An urgent meeting of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe took place last Sunday in London.
The meeting at the home of HaRav Elyokim Schlesinger heard a report of recent and ongoing activities and discussed the action to be taken to continue to monitor and improve the state of the thousands of Jewish cemeteries in Europe, in many of which the graves unfortunately now have no tombstones by which to identify them.
Special concern was expressed at the proposal of the World Jewish Restitution Organization that it should assume the ownership of all Jewish property in Poland, including more than three thousand cemeteries.
Participants stressed that only an Orthodox Jewish organization, operating under rabbinical guidance, can be properly entrusted with the holy task of preserving Jewish graves and resisting attempts to use the land for development.
There was agreement that representations be made at the highest levels to all those involved in these negotiations, pointing out that under no circumstances may cemeteries be included in any such restitution agreement.
The situation in Romania also gives great cause for concern.
The Council of Jewish Communities in Romania has issued a directive to all its constituent communities to sell all land in Jewish cemeteries not containing graves, where no Jews live in the area.
As of course it is now impossible to determine with any degree of certainty that no graves exist in any particular section of a Jewish cemetery, especially after the devastation of the Second World War and the neglect of religious heritage under the Communist regime for some 50 years. As a result, many such sales are likely to involve the desecration of Jewish graves, whether wittingly or unwittingly.
Another subject discussed was the proposal to enact legislation at the European Parliament for the protection of Jewish cemeteries.
A special subcommittee was set up headed by Rabbi Avrohom Pinter to pursue this matter in cooperation with international legal experts.