In accordance with his instructions, Reb Boruch Ber was buried at the Zaretcha Cemetery in Vilna. No burials had taken place at the cemetery for decades due to lack of space. Reb Boruch Ber knew this when he wrote his burial instructions. However, he wished to be buried near his father. Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, zt”l (1863-1940), Rav of Vilna, ruled that the burial should take place in the Zaretcha Cemetery. At that time, Vilna was under the dark cloud of threatening enemies from both east and west. On that short Friday (sunset was at 4:13 p.m., candle lighting at 3:55), the burial hurriedly took place.
The Communist Russians had occupied Vilna on September 17, 1939. The Germans captured Vilna in June 1941. Ninety-five percent of the more than quarter-million Jews of Vilna were murdered during the Holocaust.
Due to the turmoil and chaos of the war, a monument was never erected on Reb Boruch Ber’s gravesite. Those few who attended the funeral and survived the Holocaust were unable to pinpoint the location. The Nazis destroyed parts of the cemetery. When the German occupation ended, it was immediately replaced by a Communist one. Buildings and roadways were constructed in much of the cemetery. The municipality did, however, have the decency of collecting virtually all of the displaced monuments and incorporating them into a large memorial in remembrance of the original cemetery.
Since no monument had been erected on the burial place of Reb Boruch Ber, many wondered whether the site was now under a building or under a roadway. With the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of the Soviet empire, Lithuania again became an independent nation. Concerned activists continued their search. As Vilna developed into a center of commerce, fears were raised that the remaining parts of the Zaretcha Cemetery would be the site of new construction of a major thoroughfare.
In response to the concern, activists working together with Ohalei Tzadikim and the tireless Rabbi Yisroel Meir Gabbai, in concert with the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE), the London-based international organization led by Rabbi Elyakum Schlesinger, efforts to determine Reb Boruch Ber’s final resting place intensified. Every map was searched for clues, including old maps stored in Vilna’s municipal archives. Finally, after much work, the gravesite was found. Since all regular burial plots had been filled well before Reb Boruch Ber passed away, he was buried in a space between regular rows.
Preparations are presently underway to erect an appropriate monument as well as a sturdy ohel that will also serve as an anchor impeding any effort to further harm the cemetery.
Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Leibowitz, Rosh Yeshiva Ponovezh and a grandson of Reb Boruch Ber, has been active in these efforts, raising the necessary funds to underwrite the costs. His two sons, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe and Rabbi Ouziel, have been delegated to be near the burial site and to stand guard against any further damage to the cemetery.
The Ohel Of The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, zt”l (1804-1886), Ungvarer Rosh Beth Din and author of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, passed away on 26 Tammuz, 5646 (July 30, 1886). His burial instructions directed that he not be buried among other rabbis, but rather alongside his father, Yosef Ganzfried zt”l (d. 1812), who passed away when Shlomo was only eight. The burial place of honor that was reserved for Rabbi Ganzfried was alongside that of Rabbi Meir Asch (Aisenstadt), zt”l(1780-1852), Ungvar Rav and author of Imrei Aish. Rabbi Ganzfried served as rosh beis din in Ungvar under the direction of Rabbi Asch. Rabbi Ganzfried’s intention was that his father’s tombstone would be visited by those who came to that of the author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.
In 2002, Rabbi Nachum Zvi Josephy, zt”l (1940-2003), Rav of Beis Medrash Hagadol of Boro Park and vice president of the Igud Horabbonim, organized the building of the first ohel on Rabbi Ganzfried’s gravesite of. The plaque affixed to the outside of the ohel indicates it was underwritten by Shmuel Aryeh Rovt of Munkatch-Brooklyn and built under the guidance of the Munkatcher Rebbe.
Recently the ohel was enlarged under the direction of Rabbi Mendel Teichman, Chabad Rav of Uzhgorod (Ungvar), underwritten by Avraham Moshe Melan. Kalman Weinberger, a descendent of Rabbi Ganzfried, served as the spark of ignition for the expanded ohel.