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MACEVA's Spring and Summer 2012 Quarterly Newsletter
Who we are: 
'MACEVA' (www.litvak-cemetery.info) is a non-profit organization which aims to preserve  tombstones of old Jewish cemeteries throughout Lithuania for future generations in Lithuania and the diaspora.
 
Mission Statement:
Our goals:
  • Collect, catalogue and publicize information about all the pre-WWII Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania.
  • Document through photographs all remaining tombstones in all Jewish cemeteries throughout Lithuania;
  • Translate all legible inscriptions from the gravestones and post this information on our website so that all can get a list of cemeteries or a burial list free of charge;
  • Whenever possible restore/reconstruct, or at least clean cemeteries, with the assistance of and in cooperation with local municipalities;
  • Install permanent memorial plaques at Jewish cemeteries across the country with information about the site and the community;
  • Raise awareness among local communities about the Jews who used to live in the neighborhood and seek their support to look after Jewish cemeteries.
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MACEVA is pleased to provide an activities update for Spring and Summer 2012!

Continuing Work on Cemeteries
MACEVA, with generous support from volunteers, continued to clean and photograph old Jewish cemeteries throughout the country. During the spring and summer, we cleaned and photographed one of the largest cemeteries in Lithuania, Utena Cemetery, in the Šilinė forest. The work was performed by high school volunteers from the Utena Dauniškis Gymnasium led by the Deputy Director of Gymnasium, Asta Skeirienė. Photographs from the school website can be seen here.
























Over 850 headstones have been carefully cleaned and documented. A scouting group, led by the head of the local Švekšna museum, Monika Žąsytienė, photographed and uploaded pictures of all gravestones. Educators taught the Lithuanian children about the Jewish history of the area and why there are no longer any Jews to care for these cemeteries. It was the first time for many that they learned the true facts of the Jewish history of their region.
          
 
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The Paberžė Jewish cemetery was cleaned and photographed by Virginijus Galsilūnas and Vygantas Baltakis. These will be added to our website shortly.

We now also have photographs of the small and nearly completely destroyed Maišiagala Jewish cemetery with only about 15 stones remaining. These will also be uploaded shortly.

We have updated our database and added full translation of the stones of:
• Dieveniškes 
Maišiagala
Švekšna
Silutė (where only a commemorative stone exists; the cemetery was entirely destroyed).

We are currently working on:
• Already translated and will be uploaded soon: Akmenė Cemetery (credit Andrius Almanis, Rita Ringienė and group of school pupils)
• In the pipeline to be translated: Utena, Paberžė, Merkinė (pictures received from Auksė Kaizer)
• We are in negotiation and expect to receive during this season pictures from: Moletai (with support from Šholom Aleichem school), Zarasai (Aleksander Karovsky), Biržai (through marvelous project organized by Merūnas Jukonis and his team), Nemakščiai (by Rūta Anulytė), Joniškis, Žemaičių Naumiestis and Žagarė (by representatives of Joniškis museum)

Maceva in the Media:  
Interview with Maceva founders Aleksandr Avramenko and Sergey Kanovich.
Article about work on Utena Cemetery (translated from Lithuanian).
 
* Click the hyperlinks to access the webpages.

Government Lobbying Work
We continue to work with local Lithuanian municipalities, reminding them about their duty to look after old Jewish cemeteries. Several letters have been sent out prior to visits to the cemeteries by Maceva volunteers. We are taking first steps to work with the Culture Heritage Department to make sure that all cemeteries have received the status of "State Protected Heritage". Advocacy around Kaunas cemetery is gaining momentum, read below.
 
Kaunas Cemetery
Since November 2012, MACEVA has been pressuring the Municipal Authorities in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city, to take proper care of the old Jewish cemetery. It is Lithuania’s largest Jewish cemetery at over 19 acres.  Based on a standard grave size of 3' x 8', one acre of land will provide enough space for 1,815 graves.Therefore, there are possibly up to 35,000 graves in this cemetery that need to be identified and inventoried.
 
Despite its Governmental protected status, the cemetery is in poor condition. MACEVA has written to Kaunas Mayor R. Kupcinskas, the Department of Heritage at the Ministry of Culture, the Prime Minister’s office, and the Lithuanian Jewish Community, describing the situation. Yet, the Municipality does little to nothing. MACEVA insists that the Kaunas Municipality follows the law and maintains the site. Responses from the Authorities present only excuses, no action.
 
According to the Department of Heritage, administrative action may be taken if the Kaunas Authorities do not respond appropriately. MACEVA continues to lobby for action.
 
Cemeteries such as Kaunas are only the tip of the iceberg. Numerous other Jewish cemeteries throughout Lithuania are in similar or even worse condition. Despite Lithuanian laws and regulations directly mandating the maintenance of Jewish cemeteries, deliberate inaction from local authorities continue to facilitate the continued destruction of our heritage. This requires NGO’s such as MACEVA to intervene and assume what is the responsibility of Government. MACEVA rejects the idea that this is acceptable, and MACEVA will continue to demand that municipal authorities recognize their legal duty to contribute to the proper maintenance, preservation, and documentation of Lithuanian Jewish cemeteries.
 
With over 200 identified Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania, we need donor support as we expand our efforts to protect and preserve Jewish history and culture in Lithuania.


MACEVA - Sveksna Partnership:
In the Spring of 2012 the Sveksna Regional Museum joined with Maceva to learn as much as possible about the no longer existing Sveksna Jewish community. We photographed all remaining tombstones in the local Jewish cemetery and translated inscriptions into Lithuanian and English.
 
In the desire to make this a place of memory and one where visitors would want to visit, the scouting group of " Alicija Rugyte", led by Vilma Adomaviciene and Violeta Stoniene, arranged expeditions to the cemetery. During these visits during every tombstone was cleaned, a path leading to the cemetery was cleaned, and 3 tombstones were dug out the earth.
 
The children were excited and interested to learn who had been buried there. Scouts also learned about Jewish traditions. They asked questions such as; “why visitors do not visit on the Sabbath?”, why men and women wear head coverings?, why one should always wash their hands after visiting the cemetery?, why stones and not flowers are brought to the tombstones, etc.
 
The head of the Regional Council, Alfonsas Seputis, allocated manpower to cut the grass and help to remove the debris.
          
 
Photos from Utena Cemetery:
 
     
      
 
MACEVA’s Education Programs on Two Continents:
Where volunteer work is performed in Lithuania by schoolchildren, we attempt to provide the schools and schoolchildren with an education on the Jews that lived in the area, the positive impact Jews had on Lithuania, and what was done to the Jews.
 
Previously, translations and transcription of the Maceva’s have been performed in Lithuania, Israel and the Netherlands. Now we have joined forces with the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in Los Angeles who will be offering the opportunity to 8th Grade students to do this volunteer translation work. Schoolteacher Rita Weiser will work directly with the children, and MACEVA professional staff, while Associate Head of School, Larry Kligman will direct the educational program. MACEVA Advisory Board member, Grant Gochin will teach the volunteer schoolchildren about Litvak History. As we grow our program, we hope to expand to more Jewish schools and involve more children in learning about our heritage in a hands-on fashion.

Donations:
MACEVA is a volunteer driven organization. We are organized and registered as a not for profit NGO in Lithuania. We have one paid employee in Lithuania doing the "on the ground" coordination and education. Our expenses are for materials used in cemetery work, transportation and professional assistance where needed.  We do need assistance with our expenses. If you see value in what we do, please contribute. For Americans, tax deductible contributions can be made by checks payable to: LitvakSIG Inc. (Maceva), which should be mailed to: LitvakSIG, c/o Eden Joachim, Treasurer, 41 Country Club Lane, Pomona, NY 10970, USA, or on-line at LitvakSIG. LitvakSIG is a 501c3 non-profit public charity.

For any donors outside of USA, we ask that you donate here.


* Many thanks to Dr. Lara Lempert for her continuous help with translating the gravestones and to Fiodor Avramenko for updating the headstone database.



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