I love my small, poor town of Druzhkopol, just as the native of Warsaw loves his large, fine city of Warsaw.
The pleasures and suffering that accompanied us from our earliest youth until the terrible destruction binds us with thousands of memories to our cradle whose name is Druzhkopol. Many experiences good and bad are etched in our memory. Every minor detail is seen by as completely sensational. I wish to begin with a most minor matter, and from there to advance stage by stage, so that we can once again feel these experiences together things that you may already know, and that you must not forget.
I was already outside of our town for a long time, but nevertheless, my memories of everything every lane, every bog, are clear and fresh. Everything was dear and beloved to me.
You certainly remember the town goat. He indeed belonged to my Uncle Leibish of blessed memory. In is time, he was the Shamash (beadle) of the Great Synagogue. Despite this, the town understood that the goat was public property, belonged to the entire town, and was not private property. All of the children of the town were interested in it, rode it, beaten it severely, and did not feed it in a proper manner. Everyone took interest in the goat. You will recall when the goat died, they covered it in a white sheet and buried it in the cemetery for it was holy, a holy firstborn! The entire town grieved over its death.
Do you know what Under the bram means? (Bram is gate in Polish). More than 150 years ago, Druzhkopol was a town that was shut with a gate. They shut it at night and opened it in the morning. Anyone entering the town had to pay a tax to the landowner (poretz). This place bore the exotic name Under the bram as long as we were in the town. We would go there to enjoy fresh air. On Sabbaths and festivals, we would organization excursions there (take note of my impression of Under the bram).
There were only a few houses from the house of Yossel-Herschel until the Polish Church. However, for us, this was the most beautiful walk. How beautiful and beloved to us was the route from the home of Hirsch Pechman to the river! (We called it a river.) Who of you does not remember the water-mill with the kpielnia (bathing place) and Mordechai Wallach, or as we called him Mordechai the lame. He would sail in a boat (we called it a ship) to the koish, a place where fish gathered, in order to go fishing, so that Jews would have fish in honor of the Sabbath. He, Mordechai Wallach, also leased the water-mill.
There was another mill along the way, behind the gate, which we called the large water-mill. This was before there was any steam powered mill.
The fact that the entire area was called behind the gate indicates to us that the area was outside the city, and that the town itself was a distance southward. Even the first cemetery which was close to the house of Chaim Yankel Torcyn's house, directly behind the house of Buzi Halperin this too offers proof that the town was in the direction of the river, or above the face of the river, in a place where the Russian school is now found.
A cemetery is generally built outside a city. Therefore it is easy to understand that the town went through stages of growth and development until it reached the cemetery, which remained, to the pain of the residents, in the center of the town.
With such facts, we come to describe the history of our town. The history of large cities is easier for historians, for we know that every large Jewish community kept a record of various important events. That is, the rabbi, along with the chief administrator (parnas), and seven other administrators, maintained a ledger. Small towns did not maintain such a ledger.
It was difficult to obtain and collect exact dates. I myself, incidentally, was affected by a tragic event that lead me to an investigation of the date of the founding of our town, and how much time passed from then until the appearance of the Hitlerist invaders who wiped it off the face of the earth.
Then, Reb Menashe the son of Israel of Amsterdam conducted negotiations with England about the possibility of Jews settling there. The English people at the time admired Jews and leaned toward accepting them. Nevertheless, about 150 years passed until Jews settled in England!
In Poland, where there was the largest Jewish community, the Jews had significant rights under the protection of the rulers. They had their own court, and the town councils were not permitted to judge the Jews. Only a royal judgment could resolve disputes between Jews and Christians. Cases of extra importance in the realm of ritual were to be judged by the king himself.
The landowners also took the Jews under their protection, and put their estates under their supervision. The entire Szliachta, Magacht and the counts, the Polish nobility, depended on the Jews as superintendents. They would often travel abroad, visit various parliaments, and spend their times in pleasant affairs. They did not succeed in agreeing on the choice of a king. The disputes within the nation removed their sense of being able to foresee what was to come. The country of Poland was located on a quaking mountain, and a disaster was liable to fall upon it any day. The leaders of the country were not able to see the preparations of the terrifying Hetman (leader) Bogdan Chmielnitzki. As a result of his rule, mighty Poland began to become unstable, and it lost its greatness. The king lost his rule. Every Polish nobleman could do whatever he wanted at his own accord. The landowners were sitting in the world capitals in Paris and Rome living decadent lives. The frittered away large amounts of their wealth, and they requested larger amounts of money from their tenants and Jewish superintendents. In short, the victim was always the Jew. The constant desire was the destruction of the Jews.
The landowners depended upon their superintendents, for with the help of the Jewish lessees, they were able to extort money from the poor Ukrainians, who were blood relatives of the Poles. The Ukrainians suffered greatly at that time, and they were downtrodden and in a bad state. It would happen on occasion that a landowner would swap ten Ukrainian farmers with another landowner for one good dog!
These bad relations laid the roots of anger and bitterness not only toward the landowner, but also to the Jewish lessee, who fulfilled the bidding of the Polish ruler, the poretz.
The farmers waited for the appropriate time. The desired hour arrived with the assistance of the frightening personality who is known very well to us, Bogdan Chmielnitzki, may his name be erased! They were called Ukrainians because the Polish landowners restricted them to the border areas Na Okreii Gornici that is to say, on the borders of the powers of the time: Austria, Russia, and Germany.
The Polish landowners wished to turn away the anger of the oppressed Ukrainians, and they urged the Jews to lease small estates, taverns, flourmills, the Praboslavic Church, and the beer and vodka stills. The farmers were, as has been stated, very poor and destitute. The Jews were indeed in a very uncomfortable and perplexing position. They were caught between the hammer and the anvil. On the one hand, they were afraid to go against the word of the poretz, lest his be swallowed by them. On the other hand, they were afraid of the Ukrainian gentiles. The Jewish lessees were forced to give the Ukrainian farmers a specified salary, to look after their needs, and to grant them credit, even though it was clear that the money was given on the horns of a deer.
It is self evident that the poretz did not have to know about this relationship with the Ukrainian farmers. At times, it was possible to pay a steep price for this, the price of life, to serve as a pretext for shooting like one would shoot a bird. The Polish landowners had a special form of recreation: If the Jew sinned, even in something minor he had to grab on to a tree, and the poretz would shoot him with his hunter's gun. Only rarely did the poretz miss his mark. In general, the shot reached its target, and the victim was left hanging from the tree like a bird from the sky.
Indeed, our town of Druzhkopol was founded from two or three such families of lessees. To this day, I have not been able to determine the reason why our town was called by this name. It is possible that the town was called this because Druzhka means pathway, and polia is a field. Together this would mean, The path through the field Druzhkopolia. Another acceptable theory is that the name of the poretz was Druzhkopol.
The town began to be built thanks to the diligence, efforts and patience of the Jews. They built it section by section. They built it atop the river, including the first Beis Midrash and first cemetery.
Apparently, the main development took place only after the third partition of Poland. More than 300 years ago, there were only large Polish estates there, upon which lived several Jewish lessees. This is confirmed by the fact that Druzhkopol is located between Stojanow and Horochow. Stojanow is only 6 kilometers south of Druzhkopol, with the border in the middle. Horochow is 10 kilometers north of Druzhkopol. The only route from Stojanow to Horochow passes through Druzhkopol.
From the history of that terrible time, described by the name The decrees of Tach ve Tat (in 1648-1649), I found in one of the historical records of that era the key to the history of our small, poor town of Druzhkopol.
When Hetman Chmielnitsky and his garrison besieged the city of Lemberg, he was not able to conquer the city after a long, drawn out siege. After lengthy negotiations, his army left Lvov (Lemberg). They demanded a certain sum of money as a ransom for this retreat. The money was, of course, to be paid by the Jews.
From Lemberg, the stormed upon the city of Zamosc to the west.
Kreivanus, Chmielnitzky's deputy, went with his troops to the region of Volhynia.
The following is related by one historian who survived from the Jewish community of Stojanow, the last town in Galicia, a distance of 6 kilometers from Druzhkopol. Commander Kreivanus and his troops fell upon the town like locusts. They pillaged everything that they came upon, the desecrated Torah scrolls, they snatched men women and children, beat them with the butts of their guns, pierced, slaughtered, violated the honor of young Jewish girls before the eyes of their mothers, and finally burned the town of Stojanow!
From there, the band of wild murderers went to the region of Volhynia, to the towns of Horochow, Luck, Dubno, and Kramenec. This fact testifies to the situation of Druzhkopol, for the only route between Stojanow and Horochow was through Druzhkopol. If there was a Jewish community between Stojanow and Horochow, the murderers would not have passed it over. They would have destroyed the community along with the other residents of the towns. The name of Druzhkopol is mentioned in the context of the general destructions. One of two theories makes sense. Either the town did not yet exist, or it was only settled by a very few Jewish families, and was not worthy of being written about. It is also possible that the Jewish lessees succeeded in hiding, or perished along with their Polish landowners. In any case, the name of Druzhkopol is not mentioned in the annals of that era, not as a town nor as a village. Everything that is mentioned about it is summed up in a few words there were Polish estates there, and their lessees were Jewish.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the name Druzhkopol is mentioned not as a town, but rather as a village. Its development as a town took place at a later time. More than 200 years ago, its economic situation was very poor, and culture had not penetrated to its boundaries.
Druzhkopol was annexed to the region of Volhynia, Russia after the third partition of Poland, whereas Lesser Poland, that is to say Galicia, was annexed to Austria, including the town of Stojanow. A border was set up between these two towns, which enhanced the economic situation of these two towns. It is a fact that the economic relationship between these two countries, or more accurately between these two towns, Druzhkopol and Stojanow, was not at the level that it should have been.
Until 1914, a time that we still remember, we almost had no Galician Jews among us, except for one Jew by the name of Avraham Fuchs, Der Kiriszer Melamed as we called him.
There were also no Russian Jews in Stojanow. At that time, life in those towns was impoverished and regional. Apparently, there was not even a desire for a higher standard of living any more by the citizens of Druzhkopol. Only at the end of the 18th century did Druzhkopol cease to be a village. It was then referred to as Miasticka which is a town.
At that point, the situation ameliorated greatly, even though the residents earned their entire livelihood from border trade and as middlemen.
Many political changes took place in Poland at that time. Alexander II freed the Ukrainian farmers, who were related to him by blood. They started to become the main intermediaries at the border, with the support of the Jews. This situation provided almost the entire livelihood of the Jews of Druzhkopol.
All political upheavals in almost all places bring disaster in their wake. Druzhkopol was no exception.
When Czar Alexander II was murdered, and Alexander III succeeded him on the throne, he gave himself completely to the influence of his interior minister Ignatiev, a haughty man who was an expert anti-Semite. He began to persecute the Jews and arrange pogroms against them. As long as they still had their life, the Jews tried to escape to Austria and Germany. From there, they continued on to America. The Jews of Druzhkopol were in a situation that was understandable. Their economic situation continued to improve. When the Jews were desperately poor, there was peace and harmony in the town. For after all, they were all equal, as if they were one family. However, when some of them began to become wealthy, that is, those who were able to provide a dowry of 40-50 guilder for their daughters that consisted of large copper coins (Zeners) placed in red bags apparently such coins had a great value in those days disputes and disagreements broke out. There was indeed a holy war between the Chasidim of Olesk and the Chasidim of Turisk. These disputes sprouted in the towns like mushrooms after a rain.
The large Twersky dynasty from the Turisk court, had on its side the wealthy man of the town, Reb Manis Lerner. The power of the Turiskers increased.
On the other side, for Olesk and Sasov the wealthy man of the town Reb Lipa Zukerman.
As the powers increased, the fire of the dispute between the two sides, the supporters of the two Chasidic courts, ignited. With all this, some sort of appeasement took place in this dispute. They were related with blood ties, and for some time, they participated together in joyous occasions. If a tragedy overtook someone, Heaven forbid, they would assist one another to the best of their abilities, literally treating each other like brothers.
It is easy to imagine what the status of the town was at the time. There were no cultural institutions in the town. There was not even any desire for mutual activity. There was not even any meeting place for entertainment. We did not know about movies and theater at all.
In the event of illness, one neighbor would assist the other. Neighborliness in the town was very strong. People would often visit each other. All of the doors were open, and it was not necessary to knock on the door before entering.
The first theatrical production in the town took place on Purim that is to say, it was a Purim play. The actors were workers from among the poor, and they went to perform in the houses of the wealthy.
The actors divided their earnings, and this income helped them to provide for their Passover needs.
Other groups were founded, including: Tikun Sforim (to repair holy books), Chevrat Tehillim (A group to recite Psalms), Chevrat Mishnayot (A group that studies Mishna together), Ein Yaakov (A group that studies Ein Yaakov, a compendium of the homiletic material of the Talmud), Bikur Cholim (A group that looks after the needs of the ill), etc. Slowly, all of these institutions took on a modern and enlightened form.
In the meantime, the dispute among the Jews of Turisk and Olesk once again broke out. A minor form of a civil war erupted. There was bloodshed and slander, news of which reached the government!
A noticeable decline began in all areas of life, including the economic realm. Anger pervaded amongst neighbors, and there was a need to set up separate Minyans (prayer quorums). One side would not eat of meat slaughtered by the other side. A halachic question that was decided by the Rabbi of Turisk was considered invalid in the eyes of the Rabbi of Olesk.
Despite all of the anger and opposition, there were expressions of assistance at times of difficulty. Who can ascribe value to the Jewish soul?
People of our generation will be able to understand and imagine the way of life of those days, the realities of private and public life, and the form in which mutual assistance was expressed, from the story of Reb Yekutiel Gerber.
Who of you does not remember Yekutiel Berditchever?
In addition to all of the groups I mentioned above, one other group was founded, which perhaps you did not know about. This was the Melave Malka group! You will certainly remember Sucher (Yissachar) Alter, the son of Moshe Yaakov. However, you would not be able to remember his father, Moshe Yaakov. He, along with elderly Melech the husband of Ita-Helka, and Reb Yankel of Berditchev the father of Yekutiel formed a group of 10-12 Jews who gathered together each Saturday night after the Sabbath, and arranged a Melave Malka meal with enthusiasm and joy. Each week, it was the turn of another person to give the challah and fish for the meal. Immediately after first hymns, they would warm up and enter into great enthusiasm. Would you say that this thing is of small worth? Is there another holy nation such as the Jewish people, who has so many commandments! Is there any greater joy than this to be a Jew! Why should we not rejoice that we are Jews? At the time that the Chasidim arrange the holy meal, King David plays his harp in the Garden of Eden, and the Jews dance and sing: David the King of Israel is alive and in existence
These types of statements served as the people's calendar, for these types of milestones were easy to remember.
In our town, husbands were called by the name of their wives, such as Yankel Ita-Meir's, Mottel Henia Ita's, or Shmuelik Reize's. Most of the husbands in those days were not successful, and the dominion was in the hands of the wives. They earned the livelihood. Therefore, the husband bore the name of his wife, as if to emphasize that he belonged to here, and that he was dependent upon her. This matter was self-evident. There were occasions where the husband was a man who held himself in high esteem, and he refused to call himself by the name of his wife. There were also some husbands who bore the names of their mothers until the day of their deaths. For example: Motia Rivka's, etc. There were also those who were called by the name of their grandfather, such as Yekutiel Dadie's or Chaim Shalom Aharon's. Nevertheless, this lack of success of a recognizable portion of the residents did not hinder the development of our town.
This was at the beginning of the 18th century. A Jewish builder with the assistance of several gentile workers commenced the building at a propitious hour. The building was erected after a short period of time. All of the residents of the town celebrated the dedication of the first Beis Midrash. Druzhkopol celebrated the festive occasion for an entire week, and everyone wished each other that they should merit to witness the building of the Holy Temple, Amen!
However, the happiness and tranquility did not last long. No compromise was reached with regard to the Torah Scroll, the eastern wall, and the distribution of honors. And what to do with the tradesmen? Where would their place be? The controversy broke out with great strength.
The Turisk Chasidim established their Minyan in Yossel Reize's private house, as did the artisans. Reb Itzik Urie's, the tailor, gave over his only room, and this room turned into a synagogue on Sabbaths and festivals. Thus did the shtibels commence as separate synagogues. In addition to the Beis Midrash, two more shtibels suddenly sprouted up, that of the Chasidim of Turisk and that of the tailors.
Not only the tailors, but all other tradesmen as well, worshipped in the tailor's shtibel. The butchers realized very quickly that the separation of the tailors was not just. How could this be? They, the butchers, outnumbered the tailors, including the shoemaker, the bath attendant, and the water carrier. So why should the house of worship be called the shtibel of the tailors? Therefore, the butchers took council, and after deep beatings, they returned to the Beis Midrash, claiming let those lowlifes be hanged along with their shtibel!
The issue of ritual slaughter (shchita) caused a problem in all its ramifications, on account of the differences of opinion. There were butchers who were Chasidim of Turisk, and Chasidim of Olesk. The Turiskers did not want to eat meat that was slaughtered by the Oleskers. The solution was to have one more ritual slaughterer (shochet). Nobody concerned themselves with the source of livelihood with the additional shochet. Turisk sent one more shochet, so that neither would earn a livelihood, just as their householders do not earn a livelihood.
When there are two shochtim, of course, there must be two rabbis.
Olesk sent another rabbi to the city.
Once again, there was a fiery controversy. Opposition and disputes broke out. Someone hit someone else over the head with two candlesticks, on the Sabbath, and the blood of the Jew flowed They recovered from their wounds, they made up, and then beat again, but this matter does not go on forever. One gets tired even of eating kreplach. It is difficult to remain in a perpetual dispute. After all, they are Jews. A day came that marked an end to all of the drawn out controversies. The town breathed a sigh of relief, and was redeemed. A new era commenced. What caused this? The first great fire!
From where did the fire come? Nobody knows, and even I don't know. The wind spread the fire from house to house. The straw roofs burned, and pillars of smoke ascended. They did not know from where to start fighting the fire. The houses were right next to each other, and one felt the heat as if in a furnace when one passed through the narrow lanes. There was no organized group of firefighters. The women and children took buckets of water from the only well in town, which was next to the slaughterhouse. The men stood on the straw roofs and tried to put out the fire with the assistance of wet sacks. However, the brave ones in peyos and long beards were forced to come down from the roves on account of the fire, lest they burn their beards and peyos Thus, they abandoned the burning houses, and started to save the Torah scrolls from the Beis Midrash, which was also burning.
The dispute between the Chasidim terminated immediately after the fire. They internecine anger was forgotten. The Chasidim of Turisk went to live with the Oleskers in the few houses that were saved. Small matters are forgotten during a time of tribulation. The two feuding Chasidic camps grasped hands, and everything terminated in peace. The livelihood also improved. They would travel to fairs, and livelihood could be earned, with the help of G-d.
The adage was fulfilled, After the fire, one becomes rich.
The poretz donated wood for building. They rebuilt the town anew, more beautiful and better organized. The roofs were covered with shingles and not from straw. Even though shingles are flammable, Heaven forbid, they are much stronger.
And what would be with the tradesmen?
The Blessed G-d is a merciful father, and he caused an ideal thought to enter the head of Count Zargorski of Bazhany to build a large synagogue in the town, which would save the situation
The large synagogue would be planned to be built in a fine and rich style. There would be a Polish style entrance (an anteroom before the prayer hall), and two branches for the Women' Gallery. At the side of the building would be another smaller synagogue. The example was of an article of clothing with many large pockets, and one additional small pocket at one side (a bozem kaszine).
The Bozem Kaszine, that is to say the small synagogue, was immediately taken by the tradesmen, and it took the name The Tailor's Small Synagogue (Das Shneiderishe Shulechel). This was despite the fact that the number of shoemakers was greater than the number of tailors. Nevertheless, the resonance of the tailors was different than that of the shoemakers. Where were the water drawers, and the supervisor of the bathhouse? Perforce, it was impossible to name the synagogue after each of the trades it was not worthwhile to start a dispute on account of this.
With regard to the task of Gabbai a tailor could fulfill this role just as a shoemaker. However, with regard to a cantor and a Torah reader for these a scholarly Jew had to be hired, who himself did not know much more than the tradesmen but not many of the people understood the meaning of the words and the grammar. Therefore, everything worked out in this area as well
Disputes broke out once again with regard to the distribution of the Torah honors. A shoemaker who was more honorable, a shoemaker who was less honorable, etc., so how could they give Shishi or Maftir? So to whom should they give it? It turns out that they would have to give the honor to a gentile Indeed, the rabbi Reb Shmuel Hirsch took Revii (the fourth aliya) for himself in the Beit Midrash; however there was nobody to give this honor to amongst the tailors.
As the dispute and accusations grew, the turn came of the candlesticks that were prepared to give beatings. How could this be? It is indeed forbidden even to touch a candlestick on the Sabbath, for it is Muktza. However, the goal sanctifies the ends. The indiscretion of giving Revii to a tailor justifies the throwing of candlesticks on the head, even on the Sabbath.
The town barber, who also served as the physician and medic, worshipped in the small synagogue, and almost always had to bandage up the heads of those who were wounded and bruised. He would thereby earn a Zekser (a copper coin).
After the heads of the wounded were healed, the sides once again became appeased, and made up with each other.
The entire blame was placed on the scholar, the hired Torah reader. They grabbed him by his neck and kicked him out of the synagogue. The tailors and shoemakers accepted upon themselves to be the prayer leaders. The shoemaker purchased a prayer book with his final coin, and began to study to serve as a Torah reader, and the joy increased
The second great fire started on a Friday afternoon, toward evening, in the home of Hirsch Pechman! The wind spread the fire until the farm of Count Basalini, and from there it returned to the town.
The fire destroyed the shingled roof of the large synagogue. The roof of the Beis Midrash also went up in fire House after house was overtaken by the fire. It made no difference from where to start extinguishing the fire. Everything was burning, and the flames of fire were devouring and destroying all of the houses. House after house buckled and fell. All that was left of each house was a pitched oven with a blackened chimney sticking up, from which thick pillars of smoke ascended.
The first thing that the Jews did, of course, was to save the Torah scrolls. They carried them to the attic of Count Basalini, that occupied a large area of the slaughterhouse until the river (see the sketch of the Gardens of Basalini).
After the fire, peace and tranquility once again pervaded amongst the residents. They commenced building a more beautiful and larger town.
The roofs were no longer built out of straw or wooden shingles, but rather from red shingles. Only the roofs, doors and windows of the synagogue and Beis Midrash were burned. The walls were not damaged. They began to fix them, clean them and beautify them to the best of the ability of the townsfolk. Wonderfully beautiful windows were built on the roof. These added a majestic appearance to the synagogue. In the eastern side of the outer wall, directly under the roof, the poretz commanded that the following be written in Latin characters Wszelkie Narody chwalan pana boga (All the nations praise the master our L-rd). This adage was actually written more than a hundred years earlier, when the synagogue was built by the old Count of Bazhany. Now, after the second fire, it was renewed after such a long time, more than 125 years. In our era, I had the honor of restoring the letters and fixing them. This was in 1923, when the synagogue was covered with a roof made out of aluminum sheets, under the rule of the mighty state of Poland. Then, the Countess of Bazhany turned to the community of Druzhkopol and asked them to restore the inscription that her ancestors had done on behalf of the Jews.
Moshe Schlein, the owner of the pharmacy, was the Gabbai of the synagogue at that time. He asked me to renovate the inscription with the assistance of my student Mottel Schlein, who is today in Canada.
Later on, it became known to the people of Druzhkopol, via Jews from Galicia, that there are already marble floors in the city of Lemberg.
In Galicia, near to our town, they already began to imitate Paris. Jewish children studied in government schools. They began to pave the roads. Kaiser Franz Josef, in his great mercy, granted equal rights to all of the citizens. In the constitution, reference was made to the Jews of Galicia.
All of this was conducive to the proper development of business, and this influenced our town as well. The Jews of Galicia, merchants of forestry products and grain, would visit our town daily and conduct business with our wealthy people. Middlemen, brokers, and expediters began to appear. The border commerce gave our town ample livelihood. Even the small-scale merchants and craftsmen earned well, and lived off the army border guard. There were also exiceniks (tax officials) and many other officials. Our town even managed to have a doctor. He was Dr. Helman who hailed from Galicia. He was a dear Jew, with a warm, sensitive heart. He did not enjoy extorting money for naught. When he visited a poor sick person, rather than taking money, he would leave a sum of money for the needs of the sick person. He would say to the wife or mother of the sick person, With this money, buy a chicken and cook it for the sick person. Open the window and air out the stifling room! Do not let him eat cholent and then he will regain his strength. Dr. Helman was an apostate Jew. After 25 years of medical work, he died in Druzhkopol, in the home of Reb Lipa Zukerman. After his death, Reb Lipa placed his baptismal certificate under the pillow upon which he was resting and informed the police about this. Throughout his 25 years of service as a doctor in our town, nobody knew that he had converted. Indeed, he did not go to the synagogue, but he also did not go to church.
When Reb Lipa wished to turn over the body of the doctor to the Christian church, they did not want to accept it. The Catholic church refused to bury him in their cemetery. The Jews were also, in accordance with their tradition, not able to bury him in the Jewish cemetery. The authorities were forced to become involved in the matter, and the forced the Praboslavic Church to bury him in their cemetery. Thus was the poor man buried, near the gate, without the participation of friends and relatives. Nobody eulogized him or gave him his final honors.
This event took place in 1888. For many years after the death of Dr. Helman, the residents of Druzhkopol were not able to forgive Reb Lipa for the iniquity that he had done to Dr. Helman by giving over his body to the Christians. All of the Jews felt and believed that Dr. Helman was one of those who was forced, and did not covert his religion out of free will, but rather to be accepted to medical school and to be able to receive the degree of doctor a matter which was very difficult if not impossible for a Jew in that era. After Dr. Helman, there was no doctor in the town for about 60 years. There was only a government medic. Nevertheless, this fact did not prevent the town from developing and flourishing.
Yeshiva students were already stealing glances into books of Russian grammar. They also arranged their peyos so that they would not be so prominent. From time to time, Maskilim and Chasidim from various Chasidic courts would meet. The number of scholars required the building of an additional Beis Midrash.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the Chasidim of Turisk, along with some Misnagdim, began to build the Turisk synagogue in a modern style, with a women's gallery, illustrated ceilings made by an artist, all sorts of decorations and fineries, as befits a synagogue worthy of its name.
Obviously, the main thing was that they would have their own rabbi. Rabbi Pinchas Wiener was chosen to serve as the rabbi. Later, he moved on to serve as rabbi in Vladimir-Volhynsk. Rabbi Pinchas Wiener was a very intelligent man, full of energy and with a pleasant demeanor. He was tall and impressive looking. It would have been more fitting for him to serve as am ambassador in some large country and to conduct negotiations with the leaders of neighboring countries than to be a rabbi in a small poor town that was influenced by differing Chasidic groups that owed their allegiance different Rebbes. Rabbi Wiener succeeded in bringing peace to the disputing factions of Turisk, Olesk and Sasov. He even succeeded in convincing his Chasidim to forgive the sins of the Oleskers, who killed the previous Turisk rabbi, Reb Noach of blessed memory. This incident took place when some zealots of Olesk took a wooden board covered completely with nails, and tossed it through the second story window of the home of Reb Noach! The tosser reached his target, and injured the rabbi who was sleeping soundly. The elderly weak rabbi could not recover from the grievous blow, and his soul departed after great suffering, and wavering between life and death. May his memory be a blessing!
The revenge of the Turiskers was not small. They insulted and stoned the upright, G-d fearing Olesker rabbi. However, this was not everything that was perpetrated against him by the zealous Chasidim of Turisk. They slandered him to the Russian governor, claiming that he was worse than a Galician spy, and that the Russian authorities should beware of this criminal. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, as Reb Shmuel Hirsch was leading the Musaf service, pouring out his sweet voice as the eyes of the worshippers filled with tears, the gendarmes and armed soldiers stormed into the Beis Midrash, chained the poor, innocent rabbi with chains, and brought him to the Austrian border after many tribulations!
These events testify to the greatness of Rabbi Pinchas Wiener, who succeeded in bringing peace between the two camps after such cruel iniquities. The brotherhood between them reached such heights that the Turisk rabbi would even go on weekdays to worship at the Olesker Beis Midrash. There, Reb Yaakov Yitzchak Gelernter worshipped instead of the rabbi, Reb Shmuel Hirsch. The Oleskers brought him to the town not from Galicia, but rather from Congress Poland, which belonged to Russia at the time.
Everyone had peace of spirit when they saw the two rabbis walking in the Beis Midrash, discussion matters of Torah and politics. When the rabbis are friends, peace exists among the Chasidim, and where there is peace, there is blessing and livelihood.
On account of the uprightness and intelligence of the sublime character of the rabbi, Reb Pinchas Wiener of blessed memory, the town once again became one family.
In my writings, I already described the division between the householders and the craftsmen. The latter were lowly and restricted, and were not given the opportunity of participating in communal matters. They even had to set up their own prayer quorum, for example in the Tailors' Synagogue. Of all of the craftsmen, the musicians (anyone who played any sort of musical instrument) and the barber were on the lowest rung and the worst off. If one were a musician or a barber, even if he was an upright and fine boy, he would have no hope of marrying the daughter of the poorest Shamash (beadle). Therefore, we had no Jewish musicians in our town.
In the town of Luchitsy, there were already two brothers, Baruch and Meir, who founded a band. They served all of the nearby towns, and played at joyous occasions and Jewish weddings. Baruch and Meir had a jester to accompany them, Reb Dadi.
At weddings of poorer people, the musicians were local gentiles. A relative of mine (my uncle's father) who was called Reb Chaim Braniv Blinder (he was nicknamed Reb Chaim Braniv the Drunk), served as a jester at these weddings, so to speak. In fact, he did not know more than to seat down the orphaned bride (a special ceremonial in those days, which the jester would recite to the bride before she was taken to the chupa).
The barber of our town did not earn a bountiful livelihood. Therefore, every barber knew, or attempted to know, the profession of a medic (or doctor). In those days, the medic was referred to as a feldscher. However, he did not write prescriptions, and did not know Latin. If someone caught a cold, they would call such a doctor who would prepare cups of air (benkes), and at times, cut off cups of air (gehakte benkes). This did not harm the ill person, and sometimes it even helped. This was the only medication for colds in those days. If someone upset his stomach by eating cholent that was spoiled or not cooked enough, the doctor would give him castor oil. If the sick person had a high fever, he would give him chinin. These were the routine medications that were used in those days. If this doctor was a friendly person, he would ask many questions about the illness, even more medications than a true doctor. The uniform of these doctors was the same as the doctor's uniforms of the time (tende-vrende). If he was fortunate and had a good presentation, he would charge no less than the fees of a government medic. Such a person was considered to be a great expert, and he was not lacking in livelihood.
In Galicia, the barber was also the physician and the musician. He earned a comfortable livelihood. His standard of living was much higher than a barber in our town. Despite all this, he did not become involved in communal affairs, and he would worship in the synagogue of the tradesmen!
The situation of Jewish musicians improved during the 19th century.
During that era, they began to teach the children to read and write. In the finer houses, they also began to teach the child to play the violin. Obviously, the teachers were musicians.
The wealthy people also grew their hair in accordance with the style. Such a person, with long hair, who played the violin, also began to write poetry and became a Maskil. To me, it seemed that Druzhkopol had nothing to do with this Not one Jewish lad played the violin, and obviously not any girls. Only in the later years, before the Holocaust, was it possible to find musical instruments in some homes.
For example, there was a guitar in the home of Hinda Tursztyn. I do not know if she knew how to play it. I never heard her do so.
I remember a dear man who knew how to play the violin very well. He always accompanied me with his violin when I sang before him, and I sang all day. His brother was also a fine musician. These two brothers were Moshe and Yosef Bleicher. They were not natives of Druzhkopol. They came from the surrounding area. Moshe of blessed memory perished in Horochow before Rosh Hashanah of 1942. Yosef his brother was saved, and lives in Canada. The vast majority of the population of Druzhkopol were poor and not learned. Nobody knew how to read or write.
The residents were divided into two camps the householders who were more honorable and less honorable. There was only a very small difference all of them were beggars. The cultural level of all of them was equal as well. One was a Jewish beggar who went to villages to do business and sell, and the other was a small scale shop owner with empty shelves one was a poor shoemaker and the other was a poor tailor.
The barber, the bath attendant and the water carrier were of the lower class. People related to them poorly, despite the fact that there was no great difference in status. The fine Jews of that era had inherited snobbery from previous generations. They would look over from top to bottom the toilers who were often, and perhaps always, more upright and humane than the honorable householders. They would banish to the corner those tradesmen who succeeded in worshipping in the separate synagogue. If a tradesman went to a Rebbe, the honorable householders would no longer go to him.
In the small towns, there were only prayer leaders. It often occurred that such prayer leaders conducted services not because their voice was so sweet not at all! Rather, they were fine Jews. That is to say, they were from among the important householders who had the established claim of conducting Shacharit or Musaf on the High Holy Days. If the congregation of worshippers was not satisfied with these cantors and wished to engage a different prayer leader for they did not understand a word of their prayers debates broke out that not infrequently led to quarrels and to the tossing of candlesticks on heads
For example, Manele the Shochet, who was also a prayer leader, did not even have one tooth in his mouth. His manner of speaking was, if you forgive me, not at an appropriate level. He snorted through his nose, may G-d protect us! Nevertheless, the Jews of Druzhkopol had to put up with him for some thirty years until he died. His grandson, Reb Yisrael Shatz, was graced with a clear, tenor voice. He also went out to the wide world. He studied in the Yeshiva of Kishinev, and heard many cantors. He inherited the rights of prayer leader from his grandfather. He would conduct the Shacharit service on the High Holy Days. Had Reb Yisrael Shatz of blessed memory not only inherited the rights of leading prayers, but also the voice of his grandfather, the Jews of Druzhkopol would once again have to put up with snorting through the nose of weeping for an additional thirty years.
We do not know much about the great prayer leaders of the 19th century, for example, about the elderly rabbi who served even before Reb Shmuel Hirsch. Nobody heard about this and nobody talked about this. What we do know is that Reb Shmuel Hirsch was a dear Jew, with a clear, pleasant voice. He would sing with pleasantness and sweetness, so that nobody tired of hearing him for a protracted period.
After the dispute that took place between the Turiskers and the Oleskers, that finally resulted in the death of Reb Noach the rabbi of Turisk, the Turiskers slandered Reb Shmuel Hirsch, the rabbi of Olesk in front of the government, claiming that he was a spy for a foreign country! When Reb Shmuel Hirsch was standing before the prayer leader's podium on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the police came, chained him with chains, and brought him across the border After Reb Shmuel Hirsch of blessed memory, the town did not hear a prayer leader like him for a long time!
After Reb Shmuel Hirsch, Reb Yaakov Yitzchak Gelernter came in as a new rabbi. He was also a good prayer leader, but he did not reach the level of the former rabbi. He was also very pious. He would worship with great enthusiasm. His prayers were interspersed with Chasidic melodies, filled with joy and uplifting of spirit! He was regarded as a good cantor by the people of Druzhkopol.
On the Turisk side, there was a dear Jew, a teacher by profession, Reb Shmuel Goldstein of blessed memory (Shmuel Yankel's). He had a pleasant, solid voice. He prayed without tricks, without excessive extra gesticulations, as if without a tune. He would pour out his heart and the bitterness of his soul before the Master of the World. He would complain to Him and beg for mercy and lovingkindness for his nation, the nation of Israel.
After Reb Shmuel Yankels, Reb Shabtai Horenstein continued on. He was a fine baritone, but he only conducted services on rare occasions on account of his illness. The residents of the town knew how to value him and appreciate him as a good prayer leader, despite the fact that Reb Shabtai Horenstein of blessed memory did not like the board (das breitel), as the Jews used to nickname the prayer leader's podium.
After Reb Shabtai Horenstein, Reb Avraham Leib Shargil of blessed memory continued on as the prayer leader in the Beis Midrash of the Belzers. He was a merchant who owned a metal wares store. He was intelligent. He new Bible very well. His voice was low, although pleasant to the ear. He knew how to sing well, and was considered to be a good prayer leader.
After Reb Avraham Leib of blessed memory, came Reb Zalman Boxer of blessed memory. He was a fine lyric tenor. Pearls issued from his mouth. He knew how to enunciate the words. He led the services very well, with meaning and feeling. He was also a fine Torah reader. However, his sins were great in addition to his spiritual traits, he was also a fine shoemaker. Therefore, he only worshiped in the small synagogue, the Tailor's Synagogue May his holy memory be blessed.
Reb Moshe Yeshaya's had a cheder for older children. They would anger him greatly, and as a result of his constant anger and warnings, his voice was always hoarse.
I cannot classify his voice precisely. I cannot discuss his voice with wisdom, despite the fact that I myself began to study music, and always was the assistant of Reb Moshe on the High Holy days (I was in the choir). His voice was very high and so strong that if we youths were outside the city or near the river during his Sabbath prayers, we could hear his shouting out of Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh from afar.
The residents of Druzhkopol would literally lick the fingers, as is said, from the prayers of Reb Moshe Yeshaya's, and they indeed thought of his as the best cantor in the world!
The small, beautiful village was destroyed along with its cantors, its musicians, its jesters The Nazi beast wiped it out along with many other cities and towns that once were.
May their pure memories be etched upon the tablet of our hearts!
A ray of light, hope, and democracy in accordance with its meaning during that era caused a complete revolution in Druzhkopol. The status of the tradesmen was already equal in the society. He could also receive an aliya in the synagogue. He, the tradesman, could also present his opinion on communal matters, and he could receive shlishi or maftir. This situation encouraged them to regard themselves who used to see themselves as downtrodden Jews as equal human beings without deprivation. The wealthy man no longer appointed himself and took on the honorable tasks. All citizens, including tradesmen, chose him, and rented him the right to be the man of the task for a certain period. The proceeds were given to communal needs, such as: maintaining the shochet, the bathhouse, and other necessary institutions in the town.
The well-off householders no longer oppressed the proper and upright tradesman, if he conducted his work for the good of the public. For example, there was a good, scholarly shoemaker was considered no less that the well-off householders of his time. His name was Reb Zalman-Aryeh the son of Shimon of the Boxer family. He, the shoemaker Reb Zalman, was a joyous, gleeful young man. He knew how to sing nicely and to dance. He was no longer a pauper like the tradesmen who preceded him. Since he was an expert in his field, he hired workers, and always had a great deal of work. Many captains and soldiers of the border guard, tax officials, postal officials, teachers in the Russian school, and priests were customers of Reb Zalman. He earned his livelihood comfortably. If a person has livelihood, he also has self assurance. He did not see himself as a member of the lower class, but, on the contrary, he saw himself as stronger and wealthier, as it were, than all of the Jews of the town, who were called by the names of their wives and were schlemiels, worthless, and good for nothings. These husbands knew their worth very well, agreed that their wives were correct, and accepted everything in silence. He, Reb Zalman, was not dependent on any person, and not even on his wife
Reb Zalman felt that he wanted to do something for his beloved town. He founded the modern (in accordance with the times) Bikur Cholim, and also the Linat Tzedek. He called a general meeting of all citizens of the town, without differentiating by profession. He explained the importance of the institution to them, and asked them to be members of the institution. He advised that everyone pay a weekly fee, and take turns in collecting the donations. In return for this, everyone would benefit from the assistance, without exception. Nobody from amongst the gathering opposed his advice. A committee was selected that consisted of tradesman and well-to-do householders. Reb Zalman, the driving force behind this, was elected as chairman. Reb Yosef-David Schlein was the treasurer. Reb Yisrael Kehat Kramer, Reb Avraham Leib Shargil, Reb Akiva Beder, Shimon Miller, and many others were also elected.
The Bikur Cholim began to operate. The members of the committee found out that the weekly contribution was not sufficient to cover the expenses of the institution. When the festival of Purim approached, the committee decided to present a play, the income of which would be dedicated to the benefit of the Bikur Cholim. Reb Zalman immediately began working toward actualizing this aim. The rehearsals for the performance took place in his house. As I have said, Reb Zalman was a lyric tenor, and knew many popular songs. He knew songs about the might of the Jewish people. He composed sung about the tragedies that the enemies of the Jews perpetrated. He distributed verses from a bag, and Jews wept from joy and melted with contentment. I still remember a segment of his first song, a Purim song. It starts with the following words.
Honorable Masters, women and children
Turn your ears to rejoice on your holiday,
Dear readers, for the Purim festival, I will open my mouth
And listen to me
Thus did he continue to rain down verses for an entire hour.
The tailor, Reb Chaim Eli Zamel, who sewed clothes for the government officials on the border guard, supplied splendid robes for the high captains for use at all military occasions. The government never opposed and disturbed the Jews when they would dress up as gentiles on Purim. They would borrow musical instruments from the Christian band. Thus did the Jews go, dressed up in modern military fatigues (provided by Reb Chaim Eli Zamel), from house to house on the two days of Purim and Shushan Purim. They were accompanied, as is obvious, by all the children of the town.
Shimon Miller played the drums as he sung each line of the verses of Reb Zalman Oy, is this a tragedy, Haman is the expiation. Reb Akiva Beder, who once served in an army band, and knew how to play the clarinet, played in accordance with the rhythm. The other members of the band held onto their instruments, pretended to play, and accompanied the player with song.
Rubles of money (a non-insignificant coin) were given with great honor and a generous hand. Reb Zalman placed them into a large leather sack that he hung over his shoulder. I remember to this day the great party that took place on Shushan Purim. It went on until a very late hour in the evening. At that party, they counted the sum of money that the dear Jews donated to the public good. The singers were very hoarse, but happy at their achievement!
The town recalled that sublime Purim for many months, and would sing the songs that were sung at that time, until the next Purim arrived and the performance was repeated. This was repeated for many years until it became a tradition. This continued until the outbreak of the First World War. During the war, many changes took place. The occupation by the armies of Austria and Germany caused many fires and much murder. The young lives of people in our town were cut off prematurely. Reb Zalman Boxer of blessed memory was included among the victims.
After much suffering on account of the difficult situation that pervaded (pogroms and all sorts of tribulations), he caught cold and suffered from a lung disease. His wife also died at that time. He was no longer able to work, and he died at the age of 53 years, seemingly from starvation, after a lengthy illness. Reb Zalman died on the 14th of Tammuz, 1952. May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life. May these words serve as a memorial monument to my dear father.
Reb Shimon Miller moved to Horochow. Akiva Beder moved to Lobchovka.
That, after various incidents and tragedies, the knot became untied, as is said, and the activity on behalf of the important civic institutions was forsaken.
I myself, the writer of these lines, was away from home for a long time. Throughout the entire year of 1925, I wandered through Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. When I returned home, the town, like other places, had a different environment. Different winds were blowing...
We founded schools and library already before the war. The dramatic group was founded under the direction of the upright, eminent Mr. Lazer (Eliezer) Hochberg, about whom I will speak at length.
In the meantime, I will continue in the realm of history.
Various factions were founded: general Zionists, Bundists, Revisionists, and a pioneering organization. The youth began to become agitated. The youth were prepared to make Aliya and to build up the Holy Land. The entire leadership of communal matters was now in the hands of the youth. The Bikur Cholim organization was numbered among these. It took on a different form. I was chosen at its head, so that I could continue the work of my late father, which was cut off in such a tragic manner.
This was wartime. It was a difficult time, when the population was in need of medical assistance. The governing authorities changed frequently. There were regular soldiers and also garrisons. The Bolsheviks invaded, and the next day, the armies of Petliura, and again the Poles and the Shkuros, Denikinchiks, Budyonnychiks, and once again the Poles, returned. One tribulation was worse than the other. Who was capable of maintaining the order of Bikur Cholim under such difficult conditions?
The chapter that I am entitling New Times should indeed have been called The Beginning of the Destruction of our Town of Druzhkopol. However, who was a prophet and knew how close the destruction of Jewry by the soldiers of Hitler, may his name be blotted out, really was?
Many writers wrote and still write about the terrible Holocaust that was perpetrated against the people of Israel. However the hand and pen are too weak to describe this terrifying situation. Therefore, I will return to a description of the history of Druzhkopol.
Who was Lazer Hochberg? He was a man of fine, sublime character traits. He was filled to the brim with Torah, and was fluent in six or seven languages. His travels took him around half the globe. He was an enthusiastic Communist, perhaps even an anarchist. However, he was an upright man, with a good heart, and innocent as a child. His large body added stature to his appearance. With the innocence always implanted on his face, he was like an older child. He drew people to him. When he played with the young children, even the adults who were in his area knew how to turn into good, small children
He was the son of an enlightened, well-to-do family. Hochberg brought together all of the youth from all of the factions, and founded a dramatic section, a school and a library. To sum it up, everyone felt happy under his protection. All of them, rich and poor alike, the tailor, the shoemaker, and the daughter of the wealthy man performed together in the theater, and were in the same school and library.
We established the school in the halls of the former Russian post office. The windows and doors were broken due to the wartime destruction. Therefore Lazer Hochberg, the dear man, would sleep there on cold nights in order to guard the property. Despite the fact that he was suffering from hunger and dressed in tattered clothes, he refused to accept the teaching position that was offered to him, so that nobody should say that he was interested in personal gain. He did his activities without intending to receive a reward. He brought a teacher from the nearby town of Luck, Mr. Flamenbaum and his wife. She taught mathematics and music.
They brought Mr. Epel from Lockache. A local teacher, Mr. Moshe Wahze, taught Hebrew, Bible and Torah.
When Lazer Hochberg heard that the Bolsheviks were arriving, he took his manuscripts that were not yet published, and ran to greet them. They took him for a spy and shot him on the spot. May his memory be blessed!
After I left Druzhkopol, the youth continued on with its activities as before. The following people stood at the head of the organization after me: Yaakov Fishman, Peretz Grynberg, David Giterman, Ezriel Shatz, Yosef Boxer (my brother) and many more.
The Hitlerist beast invaded and uprooted all roots that the poor, upright Jews had laid down throughout the generations, for almost 300 years! They had done their work with their sweat and blood, and brought our lovely town to the height of development and social culture. Our tiny town sent forth, without help from outside, dear intelligent children. From a proportional standpoint, there were 160 families, and we did not have anything to be embarrassed about, even with respect to the city of Warsaw!
We had our own writers, poets, artists, agronomists, and find tradesmen of various types. There were many, many Jews with warm hearts.
Sons and daughters were tortured by, and perished at the hands of the Germans in the cruelest of fashions. Twenty people were crowded into one small room in the ghetto. This was in the extreme cold. Their clothing and shoes were removed, and walked around barefoot in the snow and the mud.
For their own entertainment, these murderers forced children to beat their parents, and they shot children before the eyes of their parents.
Finally, they took them all out, 900 souls, toward Hochlofov. Their, the poor people dug a communal grave for themselves. The Germans and Ukrainians surrounded them with machineguns. They shot them, and tossed the dead and the living into the gigantic pit.
One of those buried alive succeeded in digging himself out of his grave at night. He fled to the partisans. Today he is in Israel as one of the survivors.
Only the Great Synagogue, the pride of the townsfolk that enlightened the city for 150 years, was left standing, embarrassed and longing for the dear Jews that shed so many tears and prayed to the good and merciful G-d. This is all that remains for us after the destruction of our lovely town that we called Druzhkopol for 300 years!
May this synagogue, which was pillaged by the gentiles, serve as a threat and a memorial of their sins, and may it torment their conscience all the days of their lives. May it remind them of their horrific sin that they took part in, the destruction of innocent citizens, citizens that lived with them under one roof for decades, and never did anything wrong to them!
Upright people who toiled stage by stage to develop the city, and gave of the best of their energy and efforts to the development of the town, were destroyed. These were people who implanted a ray of culture and knowledge, improved their livelihood for decades, and instilled a humane way of life in all areas. All of these were murdered in cold blood by the uncircumcised and impure Ukrainians. May they be cursed for this!
I write these lines and conclude them with reverence and a trembling hand, for all that is left for me to say is, Pour out your wrath upon the nations, and may the name Amalek be wiped out for all generations!
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