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linia 2020-08-18 "Restoring the Hidden Past" - teleconference

On August 18, 2020, a first of its kind, internet-based teleconference entitled “Restoring the Hidden Past” organized by a dedicated group of Jewish and Non-Jewish organizations and individuals took place over Zoom, with participants staying in Poland, Israel and the USA.* The main emphasis was laid on addressing the state of Polish-Jewish cemeteries, issues related to their restoration, and search for practical and long-term solutions that would preclude the progressing deterioration of these sites and irretrievable losses. Moreover, their potential, for reinforcing Polish-Jewish dialogue and reconciliation was discussed.

The fourteen conference speakers included the Chief Rabbi of Poland, a Roman Catholic Archbishop, a Baptist minister, local and national Polish governmental officials, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, local restoration practitioners, and diaspora descendant activists.

Among the issues raised and points made in the course of the teleconference were:

·         How the conference is a “groundbreaking international virtual gathering brings together Jews and Christians, Poles, Americans, Israelis, and others, Jewish and Catholic clergy, scholars, young and old, as well as representatives from Polish municipalities - all united by a shared passion to help save and restore the 1,200 Jewish cemeteries throughout Poland and to commemorate the rich cultural Jewish heritage of Poland before the Holocaust.”- Gideon Taylor, Co-Chair of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ), and President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

·         the fact that many Jews have their “roots in the cemeteries around Poland (…) [and] the history of the Jewish people for over a thousand years is in those graveyards. We must do everything we can to preserve them as part of our heritage, history, and beliefs.”- Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel

·         the fact that there are only tens of thousands of Jews left in Poland and they need help in preserving circa 1200 cemeteries - The Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich

·         that “because there are no Jews anymore with us, Poles should be the guardians of Jewish cemeteries.”- Bishop Mieczysław Cisło, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Lublin

·         the need to move from focusing on individual cemeteries, by the descendants in the diaspora, to the broader perspective - Bill Brostoff, a Polish-Jewish descendant

·         the potential of these sites to: “serve as a bridge between the people of Poland and Jews all over the world,” (Isaac Herzog); be meeting places for the future (Bishop Cisło), help preserve collective memory (Piotr Puchta, CEO of FODZ).

 

* An Overview of the Conference Organizers:

1.The Chief Rabbinate of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, is the representative of all Jews and Jewish communities in Poland.

2.The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODŻ). The primary mission is to protect, restore, and commemorate the surviving sites and monuments of Jewish cultural heritage in Poland.

 3.Friends of Jewish Heritage Poland (FJHP): The primary mission of FJHP, a U.S-based 501(C)(3) non-profit, is to protect and commemorate the surviving sites and monuments of Jewish cultural heritage in Poland. A significant beneficiary is FODŻ.

4.The Matzevah Foundation (TMF): TMF is a U.S-based 501(C)(3) non-profit organization, whose mission is to mobilize volunteers to restore Jewish cemeteries and seek to reconcile Jews and Christians. TMF also works to educate the public about the Shoah and commemorates mass grave sites of Jewish victims murdered during the Shoah with Fundacja Zapomniane (Foundation of the Forgotten).

Additional information about the conference, including a list of speakers and cemetery restoration resources, is available at conference.fjhp.org.



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Recommended links
  The 'Synagogue' Center in Zamosc  
  "Preserving Jewish Heritage in Poland" vol. II  
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