ESJF’s educational activities have begun in Ukraine, under the pilot project sponsoring the mass surveys from 2018-2020. On November 6th, educator and Jewish cemetery expert Dr. Alexandra Fishel led 50 secondary school students on an excursion to the Jewish cemetery in Bohuslav, Kyiv oblast.
ESJF’s educational projects work in close cooperation with schools and educators to make Jewish material heritage more accessible for young people. We aim to facilitate engagement with local history in a tangible, straightforward way. Rather than dealing in abstract historical information, the cemeteries bring students face to face with history as it unfolded where they live. By learning how to recognise and decode Hebrew formulas on matzevot, the learning potential of the sites is opened to the students, starting a conversation about local history and heritage.
In Bohuslav, students were introduced first to local Jewish life from a historical perspective, and then to the significance of cemeteries in Judaism, before being taught how to read Hebrew dates. They then learnt to recognise the most common epigraphic formulas and symbols found on Jewish gravestones, as well as their meaning. Finally, they were brought to a Jewish cemetery site, where they applied their newly gained knowledge under the guidance of experts.
ESJF’s educational strategies are always adapted to fit the conditions of each site. For instance, as the gravestones in the Bohuslav Jewish cemetery do not include any symbols, the visiting students were encouraged to decipher dates and to focus on the different shapes of the tombstones, rather than symbols.
ESJF’s educational projects in Ukraine will continue throughout November, targeting four secondary schools in Vyshnivets, Kyiv oblast.
Photos: Dr. Alexandra Fishel guiding students on the Jewish cemetery of Bohuslav, Ukraine; presentation in secondary school of Bohuslav; excerpt from presentation on Jewish life in Bohuslav.