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[Page 309]

Types and Personalities

 

Figures and personalities that I knew

by Dov Bernstein

Transliterated by Sara Mages

a. R' Yeshaya Zweig

R' Yeshaya was like the character “Arie Baal Guf” from Bialik's story, but he was of a distinguished character, had a warm Jewish heart and fulfilled the mitzvah of “love your fellow as yourself” with all his soul and with all his might.

He had a store on Shkolna Street for dairy products, which he bought from Germans who lived in the vicinity, and made a good living. However, Yeshaya pondered in his heart: “And if I am only for myself, then what am 'I'?” so he devoted most of his time and money to support the poor and the needy.

And here's a bleak picture which rips the midst of heaven with its gloom: winter, the frost intensifies from day to day and strong winds run rampant. In a small dilapidated house on Shkolna Street lives a Jewish family of five in a narrow room without a floor, without light, and without air because the windows are sealed with rags. The only breadwinner, the father of the family, is ill with tuberculosis and he's coughing and spitting the remains of his sick lungs. His wife and children are starving. Who will save them? Who will support these unfortunate souls?

The matter becomes known to R' Yeshaya and his heart is breaking inside him. He harnesses his wagon, turns it from house to house and collects firewood, clothing and food. He brings the wood to the pitiable hut, stokes the fire with his own hands and revives the unfortunate souls whose hands and feet froze in the cold.

This family wasn't the only who received his attention because there were other poor people who were hungry for bread. Immediately after he finished his work, R' Yeshaya harnessed his wagon and brought food to these unfortunate people

On Passover, the poor of our city enjoyed “Maot Hittim” [“Wheat Money”], but the amount was very small and was only enough for three or four days. Poverty and distress also prevailed at the homes of the poor during the Festival of Freedom and the children were hungry for matzot.

R' Yeshaya can't sleep at night. Is it possible that our Jewish brothers will also be hungry during Passover? He equips himself with a large sack and a basket, walks from house to house, and collects eggs, matzot and meat and distributes them to the poor.

R' Yeshaya supported the poor “Yeshiva” students. It was a great honor for him to host a “Yeshiva” student in his home.

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He admired the Torah scholars and loved to study with them. He has done his acts of charity in secret and only a few knew about them.

This Jew died a martyr's death. Immediately after the Nazis entered the city they set fire to the Great Synagogue which was one the most magnificent synagogues in Wolyn. The synagogue was built in the tradition of 200 years ago by a Jew from Korets named R' Yosef.

R' Yeshaya sees that that this temple is going up in flames and the Torah scrolls are burning in the fire. The Germans are shooting from every direction. R' Yeshaya bursts into the burning synagogue under the hail of the murderers' bullets, he wants to save the Torah scrolls! The Germans are closing in on him from every side and direction. The burning ceiling collapses. R' Yeshaya is holding two Torah scrolls in his hands and he's looking for a way to escape from the flames and rescue the honor of the Torah.

The flames wrap around R' Yeshaya's body and burn it. He's writhing in pain but he doesn't let the Torah scrolls fall out of his hands. R' Yeshaya's soul rose to the heavens together with the Torah scrolls. He died for the sanctity of the Jewish nation and his Torah

 

b. Dr. Yakov (Yany) Herschenhorn

Dr. Herschenhorn was born in Korets in 1887 to his father, Nehemiah Herschenhorn, who was the community rabbi.

After he finished his studies at the gymnasium in Zhitomir he studied medicine at the University of Kiev and received a medical degree at the age of 25.

He joined the Zionist movement when he was still a student and was one of the organizers of the Zionist federation in Korets. He didn't abandon the field of Jewish public work after he became famous as a doctor, and served as the chairman of the Zionist movement in the city. He was very active in the Zionist funds and “TOZ” [Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Population]. He also served as a doctor in “Tarbut” school and “Talmud Torah.

He was popular with local farmers and the Christian population also trusted him. He served as the doctor for the Korets monastery and the sugar factory that, as we know, didn't give the Jews a foothold.

Dr. Herschenhorn received a high commendation on behalf of the Czar.

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In 1914, he was drafted as a military doctor and served in the Russian Army until 1914. He was discharged from the army with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the “Golden sword” medal. This award contributed to his popularity among the non–Jewish population.

Dr. Herschenhorn devoted most of his energy to the treatment of poor children. He was the doctor of the “summer colonies” that were organized by “TOZ.” He took care of sick and faltering children like a merciful father, and saved more than one child from the arms of death.

Dr. Herschenhorn was a simple man by nature. He was free from arrogance and pride. The warmth of a Jewish family was felt in his home. His wife, Maria Yefremova, was also popular and received everyone who came to her home with kindness. She was also very active .She participated in welfare institutions and was the chairwoman of the committee for the aid of the city poor.

Dr. Herschenhorn didn't separate from his wife to his last day. The Nazis wanted to keep him alive, but he chose to die together with his beloved wife. Before his death he asked the murderers to give him a cigarette, and when the rings of smoke rose the murderers' bullets pierced the heart of the beloved and revered doctor.

 

c. Dr. Yehuda Zeitlin

Dr. Yehuda Zeitlin was born in Shklow. He was a descendent of the rich and Talmudic merchant, Yehusua Zeitlin, who was one of the close associates of Prince Potemkin who founded the “Free Academy” in his estate in Osetia near Shklow. In this academy it was also possible to study natural sciences, medicine, botany and chemistry. Therefore, Dr. Zeitlin absorbed in him the spirit of study and scientific research of his famous grandfather.

Dr. Yehuda Zeitlin completed his medical studies at a collage in Warsaw and settled in Korets as a young doctor before the First World War. He served as a general physician and gynecologist. He excelled in his vast knowledge not only in the field of medicine but also in other branches of science.

At the end of the First World War, when Korets was flooded by a stream of refugees who escaped

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naked and destitute, the JOINT opened a branch for clothing and food in our city. Dr. Zeitlin stood at the head of this committee and dedicated his energy and free time for this aid activity.

At the same time a typhus epidemic, which caused the death of hundreds of refugees and residents, broke out in Korets. At this time of great calamity Dr. Zeitlin revealed his noble virtues. He walked from house to house and fought the angel of death with all his might.

Dr. Zeitlin was a sensitive man and the horrors that his eyes saw in the rescue work evoked tears in his eyes, and quite often he wept bitterly. One evening, during this period of calamity, I found him very depressed at his home. He told me that he had just visited one of the homes. The parents died in the epidemic, and he found the small children lying in the beds of the dead parents. The sorrow and poverty of these poor children touched his heart and he broke down sobbing. In this conversation the skeptical philosopher awoke in him, and he expressed several melancholy thoughts regarding the human life on earth and the torments that a person suffers in his lifetime.

When the JOINT's branch was eliminated in our city, Dr. Zeitlin was placed at the head of the “Health Committee” and continued his work for the health of the residents. He also cared for development of the sports, and was among the founders of the physical education in our city.

Dr. Zeitlin was also active in public affairs. When the elections to the municipality council were held, the workers' left wing, which was organized as a bloc for the elections, asked Dr. Zeitlin to place his candidacy at the top of the list. Thanks to him the left wing received most of the votes, but the Polish regime was jealous and invalidated the elections.

In 1935, Dr. Zeitlin decided to settle in Rovna where he had a good reputation. However, he didn't sever his ties with Korets. He was summoned from Rovna in special cases of severe illness and was always willing to help.

Before he left the city the local institutions organized a magnificent farewell party for him. Dr. Zeitlin was very moved in his parting words. He said, if only we will meet again…and burst into tears.

His heart predicted, but he didn't know what. When the Nazis entered Rovna and started to abuse and humiliate the Jews, Dr. Zeitlin understood that the end had come. He injected lethal injections to all his family members, and injected the last injection to himself.

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d. Herzl Silberman

R' Herzl was born in Korets to his father, HaRav Avigdor Silberman, who was called “Avigdor HaDayan.” He received a traditional education but he wasn't a religious man. From his youth he dedicated himself with a Hasidic enthusiasm to the Zionist movement.

He was one of the founders of “Hapoel HaMizrachi” in our city and served as a permanent chairman of this religious–Zionist party.

He lived in poverty all his life and didn't have a source of income. He always walked hungry, but, he ignored his hard–pressed situation because he was totally devoted to the Zionist idea. The content of his life was the resurrection of our homeland and he always strove to to settle in the country and see our national revival with his own eyes.

He especially excelled as a representative of “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.” On Purim eve or on Yom– Kippur eve Herzl Silberman rushed from house to house. He visited the members of the Zionist movement, arranged them in pairs, and sent them in to collect contributions for “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.” When he learned of a wedding, circumcision or a family party – he immediately made sure that those celebrations wouldn't end without a contribution for “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.”

His world was darkened when the Soviets entered our city. Suddenly he was cut off from the content of his life – “Keren Kayemet LeYisrael.” However, he hoped in his heart that this nightmare would pass and he will be able to immigrate to Israel.

He suffered from the shame of famine during the Soviet period. However, he was full of faith and confidence when I met him: "It's not over yet. The Zionist movement is alive and will live forever. I don't know who, but I'm sure that some of us will survive and immigrate to Israel to see its rebirth." Those were the last words that I've heard from him.

The cruel fate! Herzl Silberman, who worked enthusiastically throughout his life for the Land of Israel, never got to see it with his own eyes. When he went on his last journey to the pit of death, he also dreamed and longed to the land of the forefathers.

 

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