An expedition of Israeli scholars departed Monday for Ukraine on a mission to
preserve the rich Jewish history of Galicia, a rural province split between that
country and Poland, and which holds an almost mythical place in Jewish memory as
the home of mystics and meshuganas.
Over the next month, participants
will gather information about extinct Jewish communities in the Ukrainian part
of the area, photographing decaying synagogues and cemeteries and posting their
findings on to the expedition’s Web site, at www.jewishgalicia.net.
the past two years we’ve been focusing on documenting Jewish buildings
Ukrainian part of Galicia, which are in total neglect,” said Dr. Semion
Goldin, director of the Leonid Nevzlin Research Center for Russian and
European Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
sites still remain. However, we cannot preserve them all, so we’ve
document them before they disappear.”
The expedition will be headed by
Dr. Vladimir Levin and focus on the area surrounding the city of
Galicia’s Jewish communities were some of the poorest and most
religious on the continent. The stereotypical Galicianer often depicted
Jewish literature is a devout, happy-go-lucky simpleton who always has a
on his face.
Despite this image, the area produced many prominent Jews,
including Nobel Prize laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon, screenwriter Billy
acting teacher Lee Strasberg. It was also the origin of several hassidic
dynasties, including Belz and Bobov.
The Jewish communities of Galicia,
however, were decimated during World War II. Many survivors chose to
move to bigger cities.
“There are some Jewish communities left in the
area’s big cities, but it is very, very rare to come across a Jew in any
these former shtetls,” Goldin said. “On the few occasions we do it’s