Telekhany ekes out a living from the nearby villages. Belarusian villages are located on the meager land of Polesia that is insufficient for the livelihood of the peasants dwelling there, even as they work tirelessly from sunup to sundown. The farmer is forced to acquire additional livelihood in other areas, such as wood cutting in the forests, fishing in the village lake, and making wood and clay vessels. In order to reduce expenses, the farmer's family had to make most of its own household vessels, clothing and shoes.
Part of the village output was brought to the Jews in town, and in exchange the farmer would buy what he needed from the Jews in town some food products, work tools, fabric and haberdashery. The Jewish craftsman would make clothes and shoes for the peasant, the blacksmith would repair his plow, and the carpenter would install the doors to his home.
A reciprocal relationship set the economic level of the town, and the poverty of the village environment determined the poverty level in Telekhany. The poverty of the Belarusian farmer determined the poverty of the Jew in town. Thus, it was a town like any other Jewish town, one town among many spread throughout the Polesia marshlands. Anyone strolling along the canal, the trough in the hinterland of the forest, the dark scenery of the forests surrounding the town provided Telekhany with a special charm.
The Jewish artisan and the farmer (the source of his livelihood) worked for some twelve hours a day, and income was meager and hardly enough to support the family. Parents accepted this depressing situation, but the youth, many belonged to the Socialist Zionist and left wing revolutionary youth groups. Many sought pioneer training for emigration to Palestine. Their common bond was the desire to change values, and to reject the sad current life of the miserable town residents.
These activities were looked down upon by the Polish authorities, and the Communist Party was persecuted mercilessly. Their members were imprisoned in jails and in the infamous Kartuz-Bereza concentration camp near Telekhany. All the residents of Telekhany, despite their differing loyalties and worldviews, took pride in their friends, finding in them an example as valiant fighters struggling for their worthwhile goals. Many of the young people were members of the Socialist Zionist movements who embarked on pioneer training for preparation for emigration to Palestine. Emigrés to Palestine from Telekhany established approximately 80 families. Many of them arrived before World War I, and settled in towns and villages. They participated with the rest of the Jewish community in Palestine in the struggle for rights and independence. They were involved in the War of Independence, anticipated the arrival of other survivors from Telekhany, who were welcomed warmly by the people in Palestine.
Emigrés from Telekhany maintain strong connections. They share joys and sorrows, and continue on the path of their ancestors with love of work, honesty and respectability. Until today, they are still proud of Telekhany. They mention it every year at the memorial for the martyrs who were killed in the Holocaust during World War II. Our town of Telekhany deserves to be immortalized in this book, so let us present the images of our townspeople and loved ones with love and admiration. May this book serve as a testimony to a Jewish community of a typical town that struggled to exist, and that preserved with self-sacrifice the eternal values of the Jewish People, and which went up in flames together with other Jewish communities at the hands of the Nazi persecutor.
Let us read sections of this book to our children so that their origins are not alien to them, and so that they preserve the memories of their ancestors from generation to generation.
Dov Landman (Tel Aviv, Israel)
(Edited by Moshe Bagan)
At this time the town of Telekhany was astir after having been partially rebuilt from the ruins brought on by World War I, and its economic situation was improving. Workers toiled for their bread, and merchants engaged in trade; the youth of the town started establishing and organizing their own cultural institutions, and some of them started to join the pioneer movement to be trained to move to Palestine. There was also an awakening among the entire population in town, and they decided to appoint a rabbi and spiritual leader.
Since the time that the esteemed rabbi Eliezer Yeshayahu Alovitsky served the community, the position of rabbi in Telekhany remained unoccupied, and the two ritual slaughterers in town, R. Yosef, an enthusiastic elderly chassid from Lyubshov, and R. Aharon, a Stolin chassid, who was an honest and righteous person, filled the role of the rabbi when it came to halachic matters and questions of permitted and forbidden issues.
As was customary in Jewish communities under these circumstances, there were differences of opinion, and three parties developed, pulling in different directions. One group claimed that they should hire a rabbi who was an outstanding scholar, and whose primary role in Telekhany would be study, as had been the custom with the previous rabbi; the second group argued that times had changed, and a rabbi should also be a person who could teach Jewish law, be in touch with the people, and be able to represent the town with the government authorities. The third group wanted to leave the existing state of affairs the way it was, and to make do with the two ritual slaughterers who were devoted and loyal religious Jews. News of this situation reached the yeshiva located in the town of Pinsk, about 60 kilometers from Telekhany. This yeshiva was called Beit Yosef [House of Yosef] in Pinsk, and was part of the Stolin chassidic synagogue that had been transferred to the yeshiva from the Luria family, and was known as Chayale Luria's kloiz [chassidic synagogue]. Most of the students at the yeshiva were refugees from White Russia and Ukraine who had escaped persecution from the Bolsheviks and found refuge in Poland after the border between Poland and Russia was established. Pinsk also opened its doors to host the yeshiva, which had approximately 200 young men in addition to the rabbis and teachers.
The head of the yeshiva in Pinsk was my brother, Rabbi Shmuel Weintraub, who was later appointed rabbi of Karlin, where the esteemed rabbi R. Yudel Karliner had previously served as rabbi. One of the loyal assistants of the head of the yeshiva, and someone who had joined our family when he married our sister Miriam was Rabbi Yosef Glick, who had been renowned in Russia and then in Poland for his enthusiastic preaching and profound scholarship. The name of Rabbi Glick reached Telekhany, and the second group wanted to bestow this great spiritual leader upon the residents of Telekhany.
After family consultations, the head of the yeshiva decided to send me, one of the yeshiva's students, to take a look at Telekhany in the same way that Moses had sent the spies to take a look at the Holy Land before the Israelites went there. I decided to go to Telekhany by foot, and it's worth explaining why I did this.
In that year I was drafted into the army, and the day of my call-up fell on the Sunday after Passover. As was customary among Jews in Europe, and especially among yeshiva students, I started to go on a diet for several weeks to lose weight. Several friends and I stayed up all night for several nights. We drank black coffee after a meal of salt fish and ate sunflower seeds night and day. I had the good fortune to make the trip of 60 kilometers by foot, and had the opportunity of taking someone else along with me on the arduous journey. We left early in the morning. It should be noted that there was no other way of getting to Telekhany without going on a circuitous trip via Pinsk, Yanov, Kobrin, Brisk, Kossov and Ivetsvitz, and from there with a small train to Telekhany.
It was virtually impossible to get there by wagon because of the melting snow that created huge and deep puddles that interfered with travel and destroyed the bridges. The lively link between Telekhany and Pinsk was broken at those times, even though it was around Passover time, as I will explain further on. I did, however, meet some wagon drivers from Telekhany along the way. They struggled exhaustively to get through the roads. Even the Pina River that flowed through Pinsk and emptied into the large Dnieper River had not yet melted, and the boat traveling from Pinsk to Telekhany in the summer through the Oginsky Canal, which had been dug during World War I and linked up with the Pina, had not yet begun operating.
With a staff in hand and a prayer on my lips, we left Pinsk through Lachishin Street in the direction of the village of Lachishin, which is located between Pinsk and Telekhany. For morning prayer services we made our way to the village of Ivnick, around 6 kilometers from Pinsk. This village was populated by Jewish agricultural workers, who fulfilled the biblical verse of “Through the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread.”
We got to Lachishin during the afternoon hours, and we were greeted by a
surprise. My fellow traveler felt ill and could not continue on. I was forced to
leave him in the merciful hands of good and merciful Jews, who promised to take
care of him and send him back to Pinsk. Treating him took several hours, and I
was forced to stay in Lachishin overnight, and continued on my way the next
morning. Between Lachishin and Telekhany I met two wagon drivers from Telekhany:
R. Yosef Gurstel and R. Avraham David Eisenberg, who despite the dangerous road
situation filled their wagons to capacity with merchandise and were on their
way. Conditions of earning a living prior to Passover forced them to fight
against nature and proceed on their way in the dark and in the mud. More than
once they were forced to stop and recite psalms.
Exhausted, worn out, dirty and covered with mud and clay, I arrived in Telekhany in the early evening. I went to the home of Mr. Michel Chernomoritz, a member of the committee choosing the rabbi. Although he received me cordially, he was dry and tense. Later I discovered that I almost got into trouble because Mr. Michel was a member of the first group that was concentrating on the public synagogue of the non-chassidim, and who were engaged in a bitter struggle with the third group who were the congregants of the Lyubash and Stolin synagogue, and who had already secretly delivered their invitation to Rabbi Mordechai Rogov Lipnishick of the Vilna area, and who was renowned as a scrupulously honest person and great Torah scholar.
After I explained my mission to him and delivered the sealed letter from the head of the yeshiva in Pinsk, I also discussed the reason for my trip to Telekhany from Pinsk in person. I requested that he direct me to a quiet hotel, and explained my desire to meet the rest of the members of the committee that very evening or the next morning. He asked me to wait for him in his house, and he would go to meet the members of the committee. He proposed that I enjoy a nice meal and rest from my journey.
I waited for him for a long time, and when he returned, he took the very diplomatic step of offering to let me spend the night in his home, and to then return to the topic the next morning. I fell into bed dead tired and awoke the next afternoon. Mr. Michel Chernomoritz did not even allow me to attend prayer services in the synagogue of the Lyubshov or Stolin chassidim, claiming that it was already late. He also said that there was no purpose in meeting with the other members of the committee because he had already met with them, and they already had a detailed plan to invite Rabbi Glick to preach on the Sabbath before Passover. He advised me to leave Telekhany as soon as possible because my appearance in Telekhany would only worsen the dispute among the groups without any benefit deriving therefrom.
I was not very experienced in these matters. I listened to him, however, and believed him. He was holding me prisoner without letting me see the town or its residents. In the afternoon, I snuck out to the train station and left Telekhany on a small train through many cities and villages with Jewish populations. Luckily I got through from Ivtsevitz to Pinsk via Kossov, Brisk, Kobrin and Yanov.
Things developed rapidly thereafter. The committee members who were part of the group of businessmen found out about my visit to Telekhany, and a number of them then went to speak to the head of the yeshiva in Pinsk. The entire committee agreed to invite Rabbi Glick to visit Telekhany. During the week of Passover Rabbi Glick made his maiden speech at the synagogue of the Lyubshov chassidim, where all the people in town were congregated, some of them standing outside. Rabbi Glick's speech made a tremendous impression on the town and the region, and it was decided to offer him the position of rabbi of Telekhany.
On Lag Ba'Omer Rabbi Glick married our sister in the large yard of the head of the yeshiva in Pinsk in the company of many heads of yeshivas and their students, as well as community rabbis and residents from all over Poland. This festive occasion was the time when he was officially handed the offer to be rabbi of Telekhany, and was attended by an esteemed delegation of all three synagogues in Telekhany: Avraham Chaim Komdyov, Ephraim Garbuz, Mordechai Shlichman, Mordechai Eisenberg, Isser Beckelman, Shammai Krupchik, Yudel Gurstel, David Lozen, Shkalir, Yonah Kravitz and Asher Gurstel [the last three being alive at the time the Yizkor book was written].
Telekhany got busy preparing to welcome the rabbi. The house of Berla Sotenz-Alfred, which was almost completed and which included three new [word missing] and a large hall, was rented as the residence of the rabbi, and on Friday after the holiday of Shavuot, Rabbi and Mrs. Glick were welcomed at the gates of Telekhany, accompanied by his brother-in-law, the head of the yeshiva in Pinsk, Mrs. Glick's mother, many friends and acquaintance, my brother, younger brother-in-law and I. My brother-in-law began activities in the underground, and is now outside of Telekhany living happily.
That Sabbath after Shavuot will never be erased from my memory. Those from that generation who are still alive, and the younger generation who were able to get to Israel and live with us here, will always remember that festive Sabbath. Telekhany was dressed in a special holiday atmosphere. The Lyubshov synagogue, where the rabbi and his entourage prayed, attracted most of the congregants from the other two synagogues in Telekhany, Stolin chassidim and the non-chassidim. The reading of the Torah on the Sabbath was broken up into many verses to accommodate calling all the visitors to pronounce the blessings, and the prayer service lasted until the afternoon. The kiddush held in the home of the rabbi was attended by a large crowd, wine was poured like water, and the potato kugels were taken out of the Sabbath ovens in wave after wave and consumed by the guests. Special fish were delivered for the Sabbath by Mr. Aharon Landman from the village of Viginoshetz.
The residents of the town hardly managed to complete their afternoon meal and take a nap, and then attended the Third Sabbath Meal that after the evening prayer service on Saturday night merged into the post-Sabbath meal [Melaveh Malka Accompanying the Sabbath Queen]. These meals were spiced with talks on Torah, Halacha, Aggadah [Talmudic stories], and chassidic and folk songs punctured the air with dances that lasted until the next morning.
Then life began to return to normal. The guests returned to their homes, and the home of the rabbi took its place among the other residences of Telekhany. The livelihood of the rabbi was assured by providing him with the monopoly on the sale of yeast for the Sabbath, and the other income pertaining to rabbis, cantors and slaughterers. Each Thursday housewives streamed to the rabbi's house to buy yeast from Mrs. Glick.
The rabbi initiated the development of spiritual assets. He established study groups to learn Mishnah and Talmudic stories from the Ein Yaakov anthology, and a Talmud class was also set up. The participants often recounted the pre-Sabbath strolls of the rabbi, who wore his top hat and Sabbath clothes. Shops closed early because of respect for the rabbi, and the Sabbath spread its wings to shelter the residents of Telekhany in rest and peace.
Rabbi Glick held a prominent place in rabbinical families among the ultra-Orthodox and traditional Jews of Poland, and was known as an outstanding community leader. His public speeches made waves and produced fruit. Rabbi Glick took many trips around Poland and even went abroad to Scandinavia, France and England on behalf of the yeshiva in Pinsk and institutions in Telekhany. He was beloved by the residents of the town because of his sharp halachic rulings and ability to compromise and bring peace among people. The house of the rabbi was open to everyone every evening. He even had an impact on the younger generation. Many of them decided to study Torah and follow tradition, and sent their children to study in yeshivas.
In the final years prior to the outbreak of World War II, the rabbi was primarily devoted to establishing a school where teaching would be in Yiddish. Hebrew also attained an important place instead of the public school, “Pwszechny” which taught its classes in Polish. At the initiative and intercession of the rabbi, the regional governor agreed to expand the network of Jewish education to Telekhany, and granted a permit to establish a Jewish public school. Rabbi Glick devoted all his energies to this school. A public committee and parents' committee was established, and a large building was built to house all the school's services. A graduate of the teacher's seminary was appointed principal, and veteran teachers and Hebrew teachers were transferred there: R. Chaim Yeshayahu Schneidman and R. Hershel Rotkovitsky. The educational program included Judaism, general and Polish history, Polish, etc.
In addition to the school, Rabbi Glick devoted himself to building a modern public bathhouse with all accoutrements for the residents of Telekhany instead of the small and primitive one that did not in any way meet the needs of the residents from a health point of view. Just a few days before the outbreak of the war, the town celebrated the dedication of the rabbi's private large home that was built on a large lot purchased at the initiative of the rabbi with the assistance of the town residents. It included a large meeting room for a public rabbinical court in addition to living quarters.
The brutal and total war and the large hand of the persecutor that arose in our day reached Telekhany and put an end to all the work and efforts that had been invested. During the Bolshevik conquest, the rabbi fled even without taking along his family. Mrs. Glick and two of their children, Moshele and Chanale, remained in Telekhany even after the German conquest, and they were killed with the other residents by the murderous and bloodthirsty Nazis in the nearby forest on the 10 th of Av [Sunday, August 3], 1941. May G-d avenge their blood!
Were it not for the extermination of the Jews of Poland, there would be many more generations to tell about the history of Telekhany, which saw the flowering of the best of the Jewish People, chassidim and non-chassidim, craftsmen and businessmen, youth seeking freedom and liberty, and a large and rooted pioneer youth and Zionist movement whose finest sons and daughters undertook training and emigrated to Palestine to establish themselves in their labor and development.
The Telekhany Book should serve as an eternal light to the glory of a community that was wiped off the face of the earth, and to pure souls who devoted themselves to sanctifying G-d's name. May their souls be bound up with the living and in the building of Israel.
Mordechai's son was Yaakov Gurstel. His daughter and her husband Zelig Zelikovitz, who served as a military governor, were in Israel. Today Reuven Gurstel's children are in Israel. They too were involved in building Israel. However, the children of Shimon Peretz Gurstel accomplished the most. They all moved to Palestine, and Shimon and his wife joined them in 1925. Thus, until today the family in Israel included the parents, three sons and two daughters. Shimon Peretz and his wife died in 1952 at Kvutzat Geva. Two sons, Yosef and Shlomo, and the eldest daughter Chana also live at Kvutzat Geva. One son, Yaakov, lives at Kvutzat Gavat named for the martyrs of Pinsk, and the second daughter Yehudit lives in Haifa.
The family of Nissel (Nissan) Gurstel, or as he was known, “Nissel the Deck Hand,” son Asher Mattityahu and his son Binyamin are in Israel, as are Mendel, the son of Reuven Gurstel. The son of Shimon Peretz Gurstel changed his name from Gurstel to Gurion, and all the members of his extended family use this name.
It is worth describing the town of Telekhany, which contributed greatly to raising the images of some of its residents, especially the respected and outstanding personality of Yosef Gurion, who contributed greatly to building Israel, and in whose honor Kvutzat Geva posthumously published the book, “Yosef Gurion, his life, words and work.” Yosef Gurion was born in 1895 in Pinsk, studied in the town school, and was educated in the Zionist youth movement. In February 1914, at age 16, he and some friends in town moved to Palestine to study at the agricultural school in Petach Tikvah. When World War I broke out, he was forced to earn a living, and he and several friends leased a plot of land in and near the settlement, and started growing vegetables. After he completed his studies, he joined a group of friends and moved to Kvutzat Be'er Tuvia, one of the first kvutza [group collective settlements] in the country.
At the end of the war he was drafted into the First Hebrew Brigade, and when the Brigade was disbanded, he returned to Be'er Tuvia and became one of its activists both in the kvutza and in the settlement. For a number of reasons the kvutza did not survive, and was disbanded. Yosef, who had married in the meantime, went straight to Kvutzat Geva in the Jezreel Valley, and from 1924 he and his wife were accepted as members. He remained there until his death.
For a number of years Yosef participated in numerous public activities. He was a life-long member of the Council of Agricultural Workers; a member of the board of the Central Bank for Cooperative Institutions; a founding member of the management board of the Tnuva milk company, and from 1942-43 he was the director of Tnuva in Haifa, and later in Jerusalem. He was a member of the board of the company Nir, and of the supervisory committee of the Health Fund [Kupat Holim].
In 1936-37 Yosef traveled as a representative of the Histadrut Labor Federation to the United States, and in 1937-38 managed the Settlement Fund. In 1944-47 he was the director of the Jewish Agency department responsible for settling soldiers, and visited the brigade and other Jewish military units in Egypt, Libya and Italy on behalf of the department. He was a member of the governing board of the institutions settling discharged soldiers and of the Soldier Fund.
At the end of the War of Independence he was appointed to head the department for rehabilitation of soldiers and war wounded on behalf of the Department of Defense, and dedicated all his energies to this task. He served for a long time as the director of the Israel Development Authority. When he completed his work for the government, he returned to Kvutzat Geva, but even here did not rest on his laurels. He was asked to serve as secretary of the Association of Kvutzot and Kibbutzim. When he returned home after completing this job, he was in poor health, but went to work for the sugar factory in Afula during its most difficult early period. After he finished working there for his committed amount of time, he returned home in ill health. He worked at home for several months, and then died suddenly from a heart attack on January 18, 1957.
Jacob was educated in the pioneer movement. When the time came for him to go to the kibbutz he was already engaged to be married and wanted to set up his home and family. Therefore he did not go to the kibbutz but remained in the city and set up his house in 1945.
Slowly Jacob began to build his own house. He bought a parcel of land and with the help of his father and brothers he began building. In the meantime he had a daughter whose name was Yael.
But fate was cruel and didn't allow him to continue his life quietly. In 1948 the war of independence broke out and everyone was called to serve in the army to protect Israel. Jacob, like everyone else, left his family and home to serve in the defense forces. While he was in the army, it was suggested that he take a course in explosives. He agreed to this, and it was impossible thereafter for him to return to his home frequently.
He successfully completed the course and excelled in placing mines. There is an old saying that a demolitionist who makes one mistake in life never gets to make a second mistake.
He served in this fashion until three days after Rosh Hashanah in 1948, when the army went out to chase the enemy from its three borders and to free the central part of the country. Jacob's unit had the task of freeing the settlements around 'Pardes Chana' and 'Yakov Zichron'.
His unit completed its task successfully; however, Jacob and his group went to search out the way the enemy infiltrated the country. Jacob was wounded while he was laying mines and died. His friends were unable to save him. They could only bring his body home for burial.
So came to an end the life of Jacob who was unable to enjoy his days and didn't finish building either his family and his house. A heaviness fell upon his family and friends. However, with the establishment of the State there was consolation for the loss.
However, they could not remain there, as they were not Russian citizens. They traveled to Germany in order to reach Israel. However, fate was bitter, and when they traveled to another city to watch the games, there were 35 people with them. The bus overturned, they were all injured or killed. Laibel was among the injured and lived for a few days. He was 40 years old when he died. May his soul be bound with the soul of the living.
Thus, they died. May their souls be bound with the souls of the living, never to be forgotten.
Eisenberg, Itsche Meir
Begun, Efraim Meir
Begun, Efraim Moshe
Bresky, Shiye [Yehoshua] Yosef
Burstein, Yosef (Yosel the Butcher)
Gluck, Musia the rabbi's wife
Gottlieb, Moshe Meir
Goldberg, Sima Rachel
Gurstel, Yitschak Shlomo
Gurstel, Aharon Yehoshua
Gurstel, Avraham Ber
Gurstel, Moshe (Bobrovich)
Gurstel, Chana (Asher's wife)
Khaikin, Moshe Michel
Tshizsh, Moshe Chaim
Tshizsh, (Motele's Family)
Chernomoretz, Berl (son of Leizer)
Chernomoretz, Aharon Yehoshua
Chernomoretz, Berl (Aharon's son)
Yosef (Cherna's son-in-law)
Cohen, Herschel (Asher's son)
Cohen, Herschel (Zadok's son)
Cohen, Khana [male]
Kagan, Shmuel Avigdor
Lutsky, Avraham Leib
Landman, Frume (Shlomo's wife) and two daughters
Leifer, Rachel daughter of Leifer
Meltzer, Moshe (Yaakov's son)
Meltzer, Moshe (Avraham Ber's son)
Meltzer, Shalom Yudel
Feinschmid, Chaya (Danzig)
Perlstein, Avraham Eliyahu
Perlstein, Shmuel Chaim
Pindrus, Eliyahu Moshe
Klitenik, Shamshel [Samson/Shimshon]
Klitenik, Beila Rivka
Klitenik, Rachel (Isaac's wife)
Kobrik, Aharon (the butcher)
Kartschmer, Rachke [Rachel]
Kamadiev, Avraham Chaim
Kostrinsky, Motye Ber
Schneidman, Chaim Yeshayahu
Chaim Reuben Eisenberg, wife Reisel, son Motel and daughter
Atshe with her children Pinsk Yehoshua Stoliar, wife Peshe and children Pinsk Sarah Bassevich and children Pinsk Mendel Stoliar with wife and daughter Lida Yisrael Eisenstadt Riga Itshe Eisenstadt's daughter, Rachel Riga Itshe Eisenstadt's daughter Reizel Pohost Yosef Roseman's daughter, Chava Garbuz Pinsk Yosef Roseman's daughter, Chana Krainyuk Warsaw Leibe Turok's daughter, Gittel Hellberg Pinsk Leibe Turok's son, Meir Turok Pinsk
Morris Lutsky New York Morris Stone Denver, Colorado Aharon Bronstein Delano, Calif. Leah Mader Hartford, Conn. Netty Siegel Binghamton, NY Malka Kupa Los Angeles, Cal.
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