My queasy night at Lviv’s controversial ‘Jewish’ eatery

There’s a Jewish-themed restaurant attached to the ruins of the 16th-century Golden Rose Synagogue here. It first caught my eye last month when I was taking photographs of Meylakh Sheykhet, a haredi Jewish man who is fighting to preserve what’s left of the once beautiful structure.

Sheykhet insisted I train my lens in a different direction.

“I don’t want this anti-Semitic restaurant in the background,” he said.

At first glance Pid Zolotoju Rozoju, Ukrainian for “At the Golden Rose,” isn’t a particularly remarkable restaurant.  But if “Jewish themed” makes you think of a kosher-style deli in Miami Beach or a Montreal bagelry, think again: Peddling Jewish food and culture with a combination of nostalgia and stereotypes, the eatery has been widely pilloried.

Since it opened in 2008, the restaurant has faced allegations that it crassly perpetuates anti-Semitic stereotypes, particularly in a place where Nazis and locals wiped out nearly all traces of Judaism – including the very synagogue after which it is named.

I wanted to check out those allegations for myself. So I posed Sheykhet against a different background and decided I’d return later that evening for dinner.

Pid Zolotoju Rozoju looks like many other restaurants in this city near the Polish border, which has changed names and hands over the centuries as it fell under Russian, Polish and Austro-Hungarian control.

The joint is dark and small, with low ceilings, no windows and only nine tables. Its decor, such as it is, consisting of Judaica and Yiddish theater posters, could practically be considered tasteful, even if the restaurant serves non-kosher dishes such as rabbit kidneys.

But after sitting down and seeing the menu, I understood the uproar. There are no prices. That’s because “it’s Jewish tradition to haggle and bargain afterwards,” said my non-Jewish waiter, who instructed me to call him Moishe — though, when pressed, he revealed his name was Vlodymir. He then told me he’ll be right back and went into the kitchen.

I was left alone to survey my surroundings in the quiet dining room.

The cheap-looking wooden tables had stained crocheted tablecloths. Juxtaposed with the greasy, retro interior was a plasma television showing a slideshow of images from 1930s Lviv, when the city had 110,000 Jews — a third of its total population.

Back then, Lviv (in Russian it’s Lvov, in German Lemberg) was teeming with Jewish life and the Golden Rose was considered one of the finest synagogues in Europe. Lviv had five Jewish publishers, six Jewish schools and many small haredi schools. Among the Jewish newspapers sold here were the Togblat (Yiddish) and Chwila (Polish) dailies.

But it all came to an abrupt end in 1941, when the Germans invaded. They blew up the synagogue in 1943. Only a few hundred Jews survived. Today the Jewish community numbers 1,200.

While I was contemplating my people’s sad history in the city, Moishe came back with a bowl and a copper jug. He had covered his brown hair with a black hat adorned with fake peyot, the sidelocks typically grown by haredim. He cheerfully shook his head to make the fake hair jiggle.

“It’s Jewish tradition to wash your hands before eating. We are a very clean people, as you see,” he said, gesturing, ironically or otherwise, at the somewhat grubby surroundings.

Playing the part of an unknowing tourist — a persona I decided would make the staff feel most at ease — I obliged with a smile. I then asked whether he had any pork schnitzel.

“No!” Moishe replied in horror. “Jews don’t eat pork!”

“But if you pay extra, maybe we can arrange something,” he added with a mischievous smile.

Such antics are the trademark of the Lviv-based !FEST chain of concept restaurants that operates Pid Zolotoju Rozoju. Its properties include Kryjivka, which was built like a partisans’ bunker and accused of honoring the legacy of a Nazi collaborator. Another celebrates the life and writings of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose kinky works inspired the term “masochism.”

Across Eastern Europe there are restaurants paying uncomfortable homage to communities decimated by the Holocaust. Several of these “Jewish,” pork-serving restaurants operate in Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of the Polish city of Krakow. In Kiev, Cimes (its name a variant of tzimmes, the Ashkenazi carrot dish) boasts a neon sign featuring a caricature of a hook-nosed Jew.

But the Golden Rose restaurant has been the most controversial. Sheykhet, the Ukraine director of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, told me it “panders to, and thereby enhances and legitimizes, anti-Semitic attitudes.”

Andriy Khudo, a co-owner of Pid Zolotoju Rozoju, has frequently faced such accusations. In 2012, he told Agence France Presse that he and his partners “studied the history of Jews in Lviv for three months and worked with the main Jewish organization in the city, which gave its approval for the project.”

Khudo was referring to an endorsement reportedly given by Ada Dianova, who runs the local Jewish Hesed charity. In an 2008 interview, Dianova said Hesed gives “gifts and printed material” to Pid Zolotoju Rozoju to distribute to patrons. (I only received a magnet with the restaurant’s name as a souvenir.)

“We do maybe use stereotypes, but the customers like it,” Khudo told AFP. “And Ukrainians, too, like haggling. There’s nothing offensive in it.”

During my visit, a group of young Ukrainians drank plum liquor at the bar. They burst into laughter when the barman told them the drink was made by squeezing juice out of Jews’ peyot.

I asked one of them whether she had heard that some Jews find the place objectionable.

“I never met any of them, so I don’t know,” said the patron, who identified herself only as Marina.

Despite the owners’ insistence that it’s all good-natured fun, the restaurant’s menu refers to Jews as “zhids” — the Russian equivalent of  “kikes.”

The price-free menu carries a long-winded disclaimer explaining that zhid is a neutral word in Ukrainian. The reality, however, is more complicated. Many Ukrainians use it matter-of-factly, but many others use it as a slur. Ukraine’s official Jewish community staunchly opposes its use, arguing it should be dropped altogether.

When the check finally came, Moishe’s opening bid was 450 hryvna — approximately $17. That’s more than triple an acceptable price in Lviv for what I had ordered — a stewed beef brisket with polenta that to my unsophisticated palate tasted pretty good.

Aware of the irony of the situation — I was accepting Moishe’s challenge to act according to a racist stereotype of, well, me — I offered to pay 30 percent lower than what I estimated to be fair, hoping to settle on it.

But Moishe had another trick under his black hat: If I could sing a song in Yiddish for him, he said, I would get a discount.

Deliberating over my small repertoire of Yiddish songs, I reflected on the nearby Jewish ghetto that in 1943 was converted into a labor camp where more than 15,000 of my brethren were murdered.

So I sang “Partizaner Lid,” the heartbreakingly optimistic partisans’ anthem written that year by Hirsh Glick, a young Jewish inmate of the Vilna Ghetto. Like many Israelis, I had studied its Hebrew-language version, but I know a part of the Yiddish original thanks to my Lviv-born bar mitzvah tutor.

“Never say this is the final road for you, though leaden skies may cover over days of blue,” I sang in Yiddish.

But I had to switch to Hebrew because I could no longer remember the lyrics in the language that the Nazis had done their best to erase. My voice cracked with emotion.

Moishe didn’t seem to notice.

“Very nice,” he said, and knocked 50 hryvna off the bill.

Ukrainian court nixes controversial Jewish heritage projects in Lviv

A Ukrainian supreme court forbade the Municipality of Lviv from going ahead with controversial plans for commemorating Jewish heritage sites.

The Supreme Economic Court of Ukraine issued its ruling Wednesday against the city’s plans to design and build projects that would commemorate three Jewish sites instead of restoring them.

In 2010, the city announced an international competition for architects interested in designing projects that would commemorate Lviv’s old Jewish quarter; the city’s 14th-century Jewish cemetery — which is now being used as a market — and a former Nazi camp.

But the plan was opposed by the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union and the Golden Rose Synagogue of Lviv, because “it was meant to cover up and commemorate the Jewish past instead of restoring its ruins and celebrating Jewish life here and now,” Meylakh Sheykhet, director of the union’s Ukraine office, told JTA Friday.

In its ruling, the court found the city’s plan did not conform to international preservation standards.

Following unproductive negotiations with city officials, the union filed this year for an injunction to stop the city’s plan. In March, a regional court ruled in favor of the union’s motion but the city appealed. On Wednesday, the supreme court upheld the lower court’s ruling and rejected the city’s appeal.

“The city’s plans conformed neither with international standards for heritage preservation nor with Ukrainian law and government resolutions on this matter,” Sheykhet said. He also said the city was not interested in restoring heritage sites in the Jewish quarter, because this would come at the expense of restaurants and other business operating on what used to be synagogues.

The ruling Wednesday represented “a new era for the resolution of the complex issues surrounding the proper preservation of the Jewish heritage sites that sustained severe damage by totalitarian regimes,” Sheykhet said.

He added the ruling shows that “Ukraine changed and it will never return to what it was before Maidan,” the Ukrainian word designating the revolution that erupted in November against former president Viktor Yanukovyich over his alleged corruption and perceived allegiance to Russia.


Robbers raid Holocaust victims’ mass grave in Ukraine

Grave robbers in Ukraine raided the final resting place of Jews executed en masse during the Holocaust, a Kiev-based watchdog on anti-Semitism reported.

The raid occurred on June 20 near Volodymyr-Volynsky, a western city located just north of Lviv, according to Jewish Kiev group which monitors anti-Semitic attacks in Ukraine.

Nazis and local collaborators were responsible for mass executions in Volodymyr-Volynsky, where 18,000 people were buried. Grave robbers raided the area in 2010 and 2011, according to Vladimir Muzhichenko of the Jewish Kiev group, who complained authorities did little to go after perpetrators.

“There is every reason to believe the desecration will continue,” said Muzhichenko.

The robbers seek gold teeth and valuables that the victims may have carried on their person when German soldiers shot them into trenches that they and locals had dug in advance in 1941.

Muzhichenko called for the placement of memorial plaques near the mass graves, which are currently covered by shrubbery, as a first step toward protecting the graves.


Ukraine Jews see alleged beating of Jewish man as symptom of mounting nationalism

The police station on Stefan Bandera Street in Lviv used to be just another government building to Dmitry Flekman.

But that changed earlier this month following a nine-hour interrogation by two detectives, who were accused of torturing and humiliating the 29-year-old Jewish businessman.

It’s an incident that some see as indicative of rising nationalism and anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

“Many people here want to move away from Soviet days to the Western model, but that can only happen if the fundamental rights of law-abiding people like me are respected,” Flekman told JTA last week. “To me, it’s a symbol of injustice.”

Flekman’s ordeal began Oct. 1, when the officers arrested him on his way back from the bank. At the police station, Flekman says, the officers tried to extort $10,000 from him.

“They picked on me because they thought they could get money out of it, but it turned anti-Semitic when they discovered my mother’s maiden name is Rosenberg,” he said, adding, “One of them told me he’d do to me what Hitler did and beat me.”

After the first beating, one of the officers urinated on Flekman and fractured his tailbone with blows to the back, Flekman told prosecutors. Flekman also said the officers forced him to sit on the floor, explaining the chair “was not for stinking Jews.”

Ukrainian authorities have not named either detective.

Flekman eventually was released and collapsed on the street, where passers-by helped him get to a hospital. Police said he was not harmed during his arrest, but the Lviv Prosecutor’s Office has opened a criminal investigation based on medical reports that show his injuries “could only have been caused by blows with a blunt object.”

Anti-Semitic assaults are rare in Ukraine. But the severity of Flekman’s beating and its timing — just days before a violent nationalist march and a major conference on fighting anti-Semitism, both in Kiev — underline the growing vulnerability of the Jewish community in a country riven by a cultural and linguistic divide and beset by growing nationalism.

“This is a case of anti-Semitism by state officials, which makes it extremely serious,” Meylakh Sheykhet, a Jewish human rights activist, told JTA. “Maybe western Ukraine has a special anti-Semitism problem; I don’t know. It’s complicated.”

Lviv is considered the cultural capital of western Ukraine, a Ukrainian-speaking region that was part of Poland before World War II and is the locus of much of the country’s nationalist and xenophobic sentiment. Jews primarily reside in the Russian-speaking East.

The precursor to the ultranationalist Svoboda party was founded in Lviv in the 1990s, and the city remains a hotbed of support. Svoboda, whose leaders routinely use anti-Semitic slogans and refer to Jews as “kikes,” entered parliament for the first time last year, winning 10 percent of the vote to become the country’s fourth largest party. The party won 38 percent of the vote in Lviv, compared to only 17 percent in Kiev.

Oleksandr Feldman, a member of parliament and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, declined to comment on the Flekman case, but he acknowledged that Jews feel increasingly targeted by nationalists emboldened by Svoboda’s success.

“Even if Svoboda is not perpetrating the attacks, their activities strengthen the anti-Semitic sentiments we are trying to counter,” Feldman said.

Last week, Feldman organized a conference in Kiev to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the acquittal of Mendel Beilis, a Jew that czarist authorities tried to frame for the “ritual murder” of a Christian child. Hundreds of local and foreign dignitaries listened as speakers related the history of anti-Semitic blood libels.

“There is anti-Semitism in Ukraine and we need to fight relentlessly,” Feldman told JTA. “But there isn’t the state anti-Semitism that existed a century or even a few decades ago.”

Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Vilkul said at the conference that the country has made “huge progress in safeguarding minority rights.” But some critics charge that Ukraine hasn’t done nearly enough to combat anti-Semitism.

Efraim Zuroff, who heads the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, said the street where Flekman was assaulted, named for the nationalist Ukrainian politician Bandera, is a reminder that Ukraine refuses to fully confront the lessons of history. The center has protested the honoring of Bandera, whose troops are believed to have killed thousands of Jews when they were allies of the Nazis in 1941.

But little progress has been made, as many Ukrainians consider Bandera a hero because he fought Russian communists in a failed effort to prevent the country’s annexation by the Soviet Union.

“Glorification of Nazis and extremist nationalism is part of an atmosphere that affects Jews on the ground,” Zuroff said.

Even as guests were convening for the conference, Svoboda was organizing its annual Oct. 14 march honoring Bandera. The march had become an important date for neo-Nazis since Svoboda started organizing it in 2005. This year, the march featured masked men who clashed with communist protesters in several violent scuffles in Kiev.

Such activity has been part of a wider rise of far-right nationalist parties throughout Central and Eastern Europe in recent years. Hungary’s Jobbik party and Golden Dawn in Greece have adopted anti-Semitic imagery and slogans as part of their wider resistance to ethnic minorities and the encroaching authority of the European Union.

But historic animosity between Ukrainian nationalists and like-minded groups in nearby countries have created unexpected setbacks for Svoboda’s efforts to forge alliances with other nationalist groups. As a result, Svoboda has become increasingly isolated from pan-European alliances in which Jobbik is active.

“There is very little that Europe’s rising extreme-right forces have in common,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international affairs, “except the thread of anti-Semitism woven through all of them.”

Ukrainian city agrees to stop using Jewish headstones as pavement

The city of Lviv in Ukraine agreed to remove Jewish headstones currently used as pavement.

The grave markers, from cemeteries destroyed by the Nazis during their occupation of Ukraine in the 1940s, will be moved to the only cemetery that was not destroyed during the Holocaust, according to Sprirt24, a Netherlands-based news agency.

The Soviet Red Army, which moved in on the heels of the retreating Nazi army, used the headstones as pavement, according to Meylakh Sheykhet, Ukraine’s representative in the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union, who has lobbied for the headstones' removal for years.

He told Spririt24 that the local market was built by the Soviet authorities in 1947 from Jewish headstones, which were placed horizontally and covered with asphalt.

Viktor Zaharchuk, a local resident, showed the Spirit24 film crew some headstones with Hebrew writings that were directly placed on the ground as pavement.

The city was considering several designs for a monument at Lviv’s the only remaining Jewish cemetery, Spirit24 reported, though it is unclear whether that monument would incorporate the headstones after they are removed.

Shopping center construction damaging historic Lviv synagogue

The Jewish community in Lviv, Ukraine, has warned that construction of a new shopping center could seriously damage a historic synagogue next to the site.

Construction on the shopping center in downtown Lviv began on July 23 next to the Jakob Glanzer synagogue. Reports in the local media carried photographs and a description of the construction, and said drilling under the foundation of the building already had caused cracks to appear in the synagogue walls.

On Tuesday night, the Jewish Cultural Association of Lviv posted a YouTube video showing young people lighting candles at the synagogue to protest the construction. Earlier, the Jewish community sent a letter to the mayor and the chief architect of Lviv with questions regarding the reason and legal background of the construction work. A protest banner was hung declaring that the synagogue, built in the 1840s, is a protected architectural monument.

One of two surviving synagogues in Lviv, the Glanzer synagogue was used after 1988 as a Jewish cultural center, but suffered damage in a hurricane in 2010 and has been undergoing restoration.

During restoration work earlier this summer, previously unknown wall paintings were discovered in the synagogue. They include at least three large pictures situated on the southern wall under the women’s galleries depicting, according to partly readable inscriptions, Babylonian rivers, the Jerusalem Temple and the Western Wall.

Wiesenthal Center: Lviv mayor covers up anti-Semitism

The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned a statement by the mayor of Lviv, Ukraine, in which he said that in his city “there has never been anti-Semitism and there will never be.”

Efraim Zuroff, Israel director for the Wiesenthal Center, told JTA on Monday that Mayor Andriy Sadovyi’s statement was “a hopeless attempt to cover up very strong manifestations of anti-Semitism.” Sadovyi made the statement Sunday at a news conference.

Zuroff noted a restaurant in Lviv that encourages patrons to dress up like haredi Orthodox Jews and haggle over prices. Another restaurant celebrates the legacy of the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators led by Stefan Bandera who participated in the murder of thousands of Jews in 1941.

The Lviv municipality on June 30 is set to award a prize named for Bandera to individuals who “helped develop Ukrainian statehood.” Many Ukrainians view Bandera and his troops as anti-Soviet freedom fighters.

Zuroff called the prize “another display of gross insensitivity by the Lviv municipality, which continues to countenance anti-Semitism.” He reiterated his organization’s call to tourists to avoid Lviv’s controversial restaurants. Lviv, in western Ukraine, is a host city for the Euro 2012 soccer tournament.

The Bandera prize is “part of a whitewashing campaign” in Ukraine, according to researcher Irena Cantorovich, who published a study this month on Ukrainian commemoration issues at Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry.

Golden Rose shul’s ruins in no peril, Lviv official says

The ruins of the historic Golden Rose synagogue are in no danger of demolition, a Lviv official told JTA, despite reports to the contrary.

Archeological excavations are being conducted in an adjoining site, Liliya Onyshchenko, the head of the Lviv City Council’s Historical Environment Conservation Administration, said in a statement released Thursday to JTA in response to an article this week in the Western press that appeared to state that the 16th century synagogue’s ruins had been bulldozed.

Plans to build a hotel in the old Jewish quarter of the Ukraine city have stirred controversy.

The synagogue was largely destroyed during World War II; what remains are its foundations and a wall bearing arches. Onyshchenko told JTA that two Soviet-era buildings near the synagogue ruins had been demolished in 2009.

“Additionally, this area is dedicated exclusively to archaeological research,” she said. “No construction took place here, and there was no construction machinery operating here. None of the work taking place in the area had any negative effect on the preserved fragments of the Golden Rose Synagogue.”

The report by Tom Gross published in the Guardian’s “comment is free” section on Sept. 2 was headlined “Goodbye Golden Rose.”

Gross wrote, “Last week I watched as bulldozers began to demolish the adjacent remnants of what was once one of Europe’s most beautiful synagogue complexes, the 16th-century Golden Rose in Lviv.”

JTA ran a Breaking News item this week based on the Gross report.

Eyewitnesses this week told JTA that no building work was being done on the site. In addition, JTA has learned that Jewish representatives and city officials will meet next month to discuss how and when to implement construction of a memorial to Lviv’s Jews on the so-called Synagogue Square, the site of another destroyed synagogue and a prayer house (bet midrash) directly in front of the Golden Rose ruins.

Last year, Lviv staged an international architectural competition for memorials to mark that site and two others of Jewish history in the city—the Janivski camp, where more than 100,000 Jews were killed, and the one section of the destroyed old Jewish cemetery that has not been built over.

The winners, including for the Synagogue Square, were announced in December.

Helping an orphan of history recover its past

It’s not every day that you can help a city recover its history.

But that’s what happened recently in Lviv, in western Ukraine, when I served on the jury for an international design competition to mark and memorialize key sites of Jewish heritage.

Sponsored by municipal authorities in association with the Lviv Center for Urban History and the German Society for Technical Cooperation, the competition was aimed at counteracting widespread, and sometimes willful, amnesia about the city’s rich and convoluted past.

This amnesia, Deputy Mayor Vasyl Kosiv reminded us when our jury first convened, was the product of a century of often violent upheaval that left Lviv something of an orphan in history.

“Over the past 100 years, the ruling government changed at least eight times, often dramatically and often followed by tragic changes,” said Kosiv, who also was a jury member.

An elderly person literally could have remained in Lviv all his or her life but have been born in Habsburg, Austria (when the city was known as Lemberg); gone to school in Poland (when it was called Lwow); spent adulthood in the Soviet Union (when it was known as Lvov), and be retired now in Ukraine.

War and conquest radically altered populations as well as borders.

Before World War II, when the city was part of Poland, more than half the population was ethnic Poles, about 15 percent was Ukrainians and one-third was Jewish. The more than 100,000 Jews formed the third-largest Jewish community in Poland.

But the Jewish community was annihilated in the Holocaust, with nearly all synagogues and other traces of Jewish history destroyed. And after the Soviet Union took over in 1944, most of the local Polish population was expelled westward and replaced by Ukrainians and Russians moved in from the east.

Lviv became a focus of Ukrainian national identity, its multi-ethnic history largely suppressed or forgotten.

The design competition for Jewish sites, the biggest such competition ever held in postwar Lviv, was conceived as a step toward recovering collective memory.

The official brief was “to respond to the growing awareness of Lviv’s multi-ethnic past by contributing to the rediscovery of the city’s Jewish history and heritage through creating public spaces dedicated to the city’s historic Jewish community.”

It singled out three key sites of Jewish history to be redesigned as memorial areas:

* the “Valley of Death” that was linked to the notorious Janivski camp set up by the German occupiers in World War II, where more than 100,000 Jews were killed;

* the site of two destroyed synagogues in the city’s former downtown Jewish quarter, situated next to the visible ruins of the 16th century Golden Rose synagogue near the main market square;

* and the so-called “Besojlem,” the small piece of open ground that is the only part of the destroyed old Jewish cemetery not built over. All the rest is now covered by a big bazaar, the Krakovsky Market.

Architects from the United States, Israel and 12 other countries submitted a total of 70 designs for the three sites.

Our nine-member jury was an international mix of architects, urban planners and other experts, each of whom was looking at the proposals from different viewpoints and experience.

For two days, in a drafty hall where the designs were displayed, we debated each proposal not simply on its appearance but on its feasibility of implementation, sensitivity to place and, importantly, on its sensitivity to Jewish concerns, including halachah, or Jewish law.

I was among three Jewish jury members. Though I am not an architect or urban planner, I have spent years analyzing the restoration and redevelopment of former Jewish quarters in post-communist Europe.

The other two Jewish jurors were the Lviv-born architectural historian Sergey Kravstov, from the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem, and Josef Zissels, the longtime head of one of Ukraine’s national umbrella Jewish organizations.

The submissions were anonymous, so we had no idea from where they came.

In the end, remarkably, we were nearly unanimous in our choices for the three designs we awarded first prize in each category.

The team of Ming-Yu Ho, Ceanatha La Grange and Wei Huang, from Irvine, Calif., won first prize for the Janivski concentration camp site with a project that would turn the site into a form of land art—a raised walkway curving around a slope covered with slabs representing symbolic tombstones.

The Berlin-based team of Franz Reschke, Paul Reschke and Frederik Springer won first prize for the synagogue square site, a design that incorporated the archeological excavations of one destroyed synagogue and traced the form of another.

And Ronit Lombrozo, of Jerusalem, won first prize for Besojlem with a design that was particularly sensitive to the fact that the space was a cemetery where bodies are still buried. It envisaged a raised walkway and also the use of unearthed tombstones as part of a memorial site.

Other prizes and honorable mentions went to designs from Italy, Poland, Germany, Austria and Ukraine.

It remains to be seen, of course, when and whether the winning projects will be carried through. Kinks in the designs need to be worked out, and funding must be raised. Still, the entire process bodes well for the future.

Indeed, I was particularly impressed that the winners included several young architects from Lviv who were in their early 20s. Their approaches to reintegrating a component of local history that has far too long been suppressed, ignored, forgotten and/or distorted were thoughtful and sensitive—even though the world whose memory they were attempting to recover must seem to them by now like ancient history.

(Ruth Ellen Gruber’s books include “National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe,”  and “Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe.” She blogs on Jewish heritage issues at She is currently a scholar in residence at the Hadassah Brandeis Institute.)