The Riga Jewish Community with the support of the Uniting History Foundation organised a Sunday’s community clean-up at the New Jewish Cemetery “Šmerli” on the first Sunday in October. Before work began, Ilya Lenski, Director of the Museum “Jews in Latvia”, gave an introductory lecture on the history of the cemetery, which already goes back almost a century.
The cemetery began to take shape in the 1920s and was finally established in the 1930s. Designed by renowned architect Paul Mandelstam, the New Jewish Cemetery includes private graves and memorials to Holocaust victims, a monument to the Jewish soldiers who fought for Latvian Independence, and a memorial to the Righteous among the Nations – Žanis and Johanna Lipke. Many famous science, arts, cultural and educational workers have been buried in “Šmerli”.
20 volunteers responded to the invitation of the Riga Jewish Community to participate in the Sunday’s community clean-up. They helped tidy up abandoned graves, removing leaves and branches, and clearing paths to graves and memorials. The cleaned monuments include the grave of the famous folklorist and educator Girša Etkins, the burial place of the Eglaine Jews shot in 1941, and a monument to those who fell in the fight for Independence.
Regular cleaning of the cemetery is important for the preservation of the memory of Latvia's Jews. The cemetery preserves stories, private and common, and keeps the names of different generations alive. One of the community's tasks is not to forget them. The Uniting History Foundation helps maintain the tradition of caring for the Jewish cemetery, thus restoring intergenerational bonds and preserving and keeping shared history and memory.