Staszow, a shtetl in southeast Poland on the road between Kielce and Sandomierz, was home to Jews for two and a half centuries, until the Holocaust left the village judenrein. Among the Staszow Jews were the Goldfarbs, Jack Goldfarb’s forebears.
When the Philadelphia-born freelance writer first visited his ancestral homeland a half century ago, he found no trace of Staszow’s original Jewish cemetery. A newer Jewish burial ground, two-thirds of a mile from the center of the village, was an open, empty lot on a tree-lined hill.
Today, thanks to Goldfarb’s dedication and personal financial investment, the new cemetery is the site of some 150 Jewish gravestones, with a memorial marker for Staszow Jews who were killed during the Holocaust and a metal fence around the area.
And, since two weeks ago, it is the site of a black, granite marker that bears the names of 18 members of Goldfarb’s extended family who died in the Shoah.
On a sunny January morning, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland; members of the Knights of Staszew, an honor guard outfitted in medieval garb; and some area schoolchildren took part in a dedication ceremony.
A few civic officials showed up. And no other Jews, besides Rabbi Schudrich and a guest from Warsaw. “Not a one. Not a one,” says Goldfarb, who lives in Manhattan and was unable to attend the event. The ceremony, he heard, commanded “great respect and dignity. It was a solemn mood.”
He had the marker carved by a local sculptor. It reads: “In loving memory of the martyred members of the Goldfarb and Wolman families who lived in Staszow and perished at the hands of the German Nazis during the Holocaust 1942-45.”
Two members of his family are buried in a mass grave in the cemetery. The other 16, Goldfarb says, “perished in the camps.”
“This became a family matzevah [monument]. I feel a great sense of satisfaction,” he says. The marker is the sole gravestone bearing the names of his relatives. “There was no place where their names were remembered. This was something I owed to them.”
Goldfarb, who has returned to Poland at least a dozen times to supervise the work in the cemetery, plans to go again this year. His first stop will be the cemetery. “When I go to Europe, that’s where I go.”