Last week, the ESJF completed rabbinical and engineering surveys in Western Ukraine, in the historic regions of Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, once home to some of the largrest Jewish populations in the world from the period from the 17th century to the Holocaust.
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, Vizhnitsa (Chernivtsi oblast).
Some of the cemeteries visited were in major historical Jewish centres, such as Busk, Zbarazh, Dubno and Buchach, playing leading roles in the Va’ad Arba Artzot, the autonomous Jewish community structure in these regions, known as the Council of the Four Lands.
The large Jewish cemetery in Buchach is one of our major projects for this year. The community was famous as the birthplace of the Nobel laureate, S. Y Agnon, as well as the parents of Sigmund Freud and the Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal. Many of the leaders of the Vaad Arba Artzot, including David Ben Yitshak Preger (died 1697 or 1699) and Arye Leybush Ben Rabbi Yitshak of Yavorov, were buried here. A large percentage of the town were Jewish prior to WWII and the community leader, Bernard Berish Shtern, was also mayor of Buchach in the pre-war period.