Today in Lviv, as part of the European Days of Jewish Culture, Rohatyn Jewish Heritage was honored among other friends and colleagues in a ceremony at the office of the Lviv City Council. The event was timed with the closing of an art and memory installation entitled “A Key To The City” created last May by professor, artist, and Fulbright scholar Rachel Stevens, exhibited at the Center For Urban History of East Central Europe. The Mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi, opened the two-hour ceremony recognizing organizations and individuals active in supporting Jewish culture and communities in western Ukraine or working on projects of memory recovery and heritage preservation. We were very proud to be both a participant and an award recipient in this event.
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Co-organized by the new Memorial Museum of Totalitarian Regimes, “Territory of Terror” (Територія Терору), the Center For Urban History of East Central Europe, Hesed-Arieh, and the City of Lviv, among others, the ceremony was part of a larger program of events running through the summer in Lviv, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the wartime Janowska labor camp and the destruction of Lviv’s Jewish community.
Working with Rachel Stevens, seventy-five recipients were identified over the summer to receive glass keys replicated from an iron key with a Star of David purchased by Rachel early in the year at Lviv’s Vernissage folk market; the keys were illuminated to create the core of her sculpture installation and were now boxed and presented as awards of recognition. In keeping with the custom of presenting a symbolic key to an honored person, recipients were named individually and presented with a glass key. Among the presenters were Mayor Sadovyi, Deputy Mayor Andrij Moskalenko, Ada Dianova (Director of All-Ukrainian Jewish Charitable Foundation “Hesed-Arieh”), Sofia Dyak (Director of the Center For Urban History), and me (as CEO of Rohatyn Jewish Heritage, a partner in the event). Several of the presenters and their organizations had worked with Rachel over the course of her intensive five months in Lviv to support the realization of her project. Rachel, who returned with her husband Jack to her teaching post in the U.S. in June and thus could not make the event, appeared in a video shown at the start of the event, explaining her project and the symbolism of the keys and the glass material, and thanking those who contributed and those who were being recognized.
The symbolism of the award and the event was very powerful; I was quite moved to receive a key from Mayor Sadovyi and Ada Dianova, and I am sure all of the recipients were equally touched.
I was asked to introduce the following award recipients, most quietly working in their local communities recovering Jewish memory, or outside Ukraine returning memory to the scattered and often distant Jewish diaspora. Each recipient in his, her, or its own way is giving back part of what has been lost over the last 75 years and building a better understanding of eastern Galicia’s long and rich Jewish past:
Wito Nadaszkiewicz, head of LawCraft legal services here in Lviv, activist and volunteer, for his personal efforts to network regional Jewish heritage efforts via roundtable discussions and publications, and for his long-term volunteer work with the Lviv Volunteer Center and other civic service organizations.
- Rabbi Moshe Kolesnik, Rabbi of Ivano-Frankivsk and the oblast, for his decades documenting and preserving Jewish heritage throughout the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast and beyond, and advising and guiding individual heritage efforts in regional towns such as ours in Rohatyn.
- Volodymyr Kogut, researcher of Jewish history of his hometown of Rudky and the surrounding region (Lviv Oblast), for his volunteer efforts to document and promote the Jewish history of Rudky, and his leadership in preservation of Jewish heritage there.
- Tetyana Sadovska, leader of the project “Historical Justice” in Radekhiv (Lviv Oblast), for her volunteer efforts to recover buried matzevot repurposed from the Jewish cemetery of Radekhiv, and her leadership in arranging a permanent return of the stones to the cemetery.
Ivan Yurchenko, architect, researcher, writer, and leader of a number of projects in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, including a book on the Jewish cemeteries of Halych, exhibitions on the Jewish history of Halych at the regional museum, and clearing and documenting the Jewish cemetery of Burshtyn.
- Laurence Kirsch, Director of the American organization the Bolechow Jewish Heritage Society, for more than a decade of Jewish heritage and commemoration work in Bolekviv, including fencing and restoration of the cemetery, roofing the former synagogue, and preserving the mass grave site in the Taniava Forest.
- Daniela Mavor, Director of the Israel-based Drohobycz, Boryslaw and Vicinity Organization, for recovery and documentation of Jewish heritage and Jewish stories of the two towns, including major renovations of the grand synagogue (rededicated at an opening ceremony this summer), local cemeteries, and mass graves, as well as annual gatherings and travel for commemoration and intercultural exchange between Israel and Ukraine.
Mykhailo Vorobets, retired school teacher, local historian, and primary local partner of our project in Rohatyn, for his decades of volunteer work to document the lost Jewish community of Rohatyn, and his ongoing support of recovery of Jewish heritage in the town.
- Christian Herrmann, German photographer, for his photography, blog, exhibitions, and books which help to raise awareness of both surviving and vanished Jewish heritage in Ukraine and beyond, and for his years helping to organize and promote volunteer camps for clearing the Jewish cemetery of Chernivtsi.
- Oleksandr “Sasha” Nazar, Chairman of the Sholem Aleichem Jewish Culture Society and head of Lviv Volunteer Center, for his personal efforts to network regional Jewish heritage efforts via roundtable discussions and publications, for his inspiring leadership and dedication in both planned and quick-response Jewish heritage recovery projects, and for his long-term work to rehabilitate the former Hasidic synagogue of Lviv named for Jakob Glanzer.
- Illa Firman, Director of the “Chaver Boryslav” Charity fund, for his long-term efforts connecting Drohobych and Boryslav Jews with Jewish descendants and international organizations, to promote heritage preservation in those towns and in other towns within the region.
The full list of award recipients was published on the news website of the Lviv City Council. Not all of the key recipients could be in Lviv today; their awards will be forwarded to them by the event organizers.
Before leaving Lviv in June, Rachel gifted the original iron key which was the source for the replicas to All-Ukrainian Jewish Charitable Foundation “Hesed-Arieh” for display in their on-site museum.
Following the two-hour award ceremony, buses arranged by the City of Lviv took attendees to the memorial site of the former Janowska labor camp, where new informational signs were unveiled, speeches were made, and an outdoor classical music concert was held: the first and third movements of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, called “Tragic”. Afterward, the buses returned attendees to the town center for a second outdoor concert at the Space of Synagogues, the site of the destroyed Golden Rose synagogue which was commemorated and re-opened at a ceremony we attended in September 2016.
Rohatyn Jewish Heritage is proud to have been asked to nominate individuals working on the ground to preserve Jewish memory in western Ukraine (historic eastern Galicia). We are also very honored to be an award recipient for our work in Rohatyn, now in its seventh year, as well as an official partner of the event. I would like to give special thanks to Rachel Stevens, and to our friends at the Center For Urban History: Harald Binder, Sofia, Dyak, and Iryna Matsevko. For more information about the event, see the Center’s news page.
Additional coverage of the event and its context was provided on the internet news portal of the Associated Press (AP) and the news section of Jewish Heritage Europe. The AP article has now also been carried by several other news outlets including Israel’s Ynet (in Hebrew).