(No. 6/2006 – May 2006)
Editor: Fran Bock

Abraham Zalman Cohen, born 1903, left Bogushevici in 1923 to immigrate to the United States. He was a resident of Ossining, NY until his death in 1987. He wrote this sketch of Bogushevici, his home town in Belarus.

We thank his son, Zvi Peretz Cohen, for sharing this window into our ancestors’ lives.


This article is copyrighted by Zvi Peretz Cohen

Reprinting or copying of this article is not allowed
without prior permission from the copyrightholders



by Abraham Zalman Cohen



Circa 1923


Bogushevici, in Russian, or Bushavitz, in Yiddish, was a small “mestichko” or “shtetl” in the “gebenya” of Minsk, White Russia. The distance from the village to the Berezina River was about 8 viorst (Ed. Note--a viorst is approximately .662 mile). It was about 20 viorst from the village of Bogushevici to the town of Berezin, which was on the Berezina River. Bogushevici was encircled by forests. About 3 viorst from the town, deep in the woods, there was a plant to extract tar and scipidar (turpentine) from the tree roots, which the farmers from the surrounding villages used to dig out in the fall. The roots were afterwards used as coals by the blacksmiths, of which there were three in the village. There were about 40 Jewish families in the village and also about 75 Christians:- Russians and Poles. There was a Russian Orthodox Church and a Polish Catholic “costiol”. There was a market place in the center of the village, surrounded by a half a dozen stores owned by Jews. There were about 5 shoemakers, 2 tailors, 2 butchers, and one glazier. The Rabbi was Shlomo Welitowsky and the Shochet was Eliyahu Hirsh Kagan (father of Abraham Cohen). The community had a “shul”, a bathhouse, a “cheder”, a mill, a very old cemetery about 300 years old, and also a new cemetery. During World War I, the town was occupied by the Germans, Polish and Russian armies. Under the Communist regime the Jewish way of life changed greatly. During the Nazi invasion, the Jewish Community was wiped out.


Abraham Cohen circa 1929 circa 1985


Zvi Cohen provides more information about his father’s life:


Abe Cohen, the oldest of six brothers and sisters, and two additional half-brothers, was born in 1903 in Bogushevici. He had to leave his traditional Jewish education due to the First World War. Their home was overrun by Czarist, German, Polish and Communist troops and their horse and wagon was confiscated by three armies, with Abe as the driver. The family’s linseed oil press and tannery was also confiscated.


In 1923, an uncle in NYC sent an immigration affidavit and Abe crossed the border illegally to Latvia, to avoid draft to the Red Army. His father died in Stalin's Siberian camps, and none of the family that remained in Russia survived the Holocaust.


Following six months in a HIAS camp in Riga, Abe received a visa to the USA, after HIAS recommended that he not sail to Cuba. Abe settled in NYC and worked as a butcher, both as an employee and self-employed. He later moved to Peekskill, in Westchester County, New York, and continued to work as a butcher. In 1930 he married Rachel Grossman of Montreal, Canada. After ten years in Peekskill, Abe moved to neighboring Ossining, NY with his new bride and opened his own Kosher butcher market which became a pillar of the Jewish community for 40 years. The couple had three children.


Abe was very active in the synagogue, Zionists, Bnai Brith, Masons and local activities until his sudden death in 1987. Over 300 of his famous Letters to the Editor were published in the "Ossining Citizen Register" newspaper. An anthology of the letters is available at the Ossining Historical Society and Westchester Historical Society. Abe wrote an autobiography describing his life from Czarist Russia to Ossining, NY, copies of which are also in the above historical societies. The autobiography has been translated to Hebrew by his son. A digital copy of the autobiography is in preparation and will be forwarded to JewishGen.

(Ed. Note—We have no photos of the shtetl of Bogushevici, but here are pre-WWOne scenes, via postcard, of the town of Berezin, thanks to my late father, Matthew Elkin, who was born in Berezin in 1897 and came to New York early in 1914.)

Copyright 2006 Belarus SIG and Zvi Peretz Cohen

Back to the index of the Belarus SIG Newsletters

Back to the Belarus SIG website