Beyond Genealogy: Preserving Jewish Memory in Rohatyn

Posted by: Marla Raucher Osborn

For most Jewish genealogists, it's all about the records: finding them, getting them, cherishing them. 

But, what happens when on a visit to your family shtetl, Jewish artifacts - physical traces of the town's pre-War  Jewish past - are found? 

For some, such unexpected confrontations are too painful to deal with. For others, a kind of paralysis sets in because the topic is too big to manage: what to do now? how to proceed? For most, the visit ends with photos and memories, but the traces - the physical reminders of the Jewish lives lived and lost - remain where they were discovered: back in the shtetl. 

Not so for the Rohatyn Shtetl Research Group (« RSRG ») founded by Dr. Alex Feller of Chicago.

Though initially formed in 2009 as an informal genealogy-based discussion group of diverse people sharing a common heritage - Rohatyn - the RSRG today embraces a new passion, a new sense of obligation: the recovery, preservation, and perpetuation of Rohatyn's pre-War Jewish heritage. 

In summer 1998, a handful of Rohatyn survivors and their decendants converged upon the town for the express purpose of unveiling several commissioned monuments at Rohatyn's two destroyed Jewish cemeteries and two mass grave sites. Over the next decade, Jewish memory receded back into the community, with only the rare, occasional visitor from outside Ukraine arriving in town to walk the streets of his or her grandmother and to emotionally gaze upon the forlorn emptiness of Rohatyn's Jewish cemeteries, largely devoid of headstones. 

But, all was not forgotten during the intervening decade, at least by the townspeople - the non-Jewish locals who today live and work in Rohatyn. 

A retired Rohatyn school teacher named Mr. Vorobets steadily and seriously continued to document Rohatyn's Jewish past by interviewing elderly residents, combing through local records, and writing articles for the local newspapers. More importantly, he collected up any Jewish headstones or headstone fragments found in town - abandoned on river banks, uncovered during City maintenance of sidewalks and roads, discovered during garden and home renovations - and arranged to have them moved - sometimes by horse and cart, sometimes by hand - to one of Rohatyn's Jewish cemeteries. 

There they waited - these artifacts, these vessels of Jewish memory - until April 2011, when I made my second visit to the town and was introduced to Mr. Vorobets. 

Over the next 2 1/2 years, working hand-in-hand with Mr. Vorobets as well as Rohatyn's Mayor and administration (the same Mayor who attended the 1998 memorial 1 commemoration along with Mr. Vorobets), the local Ukrainian Church, and Rohatyn's head librarian, a project was born - a community project - to recover Jewish memory. Mr. Vorobets became the touchstone, the contact point, if someone living in town had or heard about a Jewish headstone. He coordinated the recovery and transportation, 
he managed those he hired, he kept detailed records of when and from where each stone was found. The RSRG funded the nominal costs - sometimes paid by Mr. Vorobets in Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH), sometimes in candy if the stones were small enough for children to act as his assistants. 

By May 2013, about 150 headstones and headstone fragments had been recovered and now lay scattered at the base of the 1998 memorial at the northern Jewish cemetery. Each and every stone was photographed, then uploaded to the RSRG website for discussion, posterity, and translation where possible. 

So, now what? 

Embracing the project was the easy part; grappling with the hard questions that come with this new responsibility, another matter: 

  • How best to preserve these stones (some made of very fragile and soft materal) from further deterioration by weather and the elements, especially the harsh Ukrainian winters? 
  • If they are to be incorporated into a memorial, such as wall, how should it be designed to allow for the continued recovery of stones in future years? Who should design it? And perhaps most importantly, how to pay for it?
  • The RSRG does not have answers to all these important questions, but it has contacted a Lviv-based artist for advice. 
  • In late October, this artist will be attending a seminar in Wrocław, Poland on best practices for Jewish cemetery preservation and conservation. He is taking his new commission seriously, and because it is outside his usual artistic medium, wishes to learn as much as possible before embarking on this project for the RSRG. He is bringing questions to the seminar. He is thinking about ideas. He will walk the streets and jewish cemeteries of Rohatyn on November 5, 2013 with me. He will then submit a proposal to the RSRG. It will then be up to the group to find the means to fund the project. 

I am hopeful they will. 

Marla Raucher Osborn
Prague, Czech Republic (formerly Paris, France) 

PS. To stay abreast of the RSRG's Jewish heritage projects in Rohatyn, please visit our new Facebook page: 

To see photos of my visits to Rohatyn since 2011, including the headstones: 

To watch an interview of RSRG by Ukrainian TV in summer 2011 (with English subtitles): 

To read about the RSRG's other Jewish heritage projects and issues in Rohatyn: 

Announcement: JGS of NY

The Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc.(NY), established in 1977 as the first modern Jewish genealogy group, is celebrating its Double Chai - 36th Anniversary - with a gala luncheon, presentations on its founding and history, and a featured talk by award-winning genealogist, Tammy Hepps. Ms. Hepps is the founder of, a family story-sharing website, and was the winner of the RootsTech 2013 Developer Challenge.

This event will take place on Sunday, October 27th, 2013 at 1 PM at the Sutton Place Synagogue, 225 East 51st St., New York. The cost of $40 includes the Kosher luncheon and program. Visit the website for more information and to make your reservation.

Yizkor Book Project, September 2013


Although September was chockablock with Jewish festivals and our minds and time were generally located in other directions, we at the Yizkor Book Project  did manage to "squeeze out" quite a number of new entries and updates, as you will see.

Hopefully, you saw the announcement a few days ago sent to the various forums regarding the latest books that were recently published as part of our Yizkor Books in Print Project so I won't repeat the list. If, however, you are interested in seeing what is available and what this particular project is all about, please go to:

In recent times, we have begun the first steps in setting up Translation Fund projects for the following books:

Gorlice, Poland - "Sefer Gorlice; ha-kehila be-vinyana u-ve-hurbana"
(Gorlice book; the Building and Destruction of the community) Zolochiv, Ukraine - "Der Untergang fun Zloczow" (The Downfall of Zloczow)

Sometime soon these funds will appear amongst the other funds already running at:
Note that these funds have been set up in order to raise money to allow for the professional translation of these books and to enable all of us to read this unique material concerning  our communities and families that were decimated during the Holocaust. For those of you who are US citizens, donations to these funds are also tax deductible.

Now to facts and figures for September, during this last month we have added one new project:

- Through Forests and Pathways

Added in 8 new entries:

- Dragomiresti, Romania (The Marmaros Book; In Memory of 160 Jewish

- Janovice nad Uhlavou, Czech Republic (The Jews and Jewish Communities of Bohemia in the past and present)

- Ieud, Romania (The Marmaros Book; In Memory of 160 Jewish Communities)

- Mirovice & Mirotice, Czech Republic (The Jews and Jewish Communities of Bohemia in the past and present)

- Novoselytsya, Ukraine (Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Romania, Volume II)

- Sacel, Romania (The Marmaros Book; In Memory of 160 Jewish Communities)

- Sokyryany, Ukraine (Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Romania, Volume

- Soroca, Moldova (Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Romania, Volume II)

We have continued to update 21 of our existing projects:

- Babruysk, Belarus (Memorial book of the community of Bobruisk and its

- Chelm, Poland (Commemoration book Chelm)

- Chisinau, Moldova (The Jews of Kishinev)

- Czestochowa, Poland (The Jews of Czestochowa)

- Czyzew, Poland  (Czyzewo Memorial Book)

- Dieveniskes, Lithuania (Devenishki book; memorial book)

- Dzyarzhynsk (Koidanov), Belarus (Koidanov; Memorial Volume of the Martyrs of Koidanov)

- Golub-Dobrzyn, Poland (In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn-Gollob)

- Goniadz, Poland (Our hometown Goniondz)

- Gostynin, Poland (Book of Gostynin)

- Hrubieszow, Poland (Memorial Book of Hrubieshov)

- Klobuck, Poland (The Book of Klobucko; in memory of a martyred community which was destroyed)

- Michalovce, Slovakia (The Book of Michalovce)

- Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki, Poland (Memorial book of Nowy-Dwor)

- Ostroh, Ukraine (Ostrog book; a memorial to the Ostrog holy community)

- Ozerna, Ukraine (Memorial book of Jezierna)

- Ozerna, Ukraine (Memorial book of Jezierna) [Hebrew]

- Ozeryany, Ukraine (Memorial book, Jezierzany and surroundings)

- Shumskoye, Ukraine (Szumsk, memorial book of the martyrs of Szumsk)

- Slovakia (The Tragedy of Slovak Jewry in Slovakia)

- Stryy, Ukraine (Book of Stryj)

Some important links to note:

- This month's additions and updates are flagged at to make it easy to find them. 
-  All you would like to know about the Yizkor Books in Print Project
-  Yizkor Book Translation Funds
where your financial support will assist in seeing more translations go online.

At this time, I would like to wish all of you and your families that you can also look forward to a very sweet year in your personal and professional lives.

All the best,
Lance Ackerfeld
Yizkor Book Project Manager

KehilaLinks Project Report for September 2013

We are pleased to welcome the following webpages to JewishGen KehilaLinks We thank the owners and webmasters of these webpages for creating fitting memorials to these Kehilot (Jewish Communities) and for providing a valuable resource for future generations of their descendants.

Belilovka (Bilylivka), Ukraine
Created by Mark Fainstein

Breclav (Lundenburg), Czech Republic
Created by E. Randol Schoenberg
Webmaster: Ann L. Fuller

Buki (Buky, Baki), Ukraine
Created by David Schreiber
Webmaster: Richard Baum

Ckyne (Kieselhof), Czech Republic
Created by E. Randol Schoenberg
Webmaster: Ann L. Fuller

Hodonín (Göding), Czech Republic
Created by E. Randol Schoenberg
Webmaster: Ann L. Fuller

Horodok (Gorodok) (Podolia), Ukraine
Created by Steven Schreiber and Marc Goldberger

Kolodeje nad Luznicí (Kaladei), Czech Republic Created by E. Randol Schoenberg
Webmaster: Ann L. Fuller

Koryeany (Koritschan), Czech Republic
Created by E. Randol Schoenberg
Webmaster: Ann L. Fuller

Przasnysz (Proshnits), Poland
Created by Joanne Grossman

Raczki (Rotzk), Poland
Created by Robert Zavos

Uhersky Ostroh (Shtaynitz, Ungarisch-Ostra), Czech Republic Created by E. Randol Schoenberg
Webmaster: Ann L. Fuller


KehilaLinks webpages recently updated:

Belozerka (Bielozorka), Ukraine

Bocki (Bodki), Poland

Chorzele (Chortzel), Poland

Ivano Frankivsk (Stanislawów, Stanisle) (G), Ukraine

Kalush (Kalusz, Kalish) (G), Ukraine

Krasnoye (Krasne, Krasnoya), Ukraine

Lubny (Luben), Ukraine

Muizenberg, South Africa

Raducaneni, Romania

Shpikov (Shpykiv), Ukraine

Yampol (Iampil'), Ukraine


Some of our KehilaLinks webpages were created by people who are no longer able to maintain them.
The following webpages are "orphaned" and are available for adoption.

Craiova (Belkiralymezo, Canalu), Romania

Kamiensk (Kaminska), Poland

Kolomea (Kolomyja) (G)


If you wish to create a KehilaLinks webpage or adopt an exiting "orphaned"
webpage please contact us at: <>.

NEED TECHNICAL HELP CREATING A WEBPAGE?: We have a team of dedicated volunteer webpage designers who will help you create a webpage.

Susana Leistner Bloch, VP, KehilaLinks, JewishGen, Inc.
Barbara Ellman, KehilaLinks Technical Coordinator