we left the forest, I picked up several small stones to take with me to
Kupiskis to lay on the graves there in memory.
Someone else, near me, picked up some small pine cones as a
remembrance and then shared them with me as well.
The cones, to me, symbolized the essence of life, providing the
continuity for our being in that spot, still there to give testimony to
our faith and the survival of the Jews.
Our next stop was the Vilna Saltiniskiu Jewish Cemetery where we spent
some time visiting the many graves of well-known Jews who were buried
there. The cemetery was a busy
place with many visitors and caretakers and it has a main office where a
computerized listing of all burials is kept.
Several of the group members used the listing to locate family
The most famous burial in the cemetery is that of the Vilna Gaon.
His original grave was moved after the war from the old Snipiskis
Jewish Cemetery to the Saltiniskiu Cemetery where he is buried with
several other members of his direct family, members of the Pesseles family
with whom he was related, and the famous gentile convert Abraham ben
Abraham, Count Potowcki, in an enclosed tomb or ohel.
Littered with paper messages with blessings, candles, and other
things, the grave is a place of hallowed pilgrimage to many Jews from all
over the world. Our prayers
there were led by one of the Holocaust survivors of the Vilna Ghetto.
I had been told that there was a grave in the cemetery of a woman who had
been born in Kupiskis and I wanted to locate it and determine who the
woman was. I mentioned this to
the group and asked that they carefully look around them as they walked
through the cemetery and see if they could find such a grave.
within a few minutes, Vered Reiter, daughter of Alec Meyer, pointed to a
grave in front of the Gaon’s tomb. Sure
enough, there it was, the grave of Esther Gitel bat Ze’ev Katz.