web analytics
December 26, 2014 / 4 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Protecting Jewish Cemeteries In Poland And Around The World

    Last week I wrote about the discovery of human remains beyond the fence of a Jewish cemetery in Bilgoraj, Poland, showing that the boundaries of the cemetery went beyond the supposed size of the protected site. Being unprotected the extended area was sold and building projects were planned and begun, to the dismay of any Jew who is familiar with the subject.


   These events in Bilgoraj, sadly, are not unique. All over the world there are old Jewish cemeteries that have not been properly surveyed and, therefore, encroached upon. This is happening, not only in Poland or Eastern Europe. The oldest Jewish cemetery in America, located in Lower Manhattan, has a wall and a fence around it. Recent plans for a subway have revealed that the cemetery actually extends onto the sidewalk and street.


    Over the years, sometimes, it becomes impossible to know the exact boundaries of a cemetery without an extensive survey. But without a local presence it is very difficult, at times, to do these surveys or to protect these sites without defined boundaries.


     There are many ways to find the location of cemeteries and their boundaries. Some are better than others and some used by the international community are considered not acceptable for Jewish sites.


     Most cemeteries in Poland have been defined using old maps found in local city halls or in Yizkor Books. In other cases pictures can be used where landmarks can be recognized, while others were defined through memory. The problem of relying on memory is that it is not always exact. There have been instances in which work had been done on a cemetery trying to repair or replace tombstones where, instead of protecting a grave, the digging of the foundation actually reached into the grave itself.


    At the death camp in Belzec Poland, the government had planned a survey to find the mass graves that people said were scattered around a large open field. The archaeologists used a technique taking core samples from the ground in order to find these graves. This meant drilling into the ground and examining the soil for bone fragments. Where fragments were found it was understood that a grave was present on the site. While acceptable to many non-Jews, this technique is forbidden by Halachah, because it damages the remains that are found.


     Another method used with some results is dowsing. This is a technique using two metal rods that react to different densities in the ground. For years, dowsing has been used to find water but I, personally, have seen it used in finding unmarked graves in such places as Narol, Poland. While dowsing has been used with some success it is not always accepted as there is no real image or physical evidence of any findings and many people view dowsing as a form of magic.


    The best and halachically acceptable non-obtrusive scientific method available today is Ground-penetrating radar.


    Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is a geophysical method that uses radar pulses to image the subsurface. This non-destructive method uses electromagnetic radiation in the microwave band (UHF/VHF frequencies) of the radio spectrum, and detects the reflected signals from subsurface structures. GPR can be used in a variety of media, including rock, soil, ice, fresh water, pavements and structures. It can detect objects, changes in material, voids and cracks.

 

 

 

Examining the damage to the Jewish cemetery in Bilgoraj.

 

 

    I first encountered GPR doing an archaeological survey at Shiloh in Israel. Shiloh had been the site of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle) set up by Joshua over 3,000 years ago. By dragging a GPR machine across the supposed area where the Mishkan stood we were able to see pillars and voids showing that there was had been something substantial in the area but that it had been buried over time. The machine had been brought to Shiloh by a man who had come from Russia having just completed a survey of a number of Jewish cemeteries in the Soviet Union.


   This method would be perfect for surveying Jewish cemeteries around the world. Today’s newer models have advantages such as Global Positioning System (GPS) to exactly map out locations and are much easier to use then the machine I used in 1984.


    A GPR machine has been also used in Romania by the Association of Jewish Romanians in America in the town of Beclean.


   Some of the drawbacks of using GPR is cost and need of expertise in examining the data. The equipment is not inexpensive and it takes some experience to be able to understand the data correctly.


    In Poland there are two organizations that deal with the preservation of Jewish cemeteries. The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland,
http://fodz.pl/?d=1&l=en, and the Rabbinic Commission for Cemeteries in Poland led by Rabbi Michael Schudrich. Working together they have done a tremendous job protecting Jewish cemeteries in Poland, setting the standard for others throughout the world but, at this point in time, they can only work on problems as they crop up such as at Bilgoraj.   


   The mayor of Bilgoraj was right when he said in a letter to the Bilgoraj Society that they were fortunate that now that the cemetery was exposed there is a chance to correct the wrong and protect the remains of their relatives.


   What we learn from this experience is that nothing can be taken for granted. Even if there is a wall or fence around a cemetery, unless it is a modern cemetery, a survey has to be done to ensure the sanctity of these holy sites.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Protecting Jewish Cemeteries In Poland And Around The World”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Ayala Shapira, 11, is fighting for her life after suffering burn wounds when an Arab terrorist threw a Molotov cocktail at the car in which she was riding.
‘Slight Improvement’ in Life-threatening Condition of Firebomb Victim
Latest Sections Stories

Today’s smiles are in the merit of my friend and I made a conscious effort to smile throughout the day.

Schonfeld-logo1

When someone with a fixed mindset has a negative interaction with a friend or loved one, he or she immediately projects that rejection onto him or herself saying: “I’m unlovable.”

How many potential shidduchim are not coming about because we, the mothers, are not allowing them to go through?

Is the Torah offering nechama by subtly hinting that death brings reunion with loved ones who preceded you?

She approached Holofernes and, with a sword concealed under her robe, severed his head.

Here are examples of games that need to be played by more than one person and an added bonus: they’re all Shabbos-friendly.

The incident was completely unforeseeable. The only term to describe the set of circumstances surrounding it is “freak occurrence.”

The first Chabad Center in Broward County, Chabad of South Broward, now runs nearly fifty programs and agencies. T

The NHS was also honored to have Bob Diener as keynote speaker.

Written with flowing language and engaging style, Attar weaves a spell that combines mystery, humor, adventure and Kabbalah in the most magical place in the world, the Old City of erusalem.

There are those who highlight the diversity of these different teachings, seeing each rebbe as teaching a separate path.

Rav Dynovisz will be speaking in Hebrew on Wednesday, January 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Rabbi Simeon Schreiber, senior chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, saw a small room in the hospital that was dark and dismal but could be used for Sabbath guests.

More Articles from Shmuel Ben Eliezer
Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Lauder receiving a special album from Rabbi Maciej Pawlak, director of the Lauder-Morasha school in Warsaw.

In 1989 he hosted a dinner for 157 young Jews with the late Rabbi Chaskel Besser and the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation in Poland was born.

Part of the reconstructed Gwozdziec Synagogue.

The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews is designed to tell the whole thousand-year story of the Jews in Poland.

I REMEMBER WHEN I first started working at the Jewish Press 18 years ago, Arnie who was in charge of the newsroom, took me under his wing…

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

In September 1939 the Germans started establishing ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland. Ghettos played an important role in the Jewish extermination policy. They were filled with Polish and Western European Jewish deportees. The ghettos differed in times of existence, size, internal organization, and living conditions. The Germans called them ” death boxes” (Todeskiste). The city of Lodz belonged to the Wartheland District and the Germans changed its name into Litzmannstadt.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/protecting-jewish-cemeteries-in-poland-and-around-the-world/2008/11/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: