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November 15, 2002 - Image 109

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-15

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Inhabitants of a vanished shtetl take up residence in Washington.

SHARON SAMBER
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

T

ance and respectability that many Jewish immigrants had
when they left Europe for the goldina medina, or the "gold-
en land," as America was known in Yiddish.
Ziegelman was 10 when he left Luboml in 1938 with his
mother and sister. At the time, there were about 5,000 Jews
there.
Four years later, 4,000 of Luboml's Jews were marched to
pits on the edge of town and killed. Only 51 Jews remained
in the town after the war, and no Jews live there today.
In one of his trips back to Luboml, Ziegelman spoke to
the townspeople, some of whom recalled that the economic
situation had been better when Jews lived there in the 1930s.
The town's mayor, however, told Ziegelman that some

he Polish shted of Luboml no longer exists, but
a trove of photos and artifacts that document
the town's Jewish past has a new lease on life in
downtown Washington.
With a handshake and a thank you earlier this month,
Aaron Ziegelman donated his collection of photographs
and artifacts from Luboml to the Library of Congress. The
exhibit will be housed permanently in the library's
American Folklife Center.
Ziegelman, 74, a New York real estate magnate and phi-
lanthropist who was born in Luboml, spent years gath-
ering photographs, letters, Judaica, maps and other
materials documenting everyday life in the typical
shtetl community. The area is part of Ukraine today.
James Billington, the librarian of Congress, praised
Ziegelman for having "kept alive a memory that oth-
ers sought to destroy"
The Polish ambassador to the United States,
Przemyslaw Grudzinski, noted that shtetls are an
important part of Polish Jewish history, and made ref-
erence to the rabbinic concept that to save one life is
tantamount to saving the whole world.
"To save the memory of one shtetl as a living organ-
ism is to save the life of other shtetls," he said.
Indeed, the images of Luboml — Libivne in Yiddish
— are representative of many Jewish communities that Marking the donation of the Luboml collection are, from left to
right, Dr. James H
Da: Jill Vexlei; Aaron Ziegelman,
existed across Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. .
Marjorie Ziegelman, Fred Wasserman, Eileen Douglas, Ron
Ziegelman wanted to portray the regular lives of
Steinman and Ambassador Przemyslaw Grudzinski.
Luboml's Jews. His collection for years was a traveling
exhibit, displaying rare postage stamps, vodka labels,
wedding invitations, silver Kiddush cups and other artifacts residents don't even know Jews ever lived there. Ziegelman
is considering sending some memorabilia to the town.
to audiences in the United States, Europe and Israel.
The materials in the collection also were used in a docu-
Ziegelman had gone back to Luboml years ago without a
mentary film called Luboml: My Heart Remembers.
project in mind. After seeing Schindler's List, however, he
In the film, former residents talk lovingly about their
began wondering how he could tell the stories of people
"beautiful little town," its marketplace, the Great •
murdered in the Holocaust.
Synagogue and their hard but good daily life.
They faced anti-Semitism at school, they said, but such prob-
Window Into How Jews Lived
lems did not appear to detract from their positive memories.
"The shtetl was an entity within a larger world, but it was
With Holocaust education placing so much emphasis on
complete for them," said Ron Steinman, one of the film's
statistics, Ziegelman said, he began collecting artifacts that
producers. Douglas/Steinman Productions completed the
provided a comprehensive picture of what daily life was
film, scheduled to air this fall on PBS, in a little over a year.
like for a shtetl's inhabitants.
Both the exhibit and the film use many images and pho-
"These lovely people were murdered," Ziegelman said in
tographs of Luboml. Though there were religious Jews in
an interview. "That has more of an impact than numbers.
the shtetl, many Jews were not that observant and therefore
It's a stronger message."
took many pictures, explained Jill Wexler, executive director
Michael Grunberger, the head of the Library of
of the Luboml exhibition project.
Congress' Hebraic section, said the library needs to work
When people immigrated to the United States and other
on developing collections about life in Eastern Europe.
countries they took their prized possessions — including
"This is a window into how Jews lived — not how they
their photographs — with them, and have shared them for
died, but how they lived," he said.
the exhibit, she said.
By donating the collection to the Library of Congress, it
Ziegelman never seems to tire of telling about how his
becomes part of a permanent collection and will be digi-
collection came together and how it will soon be seen by
tized for the Internet, Ziegelman said.
thousands of people.
But beyond that, he had a symbolic reason for the dona-
"It's the fulfillment of a dream," he said. Li
tion: It represents the fulfillment of the dream of accept-

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