Combined efforts between the RCE and ‘Oholei Tzaddikim’ led to locate and erect a memorial last week on the graves of thousands of Jews murdered during the Holocaust and buried together in mass killing pits. There are thousands of such mass Jewish burial pits throughout Ukraine and its surroundings. On the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II and the destruction of European Jewry, the “RCE” and the “Oholei Tzaddikim” association are working together to commemorate their memory for generations by erecting memorials on the of the killing sites of these saints.
Following lengthy research in which the RCE and the ‘Oholei Tzaddikim’ combined efforts, three mass gravesites in Ukraine were identified and memorials were erected and unveiled.
The first event was held in memory of Piratin Jews in Poltava County, led by the RCE Director General Rabbi Arie Goldberg, Chairman of ‘Oholei Tzadikim’ Rabbi Yisrael Meir Gabay, Rabbi of the city and region of Poltava Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Segal, Rabbi of Zhitomir and West Ukraine Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, Mayor of Piratin, and the heads of the Jewish communities in Piratin and the region.
The ceremony concluded with Ukranian Orthodox children singing “Ani Ma’amin”. The event took place over the graves of hundreds and thousands of martyrs who were murdered in the year 5765 in Piratin, in which memorials were erected on the graves of Jewish brothers murdered by the Nazis.
Rabbi Avraham Aba Torezki of the Rabbinical Council in Europe, chanted “Keil Malei Rachamim’ at the ceremony and read chapters of Psalms. Chairman of the ‘Oholei Tzadikim’ Association, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Gabay, was honored with the Kaddish prayer.
A similar event took place for the Jews of Machnovka who sanctified the name of G-d during the war and those murdered in pogroms of the year 5755. In honor of the memorial ceremony for the Jews of Machnovka, public figures who participated in the impressive event in Piratin, were joined by Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Mr. Joel Leon, Rabbi of Vinitsa and the district Rabbi Shaul Horwitz, Mayor of Mahcnovka and Jewish community leaders. It should be noted that in Machnovka there are two large Jewish mass graves, and both have memorials.
The chain of chilling events came to a conclusion with the unveiling of a memorial erected in memory of the victims of the Jews of Kozova and the province, who were slaughtered and sanctified the name of G-d during the war and the pogroms in the year 5755.
In spite of the heavy snow falling during the ceremony, 80 Jews from Ternopol and Kozova attended. They wanted to pay tribute to the holy victims. In addition to all the honorable entourage that accompanied all unveilings, Rabbi Yosef Teitelbaum, Rabbi of the city of Hamilnecki, the Mayor of Kozova and the Mayors of the Jewish communities in the area also participated in the event.
At the end of the ceremony, the local mayor surprised those present when they invited everyone to visit the ancient Tornopolis synagogue, which has been closed for 80 years. At an earlier meeting, Director General RCE Rabbi Arie Goldberg, asked the mayor and his deputy to return the synagogue to members of the local Jewish community. To the joy of those present the mayor he announced that the synagogue’s structure will be returned immediately to the Jewish community and the municipality will assist in renovating the site. The mayor handed the key to the community leaders, who rushed to open the gates of the synagogue and hold an exalted prayer service attended by all present.
RCE Director General Rabbi Arie Goldberg said at the unveiling that the 700 Rabbis under the RCE umbrella have joined the mission and are currently in the process of detecting and erecting gravestones on other mass graves of Jews slaughtered on Ukrainian soil. “We are gathering evidence as long as we can do it from the elderly – Jews and Ukrainians who still remember, locate the mass graves and only after an expert team confirms the findings do we erect gravestones in memory of the victims.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin Chairman of the RCE and EJA stated that for 75 years, thousands of pure souls who were cruelly murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, waited for these proper memorials of prayer to raise their souls closer to G-d. It is impossible to continue the Jewish life in Europe without securing adequate memory for those who have devoted their lives to the continent of Europe. ”
Chairman of the ‘Oholei Tzaddikim’ Association Rabbi Yisrael Meir Gabay, who together with the RCE Rabbis, has in recent months worked to map the areas and place the memorials in Piratin, Machanovka and Kozova, said that he welcomes the cooperation between RCE and the Association of ‘Oholei Tzaddikim’, “who were blessed with the finishing touches to place there and the rest of those Jews, who did not have a Jewish burial with a private tombstone for everyone, but at the very least they will be remembered until the final redemption.
RCE leaders together with Rabbi Yisrael Meir Gabay sent thanks to the president of the German ESJF organization Rabbi Yitzhak Shapiro, who erected a fence around the 3 cemeteries where mass graves were found, and the unveilings were performed this week. “This is an important venture that greatly helps to preserve the holy places for Judaism, as the fence being built around the complex prevents the local people from approaching and penetrating the fenced area and causing possible damage.” noted Rabbi Margolin, Rabbi Goldberg and Rabbi Gabay.
In the meantime, the RCE and the “Oholei Tzaddikim Association mark the extensive activity in Machnovka, where in recent years tents have been erected over the graves of Rabbi Yitzchak Yoel Malinitz O.B.M. (son of Rabbi Gedaliah Melinitz O.B.M. author of “Teshuot Chen”) and of Rabbi Yosef Meir of Machanovka . “The place was crowded with many trees that grew wild above the graves and disturbed all the visitors” said Rabbi Goldberg and Rabbi Gabay, “After much time and effort, we trimmed all the trees and now the place looks presentable.”