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[Page 117]

Spectres of War haunt the “Angel of Belsen”


Prison Camp Heroine Tries to Forget
Shielded Children from Nazi Terrors

One day in 1942 the Germans moved 10,000 Jews from a ghetto near Kamenetz-Litovsk Poland, to their Oswiecim (Auschwitz) Concentration camp. Oswiecim (Auschwitz) later became known around the world as the Nazi's most efficient death factory. At that time, however, it was just another place where helpless people suffered and died quickly or slowly, it didn't much matter which.

SS guards sorted out this group of new arrivals, piling the old and sick into trucks bound for the gas chambers, marching the rest to barracks, where they would live in squalor as long as they were capable of working. One of them grabbed the arm of a young woman holding her 3-year-old son by the hand.

"How old are you?"

She told him.

Flames Seared Her Heart

He said, "That's a lie." As he said the last word his fist smashed into her mouth. A few seconds later, when she came to her senses, she was lying on the ground, her mouth full of blood and broken bits of teeth. Her eyes focused just in time to see the guard throw her baby on the back of a gas chamber truck, already piled high with the wasted forms of other useless human beings. The truck drove away.

That was the last Luba Tryszynska saw of Isaac, only child of Hersch, the husband the Nazis had taken away the year before to work as a slave labourer. By the time she made her way to the crematorium, fire had done its work.

In the summer of 1944, they moved her to Belsen. She had survived typhus and two trips to the gas chambers door where, stripped naked, she won last-second reprieves from death. Briefly, pitifully, her path had crossed that of her husband. When they put her to work as a nurse in the camp's so-called hospital, he was caught trying to throw her a piece of bread over the wire fence surrounding the hospital compound. They punished him by making him work at the crematorium and shot him dead when he tried to escape.

Her life of torture seemed somehow to have caused the spirit to freeze inside her. She no longer reacted to anything. S lie could not cry or care.

But now, as a nurse, there were certain advantages for Luba Tryszynska. Wearing a long-sleeved jacket, she was able to conceal the small triangle beneath the identification number tattooed on her left arm – the mark of the Jew. She told the Belsen authorities she was Russian and, because she spoke the language perfectly, they believed her. They put her into one of a number of little shacks in which nurses from the hospital were housed.

Always the Same

While Luba Tryszynska was trying mainly to sleep, on her first night in Belsen, she suddenly became obsessed with the idea that she heard children crying. She woke up the nurse sleeping next to her, another transfer from Oswiecim.

"Do you hear?" she said. "Children. They are crying."

"Go to sleep," said the woman. "It is always the same.

You imagine you hear your baby. Go to sleep."

But Luba Tryszynska could not sleep. Defying the regulations, she got up and went outside the shack.

In a dark corner of the road near-by, a large truck like a coal truck – was parked. The motor was running, the headlights cut a sharp swath in the darkness and she could see the driver in the cab. Suddenly there was the sound of whirring machinery. The carrying part of the truck tipped up steeply, and the back panel fell away. Thus, casually, the driver dumped his load, which piled up in the mud behind the truck.

Luba Tryszynska could not see what the load was, but she could hear. She ran as fast as she could toward that dark pile in the mud, from which the crying came. There – struggling, screaming, helplessly intertwined – were dozens of children.

She snatched a boy about 6 months old from the top of the heap and, with the baby in her arm, ran to the front of the truck.

"What are you doing with these children?" she asked the driver.

Comforts Children

"What do I care what they do with them? They will die, of course." The driver put the truck in gear. "They are Jews," he added. Then he drove away.

That night Luba Tryszynska went from one hut to another, waking the nurses, making them take some children in each room. There were 64 children. At least 17 of them, of which she took personal charge, seemed to be under 2 years of age. The oldest was 12. They were Dutch, but she found she could talk to some of them in German and through these she pieced together their story.

With their parents, part-Jewish Hollanders caught in Germany by the war, they had been living in a nearby camp waiting to be sent back to the Netherlands. The Germans had found three loaves of bread illegally hidden in the barracks. The parents had been sent to work in an ammunition factory. The children, for whom there was no room in the factory barracks, had been sent to Belsen.

Luba Tryszynska spent the night doing what she could to make the 17 babies in her hut clean and comfortable. When a German worker, the wife of an SS trooper, passed by in the early morning, she begged this woman to give her something for the children to eat. The woman refused, but later returned with some bread scraps, a little marmalade and a big jug of drinking water. The children ate, then slept.

Luba Tryszynska went to the hospital commandant, a Dr. Klein. She begged him to let her care for the children.

"He was a murderer," she said later, "but he spoke soft.

He said, "You are a nurse, you belong to the hospital, not to these Jewish kids."

The Simplest Way

Still she pleaded. She would keep them out of the way, she said. He would never know they were in the camp. At last he agreed to look at the children.

Dr. Klein stood for almost a minute in the doorway of Luba Tryszynska's hut, watching the sleeping infants. Then he said, "I will give you a barracks. You will have charge of all the children in the camp. There are 30 others here already."

"It was not," she explained late, "that he was a good man. He thought it was the simplest way. No one knew better than he how absurd it was to try keep all those children alive in Belsen."

Three days later, Luba Tryszynska had her barracks and her 94 children. The new ones were from Eastern Europe: A few Poles, some Czechoslovaks – 18 were Russian.

Of course, as Dr. Klein believed, it was an absurd attempt. The camp's basic diet, at the time, seemed to be one of turnips and saltpetre. She went first to some Russians who had jobs in the hospital's central kitchen. She told them she had charge of 94 children in the camp – all Russian.

Luba Tryszynska was no Communist, but she could lie for her charges as easily as she could steal for them. "Comrades," she told the Russian workmen, "I give you my word as a Bolshevist, if you get me food for these children – and if I am caught – they can kill me, but I will not tell where it came from."

Fought Cold and Hunger

From the kitchen to her barracks, she smuggled food she got from these Russians in the bottom of jars, the top half of which was filled with the regulation turnips. It was not much. A bit of flour for making tiny biscuits, a little sugar, some margarine, and now and then a small piece of horse-meat.

She cooked every night, all night long inside the barracks, feeding the children in groups of 20 while the rest slept. She did this to avoid calling attention to what was going on; in the daytime, the barracks were as quiet as though they had been deserted. At all times, the children stayed indoors.

Luba Tryszynska's hopeless attempts to keep the place and the children clean did not, of course, prevent them from becoming sick. Everybody was sick in Belsen. Like the others, the children – almost all of them – developed typhus and dysentery. She put bottles of hot water on their stomachs to try ease their terrible cramps. In winter she braved the guards to wander around the compound at night, endlessly searching for bits of wood with which to keep going the one stove in the barracks.

The youngest baby was obviously dying. She knew he could not be kept alive on little biscuits, ground horse-meat and water. One day, she told another nurse she was going to Joseph Kramer himself, the "Beast of Belsen," dread commandant of the camp. She said she would ask him for milk for the children.

The Beast Listened

"You are mad!" her friend said. "He will kill you".

It was a logical reaction. Kramer used to walk around Belsen with a whip in his hand, and it was his habit to use the whip on prisoners who approached him. In a bad mood, he would lash at anybody not quick enough to get our of reach.

Three time Luba Tryszynska made her way into his office. The first two times, he threw her bodily out of the room, but the third time she screamed at him that she would be paid whether he liked it or not. The squat, brutish sadist had not heard that kind of talk for a long time, and he hesitated for a moment. That opening was all she needed. She began to talk, so fast and loud that he listened in spite of himself.

He listened in silence for perhaps five minutes. Then, suddenly, he leaned forward and scribbled something on a piece of paper. He tore the paper from the pad, crumpled it in his hand and threw it in Luba Tryszynska's face.

"Get out!" he roared. "Take your G-- d-- Jew b-- and get out of here!"

The paper, she found, entitled her to five liters of milk from the camp stores.

Less than six quarts of milk for almost 100 children. Dr. Klein had been right, of course. The whole thing was obviously absurd.

Exhausted and Broken

Nine months after the children arrived at Belsen, the British Army arrived there. They were amazed by many things in that vast chamber of horrors. Nothing amazed them more than the children – exactly 94 of them – that they found alive in one ramshackle barracks building presided over by a Polish Jewess named Luba Tryszynska, exhausted, broken and fully middle-aged in her 28th year.

They made a good deal of her. They put her and the children in a special hospital and gave them the best care. An official of the British Red Cross began collecting material for a book about her. Incredulous doctors interviewed her, and came back to hear the story again.

Later, the Dutch Government provided a special airplane and she took the 64 Dutch children who had been dumped in the mud back to their homes in Holland. Queen Wilhelmina decorated her on behalf of the nation. "The Angel of Belsen," the Queen called her.

Luba Tryszynska took to Sweden those of the other children, who like herself, were in the category of displaced persons. There they were put in a fine state orphan asylum. Many were quickly adopted into families in Sweden and Finland. Some were sent to new homes in Palestine through Youth Aliyah, an organization connected with Hadassah.

In Sweden, Luba Tryszynska married a handsome young Pole named Sol Frederich, whom she met in a DP camp. He had spent five years in Oswiecim, but she did not know him there. He had relatives in the United States.

[Page 127]

Kamenetzers
in the United States

The Kamenetz Society in America

Activity Report by Sarah Hurwitz, Correspondence Secretary


Our Society was established in May 1923 by: Rabbi Benjamin Mostovsky, Sarah Simhovich, Rivkah Lifschitz, Ester Dolinsky, Haya Sara Mendelson and Feyge Radishitz.

There were only few ladies among its members.

Gradually, the Society grew larger and increased the scope of its activities. That was the period of large-scale immigration to America after the First World War. Many women from Kamenetz joined the Society which numbered over 150 members at that time.

Our activity began by sending money for the Kamenetz Talmud-Torah School, and a monthly allowance for the Rabbis. We also sent food and clothes for children. The money was sent to Reb Joseph Vigotov, May He rest in peace; he distributed it according to everybody's needs.

Some time later, we found out that some of our fellow countrymen from Kamenetz including some Yeshivah Students were in Russia. We lost no time in establishing contact with them by mail and we sent them money and food parcels.

The "Malbush Arumim Ladies Society" which provided clothes for the needy, financed the transportation to America of the Yeshivah students. We have a Kamenetz Yeshivah here and also in Jerusalem.

Many thousands of dollars have been spent for philanthropic purposes for American and Kamenetz "Yeshivot" (Institutions for religious studies), hospitals and other institutions. Funds were provided to enable brides from poorer families to get married.

We are sending help to Israel; we participate in the United Jewish Appeal and buy Israel Bonds. We financed the erection of a house in Israel and of a room in the Kamenetz Yeshivah. We also sent a Torah scroll there. One of the Yeshivah students (a grandson of Rabbi Baruch Ber of blessed memory) was adopted by us. Now we are erecting an additional building for the Yeshivah. The above institution received also a considerable amount of money.

Every year, before the Passover holiday, we send a special allocation ("Meot Hitin"). We planted trees in Israel with the help of Jacob Savitzky of blessed memory, in the name of the "Malbush Arumim" Society.

We contributed a fund for the rescue from a French convent of four orphaned girls.

We contributed to the American Magen David Drive for Israel and sent various equipment, machines, building supplies as well as an ambulance, a centrifuge for blood plasma, 2 oxygen tents and a large quantity of drugs, to the David Marcus Memorial Building, for use in the hospital.

Quite recently we provided 5000 dollars for the erection of a clinic at Ofakim, near Beersheba. The Israel Government allocated 20000 dollars for the same purpose.

On May 5, 1963, we celebrated our 40th anniversary with pride and joy.

Our "Malbush Arumim" Society has done much for the general good, during the 40 years of its existence; it also helped to make possible the publication of the Memorial Book.

The following ladies hold offices in our society: Rivka Lifshitz – President: Bella Tendler, the Wife of Rabbi Tendler - Vice-President; Sara Hurwitz - Protocol and Financial Secretary; Nelly Federbush – Treasurer; Vice-Presidents: Babel Serota, Haya Rivka Sirota, Pearl Goldstein and Tema Goldman.


[Page 130]

The Establishment of Kamenetz-Litovsk
Aid Society in America

Activity Report by Meir Mendel Visotzky, New-York


In the 19th Century and at the beginning of the 20th Century, when the gates of America were widely open to the large stream of immigrants coming from Europe and other continents, our townlet, Kamentz-Litovsk, did not remain outside the stream.

Kamentz was not an industrial town and the possibilities of earning a living were very limited. As a result of the difficult economic conditions, many of our fellow townsmen from Kamenetz were forced to emigrate to America in search of happiness in the new land.

That is how many natives of Kamenetz settled down and because citizens in the new country where they hoped for a better future.

One of the Kamenetz townsmen died unexpectedly in a car-accident. The question where to bury him turned up. At that time there already existed the "Kokhav Ya'acov Anshei Kamenetz D'Lita" Synagogue, called also the Kamenetzer Shul, which possessed its own cemetery.

The Kamenetz people requested the permission of the management of the Synagogue to bury the victim Of the accident in their cemetery. Unfortunately, the request was refused on the grounds that the cemetery was only for strictly Orthodox Jews. This incident provided a stimulus for the more progressive Kamenetz townsmen to get organized in a separate organization.

Thereupon, in 1900, the Kamenetz-Litovsk Aid Society was established.

Beginning with a mere handful, the Society grew larger and in the course of time, counted 200 members.

The actions of the Aid Society have full justified the name it carries. During the years of its existence its doors were always open to the Kamenetz townsmen and to other institutions that needed help.

After the end of the First World War, the Society, the Synagogue Council and all other Kamenetz organizations, established a large Relief Committee to help all Kamenetz victims, wherever they might be; particular efforts were made to come to the assistance of the Kamenetz Talmud Torah, the only religious learning institution in Kamenetz.

During his visit to America, the Society honored the Late Kamenetzer Rov, Rabbi Burstein who was always guest at our meetings; we gave him the greatest possible measure of assistance. In this way our Society kept up contacts with our unforgotten townlet Kamenetz till the great Catastrophe.

Soon after the end of the Second World War, the Kamenetz Society, together with all other Kamenetz organizations, again set up a relief-committee, in the hope of helping the war victims of our town. Great were our pain and sorrow when we learned about the enormous proportions of the catastrophe.

Unfortunately, our hopes of being able to extend help to our fellow-townsmen did not materialize. Those few, fortunate persons from Kamenetz, who succeeded to survive the Nazi death-camps and came to America, were received by us like brothers and sisters.

On their first visit to our Committee, each one of them received 100 dollars. To our sorrow, there were no more people from Kamenetz whom we could help.

The sum of $ 2300, which was at our disposal for aid purposes, was transferred by us to the United Jewish Appeal, the only body which extended help to the holocaust survivors and to the State of Israel. The Relief-Committee was dissolved. Despite the dissolution of the General Relief Committee, the Aid Society, as an independent organization, did not give up its philanthropic activity.

The Society was instrumental in selling $ 5000 worth of Israel Bonds and continues to participate in various drives for Israel.

The Kamenetz Society was pleased to welcome our fellow townsman Abraham Shudroff who arrived from Israel with the proposal to publish a Memorial Book. The Society has been one of the active participants on the Memorial Book Committee. It gave both material and moral support to the project.

The following members direct the affairs of the Kamenetz-Litovsk Aid Society:

Velvel Miletsky – President; Hershel Bobrofsky – Vice President; Meir Visotzky – Financial Secretary; Harry Simon – Protocol Secretary; Jack Goldberg – Treasurer.

The author of this report is one of the Society's representatives on the Memorial Book Committee.

While describing the Society's activity, we must mention the great personality of the late Jacob Hurvitz who was one of the first active members of our society.

He was a great scholar learned in the Law. In spite of his great knowledge he was a very modest man without a trace of haughtiness in his relations with the humblest of men. It was he who drew up the Statute of the Society.

He was devoted with all his heart and soul to the Society's work. Whenever requested, he was always ready to lend his helping hand in cultural matters.

An Aramaic phrase of our forefathers: "Woe for those who are gone and cannot be replaced certainly applies to a man like him.

Blessed be His Memory!


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Members of Aid Society
Sitting, from right to left: Mr. Babal Man; Mr. Harry Simon; Mr. William Miletsky;
Mr. Jim Goldberg; Mr. Meyer Wisotzky.
Standing, from right to left: Mr. Louis Radish; Mr. Harry Bobrofsky;
Mr. Izzy Silverman; Mr. Sam Melnitsky


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Members of Lopata Famiy
Sitting, from right to left:
Mrs. Esther Weinstein; Mr. Sam Weinstein; Mr. Iser Goldberg;
Dr. Meyer Tendler, Mr. Meyer Wisotzky; Mrs. Beila Reyzl Segal.
Standing, from right to left:
Mr. Abraham Wisotzky; Mrs. Helen Wisotzky;
Mrs. Hayke Goldberg; Mrs. Sylvia Tendler;
Mrs. Shoshke Wisotzky; Mr. Moshe Segal


[Page 136]

The Kamenetzer Yeshivah of America

by Charles Raddock

Imprint of a Unique Personality – Baruch Baer of Kamenetz


Break up the cluster of the seven Slavo-Germanic regions that but a while ago comprised East-European Jewry, and you find that each had a character all its own, each gave birth to movements of no relation to one another and even opposed to one another.

At the western end, for example, there was Germany, where Reform Judaism was born under Moses Mendelsohn the wake of the European enlightenment, as historians describe the cultural transition of eighteenth to nineteenth centuries. In the south-eastern regions – that is, the Ukraine, Poland, Austria, Hungary, and Rumania – the Hassidic movement was sired by Israel Baal Shem. While at the north-eastern extreme, where north Poland links with western Russia, the yeshivah and kolel movement was founded by Hayim of Volozhin, disciple and colleague of the phenomenal Elijah of Wilno.

Of the first two movements only Hassidism still seems to show some sign of life, despite its old-world features, while Reform is dying, as its leaders frankly confess. And only the last – the yeshivah movement – appears to be gaining impetus, if we may gauge it by certain symptoms across the length and breadth of the land. What is particularly significant about yeshivah growth is its un-indigenous character (except for Yeshiva University). For the moment it seems rather to be gathering momentum in the tradition of the yeshivoth of Russo-Polish Lithuania and of points south.

This would never have happened if East European Jewry had survived, and it is with lingering sadness that we observe this unprecedented transplantation of European academic institutions that left their imprint on universal Jewry. The transplantation has been so complete in some instances as to carry along faculties and student bodies, often via circuitous routes as remote as Mongolia, Siberia and China from the heart of East-European Jewries. A case in point is the Kamenetzer Yeshivah of America which, if the term "wandering Jew" has any meaning, applies to this institution of higher learning. You may call Kamenetzer Yeshivah of America the most itinerant yeshivah of the century.

Founded sixty-one years ago as "K'nesseth Beth Yitzhak," it was forced to flee to Minsk at the outbreak of World War I. Then down again to Kremenchug, about five hundred miles south. Then to Wilno, about seven hundred miles north. And, shortly before the rise of Hitler, to Kamieniec Litewski (Kamenetz-Litovsk), about four hundred miles south-west, closer to the Polish border, a small settlement in Bielorussia founded in the thirteenth century. And, then, again, following the catastrophe of World War H, via the Far East, to Jerusalem and New York, where it is presently housed in a five-story brown-stone at 255 East Broadway, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Here, the heroic survivors pursue their studies, as in happier days under their late guide and mentor Rabbi B. B. Leibovitz, affectionately remembered by the scholarly world as "Rav Baruch Baer," and regarded by authorities as the greatest Talmudic savant of our time.

What sets apart Kamenetzer Yeshivah of America from other yeshivoth is that its disciples are competent to carry on in the absence of their late celebrated dean, hewing to the course laid down during the four creative decades of his regime. The first principle of his teachings was this, that the study of Talmud, Halachah and related subjects must be pursued for its own sake, without regard to material gain or reward. It is therefore at Kamenetzer Yeshivah that the Talmudic elite may be found, adult scholars from whose ranks are expected to emerge America's Talmudic authorities of the future.

Kamenetz, it seems, does not produce mere "rabbis" or other ecclesiastical functionaries. Its emphasis is on research and scholarship, as, in a sense, Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Study under the directorship of Prof. Robert Oppenheimer concentrates on scientific research for the enhancement of science. In this sense, you might say, too, Kamenetzer Yeshivah is not a "yeshivah" at all, as we have come to understand that word. But is rather a "kdlel," in the tradition of nineteenth century "kolelim," whose fraternity included the greatest scholars of the old world. The term "yeshivah," as you know, has been bandied about indiscriminately in our country. In fact, what is usually described here as a "yeshivah" would have been classified abroad as a "talmud torah" that serves adolescents. Since the term "yeshivah" (for reasons we need not go into) is frequently a misnomer, it would be an understatement to call K.Y. other than a "kolel". A "kolel" serves advanced students exclusively.

Advanced students, as you know, cannot be mere undergraduates, so to say. The very nature of scholarly research involves long and arduous pursuit, often years of preparation far beyond the normal years of study for average students. Thus, in order to encourage research, Kamenetzer Yeshivah of America finances its Talmudic projects by stipends to keep its scholars going even after they have taken on the responsibilities of home and family. It may not be much from our standpoint of living, but it seems to be enough for these dedicated men who have made Jewish scholarship their life work.

This method of financing Talmudic projects was introduced by the above-mentioned Hayyim of Volozhin a century and a half ago, when on the outskirts of Wilno he founded the model yeshivah – or "kolel" – for the scholarly elite, a fraternity that produced the most learned halakhic spokesmen during, the whole range of the nineteenth century. And as informed readers know, too, Judaism is not a faith of mere form and rite. While form and rite are basic to our Faith, it is the study of that vast literature transmitted to us down the centuries that is an integral part of the Faith. Without it Judaism would long ago have been relegated to the limbo of dead antiquity.

It is no secret to those who have been exposed to it that to probe even into a minor section of that encyclopedic literature, a whole lifetime could not suffice. For it involves, among other things, a knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic, etymology, philology, mathematics, architecture, astronomy, anatomy, physics, biology, medicine, criminology, theology, not to mention mysticism (as we Jews understand it). In short, merely to read the voluminous literature based on the twenty-four books of the "Old Testament" and particularly on the Five Books of Moshe – were humanly impossible, so vast is it so diversified, so intricate, so diffused.

The anthology just published by Kamenetzer Kolel en titled "Deggel Naphtali" and containing original monographs of the most abstruse rabbinic problems, attests to the scholarship of that learned fraternity. To my knowledge, this is the first instance of a student body showing up in print under the imprimatur of a yeshivah. Of course there are so-called "journals" and "annuals" published by various student bodies of American yeshivoth, but they have no more value, say, than journalism has to literature; they are featherweight stuff. Original "Deggel Naphtali" represent the original Talmudic findings of the scholars of K.Y. every one of whom gives promise of future creative endeavour, as each is expected to enrich that vast rabbinic treasure house of literature begun two millennia ago by our sages.

There were great minds in the past that traversed much of the range of that literature during a single lifetime. Among them we may include the above-mentioned Elijah of Wilno, for example, and perhaps his disciple, Hayyim of Volozhin. And in our own era, the late dean of Kamenetzer Yeshivah of America, the above-mentioned "Rav Baruch Baer." Their vast erudition was due to superior mentalities, of course, to devotion to projects that left them little time for normal day-to-day activity, as two or even less hours of sleep per day were common practice for them. Needless to say, for all their erudition, even the elite of Kamenetzer Yeshivah of America would not claim such superhuman effort. Suffice it to say in all fairness, though, that Elijah of Wilno, Hayyim of Volozhin and the late Rav Baruch Baer are their models and inspiration.

The story of Rav Baruch Baer's successors calls for a treatise by itself. But I have no room here for details, except to point out that it is to these men that K.Y. owes its survival and, above all, its transplantation to New York. Particularly to the late Rabbi Naphtali Ze'ev Leibowitz, Rav Baruch Baer's brother-in-law and colleague who, though granted leave to settle in the U.S.A., refused to abandon his disciples – and stayed behind to brave the Siberian wilds until he saw them safely to the 'States. The story of how this soft-spoken scholar, with his bare emaciated hands, buried students who perished in Siberia from cold and starvation, is blood-curdling. Suffice it to say that the survivors followed the late Rabbi Naphtali faithfully to the States, as he had indeed followed them loyally to Siberia.

Readers might well ask: What purpose does such dedicated scholarship serve? What good can it do the American community? Is the American environment conducive to such supreme scholarly efforts of an esoteric elite?

The answer to these questions, I believe, was given in the first century of our era. Then, as you may recall, the great Hillel's youngest and favorite pupil, Yohanan ben Zaccai – during the Roman siege of Jerusalem, as history tells us – managed an interview with Vespasian, and won the emperor's consent to continue the academy Jamniah south of Jaffa, which finally became the scene for the canonization of the "Old Testament". It was Zaccai's belief, apparently, that with a nucleus of scholars the Jewish people could be kept alive. As we see now, this is what happened. Had Zaccai's Jamniah been shut down, the lavish synagogues then planted everywhere across the Roman Empire would never have been able to hold the Jewish nation together from Jerusalem down through the Egyptian coastline and up to as far north as the primitive France that then bordered on a primitive Germany.

It is therefore not far-fetched to say that if Judaism is to hold its own in the face of a challenging modern environment, it can do so better with institutions like the Kameezer Yeshivah in our midst. Without it, without other institutions to emulate it, our synagogues might well remain nothing but beautiful edifices that manage to fill to capacity no more than twice a year. But that is not enough for historic survival.

There seem to be, as you know, quite a few institutions that produce rabbis and minor religious in our country today functionaries to serve an ever expanding Jewish community.

Who, you might ask, is going to teach our rabbis and teachers? Heaven knows, many have no time later for study! And, we are in need, it seems, of scholars to teach our future communal leaders. We also need scholars to whom our American-trained rabbis may turn when questions about the Faith arise that call for clear, authoritative answers based on sound and profound erudition. In this respect, I think, Kamenetz Yeshivah of America is a model institute for advanced study, setting pace and tempo for others, in the spirit of great European institutions of learning now, alas, gone forever!

This, I believe, it was what the illustrious Rav Baruch Baer must have had in mind when, two years after he transplanted his yeshivah to the town whose name it bears he visited New York, accompanied by the late Rabbi Reuben Grozowsky, to bear Torah tidings to an awakening American Jewry. That was thirty years ago.

It took eighteen years, however – and the decimation of all the great and glorious East-European Jewries – to bring Kamenetzer Yeshivah itself to these shores, by way of Siberia and China, under the deanship of Baruch Baer's brother-in-law, the afore-mentioned heroic Rabbi Naphtali Ze'ev.

We can share the hope of the dedicated scholars of Kamenetzer Yeshivah – that their painful and hazardous itinerary is ended, that at long last they have found comfort and some measure of security among us, in the five-story structure under whose roof now reverberate the imperishable teachings of Rav Baruch Baer, one of the saintliest figures of our time, one of its profoundest minds and purest hearts. Kamenetzer Kolel of America is here to stay, I am happy to report, and American Jewry is the richer for its presence.


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[Page 143]

The Kokhav Ya'akov Anshey Kamenetz
D'lita Society

by Velvel Kustin (New-Jersey)


Large-scale Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe to the United States began in the 17th century in the eighties. Jews from Kamenetz were among those coming to America's shores.

The first newcomers from Kamenetz were poor and quite miserable. They suffered common hardships and were homesick. This and the fact that the Jewish population in the U.S. was as yet small made them cling together.

When the number of Kamenetz townspeople in the "new country" grew up, they acquired a Torah-Scroll and established a society centred round their own synagogue which was named "Kokhav Ya'acov" (Jacob's Star) – The society, founded in 1891, in Suffolk Street, New York, became the oldest Kamenetz organization and one of the first Jewish societies of that kind in America.

The society's founders are no longer among the living. Let us recall their names: Joseph David Appelman, Moshe Silverman, Israel Zlotes, Abraham Luring and Abraham Yoel Radish. They drew up the constitution of the society and formulated its aims. One of the fixed rules states that meetings must be conducted in Yiddish. The society's aims included:

a) Acquisition of a synagogue of its own for holding lectures and other cultural activities as well as services.
b) Acquisition of cemetery plots where the members of the society would rest eternally "after 120 years".
c) Help for the sick.
d) The setting up of an Interest Free Loan Fund (Gemiluth Hesedim).
e) The provision of aid to the needy Jews in Kamenetz.
f) Participation in philanthropic activity carried out by institutions in the United States.

The Society has been active since its foundation but it flourished in particular in the thirties. At that time the number of its members rose to 250. Some of them were American-born and some were not even natives of Kamenetz. Today even the President of the 74-year-old Society is not a native of Kamenetz, but he is very devoted to its work. The vice-President, the Financial Secretary and the Treasurer, all Kamenetz-born, have many years of fruitful work behind them and we wish them many additional years.

These are the names of the Society's officers: Mr. David Appelman – President; Mr. Shmuel Itshak Melnitzky Vice-President; Mr. Joshua Silverblatt – Treasurer; Mr. Shraoa Feivel Tendler – Financial Secretary.

The older members of the Society have introduced the custom of calling one another at meetings "Brother" and "Sister" and this custom reigns also in their private lives.

The Society participates in all local or national drives. In recent years it has contributed its share to the rebuilding of Israel. It has also made a contribution to the publication of the Kamenetz-Litovsk Memorial Book.

In 1917, a Kamenetz Ladies organization (Ladies Auxiliary) was formed. Its primary purpose was to aid the synagogue.

The late Esther Dolinsky was the first President of the Ladies Auxiliary and the late Ida Singer was the first Vice-President. At present Mrs. Sarah Melnitsky is the President and Mrs. Rose Bobrovsky the Vice-President.


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