FIELD SCHOOL ON JEWISH ETHNOGRAPHY AND EPIGRAPHICS IN BESHENKOVICHI (AUGUST 3rd - 12th 2016)

The school in Beshenkovichi (Belarussia) was organized by Sefer Center together with the Institute of Slavonic Studies (Russian Academy of Sciences) and supported by Genesis Philanthropy Group, UJA Federation of NY and Russian Science Foundation.  

It was a part of many Sefer's expeditions in former Jewish shtetls in Belarussia which started in 2012. Their goal is to reconstrcut the history of shtetls by oral witnesses given by Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants and historical documents; as well as research and documentation of material inheritage, first of all - catalogization of Jewish cemeteries. 

The idea to organize the school in Beshenkovichi was iniciated by the project of preserving and reconstruction of historical heritage of Beshenkovichi shtetl. This project is coordinated by Jewish community of Vitebsk and international community "Beshenkovichi Shtetl Memorial Restoration" (led by Anna Klimovich from Saint Petersbirg). Volunteers from different countries work two years on the Jewish cemetery in Beshenkovichi. Now there is an idea to create a Jewish museum in Beshenkovichi. Sefer Center decided to support the iniciative of the international team and joined the project by organizing the field school on Jewish ethnography and epigraphics. 

29 people participated in this school. They were from Belarussia, Russia and Ukraine. The epigraphic group was led by Alexandra Fishel and Mikhail Vasilyev; the ethnographic group was led by Olga Belova and Andrey Moroz.

During the field work the Jewish cemetery in Beshenkovichi was catalogized completely (1200 tombstones were described). First tombstones are dated by the end of the 18th century, the latest - the beginning of the 20th century. The detailed map of the cemetery was made too. Ethnographic group recorded 64 interviews (total length - 65 hours). These interviews were made both with Jews from Beshenkovichi and with non-Jews who lived there. 

Many archive documents, photo and videomaterials were collected. 

School programm included plenary lectures:

  • Andrey Moroz "Urban Text in Oral History and Folklore"
  • Alexandra Fishel and Mikhail Vasilyev "Special Features of the Jewish Cemtery in Beshenkovichi"
  • Olga Belova "Ethno-Cultural Contacts between Slavs and Jews in Vitebsk District: Ethnographical Sources from 19th-20th Centuries and Contemporary Field Materials" 

The participants also made a tour in Vitebsk.

School programm in Russian (click on the image)

Collected materials now have to be proceded and prepared for the publication in book. 

Photos