Jewish Observer
October 2001
5762 Tishrei

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The Odessa community center "Migdal" has recently organized a trip to the graves of the Jewish righteous gentiles the Ukrainian land is so rich in. The route passed through Podolye and Northern Bukovina, and then through Gutsulshchina. We were informed about key points of the route, that is about the towns and graves we were sure to attend. As for other places we were, at best, aware that "yes, they are there, come along".

In the month of Elul close to Saturday evening the bus with the members of the "Jewish family" and student clubs departed from the "Migdal" headquarters. The bus was packed with heaviest food rucksacks (to be candid, they turned out useless and happily got spoiled). Two days of continuous bus riding and almost two thousand kilometers about Ukraine were ahead of us... The first stop was in Medzhibozh. Those going on a kivrey tsadikim cannot miss this place from both ideological and geographical points of view, as Medzhibozh is located on a comfortable cross-road, to say nothing about the Jewish cemetery...

Rabbi Isroel Baal Shem - Tov - the founder of Hasidism and the person who turned over the Jewish world - is so much loved and honored by all Jews that few of them will refuse from the pleasure to visit the Teacher's grave. You are not mistaken; I mean namely "pleasure", for the learned people assure that a particular spirituality is felt in this place. "It simply floats in the air", as one of them said. Though, to feel this you should be a bit of Hasid.

Our route list contained two towns, which we had visited last year, that's why it was, naturally, interesting to look at them and compare yesterday with today.

The first of them was Medzhibozh. The changes were noticeable. I don't mean, of course, the town itself, no, its peaceful existence is unlikely to change. In this particular case we were interested in changes on the Jewish cemetery. And they, comparing with the previous year, were rather substantial. First, the construction of an okhele (tent) over the burial place has been completed. By the way, it was Rabbi Isroel who started the tradition of constructing such tents.

The small white brick house (such, you know, a new-Russian architecture that one of my acquaintances even got indignant; "Who dared to construct a dacha right on the cemetery?") has glass windows, the floor is tiled, the walls are whitewashed, and even the electricity is available. The changes, comparing with the last year when we stood inside a carcass on the earth-floor surrounded by draughts, are considerable. A small stele on the place of Rabbi Isroel's grave and a concrete fence surrounding it has also disappeared. A nice gravestone of a white polished marble has replaced them. All other gravestones (the "ohele" contains the graves of some of his closest pupils), previously "clothed" in concrete, are now oil-colored in white. The only preserved original gravestone of Rabbi Abraham Yehoshua-Geshel from Apta (Apter rav) is also colored in this way. This white painted sandstone produces a rather strange impression but what has been done is done. Our route after Medzhibozh went down according to the map and up in reality. We were heading for Bukovina and its capital Chernovtsy. We couldn't escape the town of Kamenets-Podolsky on that way. The capital of one of the regions of Podolye (the region is called Kamenetchina) is a charming ancient small town. In the Jewish history Kamenets is mainly connected with the burning of the Talmud in the XVIII century.

In the general history Kamenets is famous for its fortress. A gingerbread small town towers on the banks of the canyon made by the Smotrich River. At least, you have such an impression while approaching the fortress. You see red brick small towers, verdure of gardens, tile of roofs and weathercocks on the towers... The unique fortification building, taken under protection on the personal order of already the Emperor Nikolai I has a nice distant view. Of course, separate drawbacks can be seen on approaching it, though... half an hour spent on sightseeing is worth it. The fortress disposes of an ethnographic museum (unfortunately, only Ukrainian exhibits are demonstrated there, though Kamenets-Podolsky is famous for its big Polish, Armenian and Jewish communities), a prison tower where the famous rebel Ustim Karmelyuk was kept and a katuvalnya (chamber of tortures).

The town of Chernovtsy (this is a Ukrainian name, the Jewish name is Chernovets), is called in Israel the "city Ah". This name was born in the70s when the dialogues between native Israelis and newcomer "Russians" were as follows:

Israeli - Where are you from?

"Russian" immigrant - From Chernovtsy

Israeli - Ah -ah- ah...

Like all jokes this is only partly a joke. It happened so that Chernovtsy entered into the Soviet Union literally on the eve of the World War II. That's why Romanians, who had occupied the city, treated their former compatriots rather loyally. But don't forget about the money taken for such "loyalty". Nonetheless, many Chernovtsy Jews managed to survive. In the early 50s the majority of "new Soviet Jews", who were allowed to leave for Israel, resided in Chernovtsy.

Yet, we shall reach Chernovtsy only late at night because our bus is heading now for Sadgora.

The name of this Chernovtsy suburb (it became the city region since the 60s of the XX century) is unlikely to say something to the unaware people. However, we with you know that in the middle of the XIX century Rabbi Isroel Friedman from Ruzhin settled down in a small town of Sadigora (the same as Sadgora). He, a native of the Russian Empire, held the views different from those of the Emperor Nikolay I, and after 22 months of imprisonment he ran away to Austro-Hungary where he settled in the Sadigora estate named Zolotoi Potok.

Rabbi Isroel together with his sons started a dynasty (sheishedes) of the Sadigora tsadiks - one of the most famous in the Jewish World. The dynasty includes Sadigora tsadiks but also Boyanov, Chortkov and Gusyatin ones.

To be continued.

Jewish Observer -
© 2001 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine -