Ukraine road trip: Re-erected gravestones in Rozdil

Re-erected matzevot in Rozdil

(JHE Coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber recently visited Jewish heritage sites in more than 10 towns near Lviv in western Ukraine to observe conditions and note changes.)

Much has changed at the Jewish cemetery in Rozdil, south of Lviv, since I first visited in 2006 — though, admittedly, some things have remained the same.

The big change has been the re-erection of most of the surviving matzevot — the oldest of which dates back to the late 17th century — carried out under the auspices of the Heritage Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries (Avoyseinu) in 2014-2015.

 

Re-erected matzevot at the Jewish cemetery in Rozdil

 

According to the HFPJC report, some 286 matzevot were re-erected on concrete bases. The HFPJC web site also provides a photo documentation of the work as it was being carried out — CLICK HERE TO SEE IT.

Even stumps or fragmentary parts of some stones have been re-erected (though some stones do remain toppled and horizontal).

 

Fragments of stones have been re-erected

 

The cemetery is a vast area, mainly devoid of headstones, which spreads out over hills down a dirt road from the abandoned synagogue. Already in the 2000s the cemetery area was surrounded by a concrete and rail fence, and entered through a gate bearing stars of David.

 

Re-erected matzevot in the Rozdil Jewish cemetery (with the synagogue in the background)

 

The re-erection of the stones has radically changed the appearance of the cemetery — when I first visited,  all the matzevot either lay flat or bristled from the earth at seemingly impossible angles, as if they had been tossed there by a giant hand.

Here’s more or less the same view as the previous photo, but as it looked in July 2006:

 

Rozdil Jewish cemetery in July 2006 (with the abandoned synagogue building in the background)… 

 

In addition to the re-erected matzevot, I found some sort of archaeological work that appeared to be going on — apparently aimed at uncovering the foundations of ohels (or other cemetery structures).

 

Foundations of structures uncovered in the Rozdil Jewish cemetery

 

What has not changed is the apparent lack of maintenance of the site.

As the HFPJC report notes:

 One cannot overstate how crucially important it is to ensure that a cemetery is maintained, both so that the wild vegetation, left to grow unchecked, doesn’t overwhelm and damage the fence, as well as to prove to the locals that this is a place of honor and respect and should be treated as such.

But it states that no regular maintenance or inspection had been organized through an HFPJC program (which can, it says, be worked out with descendants).

I visited the cemetery both times in late July — admittedly, not the greatest season to visit abandoned Jewish cemeteries, because of the summer growth of weeds and vegetation.

 

Re-erected matzevot and tall weeds

 

This year, the high grass and weeds seemed much thicker in parts of the cemetery than I had found before — possibly because I was there slightly later in the month; possibly because of differences in climate and rainfall; but possibly because there were fewer farm animals allowed to graze.

On my first visit, I saw horses and cows. This time, I found a few sheep…(that do seem to have kept weeds down in some parts of the cemetery).

 

Sheep in the Jewish cemetery, Rozdil

 

The cemetery is just below the synagogue building, down a dirt road. The building has long been abandoned, but changes may be coming — though it is not clear just what.

 

The building remains pretty much a shell. But one wall of it now backs a fancy-looking new bar and restaurant, and has been plastered and painted to serve as a backdrop to its garden.

New restaurant that uses the back wall of the synagogue as part of its exterior setting (the pinkish wall in the background)

 

Click here to view the HFPJC report on re-erecting the matzevot in Rozdil

Rozdil Jewish cemetery GPS: Latitude:  49.466700 Longitude: 24.066700 

 

 

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