Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No Jews in Skalat

According to Yad Vashem's Pinkas Kehillot, there were 3256 Jews in Skalat in 1890, out of a total population of 5889. Now there are none. The Germans - with the willing, enthusiastic help of the local Ukranians - killed as many as they could. The last of the official killing was on the holiday of Shavuot, seventy-five years ago. Some were left hiding in the forests, but the community was gone. Skalat was declared Judenrein.

The old shul, eighteen years ago.
More recently a warehouse
In some sense, the community lives on among the survivors and their descendants, a group in which I count myself even though no ancestor of mine has lived there for nearly 150 years. I have been attending the annual memorial for Skalat for eighteen years, the day after Shavuot, at the town monument in the cemetery in Holon. Part of a row of monuments which includes other "Pikholz towns" (Zbarazh and Husiatyn) and a couple of my mother's ancestral towns (Pleshchenitsy and Vilieka).

Since the illness and passing of Chaim Braunstein, Zvika Sarid has been running the ceremony, such as it is. Until this year, it has been his mother Yocheved Sarid who has made the phone calls to remind everyone. Her husband Yitzhak died twelve years ago and her older brother Motel Weissman died four years ago at age ninety. And now in her ninety-second year, Yocheved has passed the phone-calling duties to Edna Nakdimon of the second generation.

The last few times I have written about the Skalat, I found it depressing. The number of actual survivors who are well enough to attend has dwindled and participation of the second and third generation has waxed and waned. Mostly waned. We barely reached twenty two-three years ago. I was pleased to see that the numbers were up this year. We were thirty

Yocheved spoke about her own experiences during the dark days. Tova Zehavi - known to everyone as Giza - talked about finding life in the forest, beginning with the Kol Nidre service there. Bronia spoke about the day the Germans came. I do not remember hearing Giza and Bronia speak at such length during previous memorials.
Yocheved with the microphone, Bronia in blue, Giza in between
Yocheved's four children were all there as was her sister's son and grandson, the latter a captain in the army, in uniform. Shammai Segal's family was well-represented, as usual, including grandchildren.

Henia is one who has not attended for several years. A monument to her father's town of Jawarow is in the same row. Her mother was born in Skalat but is no longer well enough to attend the memorial. Henia is finishing a book about her mother Tonia's Kaczor family. I helped her with some of the research eight or ten years ago. Now she is ready to do DNA. I suggested she do her mother's as well, while she still can. Who knows what might turn up.

So this is where we meet. Once a year. We all said kaddish together.

There are no Jews in Skalat. May their memory be for a blessing.

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