Wednesday, October 20, 2004
MARIUPOL, Ukraine - Jews of Mariupol honored Holocaust victims at a special ceremony, held at the place where an estimated 6000-10,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis in a mass shooting that took place in October 1941. The mass grave is located near the village of Agrobaza, located just five kilometers from Mariupol in the Donetsk Region.
Participants in the memorial ceremony assembled near the building where the Nazis had gathered Jews before driving them to the place of execution. Today, this building hosts the Priazovsky Technical University. A bas-relief featuring a Menorah and a Magen David, affixed to the front of the building to honor Holocaust victims, reminds visitors and passers-by about the tragic events that took place here so many years ago. Local Jews and guests laid flowers at the bass of the Holocaust memorial.
The event involved Jewish community Chairman Moisey Kertzer, who made great efforts to have the memorial established,;Igor Kovalevsky, the Chairman of the Jewish Cultural-Educational Center in Mariupol; local lay leaders; Jewish veteran leader Moisey Gram; representatives of the City Administration and representatives of the regional branch of the Jewish Agency.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Golod from the Jewish community of Donetsk recited the Yizkor prayer and said a Kaddish at the event. Many other participants in the ceremony came to honor the fallen by reciting poems and stories in their memory, everyone concurring that such a tragedy must never occur again.
Founded in 1779 by Crimean Greeks, the Jewish presence in this region dates back to 1802, established as part of the Ekaterinoslav Guberniya. By 1847, the Jewish community numbered 111 persons, first gathering for prayer in a rented building and eventually establishing its first prayer house in 1864. Today, of the nearly half million people currently residing in Mariupol, several thousand are Jews. Local Jewish community has established a Jewish Community Center and Synagogue.
The Jewish community of Mariupol, a member of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, is also part of the united Jewish community of Donetsk Region, headed by Rabbi Pinchas Vyshedsky.
The Jewish community of Mariupol regularly organizes events for all major Jewish holidays when the community also hosts Chabad Lubavitch emissaries and rabbinical students, who assist with organizing and conducting such public celebrations. For Sukkot, the community is also visited by a mobile Sukkah, which provides every Jew with an opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of shaking the Four Species.
Children from local Jewish families have the opportunity to participate in the
regional 'Gan Israel' summer camp, as well as a Passover camp organized annually by the Jewish community of Chernigov. Through such experiences, these youngsters are becoming immersed in the world of Jewish traditions.