A tiny village in a remote section of western Ukraine was the setting this week for a ceremony to honor the memories of Israel’s late Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and his father, who was born in the hamlet.
Rabin’s father’s original family name was Rabichov. The family was headed by Menachem, father of Nehemia (Yitzchak’s father), who was born in 1886 in a house on the one street where Jews lived in Sidorovichi.
In 1905 Nehemia left for the United States to make a new life, changing his family name to Rabin. He eventually joined a group of young volunteers from the Jewish Legion and headed for Palestine, where he worked for the Palestine Electric Corporation and married Rosa Cohen, originally from Mogilev, Belarus. Rosa became a leader in the labor movement and the first commander of the Haganah in Haifa in pre-state Palestine.
Nehemia and Rosa were the parents of the man who was later to become a prime minister of Israel, Yitzchak Rabin, their eldest son, who was born in Tel Aviv on March 1, 1922.
The prime minister’s son, Yuval Rabin, was present for the ceremony in Sidorovichi at which a memorial plaque, inscribed in Hebrew and Ukrainian, was unveiled. In his brief speech, he expressed his admiration for the courage and foresight of grandfather, who had left everything familiar to him for the vision of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Most of the 200 villagers attended the event, which took place on the snow-covered grass outside the cultural center, even though none of them were Jews; there are no longer any Jews living in the hamlet. In fact, barely 50 Jews remain in the entire region.
The event was organized by Limmud FSU, an intensive Jewish learning program in Russian taking place this week in Truskovets, near Lvov, Ukraine. The program is focusing on Nobel prize winners who were born in the Russian empire, the former Soviet Union (FSU) and Israel. Prime Minister Rabin was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate; he was recognized, together with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, for their role in the Oslo Accords.
Limmud FSU founder and director Chaim Chesler announced that in a few months the group plans to unveil a monument to the Rabin family and the prime minister’s Nobel prize achievement in Sidorovichi’s central square.