2019 Projects Announced
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With such a large cemetery, our team will focus on clearing as much of the overgrowth as we can within a designated area.
The cemetery here is one of the most unique ones we’ve worked in. Many of the matzevah are made out wrought iron and are filled with beautiful etchings. Each one celebrates the life of the person it represents. Through the work we’ve done with local volunteers over the last several years, the cemetery is getting more visible to the local community. Each clearing brings to light the Jewish heritage that was once in this part of the country.
This cemetery was established in the early 19th century. During WWII, the Nazis destroyed parts of the land. On March 22, 1942, all of the Jews from Wąwolnica were rounded up and murdered. We are honored to return to this sacred place to help remember the lives that were lost here.
We are pleased to partner up with them and FODZ again this year as we look to continue the work. Our focus will be to complete the clearing of the cemetery and to locate as many matzevah as possible.
At the end of the work time, our partners aim to have a ceremony to reveal a new sign that will mark the cemetery and honor those who are buried there. This promises to be another special week of work with this active group of Nasielsk descendants who work year-round to share the special Jewish heritage of this small Polish town. Also partnering with FODZ in this project.
Oświęcim is known to many as the location for Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp. Yes, this is part of the town’s history, but they choose to celebrate the vibrant life of their city. Oświęcim lovingly embraces its strong Jewish heritage and is always eager to share that history with visitors.
Wodzislaw – We were honored to work alongside a group of students from Kansas City, Missouri. Together the team cleaned, sorted, and organized several hundred matzevot fragments. These will be used in the future to build a memorial lapidarium in the cemetery. We also cleaned and painted the fence that went around the cemetery.
This group of students were so fun to be with all week! There were many stories and laughter shared during the work.
Krzepcie – Early June took us to Krzepice, Poland. This was our 5th project in this beautiful cemetery and we were happy to be back to continue the work. Much of the focus was on removing big trees from the grounds that were putting the wrought iron matzevah at risk for damage.
We were once again joined by a wonderful group of local students and volunteers. It was a joy to get to know them and to work alongside of them during the week. We were able to achieve so much more clearing thanks to their help. At the end of the week, we brainstormed with some of the volunteers about work we can do in Krzepice in the future. We’re looking forward to our continued relationship with the great people of Krzepice!
Nasielsk – We were honored to work alongside 12 descendants of Nasielsk. All of them had parents or grandparents who were either born or raised in Nasielsk. This was the second year that The Matzevah Foundation has worked with some of them to help clear the cemetery.
There are no matzevah left in this cemetery. It is believed that the Nazis removed all of them during the war to pave the runway at a nearby airport. That did not diminish the importance of our work! The team cleared the majority of the left side of the cemetery. The land is now much more visible to the community which is important to help bring awareness to the cemetery. As people go by the area, our desire is that they will stop to think about the once vibrant Jewish community that is part of their town’s history.
Przerosl – The Matzevah Foundation joined a group of volunteers, all who had family who lived in Przerosl, Poland. The team spent a rainy week clearing a good sized section of the cemetery.
There were several unique aspects of this project. The first was the diverse group of volunteers. They came from South Africa, Israel, Zimbabwe, and the US. It was a very fun team! There was also a special connection made to a local historian. He became a strong advocate for the project within the community and he strives to preserve the Jewish heritage of Przerosl.
Kevin Little, Treasurer of The Matzevah Foundation, shares a special memory from the week: “The most meaningful part for me came at the end of the week. Bernie, a volunteer who is a cantor, read the prayer for the dead at the cemetery. It was very moving and meaningful and powerful. It speaks to the power of what we do in how we connect people of the present to their past.”
Piaski and Wawolnica – Several members of the The Matzevah Foundation joined volunteers from the US and Poland and Straffordshire University students in the Lublin region for several projects.
The first project the team undertook was in the Jewish cemeteries in Piaski which turned out to be very complex. There are two cemeteries in the city. The old cemetery has burials estimated from the late 16th century until the late 1800’s. More recently it was used as a marketplace and there are no matzevah remaining. It is estimated that a mass grave of 1,000 Jews who were murdered in 1942 is also on the site.
The newer Jewish cemetery in Piaski has burials estimated from the late 1800’s until the last known burial in 1943. Also located here is a suspected mass grave of over 3,000 Jews. The property is very overgrown with no signage and few matzevah.
The TMF team was joined by two other groups for the week of work. Friends from Staffordshire University in England led by Dr. Caroline Sturdy-Colls (forensic archeologist and genocide investigation), Kevin Colls (professional archeologist), and Mick Britton (a technical skills specialist) came to survey the cemeteries. A volunteer group from Studnia Pamięci in Lublin provided immense assistance ranging from logistics, housing, and hands on work in the cemeteries.
The last part of the project took place at the top of a steep hill in Wąwolnica in the Jewish cemetery. In March 1942, the Nazis murdered all the Jewish men in the city and the women had to carry the bodies up the hill and bury them in a grave in the cemetery. Except for an area where a monument was placed in 1993 commemorating those murdered, the cemetery has been neglected. The team of volunteers struggled to clear the thick overgrowth that covered this steep hill to have access to the suspected mass grave site. However, this was not possible due to very thick growth of intertwined trees that could not be removed even with a chainsaw and bush hog. With the hard work by the volunteers (hauling equipment up and down the steep hill), most of the cemetery area, particularly around matzevot, was cleared and exposed to beautiful sunlight for the first time in many years.
Oswiecim – We were warmly greeted back to Oswiecim for our 5th project. A great deal of work was accomplished in the Oswiecim Jewish cemetery thanks to volunteers from a local scout group and MSDM / International Youth Meeting Center. Routine maintenance of the grounds including cutting of grass, brush, and small trees helped to keep the area clean and open.
Oswiecim has become very dear to our hearts at TMF. With each year we return, we meet more of the people in the community who are taking small and important steps to preserving the rich Jewish heritage of their town. We are grateful for the way they continue to welcome us in their community and homes. We look forward to returning next year!
Commemoration Project with Fundacja Zapomanie – Steven Reece, President of TMF, and Bruce Mussey, TMF Advisory Board, joined our partners at Fundacja Zapomanie for a 2 week project that took them all over Poland. They visited sites of known but unmarked mass graves and placed a matzevot on the site. All of these locations had been researched through archives, local testimonies, and / or ground penetrating radar.
The graves were in one of four areas: In cemeteries, in labor or death camps, in forests, or in hiding places. Many of the places were hard to reach but the small team were determined to reach each place in order to help remember the lives of those buried there.
We would like to thank our friends at Fundacja Zapomanie for asking us to be a part of this special project.
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.
The Matzevah Foundation assisted Albert Narcys and his family of West Lakes, Australia to place a memorial matzevah in honor of members of his family who lost their lives during the Shoah. The Matzevah Foundation raised funds and secured all permissions for the placement of the matzevah in the summer of 2014. Without the assistance of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage and Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis of the Katowice Jewish community, we would have not been able to secure permissions, arrange for the memorial to be placed and organize the unveiling ceremony. Albert and his family traveled from Australia and participated in the unveiling ceremony on July 21, 2014.
The Matzevah Foundation is partnering with the Jewish community of Katowice, Poland, Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis and Piotr Jakowenko of the Brama Cukerman Foundation to restore the Jewish cemetery in Krzepice, Poland. During the summers of 2014 and 2015, a team of volunteers from the US and Poland (local high school students) cleared and cleaned the perimeter of the cemetery of debris, small shrubs and trees. The priority was to clear a line of sight around the perimeter in order for surveyors to establish property lines for the building of a wall. Future plans call for the complete clearing of the large cemetery of brush and undergrowth along with building a wall.
The Matzevah Foundation is partnering with the Auschwitz Jewish Center (AJC) to restore the Jewish cemetery in Oświęcim, Poland. Oświęcim is the location of the infamous Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. The Auschwitz Jewish Center is affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. During the summers of 2013 and 2014, volunteers from the US, Poland, Germany, and Israel cleared and cleaned the cemetery by removing small shrubs and trees along with painting ohels. Repair work on the cemetery wall also began. We returned in August of 2015 to continue clearing of the grounds. Installation work began of memorial bases that will hold matzevah fragments. The bases were provided by The Matzevah Foundation and Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee.
The Matzevah Foundation (TMF) is partnering with the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ) and with the Rabbinical Council for Matters of Jewish Cemeteries in Poland to care for and restore the Jewish cemetery in Zambrów, Poland. TMF is also working closely with officials from the city of Zambrów, Poland, which has been instrumental in providing logistical support and local volunteers. Over a two-year period, volunteers from Poland and the US have cleaned and cleared the cemetery of debris, shrubs and small trees, as well as, inventoried the genealogical data preserving it for descendants. The Matzevah Foundation placed a memorial matzevah in 2012 and plans to build a wall in order to restore and preserve sanctity.