Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Adar 5761 - March 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Renovation of Gravestones in Eastern Europe
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Two weeks ago a gravestone left Eretz Yisroel for Kovna which commemorates HaRav Elchonon Wassermann Hy"d and the other kedoshim killed by the Nazis ym"sh and buried together with him in a communal grave.

It is generally thought that his burial spot is in the ninth row, but according to the testimony of local people and of former Kovna residents living in Eretz Yisroel, amongst them HaRav Moshe Gibraltar who witnessed the executions, the kedoshim are buried in the seventh row. At the moment there is only a decorative plaque in Russian on the communal grave, which makes no allusion to the massacre.

Even this plaque became eroded over time and it became necessary to renovate it. Derech Tzaddikim, an organization headed by Rabbi Yisroel Meir Gubbay made preparations for the erection of a new gravestone referring to HaRav Elchonon zt"l and his final place of rest. Two weeks ago the gravestone was flown from Eretz Yisroel to the Ukraine and once the authorities have issued the necessary permits it will be put up.

Recently the grave of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism in Mezhibezh, also underwent a serious restoration. The ohel which was refurbished and set up on his grave in the past, was placed in an unsuitable location. The walls of the structure stood on the graves of two of the great talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov, and the need arose to move the structure. Those responsible for the renovation, in addition to taking meticulous measurements, also used plans provided by HaRav Moshe Bik, a rov in Borough Park, whose father, HaRav Avrohom Yehoshua Heshel Bik zt"l, was the rov of Mezhibezh and a descendant of rabbonim of the town. In addition, a guest house was built, as well as a mikveh and a shul.

Rav Gubbay told Yated Ne'eman that in the past the place was locked up and visitors were dependent on the graces of a local non-Jewish man who demanded money every time he had to open the gate. He also lived far away and was difficult to get hold of. The whole area became desolate and neglected. Since the renovation the whole area has become much more accessible, and anyone coming to the grave can make use of the guest house. The renovations took three months, and the gravestone, which was prepared by an expert stonemason, was brought from Eretz Yisroel. The tombstones of the Ohel Yisroel from Apta, the Degel Machane Ephraim and Rav Boruch Mezhibezh were renovated at the same time. They are all buried within the new refurbished ohel.

Derech Tzaddikim works tirelessly at renovating the graves of tzaddikim and gedolei Torah, especially in Eastern Europe. The gravestone of the Maharsho in the Ukrainian town of Ostrof which was renovated, had to be renewed after antisemitic elements destroyed it.

Efforts are now concentrated on Kalish, where the Mogen Avrohom is buried. His grave is situated inside the grounds of a school and restoration work got under way, but the principal opposed the renovation and was successful in preventing the completion of the work. Negotiations are currently taking place with the authorities to enable the work to be completed.

Another focus of attention is Turkey, where the graves of gedolei Yisroel have been renovated, amongst them that of HaRav Naftali Hakohen the Semichas Chachomim. A lack of funds is preventing the refurbishment of other cemeteries in Russia, the Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.