With anti-Semitism once again on the rise, it is more important than ever for Europe to understand its Jewish heritage. The Council of Europe believes in supporting “heritage communities” that will ensure such heritage is fully understood and becomes an integral part of the local communities’ narrative. This will in turn ensure the sustainability of both protection and promotion of Jewish heritage across European municipalities and territories where the Jewish community has lived and prospered but is no longer present.

In 2012, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a Resolution on Jewish cemeteries in which member states are invited to develop practical tools to promote the implementation of the Faro Convention, such as participatory mechanisms to involve heritage communities in the protection, restoration, maintenance and transmission of local cultural and religious heritage.

The Council of Europe’s distinct approach to cultural heritage is based on the principles of the Faro Convention which recognise: “the value and potential of cultural heritage wisely used as a resource for sustainable development and quality of life” and “the need to involve everyone in society in the ongoing process of defining and managing cultural heritage”.

The principles of the Convention encourage the involvement of individuals and groups who share a vision of the society to be built, in efforts to restore and protect sites so that they will not fall into disrepair again and will be regularly maintained. The sites themselves become sources of identification and pride, and are taken up as resources from which local development strategies can be developed.

In this context, the Council of Europe is lending support to an ambitious project, run by the ESJF European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative and funded, in part, by the German Government, to protect the thousands of burial sites across central and eastern Europe.

Education, reconciliation and greater civic responsibility and engagement against racism, anti-semitism and intolerance, as well as sustainable social and economic development, are the Council of Europe’s main reasons for supporting the ESJF European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative.