The Jewish heritage world is filled with often unsung local heroes and heroines — non Jewish people who devote time, energy, and passion to preserving, maintaining, documenting, and caring for Jewish heritage sites and memory.
One of these was Mykhailo Vorobets, who died Sunday, aged 86, in Rohatyn, Ukraine, of complications following COVID-19, which he had contracted in November.
A retired teacher, author, and local historian, he had spent more than two decades working to preserve the history and memory of the Jews of Rohatyn and was a key point of reference for descendants of Rohatyn Jews.
In a lengthy obituary on their web site, Rohatyn Jewish Heritage recalled that the NGO’s “recovery work and historical research as Rohatyn Jewish Heritage began with our initial April 2011 meeting with Mr. Vorobets at the Rohatyn Public Library, resuming and building upon efforts that Mr. Vorobets and others had made in the past.”
It recalled that
Mr. Vorobets not only attended the 1998 dedication of new memorials erected at all four Jewish burial sites in Rohatyn, but was a key contributor to the realization of this important post-war, post-Soviet effort to remember the Holocaust in Rohatyn and memorialize the Jewish victims.
For years thereafter, Mr. Vorobets continued to personally care for the burial sites: cleaning and lightly repairing the monuments, planting seasonal flowers, clearing garbage, and most importantly, arranging for the recovery of Jewish headstone fragments found outside the cemeteries.
In fall 2018, he was recognized by the City of Lviv for his decades of work in recovering Jewish memory and heritage in Rohatyn.
“His selfless work over the decades recovering Jewish headstones and looking after the Jewish burial sites has been a mitzvah,” RJH’s Marla Raucher Osborn wrote on Facebook. “No single person in Rohatyn has for so long and so consistently preserved and shared with others the memory of prewar Jewish Rohatyn […] A great human being has left this world.”
May his soul be bound up in the bond of life!