Heidi M. Szpek, Ph.D.




Heidi M. Szpek, Ph.D. is Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Central Washington University and currently an educational consultant and epigrapher for Centrum Edukacji Polska-Izrael w Białymstoku (Poland) , working with Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste (Germany) to restore the Jewish cemetery of Bagnowka in Bialystok, Poland. After earning her doctorate in Hebrew and Semitic Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Professor Szpek taught a wide range of courses related to Hebrew language and literature, Jewish culture and history as well as religious studies, in general, at universities and educational institutes in Wisconsin, Arizona and Washington.

Her first contact with Eastern European Jewish cemeteries were the famed cemetery in Prague’s Jewish quarter and the equally renowned cemetery adjoining the Remu Synagogue in the Kazimierz district of Krakow. In the tiny shtetl cemetery of Kolbuszowa, east of Krakow, a town highlighted in Norman Salsitz’s book, A Jewish Boyhood in Poland: Remembering Kolbuszowa, she first encountered the uniqueness of the shtetl cemetery. In 2007, Professor Szpek conducted a survey of the cemeteries in the Grodno gubernya region of (northeast) Poland, including the largest urban cemetery of Bagnowka (Bialystok), the main focus of her subsequent research. She has contributed translations to the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR), examining epitaphs throughout eastern and central Europe and the Netherlands, collaborated through translation in documentation of forgotten cemeteries in northeastern Hungary, and, most recently, explored Jewish cemeteries throughout the Baltics States.

See: Jewish Heritage in the Baltics, Heidi M. Szpek, Ph.D. A report posted to the Dept. of Philosophy & Religious Studies. Winter 2013.