Commemorating Memory

Dateline: Sidorovichi, Western Ukraine, March 15, 2010: A light snow fell over-night and, in a way, was a fitting backdrop. For on this cold, blustery March morning, we were traveling to Sidorvichi in Western Ukraine. Even with GPS, this tiny village of 200 – situated between Kiev and Chernobyl – was difficult to locate. As we proceeded slowly down the narrow road we could see in the distance that a group of villagers had gathered. We were still not sure we had reached our destination. But as we came closer, sitting side-by-side in the fresh snow, we spotted the flags of the State of Israel and the country of Ukraine, blowing together in the wind, and we knew we had arrived.

We had journeyed to Sidorvichi with Yuval Rabin to honor the memory of his father, Israel’s slain Prime Minister and Nobel laureate Yitzhak Rabin, and where his grandfather, Nehemia Rabichov, was born in 1886. Our purpose this morning was to lay the cornerstone for a monument in honor of Yitzhak Rabin.

It was apparent that most of the villagers were in attendance and we were met with the traditional bread and salt. Jewish leaders from the surrounding communities along with local political leaders also joined us.

At the time of Nehemia’s birth, five Jewish families lived in the village; today none remain. Yet the bond the village holds to Rabin is strong. The village librarian proudly showed us a reference to the Rabin family in a book containing the village’s history. A young member of the Ukrainian Parliament, alluding to Rabin’s memory, spoke highly of Israelis saying that they have “true faith in what they are doing – for their people and for their country.” And Yuval told us this was “the beginning of a search of new identity.”

The ceremony was organized under the sponsorship of Limmud FSU, whose next program was set to open that evening in Truskovets, near Lvov, Ukraine. The theme for this year’s Limmud FSU programs is Limmud Nobel in honor of the prize-winners of Jewish origin, born in the Former Soviet Union and Israel.

The founder and organizer of Limmud FSU, Chaim Chesler, announced that within the next few months a commemorative monument devoted to the Rabin family and Yitzhak Rabin’s Nobel Prize will be unveiled in Sidorovichi.

About: Limmud FSU brings together, and empowers, young Jewish adults who are revitalizing Jewish communities and culture in the countries of the former Soviet Union, and in countries with Russian speakers around the world.

images: top – Chaim Chessler and Yuval Rabin being welcomed; bottom – village librarian with Felix Mindel and Yuval Rabin.