Polish villagers clean up Jewish cemetery

Civic action group encourages locals to be involved in cemetery conservation to preserve the past, strengthen ties between Poles and Jews for the future.

jewish cemetery germany 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
jewish cemetery germany 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Krakow – A neglected Jewish cemetery in southeastern Poland got a much-needed clean-up last week when a dozen non-Jewish Polish villagers banded together to clear debris and rubbish that had accumulated at the site in recent years.
The burial ground is located in the village of Sokolow Malopolski, which lies some 24 kilometers north of Rzeszow. It dates back to the 18th century and was in use until the local Jewish community was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II.
The initiative was organized by a local civic group, the Sokolow Region Lovers Society, and was carried out in cooperation with the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, which is responsible for safeguarding thousands of Jewish cultural, historical and religious sites throughout the country.
Foundation head Monika Krawczyk said she appreciated the care shown by the Sokolow volunteers, as well as the kindness of their gesture.
“We encourage local Polish groups and individuals to become involved incemetery conservation as a way of preserving the past and strengtheningties between Poles and Jews for the future,” Krawczyk told TheJerusalem Post. “And it is heartwarming to see how these non-Jewishvillagers took time off from their daily lives to uphold the dignity ofa Jewish cemetery.”
But she bemoaned the lack of cooperation from Sokolow Malopolski’smunicipal authorities, who have repeatedly resisted efforts to forgebetter relations.
In an incident two years ago, local officials told representatives ofKrawczyk’s foundation that they “would not cooperate with Jews” and “donot want our children to learn about Jewish culture”.
Krawczyk also expressed regret that world Jewry is not doing more to take care of Poland’s Jewish sites.
“There are over 1200 neglected Jewish cemeteries throughout Poland,”Krawczyk said, adding that, “with little or no interest coming fromJewish communities abroad to maintain them, we are increasingly forcedto rely on the goodwill of local Poles to care for these precious partsof our heritage.”
She noted that the foundation is looking to raise funds to refurbishthe cemetery and erect a memorial to the town’s Jewish community, buthas had difficulty doing so.
Jews first settled in Sokolow Malopolski more than 300 years ago. Atthe end of the 19th century, a Jew served as mayor of the town, whichwas also home to prominent rabbis such as Meilech Weichselbaum and thehassidic rebbe Aba Hippler.
On the eve of the Holocaust, Sokolow Malopolski was home to more than1,350 Jews, most of whom were murdered by the Germans in the Belzecdeath camp.