Advisers and Volunteers

Ця сторінка також доступна українською.

Mykhailo Vorobets points across the old Jewish cemetery in Rohatyn

Long-time RJH supporter Mykhailo Vorobets points across the old Jewish cemetery in Rohatyn. Photo © 2015 Alex Denysenko.

Since the beginning of this program, we have been guided, advised, and helped by many people, in Rohatyn, in Ukraine, and beyond. We would like to acknowledge the significant aid we have been given in vision, in context, and on the ground: some of the most important contributors of ideas and effort to our program are named below. It is significant that nearly all of these great people are pictured in action in Rohatyn, a clue to how closely they have worked with us.

Some of our advisers and volunteers also have an official relationship with the program, but are highlighted here in gratitude for their support and contributions well beyond the defined service. And this list is not exhaustive; many more people have given us suggestions, aid, connections, histories, and a hand when we needed it. Some of our work is very sad, but we cannot help but be cheered by the spirit of friends and strangers who pitch in for this cause.

We believe it is appropriate for us to name Mikhailo Vorobets first, because he gave us this program – by providing continuity to past efforts, by working diligently as a volunteer manager of the work while we get organized, and by keeping the memory of Rohatyn’s Jews alive in the city when none even visited. Following Mr. Vorobets, our other advisers and volunteers are listed in alphabetical order; we thank them all for their time and wisdom.


Mikhailo VorobetsMykhailo Vorobets – Born near Rohatyn before World War II, Mr. Vorobets recalls events in town during wartime and has worked ever since to repair some of the worst social damage of the period. Now retired, he served as a teacher in Rohatyn’s high school system, and he still pursues his vocation as local historian, researching and writing articles for regional newspapers on aspects of the several pre-war communities of Rohatyn. Since our first contact in early 2011, and always on a volunteer basis, Mr. Vorobets has arranged and managed all of the local labor to recover headstones around town, carefully documenting each task and worker. Beyond the physical work, he has interviewed elderly Rohatyn residents about their recollections of their Jewish neighbors, promoted our program among the current population, and he has researched aspects of the Rohatyn Jewish community in regional archives, and in the records of the city’s high schools. We will forever owe Mr. Vorobets a huge debt of gratitude.

Tarik Cyril AmarTarik Cyril Amar – Dr. Amar received his PhD from Princeton University following studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Baillol College at Oxford. Currently he is Assistant Professor of History in the Ukrainian Studies Program at Columbia University in the City of New York, with a focus on urban history and the history of memory in East Central Europe. Previously he was Academic Director of the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, in Lviv. In addition to providing guidance and historical context to current affairs in western Ukraine, Dr. Amar has also made a substantial donation to the Rohatyn Jewish Heritage program.

Darina Balabai and Sashko Balabai – The Balabais were both born and raised in Kharkiv. Sashko graduated from Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute with a certification in electrical engineering. Darina studied interpreting for English and German languages at Karazin Kharkiv National University. In parallel with their work and raising a family, at the time of the Euromaidan in 2013~2014 they began frequent volunteer social work. In 2015, they moved to Lviv and founded the small independent film production group Palm.L Studio and the Lviv4you YouTube channel, for which they direct and produce short and feature-length documentary films on a wide variety of social and civil action topics; their films have been selected and awarded at film festivals on four continents. Together they have been participating in Jewish heritage work in western Ukraine for several years, both as videographers and as laborers and logistic support, including for both the Lviv Volunteer Center and Rohatyn Jewish Heritage; you will see their work at the heritage sites in Rohatyn, and on our website.

Andrij BojarovAndrij Bojarov – Andrij is an artist working in a variety of media forms such as photography, film, video, graphics, paint, and photocopy, with a particular focus on the metaphysical visual attributes of images, both his own creations and found images, and both still and moving images. He has been a professor of architecture in Tallinn, and has designed, led and contributed to commercial and public cultural projects. Born in Lviv, he has lived and worked in Ukraine, Estonia, Finland, and Poland, collaborated with the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw and the Cultural Foundation in Estonia, and has exhibited numerous times in Lviv and across Europe. For our heritage program Andrij contributed the overall conceptual design and recommendations for materials and layout, has proposed methods and introduced us to suppliers, and has assisted us in establishing cooperative relationships with municipal and regional governments and agencies.

Jeremy BorovitzJeremy Borovitz – Jeremy was raised in Paramus, New Jersey, the son of a reform Rabbi. After attending Jewish religious schools, he graduated with a degree in Public Policy and Economics from the University of Michigan. After graduation, Jeremy joined the Peace Corps, where he served for 2 1/2 years as a Youth Development Volunteer in the small village of Boyarka, Ukraine, then as a Jewish Service Corps Fellow for the Joint Distribution Committee in Kiev, Ukraine, servicing Jewish communities across Western Ukraine. During two years living in Israel, he studied at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies and worked for Moishe House, serving as their European Director of Jewish Education. Jeremy currently lives in New York, where he is studying to be a Rabbi at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, NY. Jeremy’s great-grandfather, David Nagelberg, was born in Rohatyn. Jeremy has aided our heritage program with translations, education and community relations on the ground in Rohatyn.

Svitlana Bregman – We first encountered Svitlana several years ago while she was working as the supple two-way simultaneous interpreter for a conference at the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe. Since then we have met her and benefited from her language work at a number of other seminars and workshops in Lviv, including for Centropa. We are fortunate to have had her expert translation skills at work on our website, reports, and other publications since early 2017. Svitlana is a graduate of the Institute of Management in Drohobych with a major in Linguistics, and of Ivan Franko National University in Lviv with a diploma in Translation and Interpreting. She has a second diploma in Journalism, also from Lviv National University; those additional skills are valuable to us as we report news of heritage-related events in Rohatyn and the region. In addition to her work for Rohatyn Jewish Heritage, Svitlana is a freelance interpreter and translator for more than two dozen institutions in the Lviv region and beyond, in banking, finance, government, education, and security industries. She is fluent in Ukrainian, English, and Russian, with functional breadth in several other European languages.

Alex DenysenkoAlex Denysenko – Alex Den is a researcher and tour leader based in Lviv, Ukraine, with 25 years of experience focused on Central European history, including documentation and oral histories of Jewish life and heritage. He has completed applied research projects on Jewish-Polish-Ukrainian-Russian-German relations in the historical lands of Galicia, Bukovina, Bessarabia, Podolia, Volynia, and Novorossia connected with the events of the First and Second World wars, the Shoah and pogroms, and issues resulting from border changes, resettlement, and genocide. He has a degree from Lviv State University in English and German Linguistics, a diploma as a specialist in International Tourism and Simultaneous Translation from the Institute of International Tourism in Moscow, and a certificate in Holocaust Studies for Educators from Yad Vashem in Israel. Alex has been our frequent companion on many visits to Rohatyn, serving as organizer, interpreter, and guide, but he has also volunteered his skills and time to us on many occasions to connect us with key people and organizations in western Ukraine, and is always keeping his eye out for materials and documents which help our program.

Sofia DyakSofia Dyak – Dr. Dyak is Director of the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, in Lviv. Previously she was a fellow at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University within the program on Historical Dialogue and Accountability, and at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. She received her PhD in sociology from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, following studies in history at Central European University in Budapest and Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. In addition to aiding us with research in the resources of the Center, Dr. Dyak has frequently provided guidance on best practices in public project development and community relations.

Alex Feller – Dr. Feller is a board-certified anesthesiologist in the Chicago area; he earned his medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine after a degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan; he also has an MS in Computer Science from the University of Chicago. A skilled family historian, he has served on the board of directors of Gesher Galicia; in 2009 Alex founded the Rohatyn District Research Group (RDRG) as an internet-based network of descendants of Rohatyn Jewish families, now grown into an active private database and research community for people with roots in Rohatyn and nearby towns. Alex’s mother was born in Rohatyn to a large and talented Jewish family; he first visited Rohatyn with his parents for the 1998 memorial event, and then returned for working visits with us in 2011 which helped launch the renewed heritage projects now managed by our NGO. Alex continues as the energetic leader of Rohatyn Jewish genealogy research, as an essential ally in our heritage activities, and as a dear friend to us personally.

Ruth Ellen GruberRuth Ellen Gruber – The “engine” of Jewish Heritage Europe, Ruth is a journalist and researcher who has documented Jewish heritage and chronicled Jewish cultural developments and contemporary Jewish issues in Europe for more than 25 years. She is the author of several books and many reports, articles, photographs and essays for a wide variety of prominent publications. She has received numerous awards for her work, including Visiting Scholar fellowships at universities and Poland’s Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit. An early supporter of Rohatyn Jewish Heritage, she has provided information, advice, and reference project leads to us over the past few years, as well as reporting on our activities and progress in the JHE News Feed.

Edgar HausterEdgar Hauster – Edgar is a traveler and essayist with a sharp eye and and a gift for photojournalism. His life is perfectly European: born in Romania, living in Germany and the Netherlands, he became Director of Exports for the trade and services division of Krupp in his twenties, later returned to Romania to manage all of Krupp’s operations there as they developed factories soon after the fall of Communism, then served as consultant to the board of the merged ThyssenKrupp Group. Over the past 10 years he has immersed himself in genealogical and historical research, traveling and blogging in the lands of his Galician and Bukovinan ancestors, with a special focus on life and heritage conditions in towns and villages today. For our work, Edgar has suggested strategies for promotion and funding, and cooperative programs with cities and regional governments, in encounters all over Europe while he continues to search for that one record which will finally prove his great-grandfather’s connection to Rohatyn.

Christian Herrmann – Christian lives in Köln, Germany, and works for a non-profit international youth service organization in Bonn. For years he has been traveling in search of traces of Jewish life in east-central Europe, with special focus in former Galicia and Bukovina. He documents his experiences in his blog site Vanished World, a frequently-updated online archive, which raises public consciousness about the past and present, and encourages the rescue of shared heritage in the region. Photographs from his research are presented in exhibitions and books; the cover photo of his first book, Spurensuche (Searching for Traces) features the old Jewish cemetery in Rohatyn. We admire Christian’s personal involvement and leadership in many types of Jewish heritage and history projects, and we benefit from his depth of knowledge as we develop our own project. In recent years we have frequently enjoyed spending time on the road with Christian, traveling thousands of kilometers and studying hundreds of sites of sometimes surviving or vanished Jewish and other heritage in western Ukraine. For his commitment to Jewish heritage in Eastern Europe, in 2021 Christian was awarded the Verdienstkreuz (Federal Cross of Merit), Germany’s highest civilian honor.

Ihor KlishchIhor Klishch – Ihor was our first contact in Rohatyn, and has remained a friend and supporter ever since. While he managed the computer lab in Rohatyn’s town library, he introduced us to Mr. Vorobets and the City administration, guided us to museums around town, connected us with residents to recover Jewish headstones, and passed messages between us and other Rohatyn citizens. His quiet and helpful manner, and his good connections with the educational institutions of Rohatyn, made him an invaluable early asset to our program. As his work has taken him out of town and recently back to the region, we have been pleased to keep our connection with Ihor, and are proud to call him our friend.

Rabbi KolesnikRabbi Kolesnik – Moyshe-Leib Kolesnik has been Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Ivano-Frankivsk (Stanislavov) and its region, including Rohatyn, for two decades. In addition to serving the spiritual needs of his community, he also maintains the Ivano-Frankivsk synagogue and the area’s Jewish cemeteries and memorials, supports a kosher kitchen in the city, gathers and presents records and artifacts of the local history of Jews in a history museum, and gently mediates local issues stemming from the rupture of Jewish life in the region. His review of our program onsite and in his offices, and his advice and guidance on social and practical concerns of our individual projects, have been essential to the progress of our efforts.

Nataliya Kurishko (Mykhailyuk) – Nataliya is a literary scholar and Germanic philologist, currently working as Assistant Lecturer at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv teaching courses of English Literature and World Literature. Nataliya completed her PhD studies at the World Literature Department of the same University with her thesis “Narrative Strategies in the English Artist’s Novel of the Late 19th Century to Early 20th Century”. Her research interests include English literature of the late 19th to early 20th centuries, the narratological approach to the novel and its generic varieties, as well as methods of receptive aesthetics, phenomenology and hermeneutics applied in literature. She also studied at Jönköping University, Sweden, School of Education and Communication within the project “Values of Democratic Societies: New Strategies in Education” during Spring 2008. Nataliya helps us with website translations and other language projects.

Renaud LaverneRenaud Lavergne – Renaud is chief editor for Agence France Presse in Lille, northern France; previously he served as an AFP reporter stationed in in Marseille and Berlin. He has degrees from EDHEC Business School in Nice and from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po). In recent years he has produced television documentaries and news specials for Toute l’histoire and France 2, including an in-depth report on Jewish heritage travel to Central Europe, featuring our headstone recovery project in Rohatyn. He has also authored a number of contemporary history feature articles for other publications, including for the Review XXI in France.

Abram LyonsAbram Lyons – Originally from Deer Park, Abram studied Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Idaho, graduating in 2009. Following his studies he became a Youth Development Volunteer for the Peace Corps, an international service organization which has been sponsored by the executive branch of the US federal government for more than 50 years. His service took him to Rohatyn in 2011 and 2012, where he worked with city schools and students as a guidance counselor and leadership program manager. His work in Rohatyn also brought him into contact with our program, and we quickly became friends; he generously gave time and effort to help with local contacts and meetings, headstone recovery, and promotion of our work with local youth. Since returning to the US, Abram has been working as a community developer specializing in at-risk youth; he is now also pursuing a Master’s degree in social work at the University of Memphis.

Alexander Nazar – Sasha was born and raised in Lviv; he was fortunate to attend the Jewish school in the city. After high school, he studied at Lviv National Medical University and graduated with a degree in pharmacology; after graduation he worked as a pharmacist. In 2010 he also became the head of the Sholem Aleichem Jewish Cultural Society in Lviv, with offices at the historic former synagogue on vul. Vuhilna; in addition to organizing a variety of cultural activities and restoring the synagogue building, the Society also publishes the Jewish newspaper “Shofar”, now running continuously for nearly 30 years. In 2015 he left his pharmacy practice to form the Lviv Volunteer Center (LVC), a non-profit NGO under the umbrella of the Lviv-based All-Ukrainian Jewish Charitable Foundation “Hesed-Arieh”. The LVC promotes local volunteer service while working to help displaced people from other parts of Ukraine adapt to life in Lviv, to create education and entertainment events for Jewish and other children, and to preserve and protect Jewish physical heritage in the Lviv region. Sasha and the LVC have lead several heritage work days in Rohatyn, organized regional round tables to establish a network of heritage activists and government leaders, and led many planned work camps and emergency interventions to protect Jewish heritage. We are proud to join Sasha and his hard-working crew when they need extra hands at work sites in Lviv and the region; he continues to be a key ally and supporter of our project.

vs1_300Viktoriia Sergiienko – Viktoriia is a scientific researcher currently working at the Kyiv offices of the M. S. Hrushevsky Institute of Ukrainian Archeography and Source Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. She is a graduate of the department of History at Poltava V. G. Korolenko National University, and has completed PhD studies at the history department of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Her research focuses on the religious and social history of the Ukrainian lands which once belonged to the Russian Empire, on the post-WWII Ukrainian diaspora, and most recently on Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation efforts since the 1950s. Viktoriia helps us with document and website translations, with perspectives on modern Ukraine, and with connections to other historians working in our topics.

Meylakh SheykhetMeylakh Sheykhet – Meylakh is Lviv Bureau Director of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ), a US-based humanitarian NGO operating since 1970. He has cooperated with the US State Department’s American Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad on cemeteries in Ukraine and in establishing the Faina Petryakova Center in Lviv. Born in the Zhytomyr Oblast of Ukraine, raised in Lviv, he graduated from the Odessa Electrotechnical Institute of Communications, then taught engineering communications at the Lviv College of Communication for 25 years. Today he is immersed in the revival of Jewish culture and heritage in Ukraine, and has shared with us his experience and methods in working to secure cemeteries and heritage sites in the region.

Vitaly ShkurkoVitaly Shkurko – Vitaly graduated from the Donetsk Polytechnic Institute (now DonNTU) in Ukraine with a degree in mining engineering. He currently runs his own European transport company with a small fleet of trucks and drivers in Ukraine, Poland, and Hungary. He speaks Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Hungarian, and some English. In addition to serving as our driver on many visits to Rohatyn, Vitaly also frequently volunteers his logistical and technical skills to us on the road and in town, solving practical problems, creating tools to aid the extraction of headstones, repairing and modifying metalwork and locks, as well as lending a strong hand with the heavy stonework.

It is important that we also acknowledge and honor the work of those who came before us, in particular from US-based Rohatyn-origin landsmanschaftn and their Israeli counterparts, for the organization and fund-raising they did to erect the cemetery and mass grave monuments in Rohatyn for the 1998 commemoration, for their subsequent work to recover Jewish headstones around town to the new Jewish cemetery, and for their efforts to keep the memory of Jewish Rohatyners alive in Rohatyn and around the world. We name as leaders Fishel Kirschen, Freda Perl, Donia Schwarzstein, Herman Skolnik, and Sabina Wind, and note that many others contributed to the work in many ways. As we have said elsewhere on these pages, we stand on the shoulders of giants.