To travel to Berdychiv was my desire since a long time. Today my friends and I went from Zhytomyr to Berdychiv – having a look on the Jewish heritage sites of both cities. Berdychiv’s Jewish cemetery is one of the most spectacular sites I’ve ever seen.
Marla, Jay, Vasyl and I left the hotel early in the morning and made our way to Zhytomyr’s last functioning synagogue. To our surprise we found a new building, integrating an older brick building into its modern architecture. Constructing works have not been finished, but the site gives prove of Zhytomyr’s well doing Jewish community. After a short stop at the former prayer house of the water carriers – now an apartment building – we went on to the Jewish cemetery and found a very well maintained place. It is interesting to see how the post-war tombstones slowly overgrow the old stones.
Berdychiv is not far away from Zhytomyr – a short ride of 40 kilometers. Even under Soviet rule, Berdychiv was supposed to be a Jewish town. Today it is a target of Hasidic pilgrimage. Beggars at the cemetery gate welcome foreigners with “shalom”. The site offers an extraordinary view. There are some tombstones from the post-war era, but most stones are older. They all have a characteristic “boot-like” sthape – seemingly a regional style. The whole site appears like a big sculpture.
In the town center we found the former Great Synagogue – now a warehouse. Next to it is a smaller synagogue connected to an Hasidic pilgrim center. In a short distance is located what remained of Berdychiv’s old Jewish cemetery – a single reconstructed grave of a Tsaddik in a public park. In the backyard of the Carmelite Monastery is a small memorial for “Soviet citizens” murdered by the Germans, built over a mass grave. Nothing indicates they were Jews.
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