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[Page 107]

The Novogrudok Orphanage

 

The history of the orphanage

Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil

A. The foundation of the institution

In 1917 the situation of the Jewish community in Novogrudok was very difficult. The town had been under German occupation since 1915 and was close to the front line. The population of the surrounding towns, such as Karelich, Lubch etc, moved to Novogrudok. The circumstances of hundreds of children, specifically those of the orphans whose parents had been killed or had died during the war, was particularly difficult. In September 1917 it was decided to establish an orphanage. The founders were David Cohen, Sholem Cohen, Benjomin Metropolitanski, Josef Izraelit, Chaim Ajzikovich, Izchok Volfkind and Zorach Chasovshchik. An appeal for funds from the Jewish population was published. The occupation forces were also approached. The German officer in charge gave permission for the project. The following people joined the organising committee: Rabbi Meir Abovich, Reb Sh. Eizenberg, Nachman Vasserman, Meir Eicher, Avrom Chasovshchik and Rivke Shvartz. The Jewish community, which had itself suffered greatly, extended willingly their help. Initially, 22 boys and girls aged between 5 and 7 years joined the orphanage. On the 28 November 1917 there was a festive ceremony at the orphanage to declare it open and the sum of 4825 marks was donated by those present. In addition, the town's people donated cloth, apparel and bedding. On the 4 December 1917, ten more children joined the orphanage. Income was derived from membership fees, occasional donations, the German administration, the food centre, various spectacles and amusements as well as lotteries. New members joined the committee. On the 26 August 1918 the orphanage moved to its own premises and 28 additional children were admitted and joined 11 other children, who had been admitted previously. In January 1920 assistance was obtained from the Jewish community council (Kehila) and in June, with the help of Dr Alexander Harkavy, the orphanage received 80,000 mark.

B. The life of the institution till 1925.

On the 25 April 1921 Mr Yelen arrived from the United States and brought $400 with him for the orphanage. Many children were transferred gradually out of the orphanage to learn a trade. On the 5 November 1921 Mr Eizikovich went to Vilno to discuss the situation of the orphanage. Systematic help started to arrive from “YEKAPA”, which had begun previously to support the institution. At that time orphanage branches of DDK had started their activities in Poland.

C. Building of a new dwelling.

In 1922 a building containing a kitchen was added to the orphanage. In 1923 building of a new dwelling had begun. The orphanage had at its disposal $200 and the Kehila contributed $100. Shortly after, construction came to a halt due to the lack of funds. In 1923, $100 was contributed by the American Relief organization and a further $25 from the Kehila. In 1924, Mr Gumener a representative of the DDK organization, visited the town. He took an interest in the construction of the new building. With the help of “YEKAPA” and the drive of the orphanage committee the building was completed. A festive inauguration was held to launch the new building and those present included M. Shalit and M. Yecerov who were representatives from “YEKAPA” as well as the representative of DDK, H. Gumener. In all, the cost of the building was $1951, derived from the following sources: the resources held by the orphanage, Kehila, the American Relief, “YEKAPA”, the building committee, collection at the inauguration and from the Chevra Kadisha (burial society). On average, by 1925 more than 50 children lived in the orphanage. The manager was Joisef Izraelit. Teachers helped in the running of the orphanage.

D. The transition.

The completion of the new building was the swan song of the members of the old committee, who worked tirelessly over the years. Gradually the help of “YEKAPA” was reduced and for a time ceased and DDK had begun to liquidate its activities. The local activists, tired and disheartened, began to leave the organisation. A serious deficit began to accumulate. The situation was catastrophic. At this stage a breakthrough occurred. An organisation to take care of the orphans was formed and took over the management of the institution. A new management team was elected and took over the task. The chairman was the former representative of DDK, Mr Gumener. The committee consisted mainly of women, who were very dedicated. The women were: Chana Bloch, Chaja Delatycki, Rabbi (Rebezn) Wolobrinski's wife, Roze Zamkowe, Cipe Klubok and Sora Karenski. Initially Mr Wolfkind, Mr Wager and Mrs Benzianowski-Wager supported the work. Mr Eliezer Rabinowicz, the Chasan assisted the committee. The new committee started with great enthusiasm to bring back financial viability to the institution. Money was collected in Novogrudok and the surrounding towns. They sought and obtained help from “YEKAPA”. For the first time support was obtained on a regular basis from the Sejmik (district council), city council and the provincial government (wojewodztwo). A systematic replacement of older children was undertaken. Some unsuitable children were removed from the institution. Gradually the building was repaired. A new experienced manageress from Warsaw was hired. Step by step the orphanage assumed the image of a “normal” institution. It was not easy, however, to arrive at this transformation. It took 5-6 years of perpetual battles to achieve the change. Many hours of waiting by members of the committee in the offices of the Sejmik and the city council were required till fractions of the subsidies were paid. Often, performances were arranged, but eventually the members of the committee had to pay the entertainers. But nothing seemed too difficult for members of the committee. Gradually, the deficit created by the old committee, which had been incurred since 1925, was repaid. A bookkeeper was engaged. Money was kept in a bank and payments made by cheque. For those times these changes were revolutionary. Not only was the financial situation very difficult but also the institution was very neglected and it was necessary to rebuild it and normalise relationships with the children. Those who were unsuitable had to be removed and those who reached maturity had to be placed into apprenticeships and work. The buildings were insured. The children were given personal documents. More care was taken of the medical needs of the children. The management had taken on a more serious and social character. Discipline was introduced and the orphanage had become a model institution. Nothing was too difficult for the management, and specifically for the women. To observe the women at festivals was a wonder to behold. It was not just the provision of a home for the children or a feeling of pity for them that were their motivation, but it was also love and devotion to the lonely children.

E. The financial position of the institution

The first period.

Despite the difficult times, the population was assisting the orphanage. Time was available and spent on activities for the orphanage. The German occupation isolated the town from the rest of world and there was a lot of interest in the well being of the orphanage. The German forces were of some assistance.

The second period.

The district became part of Poland. Representatives from the American Relief organization and the DDK had appeared. Regular assistance was provided by “YEKAPA” of Vilno. The Polish-American Committee provided help. Clothing was given. Businesses were reopened and more money became available.

Third period.

The economic crisis of 1925 began. DDK stopped its contributions. “YEKAPA” reduced its input. The activists of the past quit their positions.

The following support was received:

Sejmik2,400 zloty per annum
Wojewodstwo2,400 zloty per annum
City council3,500 zloty per annum
Membership fees3,000 zloty per annum

Later the contribution of “YEKAPA” was increased. From time to time the American Relief organization sent in donations. Enterprises also gave significant contributions. The consequences of the economic crisis were less severe than it was feared.

The last period.

The situation becomes more difficult. From 1930 all donations were gradually reduced. The income from membership fees was reduced by half. The Sejmik provided only 150-300 zloty. The city council reduced its payment to 1,000 zloty, and even that amount was not paid in full. The income from “YEKAPA” and a reduced contribution from the wojewodstwo were still available. The financial situation was becoming more and more difficult. But life went on. There was hope that better times would come.

Statistical data of the children in the orphanage.

Over the years 119 children lived in the orphanage, 55 boys and 64 girls. Of them 28 had no parents and the remainder had one parent.

The children came from:

Novogrudok38 orphans
Novogrudok sub-district70 orphans
other sub-districts11 orphans

Of the children listed above 69 children had acquired the following trades:

tailors14
dress makers26
carpenters13
hair dressers3
technicians4
type setters2
mattress makers2
saddlers3
watchmakers2

Thirteen children migrated to the following countries:

USA8
Israel2
Cuba1
France2

Seven children were learning a trade at Shogdey Melocho.

Of the 119 children 41 returned to their relatives, and 30 became independent. The others learned a trade while they lived in the institution.

Overall characteristics of the institution

In the institution there were girls and boys in the age group of 7 to 14 years, that is of school age. The institution consisted of 7 rooms: a dining room, 2 dormitories, a classroom, an office, a room for the teacher and a room for the cook. There was a separate bathroom. The walls of the dining room and the bedrooms were painted in oil paint. The number of children in residence at any time was 15-20. The majority were from Novogrudok and the surrounds. In the institution the family system predominated, which meant that the children were growing up, as far as possible, in a family atmosphere. The members of the management committee visited the institution quite often. Most children were educated in the Tarbut school (there was no Yiddish school in Novogrudok). A few boys studied with Rabbis and in the Talmud Torah. When the children finished their primary education they were placed in Shogdey Melocho, where they were trained in for specific trades. Previously, the members of the management committee were placing the children with tradesmen to learn trades. Medical care was provided by the Jewish hospital headed by Dr I. Marmurshtain. All children were provided with all necessary documents. The food for the children was modest but healthy; bread (on Sabbath chala), meat, butter, sugar and vegetables. Bread was baked on the premises. The rooms were clean and warm. The children were supplied with clothing. The personnel of the institution consisted of a teacher and a cook. Laundry help was hired when necessary. A bookkeeper was employed. The money was kept in the Jewish Peoples Bank.

Life in the institution.

The children would get up at 6.30am. Every child was responsible for making their bed, washing the top part (to the belt line) of the body and cleaning their teeth. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served by the supervisors. The children attended school from 8am till 2pm. Lunch was served at 2.30. After lunch was a rest period. Later homework was done in a separate room, and then the children participated in recreational games (in the summer outdoors) until dinner time. There was a children's library. Selected children were responsible for the issue of books as well as being responsible to see that the borrowers read the books. Games played in the institution were carefully selected. Talks were conducted. In the summer, the children were taken frequently for walks. In the winter the children participated in winter sports. The games were chosen by the children. The children had an elected governing body. When necessary a mock court was conducted.

The pedagogic arrangements in the orphanage.

Initially the manager was a person without qualifications for the position. By 1927 a specialised educator was engaged (M. Lipshits). It was something new and different and it was difficult to arrange. As was mentioned previously, the atmosphere in the orphanage was similar to that of a private family. There were, of course, children who did not fit in with the life style of the orphanage. On the whole, however, there were no major complications either in the orphanage or at school. It was interesting to note the changes in children a few months after they were admitted to the orphanage. They changed from frightened, apprehensive children to children full of live and song. The most difficult task was the creation of a friendly atmosphere. Some children could not understand why they should work, but in time the children became attached to the institution. In town and at school, the children from the orphanage were considered to be disciplined and well educated.

[The above article was written before WW 2 and at the end of Jewish Novogrudok. The unknown author, and all of us, did not foresee the tragic finish.]


[Page 110]

Memories

by Aharon Srebranik (a child from the orphanage)

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

After the first World War, dozens of orphaned children were roaming the streets of Novogrudok. They had no place to call their own. I remember and will never forget people stopping me and asking “why do you drag yourself around in the streets, go home, it is terribly cold and you have no shoes”. It was easy to say “go home”, but there was no home to go to. We would spend the nights in the synagogues, or more likely in “klizlach” [small synagogues frequented by particular groups, such as those of specific trades] on the Shul Heif [Synagogue square]. It was warmer inside. Sometimes a miracle would happen - somebody would offer a child a bed for the night and give him a meal. But nobody could afford to keep a child permanently. As is usual after a war, everyone had his own worries. But suddenly, without warning, all strays were gathered together into a house, which was called “children's home” [kinderhoize]. A better name would have been orphanage. Many families wanted to send their children to that institution, but only orphans were admitted. When I write about the foundation of the orphanage, I cannot forget the first “father” of it Joisef Izraelit, who devoted his entire life to the children. The diminutive “Josele” was a Jew of little formal education, but was full of verve and reacted with good humour to the capricious behaviour of the children. As is usual with children - one would laugh another would cry, others would play, one would behave this way, the other would behave that way. Not all things were trifling matters, but he managed to arrange these as best as he could. The children loved him dearly. I remember the occasion, when at a meal, he spoke and asked that nobody should call him “father”, because he was father to all children. Naturally, the children did not appreciate the value of their orphanage. But in later years, when the children had grown up and some had found relatives, such as older brothers and sisters, they began to understand the value of the orphanage. In the early years, there were great difficulties in maintaining the orphanage, since the burden fell on the shoulders of the people of Novogrudok who were impoverished by the war. But the good people of Novogrudok would not neglect the orphans. As the years went by, the orphanage improved in every aspect. Later a specially trained teacher, Lola Lipshits, was brought from Warsaw. The blossoming of the orphanage coincided with her presence. She was full of stamina. She was never resigned to the fact that all expenses of the orphanage had to be met by the impoverished citizens of Novogrudok. She went to the starostwo [sub-district office] and wojewodstwo [district office] and explained the needs of the orphanage. The officialdom began to take note of the existence of the orphanage. Since then the orphanage was subsidised by the two institutions. From 1926, the lawyer H. Gumener was helping with the official contacts. He devoted a large part of his life in helping the orphanage. Some of the untiring workers were Mrs Chaja Delatycki and Mrs Sora Korenski, who now lives in Israel and is interested to this day in the fate of the surviving orphans. “They are still my children”, she says when she meets them. And concerning Chana Bloch, no matter what is said or written about her will never describe her. She was the permanent mother of the orphans of Novogrudok. I have written about her previously, but I think that she should be portrayed by a great writer, who will be able to describe the fine, devoted, faithful and good-hearted Jewish mother of the Novogrudok orphans - Chana Bloch. I believe that the whole community will know how to value her memory, and will realise that I am not exaggerating. She was devoted to the orphanage with all her heart and nothing was too difficult for her, despite her advanced years. I used to imagine that she was born in the orphanage. There is no one who was brought up in the orphanage who does not remember Chana Bloch. She remains deep in our hearts. Due to the devotion of the citizens of Novogrudok to the orphanage, we wanted for nothing. I believe that many children did not receive as much support in their own homes as the children of the orphanage. All who could would render support. I remember the celebrations of “Chanukat habait” of the new building in the presence of Mr Shalit. The building was erected with the help of YAKAPA of Vilno. There was happiness all around, the orphanage had at last its own house. It is impossible to describe the satisfaction of everyone. I believe that there had never been a bigger celebration by the children and by the people of the community at large. It was also, come to think of it, the biggest celebration in a very long time. Even greater than the Pesach or Chanuka concert when Chasan Rabinowicz would conduct the children's choir. The board of management together with many guests and friends of the children would come to the concert. It was a lively performance, which continued until late at night. As it is written: “the one who spreads the word of the exodus from Egypt is to be commended”. All was done in good taste and with love so that the children would not feel the lack of a family home. The children of the orphanage were given a good general education and were taught a trade. They studied at the Hebrew school Tarbut under the guidance of the director of the school Mr Moshe Steinberg, who was constantly helping the children of the orphanage. The trades were taught at either Shokdey melocho or by private arrangement. The survivors from the orphanage are spread throughout the world. Most of them live in Israel and help to build the free Jewish State, a State of love and happiness for all Jews around the world, who are gathering from all the lands of the Diaspora.


[Page 112]

The first child in the orphanage

by Aba Rutkovski

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

Having been told that the management is intending to publish a book to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the existence of the orphanage [1932], I would like to contribute my story to the book. I was the first, literally the first child to come through the doorway of the orphanage in 1917, when it was first opened.

I would like to describe briefly what the orphanage meant to me and for many other children. When all inhabitants were expelled from Lubch during the war, my mother was sent to Novogrudok. I was 4 years of age at the time, with both of my legs crippled. My father had gone before the war to America (I have not met him to this day). Father alienated himself from us. Thus, broken hearted, mother was left carrying me in her arms, with no place to rest her weary head. She was hoping to find shelter for her crippled son so as to be able to earn a crust of bread.

However suddenly one evening, I remember it as if it happened today, the door opened and in the light of a stub of a candle two young men entered our room. They came to view our tomb like accommodation. They asked mother to send an application to Dovid Cohen, so that the orphanage would accept me. I remember my mother started to cry for joy. She said that God listened to her prayers and now she would be able to work and afford a piece of bread. On the 7 November 1917 a member of the committee of the orphanage Chaim Izikovich took me in his arms and brought me to my new home. My joy was great. I was rid of my mother's beating and cursing and I was given not only a piece of bread, but a piece of cheese with it. And at night, before going to bed, a clean nightshirt was put on me. In this manner I lived in the home for years. As I grew older and began to understand my situation, I started to ask myself the question: what will happen to me without being able to walk? I was most depressed. The manager would take all the children for a walk and I was left behind. The children went to school and I stayed at home. Not to remain illiterate, a special teacher would visit me. In the summer all children would walk off for a few hours and I could only creep into the yard. On days when all children would march in parades, I would stay in the house alone. It was only due to the good-hearted manager Josif Izraelit and a member of the committee Chaim Itzkovich that I was carried at times in their arms. The management was very interested in my welfare, and each time a doctor would visit the home they would draw his attention to my feet and ask if they could be straitened. Some doctors said that the feet could be cured, but the treatment would cost a lot of money. But money was not available at the time. The influx of new children grew by the day and the expenses grew accordingly.

But fate decreed that I should become a man like others. A delegate from America, Mr H. Yelen arrived in Novogrudok. He brought money for poor families. Among the names on the list was that of my mother. But for certain reasons he did not want to give the money to my mother. At that stage the committee of the orphanage asked Mr Yelen to put aside a sum of money to send me to Warsaw to have the operation performed, and the delegate agreed. When I was told that I was being taken to Warsaw I cried for joy, because I thought hitherto that I was destined to wear boots made of felt for the rest of my days. For a year and a quarter after the operation I suffered great pain. I wore gadgets on my feet. I was told that I should change, without fail, the plaster at set intervals. And it was because of this treatment that I became a man the same as all others.

I spent eight years in the orphanage. I was growing up and I learnt to become a tailor. I started gradually to earn a living and become independent. I, together with all others, am feeling now [1932] the effects of the economic crisis. Yet I am not forgetting and will never forget what the committee of the orphanage did for me. I send them my blessings and the blessings of all the children of the orphanage who were made into independent men.


[Page 113]

The orphanage (1917-1919)

by Sholim Cohen

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

A. Autumn 1917. Our town, with its 5000 Jews, of which there are hundreds of homeless Jewish families, is under a threatening black cloud. The situation is hopeless: hunger, want and destitution worsen by the day and become more ominous. Epidemic diseases spread with a wild fury and the death rate is frightful. In the cold, wet mornings thin, ragged human shadows move slowly. They are the road menders, mostly women. Their men are in the army or in America. With them are their older children, youths 10 to 12 years of age. While they work, their younger children, some almost infants, are locked in their homes. The infants sit in the unprotected, unheated homes with a piece of dark bread and cold water to quench their hunger. Many are ill and many die.

A group of young people have decided to help the neglected children. They seek advice, make plans and decide to create a home for the abandoned children. They will call it an orphanage. Will they find means to create such an institution in such dreadful times? They hope to obtain help from the authorities and believe that the Jewish society will do all it can.

B. The festive opening of the orphanage on a light, frosty November day of the year 1917. The sun casts its rays through large windows into a large room. This is the bedroom of the orphanage. The invited guests sit at a large, decorated table. They make speeches and pass on greetings, they sign their names in the golden book, and the donations grow steadily. Guests continue to arrive and none comes empty handed. The atmosphere becomes more festive. Well wishes for the success can be heard. In the intervals between the greetings a splendid choir is performing. And at that moment a long line of children enters the room. All are 5 and 6 years of age. The children stop at the tables where the guests are seated. Reisele, who is 5 years old, steps forward. With a ringing child's voice she thanks the assembled company. At that point the choir cuts in with a lively, happy tune, composed specially for the occasion. The children walk out of the room. The moment is festive and everyone is deeply moved.

C. The financial success of the opening ceremony is great. But greater still is the moral achievement. The interest and sympathy that are shown to the orphanage hearten the members of the committee and encourage them to further efforts. Additional children are admitted. All worked with dedication and loyalty. The children are becoming stronger and are regaining a healthy appearance. They also regain their liveliness and joyfulness . The orphanage becomes their real home. It is heartening to see how the children embrace the women who help with the chores and spend many hours in the orphanage. The eyes of the children are twinkling and shining when Dovid Cohen, the head of the committee and the mentor of the children is gathering them around him in the evenings and is telling them stories. In the summer of 1919 we can conduct with pride the member of the Morganthau-mission, Prof Gothard and the representative of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Count Zultowski who is accompanying him, through the large, bright, sparkling clean rooms of the orphanage. And we can also tell them that in the two years of the orphanage's existence, infectious diseases were kept out of the orphanage and no life was lost. Yes, the Jews of Novogrudok can be proud of their orphanage.


[Page 114]

“Shokdey melocho”

by Chaim Leibovich

Translated from Yiddish by Oskar Delatycki

The cruel war and occupation by the Germans and the Bolsheviks had finished. Novogrudok, which had passed a number of times from hand to hand between the Germans, the Bolsheviks and the Poles, was greatly impoverished. But as soon as the fighting stopped life began to normalise. The wounds started to heal and communal institutions started to develop again. In the autumn of 1921, due to the initiative of Hirsh Ostashinski and Moshe Shimonovitz, old activists of Shokdey melocho movement, a meeting of youth was called in the Harkavy synagogue. Mr Dovid Cohen outlined the difficult situation facing the Jewish population. Many sources of Jewish livelihood had vanished. He explained that occupations such as Jewish shop keeping, trading and go-between, were defunct due to the war and that the youth must become productive and find other means of income. They needed to learn a trade and thus become useful members of society. After an exchange of views it was decided to renew the activities of the old association of Shokdey melocho, which had a distinguished past in educating many young persons, who became good tradesmen. A committee was elected which consisted of Shkolnik, Perl Klubok, Joselevich, Abramovich, Klachko, Pinski and Sapotnicki. Dovid Cohen was elected chairman and H. Leibovich secretary.

The committee started work immediately. A statute was developed to decide which young men and women would be given an opportunity to learn a trade. Contracts with tradesmen with whom boys or girls would learn trades were signed up for three years. The organisation Shokdey melocho undertook to feed the students for the first year. In the second year the tradesman would pay the apprentice a sufficient sum for him to sustain himself. Shokdey melocho undertook also to clad the apprentices. Contracts were signed up with all kinds of tradesmen: tailors, boot makers, carpenters, watchmakers etc. The girls learned to become seamstresses for dresses, coats and corset making. Evening classes had begun, where teachers taught voluntarily, without pay. Yiddish, Polish, mathematics were some of the subjects. The evening classes were held at the Talmid Torah. A boarding school for boys was set up. It was situated in the house of the Slonim Chasids in Slonim St. A boarding school for girls was situated in the house of the Talmid Torah. The boarding houses were accommodating orphans who had lost both parents. Children from the orphanage, when attaining 13 years of age, would leave the orphanage and enter Shokdey melocho. The committee would visit once a month all workshops, which employed the apprentices, to inquire about their progress. If an apprentice was treated badly by a tradesman, the contract with him would be annulled. If the apprentice was not suited to a given trade he or she would be transferred to an apprenticeship in another trade.

The scheme was supported by the following contributions: support from America, from the Kehila (Jewish council) and membership fees. It was the duty of the members of the board of management to collect the contributions each month. The committee was well organised and worked effectively for a period of some years. Due to the efforts of the activists, the wojewodztwo (governing body of the district) granted an annual subsidy to Shokdey melocho. Street collections and theatre presentations were conducted. Shokdey melocho made considerable advances and became quite popular. People from the neighbouring towns, such as Karelich, Lubch and Selib were sending poor youth to Novogrudok to learn trades. In 1925 the lawyer Gumener arrived in Novogrudok. With his arrival the activities of the organisation had been enlarged. New committee members were attracted and activities were reorganised. A trade school for carpentry and cabinet making was initiated. An instructor from Vilno was hired. Youths aged from 14 to 18 years attended the professional school, obtaining a certification equivalent to the fifth grade of a public school. The course took three years. The main aim of the course was to produce tradesmen with the highest possible qualifications. Sixty four hours were devoted to practical work and a further 32 hours was spent in the workshop. The rest of the course consisted of theoretical studies of literature, geometry, arithmetic etc. Emphasis was placed on the students developing an artistic bent and learning how to draw to enable them to design items of furniture. In time the workshops became known to the entire population of the town, due to the high quality of products made by the workshops.

In 1931, the first exhibition of furniture made at the workshops was held. A big opening ceremony was arranged in the presence of the head of the sub-district administration and a number of officials of the district, including the mayor, Mr Shalit representing YEKAPA of Vilno and Ing. Plebaner of ORT. The exhibition was very successful and attracted the entire population. Many pieces of furniture were sold. The district administration sent a letter of appreciation. The exhibition concluded with a ball, which brought in a considerable return. In 1935 the second exhibition was held under the guidance of the instructor Shniderman. This exhibition, was also very successful. All the exhibits and some other pieces of furniture made by the pupils were sold. At the time many institutions in Novogrudok were beset with difficulties. But the trade school and Shokdey melocho were prospering. The progressive intelligentsia was supporting the movement. They were lawyer Gumener, Dr B. Kivelevich, Mirim Ginzburg, A. Izraelit, Ing. Klubok, M. Movshovich, Ch. Delatycki, M. Zyskind, Sh. Solomon, H. Leibovich. In 1936 the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a law that each tradesman and apprentice must pass an examination to be permitted to work independently and legally own a workshop. A committee, consisting of tradesmen, was established at Shokdey melocho with the aim of helping young workers to obtain the necessary certificate. Special evening courses were established which were attended by the apprentices, with the objective of obtaining the necessary qualifications to enable them to obtain a certificate. Thus the activists of Shokdey melocho were branching out in the town and the surroundings. In time many pupils were qualified as tradesmen and many apprentices obtained certificates as qualified workers. But in 1939 the work of Shokdey melocho came to a halt. On the 17 of September the Soviets entered Novogrudok. A delegation from the orphanage and Shokdey melocho visited the executive committee of the town and asked for support for the two organisations. A week later I was asked to see N. Gutertzova, the commissar in charge of education, who appointed me the director of Shokdey melocho and the orphanage. She combined both institutions and ordered us to increase the size of the orphanage. She also ordered that children of all nationalities, including both orphans and the homeless, must be admitted to the orphanage. In a short time, the orphanage housed an extra 220 children. A new orphanage was opened in Kowalewsker Street. I employed a staff of Jewish workers. Jaffe and Erlich were appointed managers in charge of the housekeepers. The work in Shokdey melocho had slowed down, the workshops were empty. There was a shortage of materials. Two months later I was ordered to close the workshops of Shokdey melocho and open a state furniture factory. Various machines were brought into the Reb Yoysl's Yeshiva. All carpenters were registered and worked for the state factory. On the 5 January 1940 I was dismissed from my position as the director of the orphanage and was told that I could not be relied upon to bring up the new generation. Things continued in this manner till the 22 June 1941, when the war with Germany began. The German's bombardment of Novogrudok had ruined a large part of the town. The furniture factory, the houses where Shokdey melocho and the orphanage were previously situated were burned. The new building of the orphanage in Kowalewsker St remained intact. The Germans ordered the removal of the Jewish children from the orphanage. By the order of the Judenrat, I together with I. Izraelit removed the children to the house of Israel Delatycki [the family was arrested and deported by the Soviets to Siberia a few weeks previously]. The Judenrat gave them food. But the orphans did not remain alive for long. As is well known, on the 8 December 1941 they put white kerchiefs on the heads of all the girls and took them to the mass grave in Skridlevo.

This was the end of the beloved orphanage and Shokdey melocho, which qualified hundreds of Jewish tradesmen.

Our town was in ruins. The cries of the Jews of Novogrudok were silenced in the four mass graves at four ends of the town. The bubbling life of the Jewish community, together with the institutions of Shokdey melocho and the orphanage were extinguished forever.


[Page 117]

Volunteer Fire brigade

by Arie Shochor (Czarny)

Translated from Yiddish by Oskar Delatycki

My grandfather Leibke Hershl Motkes, whose nickname was “the apple carrier”, because he sold apples, was a voluntary fireman. His sons and grandsons also served in the fire brigade. I, Leibke, when I turned 16, ran behind the fire cart, when it was rolled out to attend a fire, and I begged to be taken on as a fireman. I had to wait a few years until my wish was fulfilled and I was taken on as a signalman. My job was to blow a horn all over town when a fire occurred or when the brigade was training. At times I did my job riding on a horse. Later I joined the members of the brigade whose job it was to drag large fire station drums mounted on two wheel trolleys. In that capacity I obtained in time the rank of commander of the trolley pullers. The other commanders were Moishe and Ele Israelit, the sons of Hershl Shimen. As well as the trolley pullers, the fire brigade had two units of firemen, who dragged the water pumps and hoses by hand. There was yet another group of firemen whose job it was to deliver the fire ladders, axes and spare hoses. A horse drawn vehicle was used for this purpose. These firemen would put up the ladders, crawl into the burning buildings and, using their axes, break off the burning planks. They were the most respected members of the fire brigade. They wore brass helmets on their heads. If a fire occurred on a market day, we were allowed to commandeer the farmer's horses.

The members of the fire brigade, almost all Jewish, were utterly devoted to their task, and were proud to be firemen. When summoned in an emergency or for a drill we would turn up clad in our uniforms, which we wore as if it was our Sabbath best. We arranged frequent meetings with the firemen of the neighbouring townships. We felt proud when the Novogrudok brigade was the most efficient in the joint exercises. In 1923 the fire brigade established a brass band. Most members of our family joined the band. My brother was the band leader. Shortly after I made my Alia to Israel. Seven years later, when I returned to visit Novogrudok, the members of the fire brigade arranged a dinner in my honour. We celebrated till midnight. Ten of those present were the grandsons of Leibke Hershl Motkes. Seven of them, praise be to God, survived the Holocaust. Three of us now live in Israel.

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