by Melanie Nathan, 03/23/2012
Vilnius – MACEVA (gravestone in Hebrew), the non-profit organization founded by Lithuanian psychologist Aleksandr Avramenko and Lithuanian author Sergey Kanovich, has announced plans to digitize, reconstruct and clean three more pre-World War II cemetery sites in Lithuania.
Often referred to as the “cradle of Eastern European Jewish culture,” Lithuania had a pre-Holocaust Jewish community of 240,000 people, now leaving behind approximately 200 abandoned and desecrated Jewish cemeteries.
The primary focus of MACEVA is to collect, catalog and publicize information about these cemetery sites throughout the country. MACEVA photographically documents remaining tombstones and translates all legible gravestone inscriptions and has already digitized and published data on its website http://litvak-cemetery.info for ten such cemeteries.
Working in conjunction with local municipalities, permanent memorial plaques will be installed which will provide information about the site and community. The goal is to share information regarding the site with those who now inhabit the area, especially about the history of the Jews who formerly lived in the neighborhood. Through this information sharing, MACEVA seeks to gain the support of local residents to help care for these Jewish cemeteries.
Former Lithuanian Head of State, MEP Prof. Landsbergis stated: “Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania are not simply burial places, they are part of Lithuanian history and culture and must be preserved”.
MACEVA is endorsed by the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC), whose president, Dr. Simonas Alperavicius serves on the MACEVA board. Other esteemed board members include former Lithuanian Head of State and current European Parliament member Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, past LJC President Grigorijus Kanovicius, and European Parliament member Prof. Leonidas Donskis. Internationally recognized Lithuanian members of the academic community on the board include Dr. Egle Bendikaite of Vilnius Yiddish Institute and Dr. Darius Udrys of the European Humanities University.
Other prominent Lithuanian board members include Dr. Andrius Navickas, editor-in-chief of www.Bernardinai.lt, awarded “Person of Tolerance” (2011) by the Sugihara Foundation, and Vytautas Toleikis, Director of the Lithuanian Committee of the United World Colleges. Serving from the United States are Howard Margol, philanthropist and past President of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and Grant Arthur Gochin, president of www.GAWWS.com and current Secretary of the Los Angeles Consular Corps.
Each of my maternal lineage is buried on a different continent, including my mother the late Prof Carmen Nathan, buried in Motswedi, Africa, and my Grandmother Rose Miller, in Los Angeles, and my Great Grandmother, in Israel; all because of pogroms or politics of whatsoever kind.
Now, with deep gratitude this adds to our familial peace, that perhaps my ancestors will find rest in knowing of a further sanctuary, this time in Eastern Europe, where we may all have remained, but for the craziness of a history that thought we were undeserving of home!
Additional details are available on MACEVA’s website at: http://litvak-cemetery.info