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>  News Releases >   2005 >   June

Rabbi leads Dartmouth students to Belarus for cemetery restoration

Restored Jewish burial grounds  keep lessons of Holocaust fresh

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 06/06/05 • Contact Genevieve Haas (603) 646-3661

Nineteen Dartmouth students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have traveled to Belarus to restore two abandoned Jewish cemeteries. This will be the fourth such trip to Belarus sponsored by Dartmouth Hillel, the Jewish student organization, under the leadership of Rabbi Edward Boraz. The group will leave June 13 and return June 25.

Dartmouth students work to restore a Jewish cemetery in Belarus.

Lunna is a tiny village near the western border of Belarus that is home to less than 1,000 people. Boraz and the students will spend the time restoring Lunna's desecrated, abandoned and overgrown Jewish cemetery. Their restoration work is preceded by a ten-week course on the Holocaust and genocide awareness and a visit to Auschwitz.

In past years, the program participants have returned with video footage of their trip which Boraz used  to compile a short documentary. This year, the group plans to film its visit to Lunna with a special purpose. Lunna is the birthplace of a Holocaust survivor named Aaron Welbel. During the Holocaust, his older brother Lazer Welbel managed to save Aaron from death in the camps. The trip to Lunna will be filmed as a gift to the brothers, who live in Chicago and are unable to accompany the students to their childhood village. Ultimately, the students plan to use the film of Lunna as well as taped interviews with Welbel to make a documentary.

Dartmouth students work to restore a Jewish cemetery in Belarus.

Remarkably, the effect of this restoration work has been to revive the memory of the Holocaust and promote intercultural understanding in the villages the program has visited, according to Boraz. He and his students visit Belarusian towns in which all the Jews either fled or were killed more than 50 years ago. There, they find Jewish cemeteries overgrown and destroyed, in some cases, desecrated. They rebuild fences, repair grave markers, trim vegetation and record information about the people buried there. This year, Boraz returned to one of the earliest sites they restored and found that the tiny village had been maintaining the cemetery in his absence. In effect, says Boraz, the program "is a way of creating local memorials to the Holocaust" all over Belarus. Said Boraz, "There are thousands of Jewish cemeteries, not just in Belarus, but all over Europe." He hopes that the work the Dartmouth students have accomplished will be the start of a movement to restore and honor all of Europe's forgotten Jewish burial grounds.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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