The Great Synagogue of the Sadgura Rabbi, 1917
The Great Synagogue, 2002
Interior, about 1917
Interior, 2002


Historical Background: In 1842, Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin ("The Wunder Rabbi") fled from Russia and set up his hasidic court in Sadgura. His new court in Sadgura, then in Austria-Hungary, was one of the most elaborate rabbinical compounds in Eastern Europe. His followers traveled through dangerous international borders from his old court in Russia and from other countries in Europe to pray in his great synagogue. For additional historical information see the writings of Dr. Assaf, Tel Aviv University and his book, "The Regal Way, the Life and Times of Rabbi Israel of Ruzhin".

Current Status of Jewish Sites in Sadgura: Of particular interest for preservation are the aforementioned Central Synagogue, the home next door which had belonged to the Rabbi's complex, and the nearby Jewish Cemetery. The Central Synagogue, built before 1850, stands in ruins since its use as a machine shop for local collective farms during the Soviet era. We understand that it was returned to the "community" in 1991 but has been abandoned ever since. While the walls appear to be sound, a severe roof leak has developed in the rear. The once-elegant house located next to the Central Synagogue was used as a municipal office until at least 1995. It too is now abandoned and rapidly deteriorating from accelerating water damage. The unmarked Jewish Cemetery contains the graves of the Sadgura Rabbis and family members in a small building. Between 25% - 50% of the surviving headstones, which we estimate to number 4,000 - 5,000, are toppled or broken. Grazing goats, horses and cattle controls vegetation. Each tombstone was digitally imaged in 2002, and will eventually be posted in a searchable database on the internet. Yet there is no caretaker, and vandalism continues on site.

We Must Act Now: In our visits to Sadgura, we have witnessed the alarming decay of the Central Synagogue and the Rabbi's home next door, as well as the lack of maintenance at the Jewish Cemetery. Understandably, the small size of today's Jewish Community in Sadgura and Czernowitz (presently known as Chernivtsi), as well as the difficulties of doing business in the Ukraine, complicate the preservation of these sites. Efforts to preserve the Central Synagogue in the early 1990's with funding from private Jewish sources were unsuccessful. We believe it is important to act quickly to preserve these sites before they are destroyed by natural causes. We seek to open a dialogue with all interested parties through this preliminary document to insure that the remnants of Jewish culture in Sadgura are preserved to the greatest extent possible. To that end, we welcome suggestions from anyone who shares a common interest in this effort. Our initial objective, with this proposal, is to identify interested parties with whom we can work toward a common goal. We would appreciate information on all funding possibilities as well as what organizations and/or experienced individuals could assist in the administration of this project.

Who we are: The undersigned individuals represent an international group with direct family ties to the Jewish Community of Sadgura. We are deeply interested in preserving its historic Jewish sites for future generations. In the mid-1800's, the Bukowina Crownland of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was open to Jewish settlement, and many towns such as Sadgura, Czernowitz, and Radautz, became centers of Zionist and Hasidic movements; and Jewish/Yiddish cultural centers of renown. World War I, and increasing levels of anti-Semitic activities, disrupted these thriving Jewish communities, which the Shoah then destroyed. Today, the surviving Jews of the Bukowina and their descendants are scattered around the world, and only a handful of the original residents remain in the Bukowina. Yet, some of the structures and the cemeteries of these communities still stand. Ultimately, we would like to see a suitable memorial created for the Jews of Sadgura and the Bukowina region, perhaps at the Central Synagogue.

This statement was prepared by descendants of Sadgura and surrounding regions. We can be contacted by email as follows:

Melita (Fuhrman) Vickter, California, USA naturesmom@aol.com

Bruce Reisch, New York State, USA b.reisch@cornell.edu

Y. Aizic Oked Sechter, Rishon Le Zion, Israel yasoked@zahav.net.il

Clifford Rees, New Mexico, USA Cmrees118@aol.com

Nick Martin, Kentucky, USA nick.martin@mindspring.com

Carl Ulrich, Alberta, Canada culrich@incentre.net

Richard Conoboy, Washington State, USA riton@attbi.com

Asher Turtel, Tel Aviv, Israel, ashtur@netvision.net.il