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Book Review of the English Translation of the Yurburg Yizkor Book, By Professor Dov Levin, Oral History Department Hebrew University (noted expert on Lithuanian Jewry)
You do not have to be a bibliographer in order to understand that Yizkor Books of Jewish communities which were destroyed in the Holocaust are still being published, but there is no doubt that their number has decreased.
One of these books is the "Yurburg Yizkor Book", published recently, and probably most readers were not even aware of its existence. The main innovative uniqueness of this book expresses itself in the quality of its editing as well as its content. It has two parts, written at different times, with an interval of several decades between them. Every part embodies much assorted material of this old and special community, due to its location, the composition of its population and its economic and cultural situation.
The first part of the book was published in Jerusalem in 1991, in Hebrew, by "The Organization of Former Residents of Yurburg in Israel" with the active participation of, and edited by, Zevulun Poran (Petrikansky). This translated part extends to over 2/3 (556 pages) of the English book under discussion. The editor of this book, Joel Alpert, helped by assistant editor Josef Rosin, was particularly careful to include all Hebrew and Yiddish material, insisting that the translation should be exact and that names of people and places would be properly translated into English. It was his intention to include general information about the town and its Jewish community; memoirs and authentic descriptions written by members of the community who grew up in the town almost until the time of its destruction; hundreds of thrilling photos of generations of families and of the day by day life of Yurburg Jews. But what may be of special interest for the genealogists among the readers are the lists of names of Yurburg Jews: those who were privileged to die naturally and be buried in the community cemetery, as well as those who were murdered by the Nazis and their Lithuanian neighbors from way back, and also the few survivors.
No less interesting and thrilling is the additional material collected and added to the second part of the book by the industrious editor and compiler Joel Alpert. Thanks to his energy and personal motivation to widen the circle of more participants interested in commemorating Yurburg Jewry, the 180 pages of the second part include memoirs, documents and photos of former residents of the town and its vicinity, of people who have been living in the USA for a long time, such as Naividel, Eliashevitz, Laden, Feinberg, Krelitz, Rosin-Hilelson, Craine and others. This part also contains several essays written by Israeli residents who have a special affinity to the Yurburg community, either as a result of family connections or because they are engaged in historical research concerning this community: Professor Ze'ev Bernstein from the Tel-Aviv University, Professor Dov Levin from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Gita Abramson-Bereznitsky and others.
Particular mention and praise should be given to the B.A. thesis "Holocaust in Jurbarkas" prepared in 1998 in Vilnius University by student Ruta Puisyte under the guidance of Professor Meyer Shub from this University. Apart from the historical importance of this work it is praiseworthy to note that this Lithuanian young lady showed a great deal of personal courage, integrity and bravery to reveal those local Lithuanians by name, who were the murderers of their Jewish neighbors.
It is also worthwhile mentioning the wide ranging and moving essay "A Journey to My Past" by Fania Hilelson-Jivotovsky.
In summary, it seems that judging from the quality of the material included in this book, it can be considered a small encyclopedia, which could serve as a model for similar books.
As can be understood from the short review above, there is no doubt that we are speaking about a significant innovation, thanks to the courage of the editor in presenting a book to the reader containing facts, memories and the description of a way of life covering a period of about a dozen generations, who were residents of a Jewish town and who today are spread all over the world, the common denominator being: "One generation passes on its history and ideas to the next."