In saving Jewish remnants in Galicia, an effort to enlist Ukrainians





SOLOTVYN, Ukraine (JTA) -- On a sloping green hill tucked between small farmsteads, the mottled graves of Jews buried here since the 1600s rise up like a forgotten forest.

Trudging through the mud between the tilted stones, their chiseled Hebrew lettering and renderings of menorahs sometimes barely visible, Vladimer Levin, an animated young historian who specializes in Jewish art, wants to save the gravestones.

"When we talk about preserving Jewish history, it's not just about the spiritual life, thought and books but the material culture Jews produced for themselves. And that is what remains in this place," he said, looking at the tombstones. "They are the artistic remnants of this small Jewish community."

Levin, a 39-year-old immigrant to Israel from St. Petersburg, Russia, is part of a team of Israeli historians attempting to document what remains of a once populous and vibrant Jewish life in the regions of Galicia and Bukovina, most of which is in the western edge of present-day Ukraine.

As part of efforts to recover the world that once was in these towns and shtetls, where some 1 million Jews lived before the Holocaust, the researchers are partnering with Ukrainian academics. The idea is not only to boost the level of scholarship but to highlight to Ukrainian locals a Jewish past that spanned centuries but is rarely remembered publicly in the country....



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