Kozelets’ Jewish Cemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Ukraine
Region
Chernihiv
District
Kozelets
Settlement
Kozelets'
Site address
Kozelets' Jewish Cemetery
GPS coordinates
50.91212,31.08771
Perimeter length
487 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
no
Type and height of existing fence
Concrete panelled fencing with metal gates, installed by ESJF.
Preservation condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery
General site condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery. The cemetery is large and severely overgrown with trees and bushes. Near the entrance, the site is a dense grove. However, there are multiple derelict spaces around the site.
Number of existing gravestones
80
Date of oldest tombstone
1912
Date of newest tombstone
2009
Urgency of erecting a fence
Fence is not needed
Land ownership
Property of local community
Preserved construction on site
There are remnants of the foundation of what may have been a Beit-tahara.
Drone surveys
Yes

Historical overview

The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown. However, it can be inferred from the dates on the preserved tombstones that the cemetery already existed in the early 20th century. Moreover, it can be found on Russian maps from the 1880s. The fence was erected by ESJF in 2015.
It is known that in 1666, there were already several Jewish homes in Kozelets’ (4 belonged to artisans and 4 to merchants). By 1766, Jews accounted for about 8% of the residents (a total of 2,273 people). According to the census of 1847, in Kozelets’ there was one Jewish community, it comprised 658 people. In the second half of 19th cent. the community continued growing. In 1862 there were 2 synagogues. According to the census in 1897, there were 1,634 Jews (a total of 5,141). In February 1900 Meer Volfovich Abramovich became the official rabbi. From 1908, the rabbi in Kozelets’ was Yehuda-Yitzhok Reznikov (1876). There is evidence of a pogrom in 1905. In 1910, the community numbered 2,702 members (which shows a growth of around 40% since 1897). By that year, the town had was a Talmud Torah, as well as a private Jewish school for boys, and two synagogues (or one synagogue and one prayer house). In 1918, another pogrom took place. As a result, in 1926 only 748 Jews (21% of total population) remained in Kozelets. The Jewish population continued to decline and numbered 394 (8% out of total) in 1939. Kozelets’ was occupied by German forces in September 11, 1941. The first Jews were shot dead on September 17 and 25, 1941 (5 people). On October 22-24, 1941 125 Jews were shot. The community was re-established in the 1990s. For many years it was headed by Anna Proshina (1935-2014). Rita Urchenko took the post upon Anna’s retirement. As of 2016, the Jewish population of Kozelets was reduced to 2 people. Yehuda Leib Tsirelson, Chief Rabbi of Bessarabia, a member of the Romanian parliament, and a prominent Jewish leader and Halakha scholar, was born in Kozelets’ in 1859. Yuri Davidovich Levitansky, a poet and translator, a master of the lyric and burlesque genres, was born in Kozelets’ in 1922.
The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown. The cemetery can be found on Russian maps from the 1880s. The oldest identified gravestone in the cemetery is dated 1898. The cemetery was used also after WWII (the last burial took place in 2008). Holocaust victims from the area were buried in a mass grave in front of the entrance to the Jewish cemetery.