Av Harachamim: Remembering Our Shtetls and Martyrs

Noranda CHABAD, Perth, Western Australia

July 2018

After the torah reading on shabbat, we recite Av Harachamim

Av HaRachamim

Av HaRachamim – Wikipedia

Av Harachamim or Abh Haraḥamim (אב הרחמים‬ “Father [of] mercy” or “Merciful Father”) is a Jewish memorial prayer which was written in the late eleventh or early twelfth century, after the destruction of the Ashkenazi communities around the Rhine River by Christian crusaders during the First Crusade.[1] First appearing in prayer books in 1290, it is printed in every Orthodox siddur in the European traditions of Nusach Sefarad and Nusach Ashkenaz and recited as part of the weekly Shabbat services, or in some communities on the Shabbat before Shavuot and Tisha B’Av.[2][3]

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Av_HaRachamim

in the ArtScroll 

ArtScroll – Wikipedia

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArtScroll

in Tehillat Hashem

Tehillat Hashem – Wikipedia

Tehillat Hashem (תְּהִלַּת ה’‬, “praise of God” in Hebrew) is the name of a prayer-book (known as a siddur in Hebrew) used for Jewish services in synagogues and privately by Hasidic Jews, specifically in the Chabad-Lubavitch community. The name of the siddur is taken from Psalm 145, verse 21, “Praise of God shall my mouth speak, and all flesh shall bless His holy Name forever and ever.”

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tehillat_Hashem

A noteworthy custom fitting the mood of the Sefira period deals with the prayer Av Harachamim. Av Harachamim, recited on Shabbat after the Torah reading was written in response to the Crusades. In it we memorialize the righteous martyrs and pray for retribution for their spilled blood. Av Harachamim is generally not recited on Shabbatot which have an added celebratory nature – such as Shabbat Mevarchim (the Shabbat in which we bless the new month). In many congregations during the Shabbatot of Sefirat Haomer, Av Harachamim is recited even on the Shabbatot in which we bless Iyar and Sivan. The Mishna Brura (284,18) adds, that even if there is a Brit Milah that Shabbat, giving us a second reason why Av Harachamim should not be recited, Av Harachamim is still said, since this was the season of the tragedies.

Before reading the Av Harachamim prayer,  we select one of the 6500 shtetls that existed before and during the Holocaust from this three volume set:

We then share the story of the particular shtetl to illustrate what we lost in Holocaust!

This week – Plunge / Plungyan


The encyclopedia of Jewish life before and during the Holocaust / editor in chief, Shmuel Spector ; consulting editor, Geoffrey Wigoder ; foreword by Elie Wiesel – Collections Search – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The encyclopedia of Jewish life before and during the Holocaust / editor in chief, Shmuel Spector ; consulting editor, Geoffrey Wigoder ; foreword by Elie Wiesel – Collections Search – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Source: collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/bib63061

With thanks to Rabbi Marcus Solomon of Dianella Mizrachi Shule for sharing this idea with me.

Thanks to Michelle Urban and the Western Australian JHGS for allowing me to use these books from their excellent library housed at Noranda CHABAD.

For more on Plunge visit the KehilaLink:

Israeli Ambassador To Lithuania Visits Plunge


The visit of Israeli Ambassador Amir Maimon to Plunge, Lithuania on 21 September 2016

These photos were taken by Eugenijus Bunka.

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The Plunge KehilaLink



From the Facebook Page


The July Memorial Day post from the Plunge Facebook Page



Plunge, Salantai & Plateliai, Lithuania

Getting to Plunge


Plunge Map


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Plungė Manor
Plungė Manor
Flag of Plungė
Coat of arms of Plungė
Coat of arms

Plungė (About this sound pronunciation SamogitianPlongė) is a city in Lithuania with 23,246 inhabitants. It has a crab stick factory which exports to many countries in Europe.

Before World War II, Plunge had a large Jewish population (see The Holocaust). Known as Plungyan


Sculpture of St. Florian

It is thought that the territory in which Plungė is situated was inhabited in 5th–1st centuries BC. After the Treaty of Melno country seats were started establishing in the forests of Samogitia. From the 14th century to the middle of the 16th century, Plungė was a part of Gandinga volost as an ordinary settlement. Later, the population of Plungė started to grow faster and surpassed the population of Gandinga. In 1567 Plungė was mentioned as a town.

On January 13, 1792, Plungė granted Magdeburg rights. From 1806 to 1873 Plungė belonged to Platon Zubov, and later – to Oginskiai, who built a palacehere in 1879.

During the interwar period there was established gymnasium in 1925 and built railway branch-line in 1932. In 1933 current Catholic Church was consecrated. Since the private hospital was founded in 1939, maternity, surgical sections started their activities. Jewish community composed about 44% of inhabitants whereas about 55% of inhabitants were Lithuanians. According to that Jewish were active participants governing the city. However in events of 1941 almost all Jewish community was destroyed by Nazis.

During the years of the independence of Lithuania Plungė’s economic was based on the factory of fibre flax and cotton Kučiskis – Pabedinskiai and also on the activities of Jewish businessmen and agricultural products made by Samogitian farmers.

After the World War II and soviet occupation, Plungė started to grow rapidly – if the city had 7,400 inhabitants in 1950, in 1990 it had already had 23,300 inhabitants. During the years of soviet occupation, Lithuanians became the majority of city’s inhabitants. According to Government’s Resolution of 1963, Plungė should have become regional centre with a strong industry. However these plans were ruined when it became obvious that the city doesn’t have enough water resources although some high level companies representing various branches of industry were established in Plungė. Most of these companies however bankrupted after the Independence of Lithuania was announced.[1]

The coat of arms of Plungė was affirmed by the decree of the President on June 6, 1997.[2] In 2009 Plungė was elected Lithuanian Capital of Culture.[3] Nowadays Plungė is the sixteenth largest city of Lithuania having 22,287 inhabitants.


Gintare at the Tourist Info and Zita at the Public Library were most helpful. Note that Tourist Info is near the railway station and library and not the town square. Zita showed me an Jewish exhibit she had previously run at the library.

Eugene, is the son of Yaakov Bunka, the wood carver and The Last Jew of Plungyan. Eugene gave me an excellent tour of Plunge and surrounding areas.



Tombstones representing the cemetery

 Holocaust Memorial

Yaakov’s house which will become a museum

A Holocaust Site on the way to Salantai



Holocaust Site in Salantai


Eugene’s house with Yaakov’s carvings and medals

Resort and restaurant

Lita Shtetls Memory Garden



Watch the video

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Heading Back East – Alsedziai