Rekindling Jewish memories of Macedonia

 The artist, his wife, Ambassador Dan Oryan and dr. Rachel-Shelly Levy-Drummer  (photo credit: SHLOMI AMSALEM)
The artist, his wife, Ambassador Dan Oryan and dr. Rachel-Shelly Levy-Drummer
(photo credit: SHLOMI AMSALEM)

Dan Oryan, Director of the Balkans Region for the Foreign Ministry, served as Ambassador of Israel to North Macedonia for seven years. During that period, he organized many activities to memorialize the Jewish community that lived in Macedonia before the Holocaust. In March 1943, the 7,144 Jews of North Macedonia were rounded up by the Nazis and sent to Treblinka. Only 200 Macedonian Jews survived the war.

During his tenure as ambassador, Oryan initiated an annual March of the Living held on March 11 in the city of Bitola, where some 800 Jewish families lived until the German invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941. The March concluded at the entrance to the Jewish cemetery, with the March participants, composed of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, singing “Light a Candle” by Sarit Hadad in Hebrew, English and Macedonian. As part of the commemorative activities, the ambassador also organized a hackathon in the city called “Bitalon,” in which city youth developed new and innovative ways to remember the city’s Jewish community.

Oryan also organized the cleaning and maintenance of the Jewish cemetery in Bitola, bringing delegations from Israel, Germany the US and other countries to help maintain the burial ground, which contains 4,000 graves dating from the Spanish Inquisition until the Holocaust.

In most of the activities in North Macedonia ambassador Oryan had a grand coalition of partners. leading the effort from the Macedonian side was Mima Geras Doceska, head of the ARHAM organization in Bitola and "ACTA NON VERBA" from Skopje. The NGO for the heritage of Bitola (monastir) was the main Israeli partner to all those events and many more, headed by Dr Rachell Levi Drummer, the academic secretary of   Bar Ilan University and member of the macedonian jewish community, that also added  academic dimension  and partnership to the effort. 

In early November, the city of Jerusalem dedicated a pomegranate memorial to the Jews of Macedonia at the Sherover Promenade. The 2.6-meter-high memorial, also initiated by Oryan,  was created by artist Zoe Sever and the Artdigroup Group and contains the names of the 280 Jewish families who lived in Macedonia before the Holocaust. Using NFC (near-field communication) technology, visitors can point their phones at specific locations on the glass and ceramic sculpture to view stories of the community, together with a film from Yad Vashem.

This article is powered by Ministry of Foreign Affairs