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NEWS FROM INTERNATIONAL SURVEY OF JEWISH MONUMENTS:
Week of June 12 - June 19, 2000

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1. Ceremonies scheduled at Mikulov, Czech Republic
2. Holocaust Memorials Erected at Plauen, Germany and Zhitomir, Ukraine
3. Ukrainian Parliament to Draft New Law about Burial Grounds
4. Prague to Name Square after Franz Kafka
5. Synagogue in Rhodes, Greece Receives Grant from American Express
 

1. Jewish Historical Route to Open in Mikulov, Czech Republic

On Sunday, June 18, 2000 the Mikulov Society of Friends of Jewish Culture will officially open its new instructional trail through the historic town, highlighting aspects of Jewish history.  Informational markers in three languages have been placed on thirteen buildings of significance to the Jewish community.  Three larger signboards bearing more general information about the history and monuments of the former Jewish ghetto have also been erected along the route.  Jaroslav Klenovsky, who has done so much to reclaim the history and monuments of the Jewish of Moravia, is project manager.

Ceremonies begin on Sunday at 10:30 at the restored monument to 21 Hungarian Jews in the Jewish cemetery in Mikulov.  The dedication of the historical route takes place at 2:00 p.m.  Descendants of Jews from Mikulov from around the world been invited to the events.

For more information contact:  Spolek pratel zidovske kultury, Regionalmi museum, Zamek, 692 15 Mikulov, Czech Republic.  Tel.: 00420-625-510819; email: m_judaica@iol.cz.

2. Holocaust Memorials erected at Plauen, Germany and Zhitomir, Ukraine

Zhitomir, Ukraine:  New Holocaust Memorial

New Holocaust memorials continue to be erected throughout Europe.  These include small personal tokens of remembrance, and large officially sanctioned memorial markers.  In May, memorials were dedicated in Plauen, Germany and Zhitomir, Ukraine.

On May 3, 2000 a memorial stone was unveiled at the Tannenhof of Plauen, Germany, in memory of victims of the Holocaust.    The tall rectangular slab, set in front of the former pre-burial house of the cemetery, is inscribed in Hebrew and German.  Ike Klein left his hometown of Plauen in 1934.  “Eight years ago, I returned for the first time to the city of my parents.  Today, on the worldwide remembrance of the victims of the Shoah, it is important to us to have a place of remembrance and to erect for the coming generations a reminding memorial in Plauen,” said Klein, as reported by the local paper “Stadt Plauen.”  The idea for the memorial at the cemetery – where no other gravestones are visible -- originated with Klein’s cousin Jacob Kohn, who lives in Israel but could not attend the ceremony due to ill-health.  The Jewish presence in Plauen dates to the 14th century.  In the early 20th century Plauen was home to one of the most innovative modern synagogues – designed by Fritz Landauer in the International Style.  Built in 1928-30, it was destroyed in 1938.

In Zhitomir, Ukraine, a memorial was dedicated on the site of mass murder and burial of hundreds of Jews from the town.  The large boulder set upon a Star-of-David shaped base, with one polished side inscribed with a menorah and memorial inscription in Ukrainian, was dedicated on May 18, 2000.  The ceremony coincided with a visit to Zhitomir by representatives of the Joint U.S.-Ukraine Cultural Heritage Commission, of which ISJM president Sam Gruber is a member.  About a 150 people, including children from the local Jewish school and a contingent of Ukrainian soldiers, attended the ceremony on a hot afternoon.  The children held yahrzeit candles and the soldiers fired a salute as part of the ceremony.  Jewish and Ukrainian officials addressed the crowd exhorting them to remember the dead.  In an earlier visit to the Chabad-run Jewish school of Zhitomir and at the memorial ceremony, Deputy Minister of Culture and Arts of Ukraine Leonid Novokhatko stressed the ready acceptance of minority cultures in the new independent Ukraine.  Hon. Irving Stolberg, of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, spoke of new cooperative actions undertaken by the U.S. and Ukrainian governments to better protect minority cultures, including cemeteries and memorial sites.  In addition to the school, Zhitomir has one synagogue that also serves as the local Jewish community center and “soup kitchen.”

Zhitomir, Ukraine:  Ceremony at Consecration of New Holocaust Memorial

3. Ukrainian Parliament to Draft New Law about Burial Grounds

Representatives of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, meeting in Kiev in May as part of the Joint U.S.-Ukraine Cultural Heritage Commission, were told that the Ukrainian parliament would soon begin drafting new legislation concerning burial practices.  The new act will be the first to be adopted in replacement of Soviet-era laws, and will have great consequences for the future protection and maintenance of Jewish cemeteries throughout the country.  Soviet policy allowed any cemetery not used for burial over a twenty-year period to be liquidated – thus hundreds of historic Jewish cemeteries were destroyed during the Soviet period.  Since 1998, a Ukrainian ministerial decree has been in effect prohibiting the privatization or development of any site proven to be a Jewish cemetery.  This has done some good, but has not always been effective on the local level, and has done little to protect cemeteries already developed for other uses.  It is hoped the new law will contain language recognizing all cemeteries as protected sites, and acknowledging that Jewish cemeteries remain sacred even when no gravestones remain in place.

To assist in the drafting of the Ukrainian law ISJM seeks copies of any and all legislation from any municipality, state or country that articulates policies for the protection of burial grounds.  Send all materials to ISJM, 123 Clarke St., Syracuse, NY 13210.

4. Prague to Name Square after Franz Kafka

The City of Prague plans to rename the centrally located U Radnice Square where Franz Kafka was born in honor of the Czech-Jewish writer before the end of the year.  According to a report by Magnus Bennett of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Eduard Goldstucker, a scholar who left Czechoslovakia after 1968 to teach literature at University of Sussex, has led the effort for the change.  He returned to Prague in 1992 and has actively campaigned for more local recognition of Prague’s greatest modern writer.

In 1966 a plaque was erected on the house where Kafka was born, at U Radnice 5.  Despite the lag in more official recognition, Kafka’s name and image seem to be everywhere – his fame is marketed as a commodity in the tourist driven economy of the new Prague.

Every year, thousands visit Kafka’s grave in the New Jewish Cemetery in Zizkov, an Eastern district in Prague.  Author Ruth E. Gruber has written of the cemetery: “if the Old Jewish Cemetery is a stone archive of pious medieval and Renaissance Prague Jewry, the New Cemetery is a sculpted history book of a prosperous, upwardly mobile, secularized community whose members wanted even there graves to be monuments to their success.  In the monuments and their inscriptions, you can read the progression from shtetl to city to acculturation to Holocaust.”  Despite the attention to Kafka’s grave, much if the enormous cemetery remains overgrown with vegetation and desolate.

5. Synagogue in Rhodes, Greece Receives Grant from American Express

The American Express Company has awarded $35,000 towards the restoration of the Kahal Shalom Synagogue of Rhodes.  The synagogue has survived for almost 475 years, making it the oldest still?functioning synagogue in Greece.  The painted wall decorations, showing the lulav, the menorah, and the shofarim have faded and women’s gallery can no longer be used, but Kahal Shalom still stands as a vibrant monument to the once thriving Sephardic community that flourished here for centuries including the Modiano, Alhadeff, Benveniste, Franco, Menache, Nortica, Soriano, and Levy families, who 54 years ago, were taken to their deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Last year, the small congregation noticed dampness on the dome caused by a leak in the roof.  It appeared that the porous stone, with which the building was constructed in 1575, has over the course of the centuries corroded from the inside.  Without remedy, Kahal Shalom is in danger of collapsing.

The Jewish Community of Rhodes has hired architects for the restoration that will cost approximately $250,000.  The slant of the roof will be changed to assure that the problem would not recur.  Each stone affected needs to be individually replaced, in keeping with the guidelines set up by the Rhodes Historical Society, because Kahal Shalom is an historical landmark.  Early in 2000, Kahal Shalom was listed on the World Monuments Fund Watch list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world.
As a result, the American Express Company, which underwrites part of the Watch program, has granted $35,000 to the congregation for roof repairs.

The Association of Friends of Greek Jewry, the Jewish Community of Rhodes, and Kol haKEHILA, continue to raise funds for the project.  All donations should be sent by check to the Jewish Community of Rhodes, 5 Polydorou Street, Rhodes, or by remittance to the Ionian Bank of Greece, account #105697ii, “Beneficiary Jewish Community of Rhodes”.  The Association of Friends of Greek Jewry can be reached at sephardic@juno.com

Please see www.worldmonuments.org for more information about the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites 2000 or contact Martha Flach, Manager, New Media & Public Affairs, World Monuments Fund 949 Park Avenue, New York, NY  10028.  Tel (212) 517-9367, fax (212) 517-9494, wmf@wmf.org

For information on the American Express Philanthropic Program:  Richard D'Ambrosio, Director of Public Affairs, American Express American Express Tower, World Financial Center, New York, NY 10285.  Tel (212) 640-4868, fax (212) 619-8998, richard.d'ambrosio@aexp.com www.americanexpress.com
 

 

International Survey of Jewish Monuments
c/o Jewish Heritage Research Center
Box 210, 118 Julian Pl.
Syracuse, New York 13210-3419, USA

tel: (315) 474-2350
fax: (315) 474-2347

 
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Last updatd: January 4, 2003