was the path that we assisted in constructing through a portion of the cemetery. As the team was working, they uncovered a matzevah in the direction of the path. The group had to decide how best to proceed: do they move the matzevah and continue the straight path? Or do they alter the plans and go around the stone? The later was chosen in order to be respectful for the memory of the one buried there. The volunteers did a beautiful job honoring the matzevah while completing their goal.
Częstochowa: August 2016: Częstochowa is located in south central Poland with a population of approximately 250,000 people and is famous for the Jasna Góra monastery. The Jewish cemetery was established in 1799 with the last burial taking place in 1973. We met up with Alon Goldman of the Association of Częstochowa Jews in Israel along with Project Gidionim and worked with them work with them and local volunteers to clean, clear and document the matzevot in the Jewish cemetery of Częstochowa.
Radecznica: August 28/September 2016: Radecznica is a small village located in Eastern Poland. The Matzevah Foundation partnered wtih Fundacja Zapomniane to clean and clear the area and commemorated a mass grave located on the grounds. The ceremony to commemorate the grave was attended by hundreds of residents in the area. Also in attendence was Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, the archbishop of Lubin, and other dignitaries.
Everyone who attended that day heard the story of those murdered and of the eyewitness who kept their memory alive. After the ceremony those who wished placed wreaths and candles at the base of the matzevah in honor of the victims.
It was a very special day and The Matzevah Foundation was honored to be a part of it.