fbpx
Thursday, June 4, 2020

Resurrecting Lithuania’s Jewish past

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

During the course of one month in 1941, most of the thousands of Jewish residents of Utena, Lithuania, were rounded up by the Nazis, taken into the forest and murdered. Only a few dozen managed to escape.

That episode nearly buried the entire history of the centuries-old town, but through the efforts of the nonprofit MACEVA and volunteers like students at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge, this history is finally being unearthed. On Jan. 23, the entire eighth-grade class at Heschel filled the gym to translate the Hebrew inscribed on recently uncovered gravestones from Utena.

MACEVA, from the Hebrew word for “gravestone” (matseyva), is an organization that aims to preserve evidence of old Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania. Grant Gochin, a member of MACEVA’s international advisory board, came upon the idea of restoring these burial grounds when he visited Lithuania a few years ago, interested in his own family’s history. 

“I realized that these cemeteries had fallen into complete disrepair, and that if we could read the gravestones, we could gain a small look into the lives of these people and help us honor their memory,” said Gochin, 49, a wealth adviser from Chatsworth. 

It quickly became a multinational effort as Gochin got kids here and in Lithuania involved in the restoration and translation project.

“I wanted the students to learn that the Jewish people didn’t just arrive here randomly or disappear abroad without so much as a footprint, but that they came from an immense, majestic history that needs to be understood,” he said.

Efrat Yakobi-Gafni, the middle school Hebrew coordinator at Heschel, saw the project as a way for students to not only use their Hebrew, but to understand Jewish history in a much more personal way. 

“They are learning this history in a very real sense, not just from a textbook,” she said. “It imparts an understanding of the destruction of Jewish communities that they cannot fathom just by reading.”

One of the gravestones. Photo by Julie Bien

In Lithuania, students went into the forests, located the gravestones, cleaned them, photographed them and uploaded the images onto MACEVA’s Web site. Heschel students then accessed the photos online and used their Hebrew skills to translate the names, dates and descriptions on the stones, which were then posted at litvak-cemetery.info.

Romy Dolgin, a student at Heschel, found that the ability to work hand-in-hand with eighth-graders across the globe was one of the most exciting things about this project. 

“Just knowing that right now, kids on the other side of the world are looking at these tombstones, and it’s connecting us to them, is very thrilling,” she said.

“Obviously,” Romy added, “the most important part of this project is to remember and understand that these people whose names are on these gravestones lived there and had real lives, and their families want to be able to trace back to these villages to find out where they came from.” 

Gochin said that while the Heschel event was just for one day, their involvement with the project doesn’t need to end.

“The students can remain involved after doing this here. And their parents can as well,” he said. “There are thousands of untranslated gravestones that need to be translated. Hopefully, this will help the next generation understand and appreciate the history.”

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

58% of Israelis Believe West Bank Annexation Could Lead to a 3rd Palestinian Uprising, Survey Finds

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Half of the Israeli public supports applying Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, a new survey found, while 58...

Israel’s Official Account: Jesus Was Jewish, Not a Palestinian

The State of Israel’s official Twitter account issued a tweet on June 3 sarcastically pointing out that Jesus Christ was Jewish, not Palestinian. The exchange...

Serbia’s Education Ministry Adds International Holocaust Group’s Definition of Anti-Semitism to Website

(JTA) — The Education Ministry of Serbia has added to its website a definition of anti-Semitism that includes some examples of hatred against Israel. The...

Palestine Museum Tweets Image of George Floyd With Palestinian Flag, Keffiyeh

The Palestine Museum in Connecticut tweet out an image of George Floyd wearing Palestinian keffiyeh and emblazoned with a Palestinian flag. The museum tweeted on...

I Am a Black, Jewish American and I Matter

As I sit and watch my city burn and my people suffocating, I cannot help but wonder, “Where do I stand?”

Amid Accusations, Lea Michele Apologizes for Racist Behavior

In the wake of allegations by African-American former castmates about her behavior towards them on the set of “Glee,” Lea Michele has issued an...

From Quarantine to Curfew: A Question of Villainy and Accountability

A friend who recently moved to Los Angeles from London last year commiserated with me: “I came here during raging fires, then coronavirus, and...

A Question for Joe Biden on Israel

“Well, Joe, where were you on the night before that unfortunate vote?”

Rep. John Lewis Taught Me Good Advocates Have Allies

In February, I headed to Washington D.C. for a national public policy conference for the Los Angeles chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. I was thrilled...

Pandemic Times Episode 51: Riots and Racism, A Lethal Brew

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. The challenge of holding conversations in a polarized and terrified world. How do we manage our lives during the coronavirus crisis?...

Culture

Amid Accusations, Lea Michele Apologizes for Racist Behavior

In the wake of allegations by African-American former castmates about her behavior towards them on the set of “Glee,” Lea Michele has issued an...

Rep. John Lewis Taught Me Good Advocates Have Allies

In February, I headed to Washington D.C. for a national public policy conference for the Los Angeles chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. I was thrilled...

Mohamed Hadid Removes Apology for Sharing Cartoon Blaming Israel for Police Brutality

Mohamed Hadid, a real estate mogul in Los Angeles County, took down an apology for sharing a cartoon insinuating that Israel is to blame...

LA Museum of the Holocaust to Host Virtual Events on Anti-Semitism, Confronting Racism

Anti-Semitism has been on the rise worldwide in the last few years, but hate crimes have increased since the Coronavirus outbreak and risen even...

Free Online Screening to be Available of Holocaust Rescue Film ’50 Children’

The film shows how 50 kids raced against the clock to get out of Vienna as atrocities escalated in 1939.

Latest Articles
Latest

58% of Israelis Believe West Bank Annexation Could Lead to a 3rd Palestinian Uprising, Survey Finds

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Half of the Israeli public supports applying Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, a new survey found, while 58...

Israel’s Official Account: Jesus Was Jewish, Not a Palestinian

The State of Israel’s official Twitter account issued a tweet on June 3 sarcastically pointing out that Jesus Christ was Jewish, not Palestinian. The exchange...

Serbia’s Education Ministry Adds International Holocaust Group’s Definition of Anti-Semitism to Website

(JTA) — The Education Ministry of Serbia has added to its website a definition of anti-Semitism that includes some examples of hatred against Israel. The...

Palestine Museum Tweets Image of George Floyd With Palestinian Flag, Keffiyeh

The Palestine Museum in Connecticut tweet out an image of George Floyd wearing Palestinian keffiyeh and emblazoned with a Palestinian flag. The museum tweeted on...

I Am a Black, Jewish American and I Matter

As I sit and watch my city burn and my people suffocating, I cannot help but wonder, “Where do I stand?”

Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein Accused of Sexual Assault by 4 More Women, Including Minor in New York Lawsuit

A new lawsuit filed against Harvey Weinstein in New York city accuses the former film producer of raping four women, including one who was...

Lil Dicky Is the Larry David of Rap in His Show ‘Dave’

If you haven’t heard of the comic rapper Lil Dicky, and you are at least tangentially interested in rap or comedy, you should familiarize...


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 51: Riots and Racism, A Lethal Brew

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. The challenge of holding conversations in a polarized and terrified world. How do we manage our lives during the coronavirus crisis?...

Moav Vardi: Israel and the world

Moav Vardi describes the Israeli population's relationship with its allies and opponent countries around the world. Moav Vardi is the Chief International Correspondent in Kan...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x