On 5 October 2023 at 12:00 noon a solemn ceremony commemorating the Jewish cemetery located at Rakowska Street in Iwaniska. An information board placed on the cemetery gate was presented during the ceremony. The event was organised by the Municipal Library and Cultural Centre in Iwaniska, the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the National Heritage Institute and the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.
The presented board has the form of a matzevah - a traditional form of Jewish tombstone. It includes a QR code, which links to a more detailed description of the Iwaniska necropolis, available at the zabytek.pl website.
The ceremony was opened by Piotr Puchta, the head of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland that cares for the Iwaniska cemetery.
The deputy director of the National Heritage Institute, Anna Czerwińska-Walczak, who was present at the ceremony, read out a letter from Dr. Jarosław Sellin - Secretary of State at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, General Conservator of Monuments. In it, the author emphasises the role of remembrance and cooperation in activities protecting Jewish cemeteries:
The memory of local communities is essential for preserving Jewish cemeteries. One of the conditions for its effectiveness consists in the cooperation of local authorities and communities with monument protection authorities, Jewish religious communities and Jewish cultural institutions. The activities at the Jewish cemetery in Iwaniska are a positive example of rebuilding the memory of this part of our heritage and an expression of respect for the necropolis of former cohabitants.
As Bosmat Baruch, Director for Public Diplomacy at the Israeli Embassy in Poland, pointed out in her speech:
The fact that we have all gathered here today is a testament to the power that unites the memory of people from all corners of the world. This reminds us that despite the destructive intentions of the Nazi regime, the attempt to erase the Jewish people from the annals of human history ultimately failed. As a representative of the State of Israel, I consider the history and heritage of Polish Jews as one of the fundamental pillars of our existence and identity. I am happy that with today's unveiling of this commemorative sign, this significant history will be readily available to all those who are interested in our common Jewish-Polish heritage.
Małgorzata Gołyska, head of the Registry Office, representing mayor Marek Staniek, and Joanna Modras, the Świętokrzyskie Regional Monuments Conservator, also spoke during the ceremony. A letter from the Director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Zygmunt Stępiński, was also read out during the event.
The ceremony was also honoured with the presence of representatives of local government, cultural, and educational institutions, residents of Iwaniska, as well as scouts and schoolchildren from the Public Elementary School. At the end of the ceremony, everyone placed stones on the matzevahs located at the cemetery, commemorating the Jewish community buried in Iwaniska with this gesture.
The ceremony of commemorating the cemetery does not mark the end of activities organised by the POLIN Museum in Iwaniska. As early as at the end of October, the Iwaniska Public Primary School will host a workshop as part of the educational program complementing the commemoration. During the event, students will discover yet another dimension of their region's history and its pre-war inhabitants, for example by playing the game "Muzeum w pudełku. Miasteczko Malki". The game includes replicas of Judaica and archival photographs from the collections of the POLIN Museum. In turn, participants of another workshop titled "Pamięć w kamieniu" will learn about the traditions associated with Jewish cemeteries and at the same time consider whether (as children and teenagers) they can care for the memorials of other cultures - and if so, how.
The ceremony of presenting the board and the educational program are carried out within the framework of the "Jewish Cultural Heritage" project, financed by a grant awarded to the POLIN Museum by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway under the EEA Fund and by the national budget. The project includes implementing educational activities concerning Jewish cemeteries in each of Poland's 16 provinces.
Commemorating the cemeteries takes place within the framework of the program "Oznakowanie cmentarzy żydowskich w Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej", implemented by the National Heritage Institute with funds from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
We would like to thank everyone involved in the efforts for rescuing the cemetery, preparing the ceremony, as well as everyone present!