ABOUT LO TISHKACH (Hebrew phrase ‘Do Not Forget’)
• Develop and maintain comprehensive database of European Jewish cemeteries & mass graves.
• Survey and report on the current physical state of these sites and facilitate solutions to current problems
• As part of data collection engage young people in “learn-and-do” activity to contemporize the lessons of the Holocaust
• Campaign for the preservation and protection of historic cultural sites and to advocate the necessary national and international legal frameworks to ensure this.
Jewish cemeteries and mass graves provide a vivid focal point marking the destruction of Jewish communities and for learning the lessons of the Holocaust. They stand as testimony to the history of Jewish community life across the European continent and are an important part of Europe’s diverse cultural heritage.
Thousands of these sites lie unvisited and unprotected. Neglect, inappropriate commercial and industrial development, vandalism, theft and well-meaning but inexpert attempts at restoration are threatening to permanently erase what is often the only surviving reminder of the importance of Europe’s pre-war Jewish communities. Without concerted action, many may soon be lost forever.
Set up in 2006 by the Conference of European Rabbis (UK Charity reg no 271466) with the support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), the Lo Tishkach Foundation European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, aims to collate all known data on Europe’s Jewish burial grounds and to incorporate this vast source of information in an online database so that it is readily and easily accessible to everyone.
This database now stands at over 11,000 individual records of cemeteries and mass graves and when complete may well contain details on close to 20,000 sites.
For the first five years, Lo Tishkach operated as a Belgian Foundation of Public Utility under Belgian law (no. 899.211.180) and received its official royal decree formally in June 2008. From mid 2012, the supervision of the project is by the Union of Jewish Religious Organizations of Ukraine on behalf of the Conference of European Rabbis to bring operational control closer to the Northern and Eastern Europe locations where much of the fieldwork is taking place.
In 2015, strategic planning and administration moved to CER headquarters in London while database management continues in Belgium, because of the high numbers of available researchers skilled in Jewish history, ethics, religion and languages.
Lo Tishkach aims to guarantee the effective and lasting preservation and protection of Jewish cemeteries and mass graves throughout the European continent.
A second aim is to campaign for the preservation and protection of Jewish burial grounds and to advocate the necessary national and international legal frameworks to ensure this. Several research papers have been published summarising the different national laws, international laws and practices affecting these sites, to be used as a starting point to advocate for their better protection and preservation.
A key aim of the project is to engage young people; encouraging reflection on the values that are important for responsible citizenship and mutual respect, giving a valuable insight into Jewish culture and mobilising young people to care for our common heritage. The project uses Jewish cemeteries – a physical legacy of formerly vibrant Jewish communities – as the focus of a practical activity and learning programme to meaningfully transmit to younger generations the lessons of the Holocaust.
Groups of young people on Lo Tishkach fieldwork continue to systematically visit thousands of Jewish burial sites in designated zones across Europe. These groups survey and report on the current physical state of these sites as well as gathering vital information on local Jewish life, history and culture.
Lo Tishkach was instrumental in developing a simple “traffic light” index classification of all cemeteries surveyed to focus supporters of preservation activities on the areas most in need. Over several years, we have worked with local and national communities, as well as international supporters such as the United States Commission for the Preservation of Americas Heritage Abroad.
As a not-for-profit project, Lo Tishkach relies on the generous support of its sponsors to enable us to continue our work in preserving Jewish heritage in Europe.