Cartline_smlr.GIF (454 bytes) Ancestral Travels

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Ivano Frankivsk, Ukraine

A Cyber-Memorial to its pre-WWII Jewish Community
Photographs - Shadows of the Past

Old Synagogues

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(pre-WWI)      The Great Synagogue    (Sept., 1997)

[photo source: S. R. Juni, Sept. 1997, copy made from a photographic copy of a pre-WWI antique postcard in a collection created from various private collectors. The collection of copies is located at the Ivano Frankivsk Historical Museum, located on the ground floor of the Ratush, old city hall building in the center of Rynek, the center town square.]

Stanislawow was a city with over 50 synagogues, ranging in size from the large, elegant Great Synagogue in the center of town (shown above), to tiny shtibelekh, some of which were merely the living rooms of the homes of neighborhood rebbis, which functioned as places for a minyen to pray, and to study. There is one functioning synagogue today in Ivano Frankivsk. One could say that there is "only one;" and yet one could say that it is a miracle that there actually is a functioning synagogue at this time, over 50 years after the virtual destruction of the entire Jewish community. Keep in mind that Stanislawow had a total population of over 100,000 (perhaps over 150,000), with 25,000 to 30,000 or more Jews prior to WWII. (Different sources vary on exact figures depending on the exact time period referenced in history. We'll add a listing of population statistics to this web site in the future.)

The remaining synagogue is indeed the original Great Synagogue, pictured above. The building was returned to the Jewish community when Ukraine seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991 upon petitioning to the local authorities by Rabbi Kolesnik. (Rabbi Kolesnik was born in Ivano Frankivsk after WWII to Jewish parents stemming from further east in Russia. His parents, having survived the Holocaust, were resettled by the Soviet government in Ivano Frankovsk. He has created a functioning center of Jewish identity by opening the doors of the Great Synagogue for regular services, all year round, despite lack of heat (removed during the Holocaust), and other necessities. The original pews have been replaced by folding chairs. Every shabes, enough Jews come to make a minyen, and services are held. Every High Holiday, Jews come from all of the surrounding towns and villages to pray here. Reb Kolesnik counts the synagogue membership at over 300. A miracle; a tragedy with an eternal flame of  hope and strength. (Note: Most, but not all, of the 300 Jews currently in the area did not originate in this city, but were resettled here by the Soviets from further east in Russia at various post-Holocaust times. Nonetheless, they are Jews who are faithfully holding our place in geographic and cultural history. We depend on them, and are grateful to them.)

In September, 1997, I had the precious honor of praying in the Great Syngagogue, here in the city of virtually all of my ancestors, at a Sabbath service, and also at a Rosh Khodesh service. I still tremble when I ponder my cherished memories in that place. Each moment, during the services, while meeting with the Rabbi in his study, bending over my family notes with some of the few Jewish survivors who had actually lived in Stanislawow before the war, searching in vain for anyone who might remember my then-large family, the warnth of the women who sat with me at the kidush table after services, my tears when we all sang familiar Yiddish songs together in celebration of the Sabbath, all of these moments will forever resound in my heart as a metaphoric echo of our ancestors' voices.

Follow the links below to join me on a tour of this beautiful and important building. May this structure, and all of the events that happen inside, from the leadership of the kind heart and soul of Rabbi Kolesnik, continue to keep and hold the reality that despite the vast efforts of our enemies, our people will not disapear from our home, our spiritual home. As Jews have done for thousands of years, we carry this spiritual home deep inside out souls, wherever we live; yet this building and all that it represents defiantly recall the tens of thousands who dare to never be forgotten. Barukh hashem.

ek_13.jpg (22190 bytes) A former Talmud Torah study house in Ivano Frankivsk (Stanislawow).

[photo source: Joyce Field, ShtetlSchleppers tour - September, 2000.]

The Great Synagogue - R33s28_small.jpg (2126 bytes)
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Susannah R. Juni
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Page Modified: 07/29/01 05:26 PM