|Words of praise for the author
by the writer Chanan Eylati.
Committee of Sopotkin emigrants in Israel:
|Efrati (Perestonsky) Zelig||Borovsky Chanan|
|Egozi (Niselkowsky) Reuven||Ben-Yehuda (Paleskovsky) Yaakov|
|Avni (Kaminitsky) Zalman||Manor (Mentchinsky) Aleksander|
|Shapiro (Sheolzonsky) Esther|
The Jewish identity and the Jewish tradition that were created in the town forced the youth to attend a Hebrew School and to absorb the Jewish spirit and the Jewish tradition. This way the town played an important part in developing the idea of the national future, the town weaved the prophecy of the Hebrew redemption. And this is how the (Chalutsim) Pioneer Movement grew, which laid the foundation to the realization of the independence of our Jewish State. And another thing, the life in the town implanted in the hearts of our youth the Jewish consciousness and increased the tie with the Jewish people.
The atmosphere of the town was absorbed with Judaism and Jewish tradition. Here was lit the Jewish spark, Apintele yid suspension point, quintessence of one's Jewish identity.
Beautiful buildings did not decorate the town. We see there the poor, the old homes, the miserable cheder (one room school), the old synagogue, which is ready to collapse they all were full of visitors and scholars, and the Torah melody never stopped there. Here grew up intellectual people, people of much wisdom, people of the book. And in the same time the town was happy to have plain, good working people, as they were called!
It is not
in my intention to describe the town and its surroundings only in clear and
bright colors. I wanted to collect
the sparks of light that the town was so rich in.
About the destiny of our Jewish town during World War II, we lost many wonderful images full of brightness, images representing simplicity, images which represented the good and the light in our lives, images that are a symbol of an era which was, but is no more, gone forever.
In memory of those, we decided to put up a memorial monument, at least to remember them in a book in order that the chain should not stop and the tradition of generations should continue. We should not forget the values of those who perished, their values that were a light for generations. Thanks to their values and thanks to them we came to the place where we are today. It is true the town is no more, but let us keep all the images in our heart and hold to them, the inheritance left by our dear ones.
Do not break the chain of the generations!
Watch over every link and joint.
And to one of the precious links this book is dedicated.
|Picture of the general view of Sopotkin|
Next to the big and ancient synagogue was the old cemetery which was filled with graves and tombstones whose Hebrew inscriptions were erased because so many years went by. According to the remnant inscriptions and the dates on the old tombstones it is clear that the first Jewish settlers came to Sopotkin in the beginning of the 17th century.
The main historic
memorandum-book (Pinkas) of the Sopotkin community was destroyed in
a fire on Passover 1906. Also the
first shock that hit the town was with the outbreak of the First World War,
when the wicked Russian ruler the Czar Nicolay Nicolayewitch and the czarist
government ordered to drive out the Jews from the border zone. This cruel law brought about the
dispersion of Sopotkin's
Jews all over Russia and the destruction of the sources which could tell us
more about the beginning of the settlement in Sopotkin.
* [Both spellings are correct. Sometimes the town was called Sopotkin, and in other documents Sapatkin.] (Solomon Manischewitz)
|The Ancient Synagogue|
1) Grodno Street (the new street)
2) The Synagogue Street
3) Vasivevitch Street
4) Baleslav Chrobry Street (Asotchaniki Street)
5) Teolin Street (Street of the Public Bath)
6) Yurezoliki Street (3rd of May Street)
7) The Market Place
In every street there lived about 40-50 families.
Before World War II the population of Sopotkin was about 1500
souls. In Sopotkin and in the nearby villages there lived 315 Jews.
In the year 1897 there lived in Sopotkin 1243 Jews. In the period of the general census of
the inhabitants of Russia in the year 1897 there lived in Sopotkin 1674
A good part of the forests and farms around Sopotkin were acquired by the
families Maretsky and Ben-Yaakov (Bibliograph).
Their representative was in Sopotkin, Mendel Lutoreytschik, this was a Jewish family which came from Krementchug which is in the Ukraine. In the hands of this family concentrated the management of the farms and forests in Sopotkin's neighborhood. The Jews of Sopotkin had also an additional trade pilling of the trees. They dried the pilings and this became a good material in producing skins and leather. About 200 Jews were busy in this trade. Another branch of livelihood and sustenance were mills.
After the First
World War Poland became an independent, free country and Sopotkin was no more a
transit bridge between Grodno and other Lituvanian cities. Lituvania became an independent country
and the border between the two countries was established 8 km from
Sopotkin. This was an artificial
border than surrounded Sopotkin from three sides. The highways, the roads and all kinds of transportation ways
that were so vital in the past, were cut off in the middle. The Polish government was not
interested at all to develop any town so near the border. The economy of the town changed
completely. Now the main sources
of life were small businesses, grocery stores where you buy not only groceries
but all different merchandise, working people, tailors, shoemaker and
smiths. All the businesses were
connected with the villages around.
The owners of the small stores waited all week for Friday market day,
when the peasants came to buy their needs. And this way the Jews made their poor living. Carpenters sold their products to the
farmers: chests, chairs, tables, etc.
Small businessmen were mainly grain produce merchants. The grain they used to buy from the
peasants and sold it in Grodno. Many Jews in Sopotkin became peddlers.
They used to spend all the days of the week (except Sabbath) in the villages, buying from the farmers all kinds of milk products, mushrooms and other products and sold them in Grodno. In addition to all these livelihoods every family had a milk cow and a small piece of earth on which grew potatoes to feed the family. To keep a cow was not too expensive. The town's shepherd used to take out the cows in the morning to a pasture, in the noon time he brought them back for milking and again back to the pasture and before the sun set the cows returned to their homes. Winter time the cows remained in cowsheds. They were fed with straw and potatoes. After the holiday of Succot the potatoes were picked and gathered and put in the cellars which were in every home.
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