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[Page 505]

The Yiddish Press In Brisk D'Lita

by Mordechai Ginsburg (Montreal)

Translated by Dr. Samuel Chani and Jenni Buch

The first issue of the weekly Polessie Shtimme (Voice of Polessie) appeared on the 18th September 1923. There had possibly been previous attempts to publish an edition, but the Polessie Shtimme was the first Yiddish periodical newspaper in Brest. It appeared under the editorship of M. Drachler – the publisher was Dr. Bronislaw Wilner who later became the Deputy Mayor of Brest.

One has to add that due to the ruling powers and demands of that time imposed upon a Yiddish newspaper – that every newspaper reflected the many facets of Jewish life in Brest and dealt with all the problems confronting the community at that time.

Polessie Shtimme did not last for an entire year due to a shortage of resources. Arriving in Brest in 1924, I made contact with Dr. Wilner and the printer Y. Gendler. As a result of our negotiations, I took over the editorship from the 1st September 1924. After an interval of six months, the paper re-appeared.

We very quickly came into conflict with the administrative powers after the first editions were published. It emerged that the Brest police chief was a keen reader of our paper – as soon as my editorial would touch upon the issue of Vilna, he would politely call me the next day to his office and advise me that in the future we should not interest ourselves in how the government of Poland handles Vilna. But our paper remained steadfast and campaigned for all sorts of social injustices.

Due to inner wrangling amongst the editors the existence of the paper was interrupted once again. The paper reappeared on the 25th April 1925, under the title of “Polessie Wochenblatt” (Weekly), and quickly became very popular amongst the Jewish community of Brest and district. The community recognized that the paper was an advocate for it's rights, and would fight against injustice and for social and cultural reforms.

Again, the paper was under the leadership of established Zionist activists. The paper underwent several stages, changed owners, but essentially remained committed to the public interest and fought for the national and social rights of the Jewish masses.

We should recall several of our important activists who participated in spreading the literary and moral values of the paper: L.Y. Winnikoff, the Zionist leader in Brest. His brother the engineer Aaron Winnikoff (Aharoni), David Zisman the leader of the Mizrachi movement, Felman the leader of the small traders organization, Padwa the director of the Merchant Bank, Zablud and Grynberg of the artisans union, and the leaders of the Tarbut organization, as well as the teachers. Fanaberia and Menachowski from the Borochow Yiddish school, and almost all of the Brest doctors such as Br. Begun who was the chairman of ORT. Dr. Reisler, who was the head doctor at the medical clinic and a social worker. Savshitski the chairman of the hospital, Rabbi Alter Grosleit, the chairman of the Linat Hatzedek (the paupers hostel), Noah Pozezinski, who was a city councilor, Skorbnik, Dr Yitzchak Kagan, who was an important social activist who recently died in New York. The employees of the old age home and others who contributed.

In the Brisker Wochenblatt also participated: Tzvi Lomazhevski, Israel London, M. Menachowski, Hershel Fanaberia, Ze'ev Lutwak, headmaster of the Tarbut school, and all those who had some literary talent…. H. Breinhendler, Izbitzer, the humorist Chune Rabinovitch, Israel Noy, Marcuze, Kaplan, and many others, including those from outside Brest.

We often would receive articles from Jewish members of parliament from Galicia, such as Moshe Prostig, Senator Rottenstreich, Dr. Joshua Tahun, Dr Jerzy Rosenblatt from Lodz and others.

The success of the Brisker Wochenblatt attracted much attention from the surrounding towns such as Pinsk, Kobryn, Pruzhany, etc. Consequently, it was through the initative of engineer Avraham Levitas of Kobryn that several other editions of the Brest Wochenblatt were printed with headings that read: Kobryner Shtimme, Pruzhaner Shtimme, etc. Every edition would contain it's own local section of news and events, written by Levitas, Noah Alcan, and Y. Faigenboim. These articles were delivered by messengers who would arrive every Thursday morning by train – they would return on Fridays with the printed editions of the Kobryner Shtimme.

The idea arose to create a special Polessie section in the Warsaw newspapers, but no one was interested beside the Red Express. It meant printing the entire Red Express leaving the heading on the front-page blank – in Brest they would then insert the “Brisker Tagenblatt” (daily) heading, and later Polessie Tagenblatt. Often the paper would not arrive at all due to technical and administrative difficulties – the page reserved for the news would appear in the following day's edition…

I must mention that the articles from the Brisker Wochenblatt would be reprinted in many other Yiddish newspapers in Poland, such as the “Heint” (Warsaw), the Lodzer Daily, and “Der Zeit” (The Times) of Vilna. “Unzer Leben” (Our Life) in Bialystok would reprint our articles and columns weekly. There were instances when an article written in the Brisker Wochenblatt would be reprinted up to 15 times in various newspapers the following week.

Standing R-L: Tzvi Lomazhevski, I. London, A. Kaplan, M. Drachler,
Dr. B. Wilner, Y. Babich, Z. Zaretski, D. Zisman
Sitting R-L: Z. Shedrovitski, N. Marcuze, Y.Gendler, Hellman,
M. Breinhendler, Rubinstein, Rabinovitch, Israel Noy

 

Mastheads of the Yiddish press in Brest

 

 

 

 

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