March 20, 2019

ESJF plaque vandalised in Bohuslav, Ukraine, local authorities respond promptly

An ESJF memorial plaque in Bohuslav Jewish cemetery in central Ukraine was vandalised on March 15th. The plaque was installed in 2015 to mark the completion of the ESJF fencing project at the site. No other damage or desecration was incurred at the cemetery.

Bohuslav mayor, Vyacheslav Mykhailovych Dyachenko, strongly condemned the act. The local Jewish community have filed a police complaint, which is currently under investigation. ESJF staff visited Bohuslav on March 19th to discuss methods to improve security at the site with Mayor Dyachenko and Roman Tivin, Chairman of the Bohuslav Jewish Community.

In order to prevent further acts of vandalism, and to protect the cemetery, Bohuslav  City Council is in the process of recognising the Jewish cemetery as a site of local historical significance. ESJF will submit an official request for this in the near future, and have proposed the development of educational programs in the region, in order to combat antisemitism.

ESJF Chief Executive Officer Philip Carmel said: “While it is of concern that such acts of vandalism take place, it is gratifying that this was immediately brought to our attention by our monitoring systems and the cooperation of the local authorities.”

The Jewish cemetery in Bohuslav was surveyed and fenced by the ESJF in 2015. It is a large burial site dating back to the end of the 18th century, when Bohuslav was still a part of the Russian Empire. The site is split between an older section with gravestones from the 19th century, and a newer one with some 200 gravestones from the 20th century. Known as Boslov by its Jewish residents, until WWII the city was home to a sizeable Jewish population.

The great Yiddish-language writer Sholem Aleichem (Shalom Rabinovich) spent summers at his grandparents’ home in Bohuslav as a child, and often referred to the town in his works. His grandparents, Moshe-Joseph and Gitl Gamarnitsky are buried in the cemetery.

The mayor also expressed his hopes for future collaboration with the ESJF, in the hope of working towards increased visibility for this rich Jewish heritage; monuments that bear witness to a long history of interethnic coexistence. He accompanied ESJF staff to the former synagogue and the yeshiva.

“These cemeteries stand in memory to the much larger Jewish communities that once inhabited these towns and villages. They are part of Jewish heritage but also local Ukrainian heritage. I am therefore very pleased by the swift reaction of the mayor and the local authority and look forward to the perpetrators of this act being found.” — Philip Carmel said.

The ESJF is working towards resolving this issue as soon as possible. The prompt reaction of Mayor Dyachenko and the local Jewish community assures us that the site is in safe hands.

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