Communist War on Jewish Dead: Graves of Ba’al Seem-tov and His Grandson Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav to
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Communist War on Jewish Dead: Graves of Ba’al Seem-tov and His Grandson Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav to

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The Jewish Communists have decided to carry out their plan contemplated for some years, of digging up the graves of the Ba’al Shem-Tov, the founder of Hassidism, situated in the Jewish cemetery of the Ukrainian town of Miedzybozh, and of his grandson, Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, one of the great leaders of Hassidism, situated in the Jewish cemetery of Uman, also in the Ukraine, Jewish Rabbinical circles in Riga, who are in touch with leaders of Jewish religious life in Soviet Russia have learnt, communicating their information to the Rabbinical authorities here.

Reports that the communist authorities intend to dig up the graves of the Ba’al Shem-Tov and of Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav have been received on a number of previous occasions. In the early part of 1929, a report came to Riga that the local Soviet of Miedzybozh was digging up the Jewish cemetery to lay it out as a public park. Many graves had already been dug up, it was stated, out the digging operations had stopped at the Mausoleum of the Ba’al Shem, which had not been touched. It was not known, the report said, whether the digging had been finally stopped, or was to be resumed.

The Jewish Communist papers have repeatedly protested against the Soviet authorities for allowing the tombs of the Ba’al Shem and of Rabbi Nachman to be used as places of pilgrimage by the Hassidim, who they said, flock there in large numbers. The leaders of the Bratzlav Synagogue in Uman, they wrote, were with the permission of the Soviet authorities printing Hassidicliterature for the use of the pilgrims. The graves must be done away with they urged, because they are breeding places for religious activities.

The practice of diggin up cemeteries for the purpose of laying out the grounds as public parks has been adopted by the Soviet authorities in a number of places. Some years back there was a great outcry when the white Russian authorities started covering over the Jewish cemetery at Liachovka, in Minak, and laying it out as a municipal park. In 1928 the same thing happened at the so-called Vilna Jewish cemetery in Minsk, near the Vilna Railway station, where the authorities decided to build a University city. The religious Jews held a meeting and decided to dig up the graves in the cemetery, where many famous Rabbis, including. Tevele Minsker and Rabbi Zisele Rappaport, are buried. and to convey the remains to the new cemetery for reinterment. Almost the entire Jewish population came with sacks, it was reported, to collect the bones, and followed in the procession which carried them to the new cemetery. In Perditchev, too, in the summer of 1929, the local Communists started digging up the 200 year old Jewish cemetery to lay it out as a public park. Workers engaged in the excavation work and policemen were attacked by crowds of Jews, who threw stones at them demanding that they should stop the work. The city authorities admitted that the cemetery was ancient but contended that the gravestones had fallen into decay and that the place had become a centre for spreading disease. In the small town of Gorovitchi there were serious disturbances reported not long ago, when the Jewish population collected in force to try to prevent the local Soviet building a military barracks and a Jewish school on land which was formerly a Jewish cemetery. The police and the fire brigade had to be called out to disperse the crowd.

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