Saturday, November 24, 2007

Letter from Dokshitsy and response

On November 3rd, I received the following letter:

Republic of Belarus
Dokshitsy Regional Magistrate
October 22, 2007
Dear Aaron Ginsburg :
Dokshitsy District Soviet asks for your help in the reconstruction of the Jewish Cemetery in the town of Dokshitsy.
During the WWII, in May 1941, Germans killed about 3000 to 3500 Jews, who were buried at the Mayakovsky Street.
In 1964 in accordance with the Decree by Dokshitsy District Soviet the Jewish Cemetery was eliminated. In 1965 in the place of the Jewish Cemetery a park was planted.
In 2005 during repair works on Pionersky Street some grave stones previously covered by soil were discovered. The Dokshitsy District Soviet considers it is necessary to preserve the remnants of the Jewish Cemetery: to beautify the place, to install a memorial.
Work on the reconstruction has been started, however financial resources are needed to continue the work. We ask for your financial help in the beautification of the place of the former Cemetery. We hope for your support and understanding in the intention to create a Memorial to the hundreds of Jewish citizens of Dokshitsy.
Vice - Chairman S.M. Demeshko

I was very happy to have received a letter directly from the authorities. Although I did not know about the letter, I had arranged for Franklin Swartz to drive to Dokshitsy and meet with the authorities, which he did on November 2rd, the day before I received the letter. In a long call via Skype on November 5th, I learned from Frank how the town had done a good job erecting the stones, and we discussed how the Friends of Jewish Dokshitsy could help.

Today, I responded to the letter from S M Demeshko with a letter of my own, although, of course, his letter was overtaken by events. Here is the text of my response:
The Friends of Jewish Dokshitsy, Inc.
c/o Aaron Ginsburg, 43 Ames St. Sharon, Massachusetts 02067 USA
A Massachusetts non-profit corporation formed to perpetuate the memory of the Jewish communities of Dokshitsy, Parafianov, and nearby villages. Aaron Ginsburg, President and Treasurer, Richard Fein, Clerk,
Ruthann Ruthchild, Noah Horowitz, directors.
web site: Phone:1-508-682-3115 skype: aaron.ginsburg

Chairman S M Demeshka
Dokshitsy District Executive Committee of the District Soviet of People's Deputies
211720 Dokshitsy Lenina 31
November 23, 2007

Dear Chairman Demeshka,

Thank you for your recent letter. Ironically, I received it the day after you met with Dr. Franklin Swartz, although I did not know the result of the meeting at the time I opened the letter. I want to reconfirm that I have asked Dr. Swartz to work with you on my behalf both to finish the work that the town of Dokshitsy started, and to plan the re-dedication of the Jewish cemetery on May 23, 2007. I have full confidence in Dr. Swartz. In addition to being a good person, he has the necessary knowledge and experience. I will generally communicate through him. However, if you feel the need to communicate with me directly do not hesitate.

Dr. Swartz has informed me how carefully the tombstones have been re-erected, and I am grateful. With his help, I am coming up with plans to build a fence around the entire site, assist in landscaping, and erect a memorial stone to the Jewish community. Across the street at the massacre site, I hope to somehow point out that in addition to other residents of the town, most of the Jewish residents of Dokshitsy were killed in May, 1942. I will work with you to come up with the appropriate wording.

You may wish to explore the website I have created at I have updated it to refer to the work that you have done, to the dedication, to include the pictures Frank sent of the cemetery, and to add a blog.

By respecting the dead as best we can, we are also showing respect for the living. The good will that Dokshitsy is expressing will help to correct the one-sided view of Jewish life there, that not surprisingly, tends to be obsessed with the Holocaust.

I plan to attend this event, and hope to be accompanied by people from Europe, America, and Israel. I look forward to meeting you and the citizens of Dokshitsy at that time, and to working with you on this and similar projects.


Aaron Israel Ginsburg

Sharon, Massachusetts, USA

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I have created this blog to record in detail the activities of The Friends of Jewish Dokshitsy, Inc. I created the Friends to help save the remains of the Jewish cemetery in the town in Belarus where my father was born. Just yesterday the town of Dokshitsy signed off (in a phone call with Franklin Swartz on the dedication day of May 23, 2008, which is Lag B'Omer(the 33rd day of the month of Omer in the Jewish calender. The date was proposed by my daughter Rebecca on Saturday when I was discussing the cemetery and the site of the Shoah directly across the street. I happened to mention that most of the Jewish residents were herded to their deaths on Lag B'Omer, 1942, and should pointed out that this was when the dedication should occur. I realized immediately that this was the best possible date, and was superior to my initial proposal of Yom Hashoah. I sent a message to Eitan Kremer, a leader in the group of Dokshitzers and their descendants in Israel, who concurred and who may bring a group to the dedication. By chance I got a message from my cousin Mark Izeman yesterday. Mark is an attorney currently residing in Moscow. Mark intends to be at the dedication.

On November 2nd, at my request, Franklin Swartz, an American residing in Minsk, met with the officials in Dokshitsy, including the chairman (mayor). To my surprise and delight the town had started to restore the cemetery by erecting the extant tombstones, of which there are at least 150. Frank informed me that the work was carefully done, and sent pictures that confirmed this. He was assured that the entire cemetery, most of which is a vacant lot, would be preserved, because, after all, it is a cemetery. Help was sought to build a fence around the entire property. Frank and I also discussed a memorial stone in the cemetery, landscaping, and a corrective plaque or monument at the site of the Shoah, where the current monument makes no reference to the fact that most of the Jews of Dokshitsy were murdered there.

Since November 2nd I have been in a tizzy, since this is the culmination of almost two years of effort. There is much planning to be done. Fund raising needs to resume in earnest.

In future posts I will review how I became involved in this project, the history of the project, and going forward will try to regularly share developments and ideas. Your input is always welcome.