The Image: Loli Kantor
Sheina and Lev
Bershad, Ukraine 2007
Loli Kantor: Sheina and Lev are Jewish Holocaust survivors from Bershad, a small town located in the Vinnytza Region in western Ukraine and one of the last Shtetles in Eastern Europe. Bershad was a center for the Hasidic movement and consisted mainly of Talit (prayer shawl) weavers and artisans. During WWII, the Germans created a ghetto in this town where 25,000 Jews were sent to from Bessarabia and Bukovina. By 1942 10,000 Jews remained. In 1959 the Jews numbered 2200. After the end of Soviet rule most of the Jewish population emigrated to the west.
Bershad numbers about 50 Jews today, who gather in this 200-year-old synagogue which serves as both synagogue and community center, a place to celebrate / observe Jewish holidays. As Bershad does not have an ordained Rabbi, one of the community members, Lev Kitchander, learned how to pray and serves as the community Rabbi. It feels as though time has stood still, and although not orthodox observers, the Jews of Bershad have a very strong Jewish identity. I made three separate trips to this interesting place, in Fall 2005, Fall 2007 for the holiday of Sukkoth, and April 2008 for Passover. On my third visit I no longer saw Lev. Lev died in 2008, one week before I my arrival.
Two Rabbis Dancing
Drohobych, Ukraine 2007
Loli Kantor: This image was taken in 2007 inside the synagogue in Drohobych, Ukraine. Drohobych is in the Lviv Region which was part of Galicia, Poland before WWII. I first visited the synagogue in November 2004, and returned on every one of my trips. The most recent was during the Bruno Shultz Festival in 2010. The synagogue, known as the Great Coral Synagogue of Drohobych, was once the crown synagogue of Poland. During Soviet times the synagogue was used as a furniture store. In the early 1990's it was returned to the Jewish Community. It suffered a fire which destroyed the roof. When I arrived in November 2004 the roof was repaired and money was raised to continue some restoration. This photograph was taken in 2007 after a meeting the Rabbis had with the community leaders about restoration budget and plans. After the meeting the rabbis went to the synagogue, prayed and - as in the Hassidic tradition - danced in celebration. Restoration of one room began shortly after. In 2008 I attended the first Passover Sedder in 60 years, with 25 people in a room which was restored and is being used as a sancutuary.