Proposal: "Adopt a Community in Poland"
JOWBR Cooperative Data Acquisition Project

Project Name: JOWBR Cooperative Data Acquisition Project – YZI

Project Partner: Yad LeZehava Holocaust Research Institute, in Kedumim, Israel (YZI).

Project Leader:
Avigdor Ben-Dov, Director of Special Projects for Yad LeZehava Holocaust Research Institute in Kedumim, Israel and the Coordinator of the "Adopt a Community in Poland" cemetery preservation projects.

JewishGen Liaison/Advisor:
Joyce Field
JewishGen Vice President, Research

Project Synopsis

In order to expand JewishGen's Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) database, JewishGen will be partnering with organizations of the highest integrity and exceptional record of performance in their management of the processes required for preparation of an eastern European cemetery for the photographing, translating, and final display of the matzevot (tombstone) data in the JOWBR database.

Yad LeZehava Holocaust Research Institute (YZI) is a professional group known for its compliance with all legal, religious, preservation, and local requirements for performing any work in a cemetery.

JewishGen’s role will be to support this new cooperative Data Acquisition Project by providing a portal to our constituency, to alert potentially interested JewishGen listed researchers in the project, and to provide a means for them to make a contribution in support of the effort.

YZI’s role will be their supervision of teams of student volunteers and other cooperating participants in the following onsite activities: clearing out the undergrowth, general area cleaning, and individual cleaning of matzevot (gravestones), where necessary.  Many sites also include repair work or replacement to upright position of fallen or broken matzevot.  Project work concludes with photographing all legible matzevot, and processing the resulting documentation for forwarding to JewishGen.

Inscriptions will be translated, and the data entered into the template for JewishGen's Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR), for uploading to the JOWBR database.

The following towns and cities are designated priority sites by Yad LeZehava Institute (YZI) for FY2007, in order of priority:

Town District Yizkor
# of
TrzebiniaKrakow >100+$1,875
SzczuczynBialystoky $1,500
IzbicaLublin 20$1,500
Piotrkow TrybunalskiLodzy>501+$3,750
SandomierzKielce >21$1,500
WieliczkaKrakow >21+$1,500
KaliszLodz >500$3,125

Key Audiences

In most cases, individual family researchers will be the primary beneficiaries, because the project will allow them to create or fill gaps in their family trees and learn something about their families' Jewish heritage.  Where vital records may no longer exist, cemetery records are often the only remaining evidence of a person's life.  The material has the potential to be of broader interest to scholars and educators specializing in Jewish history and the Holocaust and specifically in the history of the various town cemeteries included in the Project (see list above).

Project Importance

The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) is a searchable database comprised of individual burial records, tombstone photographs, and descriptions of individual cemeteries.  Currently (Mar 2007), JOWBR contains approximately 690,000 burial records in 1,525 cemeteries in more than 30 countries.  New cemetery records are added to JOWBR on a regular basis.

Jewish cemeteries throughout the world are threatened with vandalism and even extinction.  It is vitally important to preserve information about existing Jewish cemeteries so future generations will have the benefit of this aspect of our cultural heritage.  In addition, for many Jews, knowledge of their family history perished in the Holocaust.  JOWBR is one of several JewishGen activities that will help families fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Yad LeZehava Institute (YZI) believes that its program for cemetery preservation is both cost effective and efficient.  It has wide-ranging social and educational benefits for participants and the local communities involved.  Furthermore, the YZI program, in place and operating for several years now, brings large groups of volunteers to Poland and other sites in Eastern Europe to apply massive manpower over a short time period to tackle the huge job of preserving our Jewish heritage in former Jewish communities.

Suggestions for additional community sites for inclusion in the YZI priority list are welcome, as, of course, are donations through JewishGen to support the acquisition of additional data from similar sources, to be made available to JOWBR.

Project Budget

The following includes the costs of travel, food, and lodging, if needed, and an initial outlay for site surveys where no up-to-date information is available from other sources.

*Estimated Cost (per individual matzeva/gravestone with a legible inscription)

Cleaning of stones: $0.25
Photographing stones: $0.25
Transcription and translation:$2.00
Total direct costs:$2.50
Area cleaning and defoilage/
Lifting of stones (as needed):
Total overall costs per unit:$3.50

*Note: overall preservation of a medium-sized cemetery site today can easily cost many thousands of dollars.  For example, the US Commission on Preservation of American Heritage Abroad said that the cost could "easily reach $30,000" (1995).  With the rising cost of labor and materials, the cost today is probably even higher.


Copyright ©2007 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 26 Feb 2007, 9 Apr 2007 by WSB