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Dedication Ceremony

October 15, 2001

The ceremony was preceded by a Guided Tour - for anybody interested, please see the historical files
(We have to warn you that some external links might have become invalid with time)
Thanks to the efforts of our project coordinator in Poland, Andrzej Omasta, an accomplished silver smith by trade, we quickly got all the necessary permits, hired the contractors and proceeded with the work about the beginning of July. The first surprise on cemetery clean up was discovery of many monuments buried under more than 60 years of debris and overgrowth. Amongst these was a beautiful monument of Moishe Aron Safir, the grandfather of Moishe Gold, our Canadian project liaison person. Together with the monuments returned from the farmer's field 10 miles away, the total rose to about 190. Amongst these monuments was the stone of one a revered Rabbi of Ozarow, Rabbi Arye Epstein, confirming that these monuments were indeed from the Ozarow cemetery. Sadly, of the more than a thousand Jewish cemeteries in Poland before the war, very few remain intact today and still fewer have any monuments. Mr. Gold and his grandfather's matzevot
Moishe Gold standing next to
the restored matzevot of his grandfather

Phase 1 of the project soon expanded to include professional filming of a documentary of the OCRP. The documentary would be offered to Holocaust museums, shown to visitors, especially youth groups, and placed on the internet. We believe it also will provide valuable resource information for the news media, historians and those wanting to restore their ancestral cemeteries. A crew was hired in Poland to film the cemetery before and after, interview the mayor, the priest, Rabbi Schudrich, Andrzej Omasta and many others. Additional filming was done in Buffalo, NY and in Toronto, Canada to document the stories of Ozarowers and their descendants. The documentary should be ready some time next year.

Old matzevots
Old monuments discovered during restoration

The construction work began about mid August and we were again surprised and delighted that two monuments dating from the early 1700's were found near the old wall. Up until that point, the earliest remaining monuments were from the late 1800's. It has been suggested by Dr. Eleanora Bergman of the Jewish Historical Institute that the Ozarow cemetery, like others in Poland, may have been built in layers as it filled, because of the limited burial space allowed Jews.

On Oct. 14, the day before our visit to Ozarow, our international tour group assembled together, many for the first time, for dinner at the Kahal. The Kahal is located next to the Warsaw Synagogue. OCRP coordinators who had never met one another before embraced at last in the joy of the moment, that so much had been accomplished in such a short time. There we also met the mayor of Ozarow, Marcin Majcher, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Monica Krajewska an expert and author on Jewish cemeteries in Poland, and Juliusz Wendlandt, a government official who twenty years earlier had the foresight to arrange that the Ozarow cemetery be listed as a historical site, an act that likely greatly helped in its subsequent preservation.

OCRP team with Mr. Majcher

Mr. Marcin Majcher meeting the OCRP team at the kahal in Warsaw (from left: Norman Weinberg, Marek Lipsztajn, Mark Milgrom, Marcin Majcher, Andrzej Omasta) Rabbi Schudrich with the Weinbergs and M. Lipsztajn at the Warsaw synagogue

October 15th was a very special and emotional day for all of us. Together with a bus load of 25 Ozarowers and their descendants, including Rabbi Tanchum Becker (the Ozarower Rebbe, living in Israel), and Colonel Rabbi David Zalis, a US military chaplain in full military dress, we traveled from Warsaw to Ozarow, about a three hour drive. We were expecting to meet the mayor along with other members of local and town government, the priest, representatives from the US and Canadian embassies, contractors and some townspeople, perhaps about a dozen or two dozen people. As we approached Ozarow at noon on this warm and sunny day, we were greeted outside the cemetery gates by over 500 people! At a microphone, we were welcomed by the mayor, and the priest, Father Stanislaw Szczerek. Letters were read from the President of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski and the Israeli Ambassador, Shevach Weiss. John Armstrong of the US Embassy in Warsaw greeted everyone and he read a letter of congratulations on the success of the project from Warren Miller, Chairman of the US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. Judy McLennan, wife and representing the Canadian Ambassador, gave greetings and congratulations on behalf of the Canadian government. Rabbi Becker and Father Szczerek shook hands and each spoke about the importance of this occasion.

Mr. Marcin Majcher speaking at the dedication ceremony

Mrs. McLennan in the center
Father Szczerek and Rabbi Becker
Rabbi Becker accompanied by the Weinbergs, his son, and Rabbi Zalis

Dr. Lena Bergman with Norman Weinberg

Mr. John Armstrong from the US Embassy in Warsaw

There were no signs of antisemitism. Indeed we felt an atmosphere of mutual respect, reconciliation, and friendship. (There were no evident displays of antisemitism during the eight day tour we took of Jewish Historical Sites in Poland. And the group of rabbis who left our group part way to do there own tour, likewise found no antisemitism. Certainly this exists as it does everywhere that Jews live and travel. We suppose that the years since the war has left a younger generation of Poles of much greater tolerance. Pope John Paul's urging of Poles for reconciliation and forgiveness for the fostering of antisemitism in the past may have also helped.)

the gates are open

The gates were opened after the speeches and we entered followed by the crowd. The gates bear the new metal plaque in five languages, with the engraved inscription:

This cemetery, noted for its beautifully carved monuments, dates back more than 350 years. It remains an eternal memorial to the Jewish community of Ozarow that had once thrived here. The Jews of Ozarow were deported by the Nazis in October 1942, to perish in the flames of the Holocaust. Some 120 of those martyrs lie buried here in a mass grave. In 2001, a worldwide group of Jews, both Ozarowers and their descendants, in cooperation with the people of Ozarow, and many others, initiated the restoration of this cemetery and made plans for its future maintenance. It is our hope that your visit to this remarkable place will provide you with a glimpse into the deep religious and cultural heritage of the Jews of Ozarow, a heritage that lives on and will continue to live throughout time. We gratefully acknowledge the generous contributions toward the financing of this project, as well as the time and energy devoted by so many from around the world, that have made this important restoration possible.

Ozarow Cemetery Restoration Project: Tishrei 5762-October 2001

As we reassembled in front of the commemorative monument at the edge of the mass grave, people from the town placed bouquets of flowers at the monument, standing on the edge of the mass grave. Father Szczerek and Rabbi Becker read the moving lament of the 79th Psalm in Polish and in Hebrew respectively, referring to the aftermath of the destruction of the First Temple and the many Jews slaughtered with no one to bury them.

The inscription on the monument in Hebrew and English reads:

Their blood has been spilled as water…and alas not buried.

Psalm 79:3

In Sacred memory of the Jewish martyrs of Ozarow and surrounding communities who sanctified the Holy Name of The Almighty in life and in death, and who tragically perished in the flames of the Holocaust. May their hallowed lives be for all generations to come a beacon of light, strength and inspiration.
Dedicated Tishrei 5762-Oct. 2001

During inspection of the wonderful work on the cemetery, which was done with great care and creativity by the local workers and construction crew, several of us were met by townspeople. They had stories to tell of the prewar years, and the terrible atrocities committed by the Nazis and their henchmen in Ozarow during the war. They showed lists of Jewish friends they had known or went to school with, wondering if any were still alive. And there were stories of Jews hidden by the townspeople, who converted to save their lives. We also learned of a Righteous Pole, Mr. Jan Jasinski who had personally hidden a Jew, at the risk of the lives of him and his family. There were many children present too, who happily crowded around Moishe Gold later as he distributed Canadian flag pins.

Rabbi Becker meeting the town people

Touring the renovated cemetery

From left: Mr. Marcin Majcher, Mr. Jan Wisowski (building contractor), Rabbi Zalis, Andrzej Omasta, Henryk Dabrowski (quary owner)

Mrs. Franciszka Paniec shares her childhood memories with the film crew

Afterwards, our tour group was led to the town's Cultural Center, and a thoughtfully prepared room containing prewar and wartime photographs of Jewish content, as well as paintings by artists from Ozarow and the vicinity. More speeches and presentations followed. We also had a chance to tour the former synagogue where a prayer was said by Rabbi Becker. We would like to restore the synagogue to something more appropriate than the plumbing warehouse, maybe a religious museum and meeting place, especially for touring groups and visitors to Ozarow.

The Weinbergs are presented with a gift by Mr. Majcher at the town's cultural centre

During our visit to Ozarow, we met the quarry owner, Henryk Dabrowski. He told us his father spoke Yiddish and knew Hebrew, and before the war carved many monuments in Hebrew. Very meaningfully, each of our tour group received a valuable souvenir: a hand crafted silver mezuzah created by the talented Andrzej Omasta, embellished with beautifully carved stone from that very same quarry. Andrzej Omasta, had not only become an expert on Jewish cemetery restoration in Poland but a designer of exquisitely beautiful mezuzot. He had done neither just five months earlier!

The group picture of the tour participants in Kazimierz

Rabbi Becker presents a gift to Norman Weinberg

Rabbi Becker presents a gift to Mark Milgrom

Itzek Alterman singing at the market place in Kazimierz

We left Ozarow satisfied that we had accomplished our major objectives and in so doing, we did much more than we could have imagined…including an important step towards reconciliation between peoples. We were leaving behind a lasting memorial to the heritage of our ancestors and their way of life in that small shtetl. We had restored as best we could this place of remembrance and for teaching future generations.
Perhaps, important to all of us on this project is that we, the children, did return. And we spoke for the dead and for those murdered in the Holocaust.

For additional information please contact:
Dr. Norman L. Weinberg,
tel.:716-688-5272; fax: 716-636-6093; e-mail: nweinberg@adelphia.net

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©OCRP 2001