After a two-year absence, The Matzevah Foundation made a long-awaited return to Poland this summer! Our final project recently wrapped up and we wanted to share with you about the successful summer of work that we had.
We are grateful for the support of our partners, volunteers, and donors who supported our efforts. We couldn’t have done it without you!
June 7-12 Częstochowa Jewish Cemetery
The Matzevah Foundation returned to Częstochowa for a fourth year of work. Our president, Steven Reece, and longtime TMF volunteer, Rachael Romero, joined Alon Goldman of the World Society of Częstochowa Jews, Fundacja Chrześcijańska “Adullam,” local high school and elementary school students and other volunteers from Częstochowa to clean and clear the Jewish cemetery.
Over a four-day period, more than 450 high school students and 50 volunteers worked to clear the front section of the cemetery, and clean numerous matzevot across the cemetery.
On Thursday, June 9, Mr. Jacob Livne, the Israeli ambassador to Poland, and Alon Goldman, the head of the Association of Czestochowa Jews in Israel, unveiled a restored wartime grave marker dedicated to those Jewish resistance fighters killed in an attack on the eastern railway (Operation Ost-Bahn) on April 22, 1943.
June 13-19 Staffordshire University Field Course (Częstochowa/Krzepice)
Our second project of the summer was in cooperation with Dr. Caroline Sturdy-Colls, Kevin Colls, and Jeff Mitchell from the Centre of Archaeology in the School of Justice, Security and Sustainability of Staffordshire University (UK) and their students in a field course for learning and applying non-invasive archeological principles and techniques in the Jewish cemeteries of Częstochowa and Krzepice.
One visually compelling aspect of the coursework was producing photogrammetry models of matzevot in these two cemeteries. Photogrammetry uses a digital camera to create 3D models of physical objects. You may see the amazing results of their work on the Recording Cultural Genocide - A 3D model collection by Centre-of-Archaeology - Sketchfab
As a part of their field course, the students and staff also learned about Jewish law and customs associated with Jewish cemeteries. Then, they applied their learnings by joining a group of Krzepice high school students led by their teacher Jolanta Drab in the clearing and clearing of the Jewish cemetery in Krzepice.
June 26-29 Markuszów Jewish Cemetery
In collaboration with the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ), Dan Oren and his organization Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland, TMF returned to Markuszów for a cemetery cleanup. After a few days of work, a ceremony was held to dedicate the new wall that had been constructed earlier this year around the cemetery.
June 30-July 1 Garwolin Jewish Cemetery
TMF joined Filip Szczepanski from the Rabbinical Commission for Matters of Jewish Cemeteries in Poland, Krzystof Kot of Fundacji Koszary (the Barracks Foundation), Garwolin.org, the Garwolin Municipal and District Public Library and representatives of the Forestry Commission, as well as local volunteers, including scouts from the ZHP Hufiec "Orłów" troop to clear and clean the Jewish cemetery in Garwolin.
July 6-15 JewishGen Future Scholars Fellowship (Przysucha)
It was an honor for TMF to partner with JewishGen, Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland, and FODZ to conduct the second annual Future Scholars Fellowship Program. In this immersive program, students toured Jewish heritage sites in Poland and helped clean the Jewish cemetery in Przysucha. In addition, we are grateful to the group of university students from Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus, who joined in the work, and their Professor, Dr. Radosław Ptaszyński, from the Historical Institute of the University of Szczecin.
Throughout the week, the group forged, deepened, and strengthened many new international ties by working together, conducting seminars, and having open discussions. Additionally, our president, Dr. Steven D. Reece, a Fulbright Program scholar at the University of Szczecin’s Historical Institute in the upcoming academic year, and Professor Radoslaw Ptaszynski closed the week by participating in a public forum on Christian-Jewish relations.
We are indebted to Mr. Tomasz Matlakiewicz, the Mayor of the Community and City of Przysucha, who graciously assisted in the clean-up efforts by committing resources to help us cut down young trees, and undergrowth and remove green waste and debris.
July 29-August 5 Oświęcim
It was a happy return to Oświęcim and to reconnect with local friends and partners. Our small team of volunteers (who were all women!) accomplished their goal of cleaning the cemetery of overgrowth. We are grateful for Mr. Kazimierz who joined us each day and assisted us with some power tools. The team enjoyed their stay at MDSM, as well, and felt very at home thanks to their hospitality (and good food!). This was TMF’s ninth summer to visit and work in Oświęcim and we’re already looking forward to marking a decade of work next summer with our friends there.