Monday, June 1, 2009

Macedonia --Jewish Cemetery in Shtip to be Restored

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Good news -- the web site reports that the abandoned Jewish cemetery in Shtip (or Stip) Macedonia will be restored. Announcement of the project was made last month by the Institute and Museum of Shtip, which is in eastern Macedonia.

“The money for the reconstruction project was secured by the government, and with the project the Jewish cemetery will become a monument of culture,” Zaran Chitkushev, head of the Shtip Institute and Museum told the Dnevnik newspaper today.

The project involves the building of parking lots, pedestrian alleyways, benches, monuments, and the whole area of 14,000 square metres will be fenced by a wall.

“We are in constant contact with the European community in Macedonia. We will also invite an archaeologist from Israel as an associate,” Chitkushev added.

According to the web site, there are about 120 gravestones still visible in the cemetery, but all have been vandalized and heavily damaged. There are probably many fragments scattered along the slope.

UPDATE -- Sam Gruber has posted pictures of the Stip cemetery -- click HERE.

Jewish settled in Stip in the 16th century -- as in much of the region, they were Sephardic Jews fleeing Iberia. In 1943, along with almost all the other Jews of Macedonia, the 560 Jews in Stip were deported to Treblinka death camp.

There is a Holocaust memorial in Stip, but as far as I know, no Jews live in the town anymore -- or maybe there are one or two still there. Eight or nine years ago, when I was in Macedonia for the annual ceremony marking the anniversary of the deportation of Macedonian Jews, I met a man who was described at the time as the last Jew in Stip....

Today, about 200 Jews lived in Macedonia, virtually all of them in the capital, Skopje, where there is a small, functioning synagogue. A Holocaust memorial museum and education center is under construction.

Elsewhere in Macedonia, renovation of the gateway to the historic Jewish cemetery in Bitola was recently completed -- see pictures on Sam Gruber's blog.

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