Participants in an August 2017 San Francisco YAD trip to Poland walking through the Okopwa Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw (Photo/Oleska Gro)
Participants in an August 2017 San Francisco YAD trip to Poland walking through the Okopwa Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw (Photo/Oleska Gro)

Poland pledges $28 million for Warsaw Jewish cemetery restoration

Poland’s government pledged $28 million to restoring the Warsaw Jewish cemetery, making the preservation project one of the largest of its kind in European history.

Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Glinski told World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer about the funding this week following a Dec. 8 vote in the lower house of the Polish parliament, the Sejm, WJC wrote in a statement. More than 400 lawmakers voted in favor and only four opposed, with six abstaining, Polish TV network TVN reported.

The government is expected to transfer the funds to Poland’s Cultural Heritage Foundation, which will implement the restoration in cooperation with the Warsaw Jewish Community.

“The Warsaw Jewish Cemetery is a historical legacy for world Jewry, the final resting place of 250,000 rabbis, scholars, doctors, educators and ordinary citizens, who contributed to the fabric of Jewish life,” said Tad Taube, chairman of Bay Area-based Taube Philanthropies and long-time supporter of Polish Jewish life.

“However, the daunting task to restore the cemetery is extremely costly. It is truly a milestone that the Polish government has committed the needed funds to protect the cemetery and the rich heritage it represents. It is a recognition that not only must the Jewish past be preserved, but also that the Jewish future is welcome in Poland today.”

The ruling Law and Justice party, which initiated the legislation, wrote in the law’s introduction that the absence of “systematic maintenance” at the cemetery and overgrown vegetation are causing “a gradual degradation of one of the most important historical complexes in Warsaw,” in reference to the cemetery, which has a surface area of 33 hectares.

Poland and Slovakia alone have approximately more than 2,000 Jewish cemeteries between them, many of them in disrepair. Just the fencing for all of Poland’s 1,400 Jewish cemeteries would cost approximately $32 million, according to the country’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich.

The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, a German-funded pilot program for protecting Eastern European Jewish cemeteries, has helped preserve at least 100 graveyards since 2015 on a budget of $1.35 million.

JTA

JTA news agency