Last week, a group of volunteers spent a day cleaning up the New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow, raking leaves, cutting brush and generally clearing debris. The vast cemetery, founded in 1800, after the city’s 16th century Old Cemetery was closed, encompasses about 11 hectares and thousands of gravestones that exhibit a wide range of design and carved iconography, though many are eroded or tilted over.
The burial site of many prominent figures — including artists, scholars, political figures and religious leaders — the cemetery is visited by tourists and is still used today by the small local Jewish community. One of the more recent graves is that of Henryk Halkowski, a memorable writer, translator and local historian steeped in the life and lore of Jewish Krakow, who died suddenly on New Year’s Day, 2009.
The clean-up group — mainly young Jews and non-Jews — included volunteers from the Krakow Jewish Community Center, the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival, and the Jewish Studies Department of Jagiellonian University.
Two of them blogged about their experience that day, from two very different perspectives.
Rabbi Avi Baumol, who is currently serving Krakow Jews as the representative of Poland’s chief rabbi, posted a long commentary on the Times of Israel, and Agnieszka Gis, a non-Jewish girl who volunteers at the JCC wrote about the clean-up operation and posted many pictures on her blog about Krakow Jews.
It’s quite interesting two read the two reports side by side.