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[Page 149]

Kamenetzers in Israel


“Yad Vashem” Martyrs’ and Heroes’
Memorial Authority

Ceremony of Perpetuating the Memory of
The Community Kamenetz-Litovsk-Zastavye

by Hayim Nahman Bialik State School in Tel Aviv
on October 30th, 1963


Mr. Gorion: Today's date has neither been marked in our calendar as a holiday nor as a remembrance-day. Nevertheless, we have interrupted the studies, and yesterday we asked you to come in holiday-dress today, and we are assembled here to adopt a destroyed Jewish community. We are celebrating he beginning of a great undertaking. It is a work you took upon yourselves – the work of collecting information about that destroyed community.

The fact that it was decided to interrupt the studies at this moment, and that this step was approved by the Ministry of Education, underlines the great importance which we attach to this matter. An additional proof of the importance of this morning's gathering is the presence of people occupying very important and responsible positions. They took leave of their work and came to us in order to participate in this morning's celebration. I shall mention, first of all, Mr. Gideon Hausner, whose speeches during Eichmann's trial were heard by all of you here at the school; Mr. Kubovy, Director of "Yad Vashem"; Mr. Bar-Tana, our inspector whom all of you know, and the townsmen of Kamenetz-Litovsk (that is the community adopted by us) who are sitting here with you.

The question is – "For what reason?" What is the purpose of our morning gathering? The answer is simple. It can be defined in one word: "Remember!" That is the inscription on the badge which you all put on today: "Remember what the Nazi Amalekite did unto you!"

We are fulfilling a precept from the Torah, and we had better remember what Dr. Hayim Weizmann, the first President of the State of Israel, had to say on this subject. He said: "Our people was endowed with a good memory, and it is thanks to that good memory that our people exists. Other nations, which could not withstand the stress and strain of great suffering and forgot their homelands, disappeared and ceased to exist – but our people lives on. Thus we remember. We remember the Exodus from Egypt and the destruction of Jerusalem, and the heroes of Massada and a great many chapters of our long history.

Now, it is our duty to remember the Victims of the Holocaust – but to remember means to learn. There is no remembering without learning. However, we shall be unable to learn about all the destroyed communities. Upon the initiative of our friend, Mr. Aloni, we have chosen one community. We shall make a study of this community which until the outbreak of the Second World War was pulsating with life, hard work, happiness and a Halutzic (pioneering) spirit. Her sons settled in the Land of Israel. Many of them had always been under the spell of Zion and hoped to come there someday. This community was destroyed, just like many other communities were. It no longer exists. But it is in our power to bring it to life again by means of learning about it from the community's sons and daughters in Israel, some of whom are sitting with us right here. We shall hear them speak, learn from them, record their stories and summarize them. As the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day approaches, we have taken upon ourselves the publishing of this summary in the form of a brochure.

Pupils, we are greatly honoured by the presence of such distinguished guests here. We now wish to avail ourselves of the opportunity to learn from them, from Mr. Hausner, from Mr. Kubovy and from Mr. Bar-Tana. They are familiar with the task which I presented to them. We shall be happy to listen to the words of instruction and advise which will direct us in this sacred task. We shall also listen to the words of the sons of this community, who today will begin to tell us their story. But we shall turn to them time and again and draw more and more information from them. And today, we shall all, willingly and gratefully, listen to their narratives.

"Fortunate is the match that was consumed after it had kindled the blaze
Fortunate is the blaze that burned in the recesses of the hearts
Fortunate are the hearts that knew how to stop beating and did it honourably
Fortunate is the match that was consumed after it had kindled the blaze". (Hana Senesh)
"Keep not thou silence O God: hold not thy peace and be not still O God.
For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.
They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.
They have said, come and let us cut them off from being a nation: that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee."
(Psalm 83)

"Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud.
Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?
They break in pieces thy people 0 Lord, and afflict thy heritage.
They slay the widow and the strange and murder the fatherless."
(Psalm 94)


Mr. Bar-Tana: Dear townsmen of Kamenetz-Litovsk, dear pupils. With awe and respect, with pounding heart, faithful to the words of the lamenting poet "I shall remember…", we today commemorate the holy and splendid Jewish communities or, alien soil, which for milleniums and centuries were like ships driven by storm on wrathful waves till the savage oppressor exterminated them so that hardly anyone from them remained alive.

Dear children Today, in your presence, we shall commemorate the one million of our children, one million of pure, innocent Jewish children who were mercilessly put to death in Nazi Europe.

Setting out to the first exile, our ancestors commanded us to remember Jerusalem. "If I forget thee Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning". Perhaps if in the day's of the exile we had remembered Jerusalem better, the great catastrophes would not have struck us, and surely had we, throughout the entire period of the Diaspora, always remembered the great catastrophes, we would not have been overtaken by the last, terrible disaster.

Let us, therefore, remember that our fortress is Israel and Jerusalem and, consequently, let us be stronger, better and more clever, so that we might be better able to withstand any storm threatening us; today we shall remember the martyred communities and among them the community of Kamenetz-Litovsk, the Lithuanian Kamenetz.

The Ministry of Education is sending its blessing to the project and to your participation in it.

Mr. Gorion: Children, as you all know, Mr. Aloni is the living spirit of this entire project. For this reason I requested that he be the chairman of this morning's ceremony… Mr. Aloni.

Mr. Aloni: Dear Mr. Hausner. The number of your friends in the entire world, in the entire Jewish diaspora exceeds twelve millions; this in addition to the six millions you represented at the trial. Your faithful friends, the pupils of the Bialik School had listened to you at the time of the trial, and they are very happy, indeed, as we all are, to have you here with us today. Mr. Gideon Hausner is the initiator of the idea that schools should perpetuate the memory of the communities, which once existed and are no more. For a long time he devoted his attention to this matter. He took it up with institutions, with important people and with directors of schools.

We are the first who have attained the honour of perpetuating the memory of the town Kamenetz-Litovsk-Zastavye, a community that existed for about five hundred years, was destroyed and does not exist more. It is with great honour that we welcome you, Mr. Gideon Hausner and Dr. Kubovy and we shall listen attentively, in an atmosphere of particularly great solemnity, to your address to the pupils of our school.

Mr. Gideon Hausner: Mr. Aloni, Dr. Kubovy, Principal of the School, children.

In the life of a nation there are generations, during which nothing seems to happen. Years of relative tranquillity pass by, layers of time accumulate successively one upon another and one generation follows another.

And it happens that the Lord of History concentrates all at once, in one generation, the powers of creation – and the powers of destruction, suffering and hope, anguish, torment and hopeful expectations. And only after some time has elapsed is it possible to say that it was a wonderful, Z, unique Generation – a generation which gained one of History's great prizes. The Principal of the School recalled the Exodus from Egypt; it was a generation when great slavery was interlaced with hopes of freedom. And the nation, during the course of its entire existence, from then on, carries with it the memory of that great event.

I believe that we are such a Generation. Two events the like of which had never before occurred in the history of the People of Israel, took place within our life-span, in this generation. A terrible catastrophe, that even we, a nation whose experience is full of sufferings, and whose history has from the beginning been drenched in blood, had never known – and a renaissance that no nation or language has ever achieved after its destruction. Our generation must prove itself equal to the task. This does not depend on us, but has been imposed upon us. We were born in those years and we have to carry out the orders of the Lord of History.

We already take for granted the existence of the State, but when I was a pupil in the 8th Grade, right here in Tel-Aviv, Jewish independence seemed a distant dream, and this was not such a long time ago…

The great catastrophe which befell us in the Diaspora was perhaps the root from which the tree has grown up. And it so happened that some time had to elapse before many of us dared to take a look at that vale of tears, to study it, to form a judgment on it and to relive it.

Perhaps it was not sheer coincidence that the trial of Eichmann was held after the State had become firmly entrenched and its foundations had been strengthened. As it is written in the Bible: "After the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about…" – Only then, many years after the event, the Lord told Saul, "Remember what the Amalekite did unto you." There had been earlier possibilities, many centuries of Israelite presence in the Land of Israel passed, but not till the country's foundations had become stronger were the People of Israel ordered to remember.

And we, too, after we had to some extent established ourselves, again devote our thoughts to what had been and is no more. We do it not only to remember, not only to pay a debt of honour – though that too is a precious thing – but we do it primarily for our own sake, so that we may know where we came from, who were our fathers and forefathers, how they lived, what they created and what they brought here with them.

We shall see the continuation of the communities, alive, active and making fertile the Land of Israel with thought, culture and creative work. And we shall be better Jews and better Israelis if we gain knowledge about our ancestors and know where our roots lay. Our tree will grow and bear fruit, for we shall know how to strike the roots deeper, and, perhaps, we need the perished communities more than they need us, because we descend from them, and they are the source.

For us this will not be a day of mourning or a day of sorrow. We shall remember with a shudder and holy reverence but also with the hope that we may be able to follow in their footsteps. The oppressor intended to wipe out the People of Israel and their memory, and this satanic undertaking encompassed a whole continent; the forces were tremendous. Never before in the history of Mankind has there been such an example of the might of evil. These forces outraged the West and the East. Hitler attacked the Western powers and Soviet Russia at the same time. He smashed them at first and penetrated deep into their territories.

He struck on the left and on the right and it seemed that nothing could withstand him. And the Jewish People were in his hand, defenceless, armless, without an army, with much faith in their hearts – and with nothing more. A scheme was hatched to annihilate them to the last man, to the last child. And they were persecuted with wrath. perished and are no more. The name of the oppressor was covered with shame and dreadful disgrace. His scheme was foiled and we are alive. That is the historic vengeance of the Jewish People. Therefore, conscious of the great task imposed upon us by History, we shall remember pridefully and joyfully.

I wanted to recount to you briefly an event or two. In the ghettoes, beset by fear and misery, two longings existed. One that someone should remain alive to tell what had happened, and the second one – to record. A fever of taking notes seized them. There were youth organizations which 6 volunteered to bring every piece of information, every note, the memory of every event, to those who were collecting the records. They tell US What happened on a certain day in a certain street, what took place in some cellar, where a search had been carried out, what did the Jews say, even jocular remarks – and they knew how to laugh even then. All this was taken down. And the children wrote: "I shall carry on, even if this will be my last deed, to hide the notes well, so that in the future the Jews will be able to read them and to know what happened."

And behold, those concealed documents were discovered and revealed to us. We have found a treasure of culture, hope, pain and sufferings. With us here is the man who is in charge of all these hidden treasures, Dr. Kubovy, Director of the Institution which gathers all this great heritage. He and his assistants, some of whom are here with us, will pass on these records to us and to the children of Israel and the life of the communities will continue within us.

The Jews of Kamenetz-Litovsk are no more. We are unable to return them to life. But we can erect a monument to them in our hearts, here, within the walls of this building. Here we shall learn about them, we shall talk and write compositions about them, we shall hang their pictures on our walls. We shall keep their records in our book-cases. And neighbouring schools will take care of nearby or distant communities. In this way, the diaspora, which exists no more, will perhaps in the near future not only continue its spiritual existence in us, its continuators, but will go on living in the hearts of the children of Israel. We shall bring the communities to us, to our schools. We shall study them and from this study and knowledge of the facts we shall love and respect them, and thus we shall gain self-respect and appreciate justly the path we are taking.

The pupil Carmela: In the presence of teachers and pupils in Israel, we commune with the memory of six millions of our people who were led to slaughter and perished at the hands of the Nazis and their helpers. We commune with the memory of communities, and Jewish homes which perished as a result of the wicked scheme to wipe out the name of Israel and its culture from under the sun.

We remember reverently the courage of our brethren who, together with their people, sacrificed their lives in purity and holiness; we remember the glorious struggle of the besieged Ghettoes and of fighters who rose up and kindled the fire of rebellion to save their nation's honour. We remember the wonderful and persevering struggle of the Jewish masses to uphold their human image and the Jewish culture. We remember the Just of the Nations who endangered their own lives to rescue Jews.

The Pupil Aviva: Remember, O God, the souls of our people, the Children of Israel, victims of the Disaster and its heroes, the souls of six millions Jews who were put to death, gassed and buried alive; and the Holy Communities which perished for the sake of "Kiddush Hashem" (Sanctification of the Holy Name).

May God remember their sacrifice together with the sacrifices of other martyrs and heroes of Israel in the past, and may He grant eternal life to their souls.

"They were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided. May they rest in peace".

Mr. Aloni: In the name of the Organization of Kamenetz-Jews in Israel, the Director of the School is honoured with kindling one of the six candles.

Rabbi Zadok is requested to kindle the second candle.

Mr. Simha Dubiner, Chairman of the Organization of Kamenetz-Jews in Israel, is requested to kindle the third candle.

Leah Dobrovsky-Aloni is requested to kindle the fourth candle.

Mr. Pinhas Ravi, Secretary of the Organization is requested to kindle the sixth candle.

We shall now hear the words of Dr. Kubovy, Chairman of "Yad Vashem" who has accomplished great and wonderful work for the perpetuation of the memory of the millions who once were and are no longer.

Dr. Kubovy: There is a verse in Psalms CII which depicts accurately the terrible fate which befell our nation in Europe during the period of Destruction and Heroism. It says: "For my days are consumed like smoke and my bones are burned as an hearth". An entire people went up in flames because there had risen an enemy who decided to wipe out the name of Israel from, under the sun.

What are we doing at "Yad Vashem" and what are you doing by starting to work on your project today? We are trying to thwart the enemy's intention. We are trying – you and we – not to let him fulfil his design.

How is it possible? Is such talk realistic? Can we brine, back to life a murdered people? It certainly is not in our power to cover the dry bones – which no longer exist with flesh and sinews, but we can – as has already been said today – guard their memory. We can maintain their image, we can revive the values and principles for the sake of which they died. We can learn to understand their mode of living which was admirable.

How to do this? How shall we approach this understanding? In what spirit shall we study the past of that little, not too well known town? You did well not to have chosen one of the large communities, because there is much to be learned from the features of this townlet, that are so characteristic of the mode of living of a large part of European Jewry. How shall we do this? In what spirit shall we approach the problem?

The great poet, after whom this school was named, will be our guide.

The same Hayim Nahman Bialik wrote with anger, with sorrow and with pain the most reproachful verses about the Jews who did not defend themselves:

"And there is no sense to your death
As there is no sense to your life
And very great is the pain
And very great is the shame".

The same Hayim Nahman Bialik, found beautiful words, precious words to speak about those Jews who, when there was no escape from death, received the inevitable with honour; and you all know the poem:

"If your soul desires to know the source from which your brethren, put to death. Drew such courage in the days of evil such strength of their souls comfort from their belief in God, and self-assurance power, patience and iron-strength…"

Bialik attributed all these wonderful qualities to people who had been put to death, who had not fought with arms but who had known one thing: how to die and how to live a life of justice, culture and charity, to the end. He knew how to distinguish between two kinds of heroism – heroism in the use of arms and heroism in attitude, between heroism in applying force and heroism which expressed itself in receiving with honour the sentence of death and suffering.

When we begin to study the history of a small Jewish town, we must remember that this presents difficulties to those born in Israel. The notions and attitudes of most of the European Jewry are strange to them, even though their parents and Grandparents were very familiar with those notions. The majority of Europe's Jews, for example, did not rely upon force, since the Jews were a negligible minority, and did not believe that force could protect them. They also despised force. Although there were numerous manifestations of heroism during the uprisings in the ghettoes and camps, we must understand that facet of their life which was based upon ethics, and upon belief in God. Only when we have understood their attitude toward life, which was quite different from that of a people living on its own soil – only then will the great miracle of communication take place.

That is why we do not say "Disaster". We say "Disaster and Heroism" because they are interwoven. In this manner we must study the life of the little town, which you have decided to adopt, and to continually understand that those people were our own flesh and blood and – whether we want it or not – we are their descendents, and they deserve our respect and love. For unless we respect and love them, we cannot possibly respect ourselves. We are their sons and grandsons, and they are worthy of our respect and affection.

Mr. Goldberg Sarid: Children, distinguished guests. I shall digress a bit and say a few words. When I heard the recitation of the verses from the Psalms, I was reminded of a poem written by a medieval poet whose name was Rabbi David Meshulam:

"Do not keep silent and still
When my blood is crying out to you
Demand it from the hand Of My Oppressor Earth, do not cover it."

And in the following verse the poet gives us this description:

"The children are clinging convulsively to one another
The children are in the throes of agony
The parents are crying
They are crying and wailing."

The people of Kamenetz have to tell, you about their sisters and brothers who were your age; among them the sisters of the man before you.

The town Kamenetz, as Dr. Kubovy rightly said, was not a large Jewish center. It is a townlet, somewhere in Lithuania, that throughout most of its history, was attached to a Jewish "mother-city" Brest-Liovsk, one of the most important historic cities of Lithuania and Poland. Altogether there were four large cities and Jewish centres: Cracow, Brest, Lvov (Lemberg) and Lublin. Kamenetz was affiliated with Brest. Great Jewish men lived in Brest. A representative of the Jewish community was also a Rabbi in Cracow. It was no sheer coincidence that Rabbis from Brest usually moved to Cracow – the ancient Polish capital (as the representative, Rabbi Shalom Feibush etc.).

That townlet, a typical medieval little town had, according to its chroniclers, a romantic beginning. After the Tartar invasions, appeared Prince Vladimix the Philosopher, founder of the town Vladimir Volynski, which was also an important Jewish center. He climbed a hill and declared that a fortress destined to repulse the attacks of the Tartars would be erected there. He called the place "Album Ordi", and this Latin name, after it had been translated into the Polish Biala Wieza (White Tower), denoted the largest European forest which stretched for hundreds of miles.

Regarding its non-Jewish history that little town attained real greatness. The great period of its Jewish history starts only in the beginning of the 19th century. Its Gentile history tells us that Wladyslaw (Ladislaus) Jagiello, who brought about the union of Poland and Lithuania and became their king stayed at Kamenetz; it tells us about wars and quarrels between the Duke Witold and Jagiello for possession of this little town. The history also recounts that King Kazimierz (Casimir) IV used to visit the town in winter-time, just like Goering who went hunting in our forests.

Kamenetz was a crossroads, a meeting place between the north and the south, the west and the east. At that time here were no highways and railroads.

The history of the Jewish community becomes known to us from the beginning of the 16th century and it happened to be a Gentile who gave us information about Jews in the townlet. The name of that man who began to study the history of Lithuanian Jews was Worszecki. In his book, for the first time, we come across the name Kamenetz. But to our dismay the first information about the presence of Jews there, in the year 1525, relates to a restrictive measure which took away the taverns from the Jews and gave them to the Christians.

Later on we learn about the privileges conferred upon the Kamenetz Jews, in 1635, by King Jan Casimir who freed them from various taxes except the tax on alcoholic drinks. Then it seems as if a curtain had been drawn upon the townlet. We know nothing about this particular period. Nobody took pains to search for documents and none were found. We begin again to receive information on Kamenetz from the 18th century. By that time it had already become a large Jewish center from which a number of great men descended. The first one almost came to Palestine in 1803. Later on he established the foundations of geography of the Land of Israel; he was Menahem-Mendel of Kamenetz who in later years opened the "Kamenetz Hotel" in Jerusalem. Now let us refer to Dr. Kubovy who said, "it is these children's fortune that we possess excellent literature for youngsters – the writings of Yehezkel Kotik. They comprise a unique book of reminiscences, with a foreword by Sholem-Aleikhem himself; it is one of the wonderful books from which the children will be able to learn so much. It is not a collection of dry, historic documents but a thrilling, interesting story depicting a Jewish townlet and its customs.

In addition, we know other Jewish writers from Kamenetz. They are Natan Grinblatt and M.  A. Zak. But real greatness came to Kamenetz close to its end, just as a candle whose light grows stronger before it dies out.

It came in the shape of the Great Yeshivah which spread the teachings of the Torah throughout all Poland's Jewry.

This little town exists no more. It was not so keen on guarding its medieval character as on preserving the positive values of the Middle Ages: internal organization, mutual help, medical assistance, religious schools, the custom of visiting the sick etc. This was a little town which retained the medieval structure of the religious community including all the elements of mutual help.

And finally I should like to conclude. I cannot, on this occasion, elaborate too much on this subject but I would like to say this. Let us draw a conclusion. Jews had lived in this townlet for over five hundred years. And their fate was so bitter that throughout the period of their settlement they did not acquire the citizens' rights to live, and the only right they did gain was to be murdered, killed and destroyed. This is the conclusion we ought to draw. There were communities that existed for nine hundred years; there were Jewish communities in Germany that existed for fifteen hundred years. But in spite of all this, the Gentiles said that the Jews had no right to live – only the right to die. From this we conclude. We have one right only – the right to live, just like everyone else, and there is only one land which assures us this – the Land of Israel and the State of Israel.

Teacher Leah Bobrovsky-Aloni: Dear pupils of the 8th Grade. Greetings to you all and to your friends. After an interruption of two years I am happy to meet you again at this gathering. This time I want to tell you how the children of my town, Kamenetz-Litovsk, and of its suburb Zastavye acquired knowledge and education.

The period I remember begins before World War I. Then, in the days of the Russian, Tsarist regime, a Russian state school existed in the town. We, Jewish children, were not accepted to this school. Our parents, of blessed memory, thought it their holy duty to provide education for their children. They took great pains to provide private teachers, graduates of high-schools and universities, and highly qualified Hebrew teachers for our town. We learned privately or in circles. Devotion to studies was great. The Bible, Hebrew and the Geography of Palestine were the favorite subjects. The Hebrew language was heard in the streets, to our parents' delight. But this situation did not last long. With the outbreak of World War I the town's cultural life was paralysed. Many teachers and parents were mobilized, either for army service or for compulsory work of erecting fortifications in the vicinity. Despite the numerous difficulties we continued to study with our own resources, with the help of text-books and we regarded our educational work as – very fruitful.

In 1916 there was a turning point in the cultural life of our town. The community, which was almost completely destroyed after the outbreak of the war, had not as yet reorganized itself. The only place serving public activities was one of the synagogues in town. After evening prayer the entire congregation discussed the affairs of the town and decisions were made on various subjects.

And so it happened that one evening, in the spring of 1916, the congregation decided to establish a Hebrew school where all the children form the town and from the suburb Zastavye would learn in a normal fashion. At the same gathering in the synagogue, three teachers (two women and one man) were chosen. I was one of them and my fellow teacher was Malca Polakevitcli-Kurshansky, now residing in Mexico.

I worked in the above-mentioned school, in the capacity of teacher and pedagogue, for over three years. Even though, at that time, all of us were young teachers, we had no difficulties in regard to discipline. And this must be said in praise of the town's children. All of them had a very respectful attitude towards their school studies and followed instructions lovingly and willingly. Despite a shortage of textbooks, instruments, and financial means, the results of our work were good and encouraging.

After I had left my home town Kamenetz in order to come to Eretz-Israel, the work was carried on without interruption. Many youth organizations were formed, and some of their members underwent pioneer training (Hakh-sharah) and settled in the Land of Israel – thus realizing their youthful dreams. The seeds sown at that time in Kamenetz sprouted here, in the revived Homeland.

Many fellow townsmen who managed to come to the Land of Israel are scattered all over the country – in kibbutzim, villages and towns.

They are all faithful citizens working in all fields of constructive work.

Dear children, blessing will come upon you for perpetuating the memory of my fellow townsmen.

Pinhas Rabinovich-Rabi: In our native town Kamenetz and Zastavye, there existed educational institutions and religious academies (Yeshivot) with thousands of scholars and rabbis who acquired their education there and who later spread the teachings of the Torah to many countries. This dear town, where many generations led an active life, based on the teachings of the Law and on charity, was completely destroyed by the accursed Nazis. Kamenetz and Zastave were wiped off. Old and young, women and children were murdered and burned in the crematories. The houses were set on fire and razed to the ground. The tombstones in the cemeteries were smashed and used for pavements. The Jewish community of Kamenetz-Zastavye was uprooted and perished with no remnant to remind of its existence.

Already 133 years ago, one of the first settlers in Palestine, Menahem Mendel from Kamenetz, left the town together with his family, and, braving mortal perils, made his way in a sailboat to the Land of Israel. He composed the Hebrew book "Korot Haetim" which served as the first useful guide to the immigrants who followed him. He also opened the first hotel for guests and newcomers in Jerusalem. From Kamenetz came Rabbi Zanvil Maccabi, Called the Preacher from Kamenetz, who thrilled and inspired the Jewish masses in the lands of the Diaspora with his great sermons on the love of Zion and the redemption of Israel.

Rabbi Mohilever of blessed memory wrote about him: "With his fiery speeches he kindled in the hearts of the Children of Israel a love for their people, for their religion, for their land and for their heritage".

You have already been told about the writer Kotik. In Zastavye, which was a little suburb of Kamenetz, there lived a writer Falik Zolf who in several books depicted Jewish life in tiny Zastavye, its synagogues, its scholars and righteous men.

The great Gaon, Rabbi Barukh Baer was Head of the Kamenetz Yeshivah, "Knesseth Beit Itshak". Mr. Shmuel Warshaw, one of the Yeshivah-students who perished during the war catastrophe thus described the Yeshivah: "Even while you are standing outside the building you hear the voice of the Torah, bursting out vigorously from behind the high walls of the Yeshivah. When you enter you are greatly impressed by the passion and zeal of the students who became one body. Here the tradition of Generations is being united. Here is the source which quenches their thirst the words of Rabbi Hayim. Here the agitated emotions of the pure Jewish soul are flowing in a powerful, steady current. Youngsters from the entire Diaspora are in the Kamenetz Yeshivah. Students from Poland, the United States, Germany, Belgium, Denmark. Switzerland, Hungary and also from Palestine. How serious they all appear. Their eyes burning, they are immersed in the study of the Law and see it as their destiny.

My late father, Rav Moshe Itshak, of blessed memory, was active as rabbi in Kamenetz for twenty nine years. In the little wooden synagogue he studied all his life and prayed for peace and redemption for his people.

Before his death, he remarked that he had learned the six Talmudic Orders (Sha"s) 49 times over and over again. During the long winter nights when I woke up at midnight, I would see him pacing to and fro while he memorized the Talmudic chapters by heart.

The sons of Kamenetz and Zastavye, scattered in the Lands of the Diaspora and in Israel will, for the generations to come, revere and remember the martyrs and everything that was created by this beloved congregation that was beautiful and sublime.

Today, dear pupils, you are our partners in this sacred undertaking – the perpetuation of the memory of Kamenetz and Zastavye.

Dear pupils. You who were fortunate to have been born in Israel and who live here in our independent State, who are studying and progressing in an atmosphere of free Hebrew culture – you will have to face tests and problems that will require courage and devotion to the ideals of our new era. If you will draw from the deep sources of the past, from the history of Jewish Kamenetz and Zastavye and of thousands communities in the Diaspora that were destroyed by the cruel murderers, the accursed Nazis – you will know how to live and pi-ogress as proud Israeli citizens. You will know how to faithfully bear, as Jews, the burden of duties and obligations you owe to your people and to the State.

Mrs. Haya Krakovsky-Karabelnik: Honourable guests, dear children. You have heard an outline of the history of Kamenetz and Zastavye from the teacher Arieh Goldberg Sarid. I should like to add a few words concerning the last period in the life of our town, before its destruction, and about our fellow townsmen in Israel and in the lands of the Diaspora.

Before the Catastrophe thousands of Jews lived in our town. It was famous throughout the entire vicinity as a town steeped in the vision of the redemption and yearnings for Zion. Mr. Ya'acov Nir, the regional inspector, and native of Svislotsk, quite far from Kamenetz, bears witness to this fact.

I remember you, my little town, where I was born and spent the days of my childhood. I remember the Jews who lived there, within your limits, the various youth organizations, which instilled the pioneering spirit in the hearts of their members and prepared them for immigration to the Land of Israel. I remember the children's library, to which I dedicated much of my time and I remember the little houses pulsating with Jewish life. In almost every one of them was a Jewish National Fund box.

Every year, we regularly meet to commemorate our martyrs – our parents, brothers, sisters, old people and young children who were alive and are no more. Even their graves are unknown to us.

Some years ago we, the fellow townsmen from Kamenetz and Zastavye, formed our organizations in Israel and in the lands of the Diaspora.

Today, after the years of the Catastrophe, there remain four hundred of us, who have established our own families. About 120 persons live in Israel and over 300 are scattered all over the world. Practically all of them left our town before the Disaster. Only ten persons survived the horrors of that period. About a year ago, in the United States, I met many of our fellow townsmen from New-York and I attended several meetings organized by them. Those present decided to respond favourable to the proposal put forward by the Organizing Committee of the Kamenetz Jews in Israel and to participate, together with us, in the publication of the Memorial Book consecrated to the communities of Kamenetz-Litovsk and Zastavye. For this purpose they have already collected a fund to ensure the financing of the printing of the book in Israel. After we had informed our organization in the United States of the favourable response of the Ministry of Culture and Education and of the Management of the Hayim, Nahman Bialik State School to the project of perpetuating the memory of the martyrs of our town, we were requested, by cable, to convey to you, at this gathering, the following message: "Please convey our profound emotion. We are moved to tears by the great news that the famous Bialik State School perpetuates the memory of the martyrs of our town Kamenetz-Litovsk and Zastavye. Thank you. Receive our blessings. Signed: On behalf of the Directing Board of the Organization – Abraham Shudroff."

In their name and in the name of our Organization in Israel be blessed forever!

The pupil Tsiporah: In the name of the pupils of the 8th Grade and in the name of all pupils of Bialik School I do solemnly declare that we are ready to take upon ourselves the holy task of perpetuating the memory of the community of Kamenetz-Litovsk and Zastavye. We shall try to do our utmost to remember the live image of the community as it existed until the Disaster, and the image of its martyrs, and also those who participated in the heroic struggle against the cruel enemy. We are proud of the honour bestowed upon us, namely that we, pupils of Bialik School, shall be the first to take part in this important undertaking and let us hope that our work will be crowned will success and be taken up by other schools all over the country.

Mr. Dubiner: Honourable assembly!

With deep awe and reverence we stand before you, educators and children of Israel. Together with you we have commemorated our brothers and sisters from Kamenetz-Litovsk and Zastavye who were murdered twenty-two years ago by the heinous, accursed Nazis. These martyrs, whom we commemorate today were greatly learned in the Law, stepped in culture and faithful to Zion. At first they sent their sons and daughters (over 100 young people) to participate in the rebuilding of the Land of Israel and to build a connecting bridge for those who were to follow them.

One of us even spent ten years with you, in this school, which bears the name of our greatest poet, the poet of resurrection Hayim Nahman Bialik. Everyone received with great respect and deep emotion the perpetuation project, which you have announced during this impressive gathering On behalf of the Kamenetz organizations in the countries of the Diaspora, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this activity and express our best wishes to all of you.

Mrs. Lily Seitmanzt: Honoured guests and dear pupils. Today's assembly is a very special occasion. This gathering evokes profound anxiety in our hearts. Millions of eyes, which will never open again, the eyes of the murdered Children of Israel, of our hallowed, martyred brethren are looking, at you, Israeli boys and girls, and they are crying out one mute question: "Shall you remember?". You have been entrusted with a sacred task today. An honourable and difficult task – to create a permanent bridge between you, young children of Israel, and the Jewish People of numerous communities which no longer exist. Thousands of Jewish communities, which had been scattered throughout the countries of the Diaspora, and had pulsated with love of the Torah, love for their people, are waiting to be redeemed and resurrected. They implore us: "Do not forget us, recall our memory! Let us tell about the life that sparkled amongst us." This redemption will come to them from you – from the thousands of boys and girls in Israel. You shall revive the memory of the missing. You shall tell the tale of their Sufferings and of their silent heroism in the face of beastly, cruel hatred – a hatred which Satan himself had never before created. Let us not forget that from the ashes of the six millions burst forth the proud flame which became the State of Israel. Because in spite of all of our enemies who have set out to annihilate us, the People of Israel lives on. But we and they constitute one body and one soul and their soul must live forever.

You are the first to start the great undertaking – the undertaking of perpetuation. There is no clear path as yet, how to do it. But the way will be discovered through devotion and love of the idea. Representatives of the Kamenetz community in Israel and in the Diaspora will keep in touch with you and will provide information, recollections and stories about the community whose memory you must perpetuate. Great honour has been bestowed upon you and upon the entire Bialik School, in being the first to be entrusted with such a task. We shall fulfil it with humility and reverence.

What about the future?

It was decided, under the auspices of the Management of "Yad Vashem", Martyrs' and Heroes' Memorial Authority, and, under the guidance of Attorney Gideon Hausner and with the kind agreement of the School Director, Mr. Moshe Gorion, to create strong ties between the H. N. Bialik School and the townsmen of Kamenetz Litovsk-Zastavye in Israel and in the Diaspora.

The pupils should aim toward gathering the facts, data and dates relating to the history of the community, its personalities, rabbis, writers, youth organizations, communal workers and, in particular, information about the last twenty years before the catastrophe.

The pupils of the 7th and 8th Grades, participating in the project will write compositions on the theme "The Disaster and the Heroism in Israel and the Perpetuation of the Memory of the Destroyed Communities". The compositions will be published in the School Newspaper "Benetiv Haaeulah" (The Road to Redemption) and partly in the Memorial Book that is about to be published.

In order to fulfil this purpose pupils will visit the homes of persons from Kamenetz who live in Tel-Aviv and its surroundings, and will exchange letters with the sons of the community who live in villages and kibbutzim, in order to acquire additional knowledge and facts about the life of the community that perished.

The pupils will begin corresponding with the three hundred families who originate from Kamenetz Litovsk-Zastavye and who reside in the United States, Mexico, Argentine, Poland etc. In school they will be hosts to tourists, new immigrants, and the townsmen of Kamenetz-Litovsk and chat with them.

The Organizing Committee of the Community will set up in the school a special book-case which will include the "Disaster and Heroism Library for Perpetuating the Memory of the Community Destroyed by the Nazis in the Years 1941-43." Till now books published by "Yad Vashem" have been delivered.

Let us hope that the Hayim Nahman Bialik State School in Tel-Aviv, which initiated the "Remember" movement, will not remain alone in perpetuating the memory of the communities which perished in the Disaster years.

Dov Aloni


kam149a.jpg [17 KB]
 
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The Yizkor ceremony at the Bialik School in Tel Aviv,
October 30th, 1963
Audience at the Memorial Service for the Kamenet-Litovsk and
Zastavy Holocaust victims, Bialik State School,
Tel Aviv, October 30th, 1963


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