Last week, the ESJF completed rabbinical and engineering surveys in Western Ukraine, in the historic regions of Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. From the 17th century until the Holocaust, these regions were home to some of the largest Jewish populations in the world.
The team visited 19 cemeteries in total: Busk (Lviv oblast), Dubno (Rivne oblast), Zbarazh, Buchach, Chortkiv, Kozova, Vyshnivets, Katerynivka, Mykulintsi, Strusiv, Okopy (Ternopil oblast), Pechenizhyn, Kolomyya, Nadvirna, Snyatyn (Ivano-Frankivsk oblast), Nyzhni Stanivtsi, Klyshkovtsy, and Vizhnitsa (Chernivtsi oblast).
Some of these cemeteries, such as Busk, Zbarazh, Dubno, and Buchach, are located in major historical Jewish centres, which played leading roles in the Va’ad Arba Artzot, the autonomous Jewish community known as the Council of the Four Lands.
The expansive Jewish cemetery in Buchach represents one of this year’s major projects. The city is known for being the birthplace of Nobel laureate S.Y Agnon, as well as the parents of Sigmund Freud, and Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi hunter. Many leaders of the Vaad Arba Artzot are buried here, such as David Ben Yitshak Preger (died 1697 or 1699) and Arye Leybush Ben Rabbi Yitshak of Yavorov.
Prior to the Second World War, a significant percentage of Buchach was Jewish. During this period, the city’s mayor was Bernard Berish Shtern, a leader of the local Jewish community.