Ukraine has the largest number of Jewish cemeteries in the world, many of which are in a state of severe neglect. We are now in the eleventh hour to preserve them, and can only do so with effective cooperation between local and international stakeholders.
To date, ESJF has protected 123 sites in seven countries across Central and Eastern Europe. Over 80 of the sites fenced are in Ukraine, where we have received staunch support from the local authorities. To mark this historic achievement, the ESJF organised a 3-days-long journey across Western Ukraine, on 11-13 March, led by founder and chairman Rabbi Yitzhak Schapira.
The highlight of the event was an international gathering in Zbarazh Castle State Museum on Tuesday, March 12th, attended by the Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Lion and Jens Krauss-Masse, Chief of the Legal and Consular Section at the German Embassy. Rabbi Yitzhak Schapira received honorary citizenship from Zbarazh mayor Roman Polikrovsky. Stepan Stepanovych Barna, the head of Ternopil Regional administration and Svitlana Bondar from Zbarazh Regional Council assured the delegation of their commitment to further cooperation.
The delegation visited cemeteries in Zbarazh, Buchach, and Kremenets. After a closing dinner at which the mayor of Kremenets, Oleksiy Andriyovich Kovalchuk, joined guests in a Hasidic dance, the group departed for Dunbo, where one of the country’s oldest cemeteries remains unfenced. Local authorities, among them Vasyl Mykhailovych Antonyuk, attended the visit, expressing their hopes for future cooperation.
Besides thanking mayors, city, and oblast administrative staff, the ESJF also expressed their gratitude to certain individuals whose work has proven invaluable in the protection of Jewish heritage in Ukraine. Kateryna Kryvko, a local student who took it upon herself to protect the Jewish cemetery of her local village of Derazhne in Rivne Oblast, and Tetiana Fedoriv from the Zbarazh Castle State Museum both received awards of appreciation from the ESJF. The three day event ended on a high note, with talk of survey plans and further cooperation in the near future.