Restoration of Deane Road Jewish Cemetery in Liverpool Is Completed

Great news from Liverpool — with the announcement that the restoration of the Deane Road Jewish Cemetery has been completed.

This is what Liverpool Labour Councillor Louise Baldock wrote on her blog:

This wonderful resting place of some of the Victorians who truly made Liverpool great will be a jewel in the city’s Heritage Crown. And to think it is in Kensington, somewhere which has not enjoyed the best of reputations in the last 30 or so years, is a dream come true for me. I know that Kensington, and its neighbour, Fairfield, are great places, with lots to offer, but it wont just be me saying that soon, it will be an army of eager enthusiasts.

People will travel from around the world, not just from the UK, England or the city itself, to learn more about these very influential Victorians who helped make our city great.

Founded in 1835, the  cemetery  is the property and responsibility of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation (LOHC). But it had lain abandoned and derelict for a century, the graves “obscured by trees, choked by poisonous plants, defaced with graffiti and surrounded by refuse.”

In December 2010, the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed to award £494,000 to the cemetery for a full restoration — and the keys were handed over on April 29.

There is ample information — and lots of before, during and after photos — on the cemetery’s web site detailing the restoration project.

 

Great news from Liverpool — with the announcement that the restoration of the Deane Road Jewish Cemetery has been completed. This is what Liverpool Labour Councillor Louise Baldock wrote on her blog: This wonderful resting place of some of the … Continue reading

Jewish Tourism and Information Center in Brno

 

It’s worth cross-posting this item from JHE coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber’s  Jewish Heritage Travel blog about the exemplary Jewish Tourism and Information Center in Brno, Czech Republic, which she visited last week.

 

Once again I have to hand it to the Czechs for the exemplary way that they preserve and promote Jewish heritage, heritage sites and memory.

I spent a day this past week in Brno, the Czech Republic’s second largest city and the capital of Moravia. I was there for a totally different —- non-Jewish—reason (a country music concert and a meeting related to the Czech country music and bluegrass scene) but I took the time to visit the Jewish Tourism and Information Center that was opened last year at the city’s Jewish cemetery, a sprawling and beautifully maintained expanse that includes about 9,000 grave markers, from simple matzevot to grand family tombs.

The Center operates as part of the Jewish Brno Project, a collaborative initiative of the Jewish community in Brno and the city’s Tourist Information Center.

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

I was already a big fan of the project’s web site www.jewishbrno.eu—an informative and easy to use portal to Jewish heritage in Brno and at least 16 towns in southern Moravia where there are historic synagogues, cemeteries and old Jewish quarters – Mikulov, Boskovice, Trebic, Ivancice, et al.
The Brno Jewish Visitor’s Center opened in January 2011, and it sports the green “i” logo of general Czech tourist info centers. It occupies one of the three early 20th century buildings that form the mortuary complex.

The Cemetery is located at Nezamyslova 27, in the Zidenice district of town, an easy tram ride from the city center. Trams 8 and 10 from the main railway station stop right in front.

The Visitors Center provides a range of services, including guided tours of Brno Jewish sites, tourist packages and itineraries outside the city. There are stacks of free informational material, including well-produced brochures in various languages on local and regional Jewish heritage. The Center has free WiFi internet access, and there is an English-speaking staffer.

For the cemetery itself, it provides individual free tours as well as free audio guides. A brochure guide to the cemetery includes a map locating the graves of prominent people interred there – the brochure provides brief biographies and photos of their gravestones. And there is also a computer screen with a link to the cemetery database, so that you can search for individual tombs.

I didn’t have much time the day I visited, but I spent a very pleasant half hour strolling around the cemetery and following the map up and down the rows of tombs – most of them stately obelisks, and many (in the style of the late 19th century) bearing laminated photographs of the deceased.

Brno was a center of modernist architecture. Here's a modernist gravestone. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Jewish Tourism and Information Center

Nezamyslova 27
615 00 Brno, Czech Republic
Email: tic@jewishbrno.eu
Tel: +420 544 526 737

 

 

Brno Tourist Information Center

Radnicka 8
658 78 Brno, Czech Republic
Email: info@ticbrno.cz
Tel: +420 542 427 150
www.ticbrno.cz

 

Read item on the Jewish Heritage Travel blog

 

  It’s worth cross-posting this item from JHE coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber’s  Jewish Heritage Travel blog about the exemplary Jewish Tourism and Information Center in Brno, Czech Republic, which she visited last week.   Once again I have to hand … Continue reading

Jewish cemetery in Kosice, Slovakia, vandalized

 

Vandals have toppled or otherwise damaged 55 tombstones in the old Orthodox section of the Jewish cemetery in Kosice, Slovakia.  The damage — amounting to 50,000 euro — was discovered on Monday afternoon.

An article in the online publication Kosice Korzar runs pictures of the toppled stones.

The attack took place almost 10 years ago  to the day of the last vandal attack on the cemetery, when three young teenagers damaged 135 gravestones. The Jewish community has now said  it will install a camera security system.

 

 

 

  Vandals have toppled or otherwise damaged 55 tombstones in the old Orthodox section of the Jewish cemetery in Kosice, Slovakia.  The damage — amounting to 50,000 euro — was discovered on Monday afternoon. An article in the online publication … Continue reading

Austria — “book of the dead” may help map Jewish cemetery

 

The recent discovery of the book of funeral records for the Jewish cemetery in Deutschkreutz, Austria, may help map the graves in cemetery, which was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II. According to  Austrian media, the records list the row and plot for about 1,500 burials.

John Leo-Moberg writes in the Austrian Times:

According to “Misrachi Österreich” – an organisation for Jewish people in Austria – determining the exact locations of the graves was impossible before the book was found.

Johannes Reiss from the Jewish Museum in Eisenstadt believes that the book of funeral records is a cultural historical object. He said: “When you consider that there are 8,000 Jewish graves in Burgenland, and that hardly any of the cemeteries have proper records, a book of such records can tell us a lot.”

The locations of individual graves are not provided in the book, and the “Misrachi Österreich” try to complete the cemetery by looking for aerial photographs and other documents concerning the cemetery planning.

See an Austrian TV report on this topic

 

 

  The recent discovery of the book of funeral records for the Jewish cemetery in Deutschkreutz, Austria, may help map the graves in cemetery, which was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II. According to  Austrian media, the records … Continue reading

Gravestone fragments found near L’viv; had been used as paving material

 

News media in L’viv are reporting on the discovery of fragments of matzevot, Jewish gravestones, near L’viv — they are thought to be fragments from the city’s destroyed Old Cemetery, which is now occupied by a large market.

According to a video report on the L’viv 24 news site, the fragments were obtained about a month ago by a resident of the town Brukhovych, a suburb of L’viv,  as building material to  pave a road to his house from the main street. He was dissuaded from doing so by other people who recognized the paving material as matzevot.

 

According to Meylakh Sheykhat in L’viv, who has worked for many years to protect Jewish cemeteries and heritage sites in Ukraine, the gravestones had been used by someone for many years to pave his yard. This man decided to get rid of them as he felt that problems in his life were due to mis-using Jewish gravestones; he took them to a rubbish collection place. The second man took them from there, but ultimately decided not to use the stones for paving and instead brought the situation to the attention of Jewish representatives.

 

 

 

  News media in L’viv are reporting on the discovery of fragments of matzevot, Jewish gravestones, near L’viv — they are thought to be fragments from the city’s destroyed Old Cemetery, which is now occupied by a large market. According … Continue reading

Clean-up operation for Slovak Jewish Cemetery

 

The local  Leustach civic association  has organized a clean-up operation for the abandoned and overgrown 18th century Jewish cemetery in the village of Janikovce, a few kilometers from Nitra, Slovakia.  Leustach  organized two days of clean-up work, March 31 and April 14. Dozens of volunteers, aged from 9 years old to over 70, took part, clearing brush, cutting down trees and removing waste from  the cemetery, which for many years has been used as a dump site. They found discarded refrigerators, construction waste,  car parts, tires, construction material, plastic and  asbestos tiles on the site. Many of the volunteers were pupils at a local middle school.

On the first day, they uncovered 58 gravestones, bearing inscriptions in Hebrew and German, but many more tombstones were believed to be on the site.

 

Photo gallery of how the cemetery looked before the clean-up operation

Photo gallery of how the cemetery looked after the first day of clean-up

 

The idea is to clear and clean up the cemetery and maintain it as a sort of park, but also to restore the memory of the Jewish community that had lived there for centuries until the Holocaust. You can read a long article (in Slovak) about the project HERE.

 

 

 

  The local  Leustach civic association  has organized a clean-up operation for the abandoned and overgrown 18th century Jewish cemetery in the village of Janikovce, a few kilometers from Nitra, Slovakia.  Leustach  organized two days of clean-up work, March 31 … Continue reading

Synagogue in Lancut, Poland Re-opening to the Public

 

The important, and beautifully restored, Baroque synagogue in Lancut, Poland will be reopened to the public on April 28 until the end of August. The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland announces that the synagogue, dating from 1761, will be open daily as part of its Chassidic Route: from Monday to Saturday: 11.00 am-6.00 pm (Thursday 11.00 am – 4.00 pm) – Sunday: 2.00 pm- 6.00 pm.

Click here to see a Gallery of Photographs of the synagogue.

 

  The important, and beautifully restored, Baroque synagogue in Lancut, Poland will be reopened to the public on April 28 until the end of August. The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland announces that the synagogue, dating … Continue reading

Serbia — Pirot Report

 

On April 9 and 10, Jewish Heritage Europe coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber joined Ivan Ceresnjes of the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem, Jasna Ciric, President of the Nis Jewish Community, and Ruben Fuks, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia, on a visit to the Jewish Cemetery in Nis, southern Serbia, to assess its condition and threats to its preservation. She and Ceresnjes later continued on to Pirot, to assess the condition of a ruined mikveh and a new Holocaust memorial. Photos in this post (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Ivan and I were met in Nis and driven to Pirot by Dragan Jankovic, a photo-journalist in Pirot who is also an amateur local historian who has become the repository of knowledge about the Jewish history of the town. Our aim in Pirot was to examine the ruined mikveh there – which Ivan says is the only remaining mikveh from the Ottoman period in the Balkans. We were joined, too, by a young architect from Belgrade, Jelica Jovanovic.

The mikveh is a small brick building that stands at the edge of what was once the Jewish compound, hemmed in behind new metal garages. The site of the synagogue is now occupied by a modern apartment house. The Jewish cemetery was destroyed in the late 1940s, so this is the only physical trace of a communal or ritual Jewish building – though one pre-war house stands on “Jewish Street” in the surrounding pre-war Jewish quarter, and Dragan showed us evidence of how a current photographic shop in town was once Jewish-owned.

People have been aware of the existence of the ruined mikveh, but recent actions by Jasna Ciric, Jelica and Dragan have brought it to more public attention and have initiated discussion at an official level in town about what can be done to preserve/restore it.

The small building is considerably ruined, but the interior is largely intact. You can see where the heater was, where the water channel was, and other even decorative features. If funds are found, there is hope that the building could be restored, as local officials seem quite willing to do so. The current Mayor has been to Israel twice and is eager to encourage local cooperation with Israeli investors. (On the other hand, elections are in a month, so the current administration may not be in power…)

Already the municipality has created and funded the installation of a Holocaust monument to the destroyed local Jewish community on Jewish Street in the former Jewish quarter. It is in the shape of a Star of David sinking into the earth (very similar to a memorial in Usti nad Labem, in the Czech Republic), and a memorial plaque that had been affixed to a nearby building has been moved to form the centerpiece of the monument. The Israeli ambassador attended the dedication a few weeks ago in March. Also, a new plaque/information panel has been erected nearby.

Pirot’s Jewish cemetery was destroyed soon after World War II — one gravestone is preserved at the local museum. We found it standing in an outdoor terrace area, along with other fragments of local stone carving — and a spent rocket fired during the NATO bombing in 1999….

  On April 9 and 10, Jewish Heritage Europe coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber joined Ivan Ceresnjes of the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem, Jasna Ciric, President of the Nis Jewish Community, and Ruben Fuks, President of the Federation of … Continue reading

Serbia — Nis Cemetery Report

 

On April 9 and 10, Jewish Heritage Europe coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber joined Ivan Ceresnjes of the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem, Jasna Ciric, President of the Nis Jewish Community, and Ruben Fuks, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia, on a visit to the Jewish Cemetery in Nis, southern Serbia, to assess its condition and threats to its preservation. Photos in this post (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Jewish cemetery in Nis is believed to date back to the 18th century. It was expropriated by the communist authorities in 1948, and burials were barred in 1965. After that, Roma families occupied about one-third of the site, building homes among the tombstones and creating a village without proper plumbing, sewage treatment or garbage disposal. Industry also encroached on the area, and the cemetery was long used as dump for rubbish and human waste. Vandals over the years broke open tombs, scattering bones.

A major clean-up operation in 2004 removed tons of garbage and waste that had covered the site to the depth of 1.5 meters and also installed a sewage system for the Roma village.

But the cemetery has received little care or maintenance since. And despite being listed as a National cultural heritage site in 2007, it still faces several threats. (JHE ran a news item in December 2011 about new concern by the Jewish community over the situation in Nis, nearly eight years after the clean-up operation – the visit this week was a follow-up to that.)

One-third of it is still occupied by the Roma settlement, or Mahala – composed of permanent brick/masonry/cement structures that are home now to 70 families, or between 700 and 1,500 people, depending on whom you talk to. Warehouses, a restaurant and other illegal industrial construction have encroached on the rest of the space, bulldozing tombs and closing the area off with an illegal 4-meter high wall, making access difficult and sometimes impossible.

Looking toward the Roma Mahala.

Moreover, the new industrial construction also destroyed the sewage treatment system that was installed during the 2004 cleanup.

At the same time, the Jewish community has been restituted part of the property (but so far only that part occupied by the  Roma Mahala), and city authorities now include the cemetery on a big tourist map set up in the center of town, meaning that they — at least in theory — recognize the site as important. (The modernist synagogue in Nis, meanwhile, has been restored and is used as an art gallery and is promoted as a tourist attraction.)

The Jewish community expects to be restituted the rest of the cemetery — or at least the open part where there are still graves — but Jasna Ciric reported that the owners of the restaurant and other commercial and industrial sites built on this land have made clear that they will refuse to vacate or move.

On our visit April 9-10, we were able to enter the Roma village (escorted by two security guards and two plainclothes policemen as well as by the headman of the village) so that we could document about a dozen grave markers that are visible in the open, outside houses. Most were slabs or fragments embedded in the paving or protruding from the foundations of houses, but there were several sarcophagi, including one with inscriptions.

  

It was clear to us that by now the presence of the Mahala is a fait accompli, and that there is little chance such a permanent village can be moved. But – it was not clear at all what is happening with the sewage and other waste. Pipes leading from the buildings are draining into the cemetery grounds, and though there are no open sewers or toilet areas as before the 2004 clean-up, it is unclear what the situation actually is.

We also made a close documentation of the grave markers in the open part of the cemetery. This area had recently been cleaned up – weeds and brush cut, etc – probably ahead of our visit, rather than as a result of regular maintenance. But the vandalism denounced by the Jewish community in December was clearly visible, and dogs roamed among the tombs.

There are about 1,000 grave markers, notable because of the unique – and mysterious – carving on many of the older ones, horizontal slabs that otherwise generally have no epitaph or other inscriptions. The carvings include semi-spheres (numbering from two to 12) arranged in various patterns; geometric forms, and snakes. There is also at least one example of a spiral pillar, laid horizontally. (We could not find two examples of these carved tombs known to have existed there in the past.)

Ivan Ceresnjes believes that these carvings are rooted in Jewish mysticism and may indicate a link to followers of the false Messiah Shabbetai Zevi (1626-1676). Zevi was exiled to Albania and lived the last years of his life and died in Ulcinj (now in Montenegro). In Ulcinj, Ceresnjes has found symbols similar to the ones in Nis, and the earliest reference (or one of the earliest references) to Jews in Nis refers to people coming there from the south. (The only other place he has found seemingly related carvings is in Sarajevo.)

We met at City Hall with Mimi Pesic, director of the city housing office, whom we were told was a representative of the Mayor, and raised concerns about the threats, particularly the lack of regular maintenance and the encroaching (illegal) construction around the site which can bar access to the cemetery.

These properties are at least partially built on the former cemetery grounds

 

We urged that the city guarantee access to the site for visitors, provide regular maintenance, erect a plaque at the entrance giving information about the cemetery, promote tourist visits, see what can be done about the illegal construction, etc.

Pesic expressed willingness to do all this, but it is far from clear what actually will happen.

 

 

  On April 9 and 10, Jewish Heritage Europe coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber joined Ivan Ceresnjes of the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem, Jasna Ciric, President of the Nis Jewish Community, and Ruben Fuks, President of the Federation of … Continue reading

Fact-finding trip to Jewish heritage sites in southern Serbia

 

Jewish Heritage Europe coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber traveled to  Serbia April 8-12 on a fact-finding trip to assess the condition of two key Jewish heritage sites in the southern part of the country: the historic Jewish cemetery in Nis and a ruined mikveh in Pirot.

Jewish cemetery, Nis. Looking from most recent section to oldest section and the area occupied by a Roma settlement. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Both sites are unique in their historical significance, and both face an uncertain future, despite local desire and expressed will to preserve and conserve them. (JHE ran a news item in December about new concern by the Jewish community over the situation in Nis, nearly eight years after a major clean-up operation – the visit this week was a follow-up to that.)

Pirot -- inside the ruined mikveh. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Ruth was invited on the trip by Ivan Ceresjes, of the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem. Ceresjes was the president of the Jewish community in Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1990s war, and he is the foremost expert on Jewish material heritage in the former Yugoslavia. The surveys of Bosnia and Croatia published by the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad are largely based on his work.

In Nis, Ruth and Ivan joined Jasna Ciric, president of the 28-member Jewish community there, who herself has conducted widespread documentation of Jewish heritage in the former Yugoslavia, much of which she has posted on her web site, El Mundo Sefarad; and Ruben Fuks, the president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Serbia.

For the Pirot leg of the trip, Ruth and Ivan were met in Nis and driven to Pirot by Dragan Jankovic, a photo-journalist in Pirot who is also an amateur local historian who has become the repository of knowledge about the Jewish history of the town. They were joined by a young architect from Belgrade, Jelica Jovanovic.

Ruth’s brief report on the trip follows, in separate posts on Nis and Pirot.

 

 

  Jewish Heritage Europe coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber traveled to  Serbia April 8-12 on a fact-finding trip to assess the condition of two key Jewish heritage sites in the southern part of the country: the historic Jewish cemetery in Nis … Continue reading