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[Pages 1551-1554]

Gluboke
(Hlybokaye, Belarus)

55°08' / 27°41'

By Alte Arsh-Sudarsky

Translated by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

I lived and worked in Gluboke for a time before the World War I and during the war, and a lot of good memories have stayed with me.

As the name [from Slavic meaning “deep”] suggests, Gluboke lay deep…in mud. Some of the streets were not paved with cobblestones and were so affected by the autumn rains that once a lady who was traveling from a nearby courtyard on Bakshitser Street nearly drowned in the mud, along with with her carriage and two horses harnessed side by side. The entire shtetl came running with ropes to save the lady and her horses.

Still Gluboke was a nice shtetl with fine, caring Jews who felt the spirit of their famous townsman Reb Shmuel Mohilover z'l.

Besides the weeping autumn days, Gluboke also had wonderfully beautiful spring and summer days with cool evenings when the young people would go out for a walk after work to the kaponitze, which was a natural wonder. It was a kind of small lake where smooth, regular little paths of dry land with trees arose from the water so perfectly, that it was hard to imagine they were not artificially planted. A water mill was located there that made the entire area very beautiful and romantic.

I will never forget summer moonlit nights when the water was illuminated as if by a magical light. The quiet would be disturbed from time to time only by bird songs.

But in addition to the beautiful natural surroundings, Gluboke was blessed, as I already said, with worthy families, with good, kind people who understood this hard life in its broader significance. They were absorbed not only in commerce and work, but in studying, charity and good deeds. They always responded warmly to all the worries and needs of their fellows. When poor Jews became sick, the better-off families looked after them with a doctor and medicines, and also with a free loan when the situation warranted it. From among these families, the Wolfsons were especially distinguished, being rich and blessed with children (19 grown offspring!). Most of the children studied in large Russian towns and when they gathered together at home during vacations, it was very lively in the shtetl. They also brought a revolutionary spirit to the shtetl, spreading the ideas of Socialism and Zionism. The Schenker, Levitan, Zak, Friedman and Zeldin youth were also like this. Political parties separated the young people, but affection united them.

Photograph with caption: Mendl and Basia Zeldin and their children: Harry, Nakhum, Esther, Reuben and Daniel (arrived in New York 45 years ago)

Families large and small became united especially when, G-d forbid, an unfortunate event took place. Thus if a family breadwinner had to go to America to avoid conscription or to earn a livelihood, everyone understood. One must handle whatever happened, only not succumb and not, G-d forbid, allow a fellow Jew to succumb. If a nobleman or count would turn his wrath loose on a peasant or gentile, these same Zeldins and Schenkers went to the landowner to intercede so that the peasant's bit of land or harvest would be spared.

Now, now…where are they all, these good, pious and worldly Jews with their children and their children's children? They met the same fate as that of the neighboring Haidutzshiker, Lituper and Dukshter Jews, who in February 1942 were led out onto the ice on the once beautiful kaponitse, doused with something flammable, and burned alive.

A Lithuanian Nazi newspaper Lietauvos Apzhvalga afterwards had an outrageously vile headline: “Jews in Gluboke Burned like Corn”.

But Jewish Gluboke, like many other towns, was nonetheless lucky that over time many if its residents had wandered away to America and other countries.

After many years of wandering I met one of them in America and memories surfaced of the old homes of these Jews in Gluboke.

Standing alive before my eyes was the old man Reuben Zeldin and his wife, the clever, hardworking, and charitable Esther Devorah. With a generous hand and aching heart for everyone's grief she always served as an example of self-sacrifice, and also continually inspired others to good deeds. But good is its own reward. Their son Mendel and his wife Basia (née Arsh) followed the same path. When they had to leave for America during the Japanese War in 1904-05, they received the other Gluboke Jews whom they helped come to America like their own loved ones. As Mendel Zeldin thanked them, so they responded in kind, yet they have still not paid the full debt owed him for all his previous help.

As for the Zeldin family, their four sons (Harry, Nakhum, Reuben and Daniel) and one daughter Esther (now Okun) grew up and became well-known dentists. The eldest, Dr. Harry Zeldin, a famous surgeon, led a generous undertaking to found and build a College of Dentistry at Jerusalem University.

And so our Jews carry on the golden era of their families from the old country – the era of Torah and good deeds.

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