This summer’s Jewish cemetery documentation Field School organized by the Jewish Galicia and Bukovina organization (JGB) has made the “sensational” discovery of previously unknown Jewish gravestones dating back to the 16th century.
The session, from August 17-September 1, is taking place in the Jewish cemeteries of Busk and Kalush, Ukraine.
Ten volunteers, most of them students of Herzog College, are carrying out the work, under the leadership of Dr. Boris Khaimovich, an expert in Jewish art, and Dr. Ilia Lurie, a scholar of Eastern European Jewry (both from the Hebrew University), together with Marina Brook, a Jewish cemeteries researcher from St. Petersburg, Russia.
In addition, organizers said, representatives of the Jewish community of Ivano-Frankivsk and Ukrainian Jewish heritage activists are taking part.
Lurie told JHE that the documentation in Busk had already brought “sensational” results, revealing previously unknown gravestones dating from 1570 until the early 17th century.
We knew that Busk is the home to the oldest Jewish gravestone in Ukraine – dated 1520, but during our work we’ve uncovered and documented about 10 gravestones from the period between the [late 16th] century and the early 17th century: large stone tombs with impressive rabbinic phraseology that were unknown to researchers.
It is kind of sensational finding, because tombstones (especially with such an elaborate inscriptions) from before the 1648 Khmelnytsky massacre are extremely rare in Eastern Europe. They are unique testimony to the longevity and strength of the Jewish community in this early period and [shed] a new light on the history of the Jews of Galicia.
He said that as of late August, the team had documented 400 gravestones dating from the late 16th century until the Nazi occupation.
All results will be processed and uploaded to the Jewish Galicia and Bukovina web site.
In previous Field School sessions, the JGB completed the full documentation of more than a dozen Jewish cemeteries, including those in: Bolehov, Buchach, Burshtyn, Solotvin, Kosiv, Kuty, Lysiec, Nadworna, Pechenizhin, Rozhniatov, Tlumach, Tlust, Vizhnitsya, Yabluniv .
The JGB carries out a wide range of activities devoted to academic research, documentation, preservation and educational dissemination of the history and cultural heritage of the Jewish communities of Galicia and Bukovina. It has established three academic centers in Israel: at Haifa University, at Tel Aviv University, and at the Herzog College.
It has four major areas of activity:
• Developing an online free of charge database on the Jewish history of Galicia and Bukovina.
• Annual fieldwork teams documenting the physical remnants of Jewish life.
• Preserving the cultural and rabbinic heritage of these Jewish communities.
• Extending fellowships to Israeli and Ukrainian students who are researching relevant topics for advanced degrees.