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Munkatch in Victoria

Friday, 9 April, 2010 - 1:00 pm

Dear Friends,  

12 years ago I celebrated the last days of Pesach in Munkatch, a town that is now in western Ukraine. I was there helping the local Jewish community with the celebration of Pesach. Watching the back row of our Shul this week made me feel a sense of closure... 

Before World War II, while still a part of Hungary, Munkatch was a vibrant center of Jewish life. With many thousands of Jews, very active synagogues, schools and a grand Rabbi, whose name was respected throughout the world, the town’s Jewish community thrived.  Visiting Munkatch in 1998, I found that those who survived the holocaust and their descendants were extremely disconnected from their heritage, by 50 years of communism. Only a few older people came to the old synagogue on Shabbat and for festivals, feeling the responsibility to represent the good old days of this Shtetl.

There was one man who made a tremendous impression on me.  In his mid 90s, he led the services by heart, with special Hungarian pronunciation and beautiful ancient melodies. This man, who spoke fluent Yiddish, remembered the town in the good old days and constantly tried to convey to us that what we witnessed was not the real Munkatch.  His eyes were brightly lit as he shared the memories of his youth, but he finished with great sadness as he told of Munkatch’s diminished Jewish activity and community.  It was heartbreaking, especially with the knowledge that although the town still housed hundreds of Jews, many of them were completely ignorant concerning their own Jewish heritage.

Now, 12 years later, we celebrate the last day of Pesach at the Chabad Family Shul in Victoria. Although it is a mid-week service, 40 men, women and children are in Shul.  In the back row, there is an older man, Mr. George Pal, whom you know from a previous post.  George was born and raised in Munkatch, until at the age of 17, when he was sent to Auschwitz and survived.

When I look at George watching the little children running around the Shul my mind strays back to my visit to Ukraine. Yes, Munkatch lost its glory, but Judaism is still alive and strong, continuing to inspire Jewish souls wherever they may be.

Comments on: Munkatch in Victoria

Batsheva wrote...

I am trying to find out information about a small town not too far from Munkatch. Our family came over before WWII where it was part of Hungary. The name of the town was pronounced as "Kadanov". I read this article, and perhaps this elderly gentleman would know of the town?