The Jewish community has launched a crowdfunding campaign for $50,000 (€43,340) to rehabilitate three historic cemeteries which have fallen into disrepair.
The Tayar Foundation, which celebrates Jewish heritage in Malta, maintains the sites with the help of volunteers.
But chairman Julius Nehorai said the cemeteries at Ta’ Braxia, Marsa and Kalkara now need professional intervention for their preservation.
“We have been keeping the sites with help from NGOs for a number of years but we would now like to seriously tackle the refurbishment and provide for ongoing maintenance for the next few years,’’ he said.
“Unfortunately, the 20 to 30 Jewish families in the community cannot possibly take on the task alone, so we are turning to the public in the hope of reaching our goals.”
Launched last week, the campaign has so far managed to raise just under €7,000 from almost 60 backers.
While the local Jewish community is comparatively small today, Jews have a history in the island which dates back to the arrival of the Phoenicians, Nehorai said.
Malta also welcomed many Jewish refugees who escaped persecution from Spain following the Alhambra Decree in 1492, which ordered the expulsion of practising Jews from the territory.
During the reign of the Knights of St John there were also many Jewish slaves in Malta. The Kalkara cemetery, the oldest surviving Jewish burial ground in the country, was originally built to lay them to rest.
The Jewish cemetery at Ta’ Braxia was built in 1830, predating the British multi-faith cemetery by a few decades. The two were eventually incorporated into one cemetery with separate sections.
“Despite limited resources, the Friends of Ta’ Braxia have helped us maintain the cemetery since 2001,” Nehorai told Times of Malta.
“But it does need a full restoration plan with periodical maintenance which would allow it to become more accessible to the public as well as researchers.
“The Marsa Jewish cemetery, which is still in use, has a wonderful neoclassical façade but it is crumbling and we do not have the resources to maintain it,” he continued.
“The Turkish military cemetery, which is adjacent, has equally grand architecture but the community has kept it and maintained it well. With the same resources we could also return the place to its former glory.
“It’s a shame to let a fine monument like this waste away into nothing. It’s part of our history, not just Jewish but Maltese history as well.”
Restoration would also enable the foundation to organise open days for locals and tourists to share stories from the sites, Nehorai added.
“While today’s Maltese Jewish community is not a descendant of the slave trade, we are still nonetheless keen to safeguard the memory and material heritage of Maltese Jewish history for future generations.”
To contribute to the campaign visit www.jewcer.org/project/malta-cemeteries/ or the Tayar Foundation for Jewish Heritage in Malta on Facebook.
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