by Shmuel Farber
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
I go through my beloved shtetl [town]
Wander around it lost, as if blind;
The houses are unfamiliar, the streets unknown
Not recognizing, unrecognized.
I will find the khederim [religious elementary schools],
The house of prayer stands orphaned,
|Look! The synagogue hill a cemetery,
Terrifyingly aflame at sunset
Dear Jews! Where are you?
All dead, all dead.
by Dovid Treszczanski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
|Everyone, everyone is near to me, brothers of my sadness|
You always follow me as a nightmare, day and night, Goniadz, my dear shtetele!
Home of my childhood years, of my youth. In you I rocked in my straw cradle, studied in kheder and grew into a person. In you I spent my young years as a victim in the struggle for a better world.
Endless pictures run through my memory!
Friday a wedding in the shtetl. The groom and bride are accompanied by music to the synagogue hill. The entire shtetl is lively a wedding in the shtetl, lehavdil a funeral in the shtetl. Everything draws me to the ghostly alley. Everything is wrapped in sorrow.
Joy and sadness together.
There stands our white synagogue on the hill like a light-tower. Jews would run to the synagogue hill on a warm day to catch a breeze from the river.
The old bathhouse stands beneath. Children running with their fathers to the bath How lively and familiar erev Pesakh, erev Rosh Hashanah.
Here is the old Beis-Medrash. Mordekhai the shamas heats the oven and we, friends, bring potatoes to bake. A group plays cards on a big, long table in the woman's prayer room. Mordekhai the shamas chases them out
Chana-Dina's son, Yaruhem's gemara melody reverberates by the tallow candle on a winter night
And the bel-tefilah's the always joyful Reb Eliezar, son of Rywka Ruchl's son Moshe, and Yankl Elia, the blacksmith's son. I see them in front of the synagogue lectern dressed in a kitl, in talisim asking and crying for a good year.
And the stormy meetings in the Beis-Medrash about all community matters. What was not there in Goniadz? [Political] parties, schools, groups, sport groups, reading circles, libraries and so on.
The dear Y.L. Peretz library! How much love and energy I put in among your walls! Another book! Another book! And the delight in my heart. I cannot forget the late Leibl Mankowski, the founder and creator of the library who was beloved in all circles of Goniadz society.
I remember the inscription on his headstone: Here lies a simple member of a Jewish worker family.
A number of young Goniadzers were forced to his grave where they were shot and buried.
I see you all, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, how you were forced into the cattle cars to Bogusze  Your last journey.
It is quiet in the shtetl. Death is all around.
It is Friday in the evening. No Shabbos candles. The windows black, dark holes
And the Bober swims farther on its way Dear River Bober! Our mothers would launder our childish shirts in your clear waters. How many dreams did young hearts dream, navigating on your calm waters on summer evenings? How many hearty songs did we sing on boats rented from Mikhal the fisherman?
Jews came to your waters to say Tashlikh. Jewish children will never again swim on your still waters and pious Jews will never come to you again to wash the sinning skirts of their garments
And the frogs at Dolko, Guzy and Rawe croak as always.
Where are you, dear daughters of Rawe! Your Shabbos pletzlekh were tasty! A house for everyone who was hungry Always singing and joyfulness and so much hominess.
For the Goniadz survivors an eternal, deep wound that will never heal!
However, from the great ruins rises the heroic personality of a young man from Goniadz, Avraham-Leizer Rubin, the son of Yankl the blacksmith. The hero of the uprising in Treblinka and of the partisan movement around Bialystok calls to us and demands that we never forget.
M. Sh. Ben-Meir
Translated by Selwyn Rose
|The night was rainy and after midnight
Blind autumn's fingers o'er the window pane groped,
Tapping her fingers on the tears.
Nestled in the bosom of an armchair
An orphan curled, during a night of cold,
Nestling close to its foster-mother.
Behind me stands the lantern,
A crumpled paper I spread before me,
The details of a nightmare.
My vision is clouded,
I raised my eyes to the picture.
Woe to you, O aged Jew enwrapped and adorned!
Behold your sunken fear-filled eyes
|In vain: In vain I hid in the House of Prayer!
That which demands blood passed you o'er----
You surely remembered the explicit verse:
And behold within his frame he stirred and moved,
The concealed secrets of your experience
I am an old Israel.
by Avraham Yaffe, Tel Aviv
Translated by Amy Samin
In our town, an ancient synagogue stood on a steep hill. The date of its founding is unknown, but the elders of the town would recount that long ago, when the area was ruled by the Prussians, a large prison stood on the spot. And how many benefits there were in that synagogue mount. Aside from the sanctity of the synagogue, and the extensive field around it that isolated it from the town also of note was the wonderful and spectacular view of the surrounding area. At its feet flowed the Buber River, which wound its course through fields, meadows, and green pastures into the distance, and on the horizon continuous dense forests which surrounded the area with a blue-green wreath. Not for nothing did the townspeople take pride in the synagogue mount.
On the winter Sabbaths, a minyan [ten men, the minimum number required for prayers] of worshipers and synagogue faithful would gather, plodding through the mud or in snow up to the knees. Though as Passover approached and the spring sun began to warm the face of the earth, the residents of the town would throng to the synagogue mount, to see whether the river had awakened from its winter slumber under a thick blanket of ice wrapped in a thin sheet of white snow. On one of the Sabbaths, as the worshippers left the synagogue, chilled to the bone, to warm up a bit in the shining sunlight and to observe the river, suddenly a declaration was heard: the ice is moving! In the air could be heard the echoes of the faint sound of the ice cracking, and from the river and beneath it came the trumpeting sound and an amazing noise, which grew louder and louder. That Sabbath day became the festival of Spring, and the synagogue mount would celebrate its victory. During the Mincha [afternoon] prayers of the Sabbath, the number of worshippers would greatly increase, and people would stand and watch the flowing ice with joy and trembling They had just finished studying Psalm 104, and here suddenly they could see with their own eyes how manifold are thy works, the river killing the ice as it rose up on its banks, its breadth and length in a glorious song of freedom, the song of Spring, a celebration of light and liberty. From Passover to Sukkot and even Simchat Torah, the synagogue was the center of prayer in the town, and the synagogue mount became a destination for day trips, conversations and gatherings for the townspeople.
Lightning struck the roof of the synagogue more than once, and under the roof was kept the lightening-struck timber, in memory of the saving of the synagogue from destruction by fire.
Many conflagrations befell the town, and during the First World War part of the town was destroyed and burned by the shelling of the Germans and the Russians. The synagogue on its high hill, and with its stone walls, remained unchanged, like an unmovable stone in a stormy sea, like Mount Zion which cannot be removed, until the blasphemous Nazis invaded the town, those two legged predators, may their names and memories be erased, in the Second World War, at the end of 1938. And so came to an end the fortress of the community of Goniadz.
Rosh Hashanah, 1939. The people demanded in secret: make weak the haters of Israel. But the opposite happened the bitter enemy of the Jews grew stronger, and with its victory over Poland, the town fell under the government of the filthy, evil Nazis. With the Days of Awe came the real days of horror.
A great fear befell the Jews on the eve of Yom Kippur. Someone spread the word that the Nazis had a terrible plot against the Jews: they were going to blow up the synagogue during the Kol Nidre prayer. The rabbi and the beadles made an announcement not to come to pray at the synagogue on the eve of Yom Kippur. They were barely able to scrape together a minyan at the rabbi's house, and there they secretly said the Kol Nidre prayer.
The belief of the townspeople was weakened when they heard that they were to avoid praying in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, because many used to come to pray in the synagogue on that sacred day of fasting, because the pure air there would ease their fast
The next day, on Yom Kippur, suddenly the sounds of a loud, threatening explosion were heard. Fire and billows of smoke - chunks of the synagogue walls went flying upwards, the roof and ceiling collapsed, and the entire synagogue mount became like a volcano. The Nazis had put their plot into action and blown up the synagogue on Yom Kippur. The Jews of the town prayed brokenheartedly in grief and sorrow: No prophet and no visionary, like the blind we will cast about and leave. Every day it is said what will be our end, our lives are hanging in the balance
During the prayers, weeping and burning tears flowed from their eyes over this new destruction the destruction of the ancient synagogue that had once been the majesty of the town.
[Pages 723-724 - Yiddish] [Pages 727-730 - Hebrew]
by Idl Treszczanski (M. Sh. BenMeir) of blessed memory
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
On the green hill, separated from the shtetl,
Chosen on the first day of creation,
Everyone admired your magnificence
And everyone told of the glory of your importance:
An old castle from Jan Sobieski's time
From childhood on there has appeared in my dreams
When the swirl of time torments my mood,
I see the mantel lamps blazing in holiness,
|I see talisim swaying, without end,
Rabbi Gdalye stretches out his hands for the priestly blessing
The voice of Kopl the melamed's shofar
And Meir Budner's melody split the walls…
My synagogue is a ruin my most beautiful dream!
And we cry with them…
But I I cannot cry,
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Eikhah [Lamentations] How destroyed and empty has become the deep-rooted traditional, old kehile [organized Jewish community] in Goniadz! Her sons and daughters, sacred and pure, righteous and honest people in deed and work, were tortured for the Yidishkeit [a Jewish way of life] and met a violent death through the blood thirsty murderers, may their names and their memory be erased, and their bones were seeded and spread across the blood soaked Polish ground and they were not given a burial.
Let us stand sadly and quietly in our great sorrow for the taking of our holy. Let us engrave their dear memory in the depth of our hearts and may their dear images always float before our eyes!
Let their desperate cry of pain not leave our ears and our sadness not cease until the shame and the curse of exile is erased and our people will build and be reestablished in its land, Israel!
|Let us remember them in all prayers,
We will lament them in all prayers for the dead.
Let us recognize them in all Yisgadals,
May they exist in all our Hatikvahs
Yisgadal is the opening word of the Kaddish recited by mourners.
Hatikvah The Hope an anthem adopted by the Zionist movement and now the national anthem of the State of Israel.
Shema Yizroel Hear, O Israel the central prayer of Jewish worship.
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