The Community Alliance for Jewish-Affiliated Cemeteries (CAJAC) is an organization that focuses on rehabilitation efforts for distressed burial grounds. This program is based in Baltimore, Maryland and was founded in the late 1990s by a group of local community leaders. It is a non-profit agency that provides services to Jewish cemeteries, and it works to help the Jewish community honor their departed ancestors.
CAJAC is a nonprofit organization that sets standards for the maintenance of Jewish cemeteries, and it works with other organizations to ensure that Jewish cemeteries are preserved. In addition, it provides guidance for Jewish organizations that manage cemeteries.
A lot of people in the Jewish community see the maintenance of Jewish cemeteries as a communal responsibility. Some individuals or groups take care of them as a hobby, while others do it as a religious obligation. While most cemeteries are privately owned by synagogues, they can also be maintained by municipalities or civic groups.
JHE contributor Michele Migliori was one of those who helped to clean up a Jewish cemetery in Hungary. Although the cemetery is 114 years old, it had suffered from subsidence, vandalism, and overgrown grass. She took photos, helped with unveiling ceremonies, and registered memorials.
Several Jewish communities in Eastern Europe have begun to focus on restoring the living presence of their communities. For example, the Slovakian Jewish community launched a campaign called SOS Cemeteries, which allows donors to sponsor cemetery preservation work. Despite the goodwill demonstrated, the program has yet to generate much income. However, it is an important step toward engaging Western tourists in this effort.
There are many resources available for cleaning and restoring cemeteries. One of them is the Restoration of Eastern European Jewish Cemeteries Foundation, which brings American college students to volunteer in cemeteries in Belarus and Lithuania. Another is the Jewish Heritage Council of the World Monuments Fund, which funded documentation of Jewish cemeteries in Poland.
The Jewish Cemetery Foundation is another organization that offers guidance to cemetery administrators. They emphasize volunteerism and education. During its five-year lifespan, the foundation has rehabilitated seven abandoned Jewish cemeteries, raised awareness about the systemic problems facing Jewish cemeteries, and provided resources to cemetery administrators.
Similarly, the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater (UJFT) has maintained Jewish cemeteries in Tidewater, Virginia, since the 1980s. Recently, the organization added security cameras, and it contributed $18,000 to the B’nai Israel Cemetery. UJFT also works with the Jewish Volunteer Connection and Fram Monument to help keep Jewish cemeteries in good shape.
Other organizations are working to preserve Jewish cemeteries in other parts of Europe. For instance, Baptists from the United States have been cleaning up Jewish cemeteries in Poland for eight years. Local women’s groups have cleaned up Jewish cemeteries in Kormend and Tapolca, and Christian church groups have done so in Kiskunmajsa.
Many examples of neglect have been documented in Poland. The Warsaw Jewish Cemetery, for example, has thousands of gravestones covered with vegetation. The cemetery has become a “jungle,” according to its head. He plans to get Israelis of Polish origin to help with its restoration.