Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by the Board of Deputies of British Jews (CEM 27)

TRUSTEESHIP IN REGARD TO JEWISH CEMETERIES IN THE UK

  1.  The Board of Deputies of British Jews ("The Board") wishes to offer a submission to the Environment Sub-committee which is undertaking an enquiry into Cemeteries in 2001.

  2.  The Board has for very many years had an interest in looking after certain Jewish cemeteries in locations around the United Kingdom where there is no longer a viable Jewish Community. In a number of such cases The Board has a Trusteeship responsibility, and such status has in some cases existed for up to 100 years.

  3.  The locations of responsibility apply in some cases to Jewish sections of Municipal Cemeteries, but in others to completely independent locations, which originally were purchased by or gifted to local Jewish Synagogues or to Jewish Communal institutions.

  4.  The Board is also asked to offer advice and guidance to small Jewish Communities where the current membership is minimal, and ageing. In such cases the present responsible officers are concerned as to what will happen when they are no longer able to act, and the help of The Board is required to act to prevent major problems arising later.

  5.  There is no doubt that in many locations a Jewish Cemetery has considerable historical and cultural significance, especially when the Community, albeit small, had an important influence on the Town. It has been put to us that records which are accessible from tombstones, can be highly regarded by Local Authorities, both for the benefit of social historians, and as an adjunct to modern tourism.

  6.  Inevitably with the passage of time the condition of the locations for which The Board is responsible differs greatly, some being in excellent condition, but others in great need of repair as well as regular maintenance. We find that most of the locations within Municipal Cemeteries are well maintained, in some cases this being done without charge. Of the independent locations we attempt to seek help from Local Authorities, inevitably in some cases this is not forthcoming.

  7.  The Board seeks to carry out its responsibility with due care, seeking to make use of individual Jewish or non-Jewish persons resident locally. Those locations which are in need of remedial work eg on surrounding walls, cause us great concern, as it is not easy to raise funds and we do not have adequate resources to do all that is really needed. We keep in contact with potential funding bodies, but funding from English Heritage/Lottery distribution etc is very complicated.

  8.  The Board will be happy to offer further information on its responsibility in this regard if required by the Select Committee.

M Harris

Heritage Task Group

December 2000


 
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