Almost half of Jewish cemeteries in Europe in need of protection – survey

Almost half of the Jewish cemeteries in Central and Eastern Europe are in a state of severe neglect, according to a survey done by the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative (ESJF).

Teams visited 1,700 Jewish cemeteries across Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine from 2019-21 in the European Commission-funded survey.

Results showed that only 35% of Jewish cemeteries there are fenced and protected, while 44% are severely neglected and in urgent need of protection.

ESJF CEO Philip Carmel said about the survey results: “Now that we finally have this comprehensive information in hand, it is clearer than ever that collective efforts must be made to ensure that these sites are protected and the legacy of the communities which they served is preserved.”

The initiative has been able to trace the history of the communities behind the cemeteries and assess which are most in need of protection. Lithuania was found to have the highest number of at-risk sites, as more than half (55%) of Jewish cemeteries in the region faced threats such as vandalism, theft and demolition.

The ESJF is heavily involved in protection work and has fenced and protected over 200 sites in eight European countries. A similar survey was done from 2018-19 at 1,500 sites.