A Guide to Jewish Cemetery Preservation in Western Ukraine

Ця сторінка також доступна українською.


The old Jewish cemetery of Rohatyn (Ivano-Frankivsk oblast) during cleaning and surveying. Photo © RJH.

This core section of the website aims to gather and distill diverse guidance from a wide variety of disciplines and sources, and from hands-on experience plus the advice of academics and professionals, to present best practices in heritage preservation applicable to Jewish burial sites in western Ukraine. The processes, methods, and tools presented in this section are intended to fill gaps in the knowledge and skills of the people most likely to do this work: volunteer heritage workers, typically including both local Ukrainian civil society activists and foreign descendants of the Jewish families who once lived in the area. Despite significant differences in cultural perspectives, all people and organizations with a stake in the protection of regional historical sites recognize Jewish cemeteries as shared cultural heritage, and as an asset which plays a role in individual and community identities. Rehabilitating, promoting, and preserving these sites often requires resources and capabilities beyond what ordinary laypersons can summon; the scope of the need in western Ukraine, in both the number of desolate Jewish burial sites and their current physical condition, is enormous.

Fallen headstones in the Jewish cemetery of Skole (Lviv oblast).
Photo © RJH.

This guide is created primarily by and for non-professionals, adapting in selected areas the knowledge, skills, and experience of academics and practitioners each in their areas of expertise. Wherever possible we have directly incorporated the experience and lessons learned from activists in western Ukraine, knowledge usually gained through trial and error. The presentation is informal, suggestive rather than prescriptive, intended to stimulate reflection, discussion, and feedback. The guidance provided here will not be useful to all new projects in the region; the breadth of issues raised for consideration likely will be. Other activists working in the region and beyond will have different and possibly better knowledge on many aspects of this guide, which we hope can be shared and incorporated into this website in the future.

An important feature of these guide pages is the variety of project examples with brief descriptions and illustrations, taken from sites in the region and abroad. These examples may highlight risks, suggest alternative solutions to problems, or simply serve as inspiration to initiate a new project.

An Outline of Typical Project Phases

Headstones visible through wild brush in the Jewish cemetery of Stara Sil (Lviv oblast).
Photo © RJH.

Rehabilitation, commemoration, and preservation projects at Jewish cemeteries in western Ukraine can be simple and narrowly scoped or large and multifaceted, depending on the existing site conditions and the vision and resources of the project managers. Projects with multiple components generally benefit from conceptualizing and planning the whole, while dividing the implementation into phases. These phases may overlap in time, and often must. The guide pages linked here are similarly divided into thematic topics, which for some projects will align reasonably with work phases. However, some projects will appropriately address only a single theme, and no project will follow the sequence below exactly in its progression from assessment and conception to sustaining and communication. For nearly every project, the issues of one theme will interact with those of another and with the overall project concept and plans. Activists and project managers are encouraged to review each of the guide pages before setting project plans into action.

Preliminary Assessment

Project Concepts

Site Surveys and Research

Site Clearing, Cleaning, and Reconditioning

Landscape Planning, Development, and Care

Stone Conservation, Documentation, and Care

Memorial Monument Design, Development, and Care

Directional and Information Signage

Access and Protection: Fences, Walls, and Gates

Sustainability Planning

Project Support and Funding


Resources and Reference Information

The memorial at a Jewish mass grave in Zboriv (Ternopil oblast).
Photo © RJH.

Key resources to support the development and implementation of Jewish cemetery preservation projects in western Ukraine are included in three additional sections of this website, on references and data, analyzed summaries of example projects at burial sites in the region, and a database of all known cemeteries and mass graves in the region with links to research organizations which have documented them. Activists planning or conducting projects may find these resources more valuable than the best practices outlined above, and indeed much of the guidance in the first section of the website was developed directly from the following three sections.

Resources and Information for Cemetery Care

Case Studies: Selected Projects at Jewish Cemeteries in Western Ukraine

Links to Identified Jewish Cemeteries in Western Ukraine