Volunteers from seven countries clean up historic Jewish cemetery in Poland


WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — An international group of 18 volunteers, aided by seven volunteer Polish scouts from Poznan, is cleaning a Jewish cemetery in Warsaw that is among the world’s largest.

The work on the Okopowa Street cemetery, which was founded in 1806 and has over 80,000 identified gravestones, began last week and will continue through Thursday.

The organizer of the project, the Cultural Heritage Foundation, has been carrying out cleaning work in the Wola District cemetery for three years. This year, together with the One World Association, the foundation decided to send an invitation to young people from abroad.

Participants from Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, the Czech Republic and Turkey will take part in discussions, lectures and thematic walks connected to Jewish culture in Warsaw, as well as visit the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Warsaw synagogue.

“The cemetery is largely undiscovered, and access to many cemetery quarters is hampered by wild plants,” Ola Waszak, coordinator of the volunteer projects of the Jewish Heritage Foundation, told JTA. “Thanks to the help of over 100 volunteers, we managed to organize almost 3 hectares of the cemetery.”

The work consists mainly of cleaning the oldest part of the cemetery and removing broken tree boughs and plants. Preliminary cleaning is essential to allow conservationists and visitors to gain access to historic gravestones.

The cemetery director, the Jewish Community in Warsaw and the Jewish Historical Institute are supervising the efforts.

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