Roots

18 Apr

An article I wrote was just published in the Detroit Jewish News about a town in Belarus where my dad and maternal grandmother were born.

A Sculpture of Remembrance and Hope

By

 Carla Schwartz

David-Horodok history teacher Gennadiy Grigorievich Bosovets with his students at the sculpture in the town square.
David-Horodok history teacher Gennadiy Grigorievich Bosovets with his students at the sculpture in the town square.

A history teacher ignites the flame remembering the Jewish descendants of the small town of David-Horodok, Belarus.

Some educators leave a legacy to their students. History teacher Gennadiy Grigorievich Bosovets of David-Horodok in Belarus takes it one inspirational step further. He initiated the creation of a monument in remembrance of the Jewish descendants of David-Horodok in the town square.

Carla Schwartz Contributing Writer
Carla Schwartz
Contributing Writer

Many of the descendants today, fondly known as David-Horodokers, live in Metro Detroit. The Detroit David-Horodok Organization has 600 families on the mailing list, while the Israeli David-Horodok Organization has 200. Both groups include members worldwide and include second- and third-generation Holocaust survivors. David-Horodok, Davyd-Haradok and David-Goradok are just some of the spellings of the town.

According to the website Shtetl Routes, the city was named after Prince David, grandson of Yaroslav the Wise and founded in 1100 with Jews settling in the 1500s. The Jewish community flourished in the 1800s, with three synagogues. Due to pogroms and antisemitism in Russia, many of the descendants left during the late 1800s and continued to leave until 1939.

From 1921 to 1939, David-Horodok was part of Poland, and afterwards the city became part of Russia. The Nazis entered the town in 1941 and shot 7,000 men, women and children in the forest. When the Soviets entered the town in 1944, no Jews were left in David-Horodok.

Today, there are no Jewish residents in the city.

But the memory of the Jewish presence is alive, thanks to historians and David-Horodokers. At the mass grave site, there is a monument established by the Israeli organization in 2009. Bosovets teaches his students about the area. When he noticed the path to the memorial was difficult for visitors to reach, he conceived the idea to construct another sculpture in the city center.

This project was funded by both the Detroit and Israeli organizations of descendants of David-Horodok.

The woodand granite sculpture, by local artisan Sergey Zhilevich, has a carving
of a father and son on one side and a mother
and daughter
on the other.
The wood and granite sculpture, by local artisan Sergey Zhilevich, has a carving of a father and son on one side and a mother and daughter on the other.

The new sculpture not only marks the path to the mass grave site, but also relays the Jewish history in town. This major endeavor included securing funds, permits, design and installation.

The prominent sculpture of wood and granite was designed by local artisan Sergey Zhilevich with a carving of a father and son on one side and a mother and daughter on the other. There is an inscription in English, Hebrew and Russian: “In memory of the 500-year-old Jewish community of David-Horodok, brutally annihilated by the Germans 1941-1942.”

The monument was completed in 2020, but due to COVID, the dedication was postponed. Special ceremonies for International Holocaust Remembrance Day were held on Jan. 27, 2023, at the mass grave site and at the new sculpture in the town square. Candles were lit and flowers placed as Bosovets reiterated the plight of the Jews from David-Horodok to his students.

Amy Friedman Brody of West Bloomfield and Roz Blanck of Franklin, are co-presidents of the Detroit David-Horodok Organization and believe this sculpture of remembrance evokes hope and is making an indelible imprint.

According to Blanck, “The monuments created are extraordinary because future generations will learn about the history of the Jewish community in David-Horodok.”

Connecting David-Horodokers

The Facebook page of the Descendants of David-Horodok connects landsmen and friends worldwide.

When former Detroiter Cheri Eisenberg, currently living in Atlanta, visited David-Horodok in 2010 with more than 100 David-Horodokers, she was enthralled by the history. “The trip greatly impacted me, and in 2013, I was motivated to start a Facebook page to connect other landsmen.”

Many of her relatives perished in David-Horodok, while some of her Eisenberg family settled in Detroit. She explains that the page evolved fusing her interest in Yiddishkeit and her family roots.

There are 1,500 followers, mostly with roots in David-Horodok, but others from neighboring towns like Stolin, Rubel and Turov joined. The page connects people with cousins in Israel, Argentina, Chile and all over North America. Recently, a family in Switzerland connected with cousins in Israel.

As the administrator of the page, Eisenberg feels rewarded. “Opening the doors to family connections is without a doubt the most rewarding dividend of our Descendants of David-Horodok Facebook page.”

Carla Eisenberg Schwartz is a former columnist for the Detroit Jewish News and blogger at www.motownsavvy.com. Her father, Abe Eisenberg, was born in David-Horodok as well as her maternal grandmother, Ida Szusterman Mittler.

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2 Responses to “Roots”

  1. Debra Ernst April 18, 2023 at 4:13 pm #

    Loved reading this!! 

    Beautifully written. Xo 

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  2. dajason April 19, 2023 at 10:46 am #

    Congratulations! So important to record and remember…Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

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