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December 12, 2003 - Image 80

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

t

DARBENAI

(continued from, page 14)

Voted 2003 Best Western Store
By Hour Magazine

SCOTT COLBURN

gods

VeciA.

e • Livanta, III (248) 476-1262

to

WIN A FANCY COGNAC
COLOR DIAMOND NECKLACE
IN 14 KT. WHITE GOLD,
SINGLE HEART SHAPE
DIAMOND 2.25 CTS.

dia604: 10-9

6

Sail: 102 - 5

Drawing Is
December 31,
2003

RETAIL VALUE
$9,800

• NEED NOT BE PRESENT TO WIN.

• MUST BRING ENTRY FORM IN PERSON
TO FREDRICK JEWELERS

• NO PURCHASE NECESSARY

Name

Address

Phone

F redrick Jewelers

SERVING THE BLOOMFIELD AREA FOR OVER 33 YEARS

12/12

2003

16G

CALL FOR HOLIDAY HOURS

869 W.

LONG LAKE ROAD • BLOOMFIELD HILLS • 248-646-0973

Finally, we arrived in Darbenai — the
place where my mother was born.
Chaim even found the house where the
wedding picture was taken, still stand-
ing. The sight of my family's home gave
me a sense of joy, sadness, regret and
pride, as well. Across the way was the
mill (now just a pile of rubble) where
my grandfather worked and where farm-
ers were working in the same potato
fields I had heard about as a child.
I realized that if my mother's family
hadn't immigrated to America, I would
either be a victim of the Holocaust or I
would be digging potatoes too. It was an
epiphany. I never felt so proud to be
Jewish. In spite of the Final Solution,
aided and abetted by the Lithuanians
and Soviets, I am alive. The ground in
central and Eastern Europe may be
soaked in Jewish blood, but we are still
here.
Lithuania is trying to come to terms
with its role in the Holocaust, to restore
the Jewish Quarter in Old Town Vilnius
and to memorialize the Jews who per-
ished. It is beyond sad to visit a town
square that used to be a flourishing com-
munity, a center of Jewish culture and
education, where all that remains of
that Jewish life is a small sign on the side
of a building.
Pre-war, there were 82 synagogues in
Vilna; today, there is only one — saved
because it was used by the Nazis as a
hospital. It was restored in 1995 and
services are held daily, led by a Rabbi
from Boston, Mass. I realized some-
thing that had never occurred to me
before: the connection between a Jewish
presence and a thriving community that
becomes a center of learning and com-
merce. I feel a tremendous sense of
pride at the contributions Jews make to
a country, totally out of proportion to
their numbers.
Lithuania becomes a member of the
European Union this spring. They
know they must recognize their past in
order to have a future. One way to
acknowledge the atrocities of the past is
to build appropriate monuments of
remembrance. There is also an econom-

ic advantage. Tourists will want to visit
a Lithuania that is no longer hostile, and
many American Jews will want to see
where their parents and grandparents
once lived.
The purpose of my trip was to estab-
lish a project that the Lithuanian gov-
ernment, with the assistance of the U.S.
commission, could undertake. Together
with another member of the commis-
sion, Steven Some from Princeton, N.J.,
whose family also came from Lithuania,
we decided that our goal would be to
restore the Uzupio, the second Jewish
cemetery (used from 1830-1941), estab-
lished in Lithuania. The first Jewish
cemetery, where Rabbi Elijahu Gaon
was originally buried, was desecrated in
1957 and turned into a large sports
arena. The headstones in that cemetery
were used as stairs.

But the Uzupio cemetery is today an
overgrown field. Many of the headstones
in that cemetery have been saved and are
stored in a warehouse. An architect has
been hired to design the restoration of
the cemetery, with input from the
Jewish community in Vilnius. We are
determined to recreate the cemetery, put
the headstones back where they belong,
and establish a fitting memorial with a
plaque honoring donors.
Rebuilding the cemetery is a doable
project, something that I can see hap-
pening in a relatively short amount of
time. Phase I represents a $50,000
investment — half will come from the
Lithuanian government, and half from
individual contributors in the United
States. Anyone who has roots in
Lithuania can contribute. When this
project is completed, it will be a sacred
memorial from those of us who live in
the present to those gentle souls from
our past. It will be both a tribute to
those who perished and a resurrection of
a lost culture. It will be a testimonial
that Jews once lived here, and perhaps
will again.

To learn more about the ceme-
tery, contact Harriet Rotter at
(248) 855-5200.

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