Reb Yudel excelled in the knowledge of the "small letters", both in Hebrew and in Russian. He also gave private lessons to young and adult students.
His father, Reb Shmuel Friedman had been the head of the Jewish community, as well as a known wealthy landowner. His son Yosl married and moved to Bialistok and used to visit his parents on holidays. Yosl's son, Benjamin, moved with his family to Israel in 1924. He passed away in 1943.
Reb Yudel's daughters, Rivka and Masha, born to him and his wife Meite, left the town and emigrated to the U.S. about 1910. Masha married the late Dr. Phoebus Berman, the son of Rabbi Moshe Berman who had been Rabbi of Antopol. Rivka married the late Dr. Isaac Burstein. She visited Israel in 1960. Her son, Dr. Herschel H. Burston and his wife visited Israel last year, and took great interest in the projects and accomplishments of the local Antopol organization, such as the synagogue, the Izkor Book etc.
Dr. Burston has been very active in financing the publication of the
memorial book, and together with the late Dr. Berman they also outlined
the contents of the English part, in order to leave for later generations
of American Jews the story of Antopol in English.
He was born in Antopol in the 1880's to his father Yaacov-Shmuel Stavsky and his mother Rivka (nee Lifshitz). When their mill was consumed by fire they moved to Kremenchuk. In the course of their many travels, young Moshe came to Warsaw and got acquainted with a group of young poets, who opened the renaissance of Hebrew-Jewish literature. He began to publish his first works, and finally he settled in Warsaw from where be used to come home on visits. During one of his visits he happened to save his niece who was then a revolutionary. He managed to hide her and smuggle her to Kremenchuk.
Coming back to Warsaw be continued his struggles, preferring the hard life of a young writer over easy life in a well to do family. Here he met his future wife and together they moved to Israel. In 1911 they sailed on a primitive Russian boat from Odessa to Jaffa - after a fierce struggle with the sea, the Turks, and lack of food and water. Upon arrival in Jaffa started another hard period. Moshe, who since boyhood loved nature, decided to revive the love of nature in the holy land. He began studying the new environment, the Arab neighbors, their way of life, and became an expert on the Arabs in Israel. He began working the land and became a farmer. He became also an expert in Hebrew in which he now published his old Jewish stories, as well as new ones. When his literary life became unbearable, he turned completely to agriculture. After a while, when he was already a successful farmer in Beer-Tuvia he came back to Tel-Aviv, and began writing on farming and agriculture.
He became also a friendly adviser to Antopoler who respected his experience and knowledge. He was always helpful and found time for Antopol affairs. He used to make trips to his old birth town, and many young people of that period remember his encouraging meetings which later brought them to settle in Israel.
When we arrived in Israel in 1950, we found our Moshe in the prime of his success in literature, public affairs, social activities, and writing, criticising and learning, travelling to various settlements to lectures and demonstrations in agricultural subjects.
Finally he began suffering physically and his eyes also deteriorated, which made him more miserable. The loneliness was insufferable, but Stavy fought nature consistently. He did not let any of his numerous friends to comfort him.
For the last 14 years I had the honor to get to know the personality of Stavy the writer. Personally I was privileged to offer him medical attention and services, get near him and win the confidence of the great uncle. I learned that under the hard appearance beat a tender heart. He was always human, a man who for 80 years worked hard, very hard, fought much, built much physically and spiritually. Thus he built for himself a permanent monument extending from the Jewish quarter in Warsaw, via Antopol. and Lvov to Beer-Tuvia and Gadera, New-York and Tel-Aviv. A man who opened his house in TelAviv to all numerous friends in every settlement.
Stavy's library on science, nature and labor, on cattle and fields, on oriental fables for children and adults; on the biblical Hebrew and agricultural Hebrew, and on Arab folklore - all these form an important national treasure.
He did not finish his work. He prepared much material for additional publications. He began working and contributing to Yizkor Books. In 1962 he headed the Israel committee for publication of the Antepoler Yizkor Book. Suddenly he left us and passed away. We fought hard to save his life, but to no avail.
May this Yizkor Book, which he dreamt about, help keep his memory in our hearts!
Dr. Berman, whom we called Feitl back home, was born in 1890 in Antopol and died in the U.S.A. in 1967. His father was Rabbi Moshe Berman, who gave his son a strict religious education. At a young age he was sent to Rozhinai, birthplace of his father, to study at the Yeshiva there. Later he studied at the Yeshiva in Yanove.
The young man began also to look into foreign studies, and went to the Pinsk High School, where he graduated with honors, and then he returned home to teach Russian and general studies. Along with teaching young Feitl became active in the local youth movement, and finally his thirst for knowledge brought him to the U.S.A. in 1913.
In 1916 he started at U.C.L.A. Here, too, he excelled in his studies, received a gold medal and a scholarship. In 1919 he received his degree in medicine, and after ten years of practice, in 1929 he was appointed director of the district hospital in L.A., one of the largest in the U.S.A. He continued also to lecture at his alma mater.
Under his leadership the hospital developed to house 3,800 beds and over 100,000 patients per year.
Dr. Berman also invented several significant medical inventions, which are used all over the world. In 1956 he retired to engage in a diversified public activity, still continuing to keep in touch with the hospital and with Jewish life.
When it was decided to publish a Yizkor book, he was one of the initiators and active doers. He also contributed and collected money for this cause, and wrote several articles for the book, full of love to the town of his birth.
His wife Masha (daughter of Yudl der Shreiber) was always having a great part in his success. His brother, the famous poet, had a mutual influence with his public activities, and continues to fill the late Feitl's will regarding the book.
May the memory of our dear Feitl be with us forever!
As new immigrants they had a very difficult beginning, but the young man was encouraged to study. He went to high school, college and university and graduated with honors form the School of Medicine.
He specialized in plastic surgery and is today one of the best in the field. Among his patients are famous artists and actors. However his success did not change his good popular nature and friendly personality.
Dr. Burston has a wonderful wife and two lovely children, a boy and a girl. He gave them Jewish education in a Jewish school as well as personal Jewish knowledge. He himself speaks, writes and reads Jewish fluently, and subscribes to Jewish papers and journals. He takes part in and contributes to Jewish projects in America and in Israel. Antopol is very dear to him, and he always remembers the fate of the Jewish community.
Among the important persons who originated from Antopol, Dr. Burston rightly occupies a prominent place.
While still teaching young children he began his research in education and published several articles on the subject. Faithful to Jewish tradition, he was teaching his students Jewish customs and way of life, and thus published text books on these subjects. He also set rules for teaching the prayer book within the curriculum of Jewish studies.
During the 30 years of teaching at the Yeshiva "Ohel Moshe" in Brooklyn, he was also fruitful in the literary field. He contributed to the Jewish press in America and in the Hebrew press like "Hadoar", "BeZion", "Shvilei Hahinuh", "HaZofeh" and others. He went also into literary criticism, delved into history of Hassidism and published a monograph about the "Yenuka" of Stolin. His monographies about Reb Pinchas Michael and about Reb Mordchele are famous in the literary world. He also continued his research about Jewish holidays customs and published his famous book "Customs of Holidays".
In his introduction to this book Ben Ezra writes : "I have incorporated in this book the various customs which I found recorded until today, and stressed the differences in various communities". This book was written in a scientific approach and contains a treasure of footnotes and cross-references. Ben Ezra writes also for children, short stories adapted to the young.
Ben Ezra loves the Hebrew book. He loves books, and his private collection contains many thousands of books. He is also a famous bibliographer. He published bibliographies of Professor Zvi Sharfstein, Dr. Shlomo Rubin and others. He also published a bibliography of "Shvilei Hahinuh" and edited the "Ketavim Ivriim" of Dr. Morris Robinson.
Ben Ezra is a Hebrew Zealot. His friends and acquaintances know that he speaks only Hebrew. He educated his children in Hebrew and his family was among the first in America where children spoke Hebrew. Ben Ezra was fortunate to give his son and daughter a national-religious education at the Yeshiva of Flatbush. After graduation his son went to the teachers seminary affiliated to the Rabbinical Seminary of Rabbi Schechter, and now he is a Chemical Engineer and an active public figure in Binghampton, N.Y. while his talented daughter, after graduating from the Herzlia teachers seminary in N.Y. with honors, married Rabbi Prof. Haim Daneburg from Montreal.
About two years ago Ben Ezra retired and after preliminary arrangements came to settle in Israel.
I was meditating on these thoughts when I was reading the book "Offene Fentzter" by Pintche Berman. His poetry is simple and hearty, tributes which get the poet nearer to prose as a form. Another tribute to Berman's poetry - his marvelling at the world, at life in general. I believe that he must have tried on various occasions to delve into the mystery of life, withdrawing in time to prevent him from turning into pessimism. Because essentially, Berman is a positive enthusiast, and he loves life as well as the essence of living - existence.
In many of his works Berman brings out the sorrow and grief over the destruction of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, and only with his positive enthusiasm, mentioned above, be manages to treat the wounds in his heart over the unfortunate fate of his birth town.
One of the outstanding figures among the one time emigrants, who settled in the U.S.A. is Abraham Warsaw of Miami Beach, author of the great book "Years of Fire and Blood".
In his introduction to the book we learn that his talent in writing developed during twenty years, in writing short stories about his home town, when - in his modesty - he did not dare to dream about publishing them in a book. However in the course of time some of the top Yiddish writers in America discovered the treasure. Leading writers like Dr. Mokdoni, Abraham Reisin, and A. Kravetz urged Warsaw, aided by Antopoler landsleit to publish his great collection, knowing that by doing so they are erecting a literary monument to the holy martyrs of Antopol.
And in fact, upon reading the book we discover two different discoveries: The prose writer, the refined author, and the town with its population - Jews and non-Jews; everyday and holiday; simple Jews and scholars; workers and merchants; high ranking rabbis and, simple scholars; Zionists and socialists, communists and revolutionists. In short - a dynamic Antopol, living and active, before it was destroyed by the Nazis.
The talent of Abraham Warsaw belongs to the sort of authors who saw their birth town with warmth and always cherished their memory with only good memories. They described them lyrically, hence the sad undertone, although the happenings themselves oftentimes were rather tragic. This is understood also from the name of the book "Years of Fire and Blood". As an example take Warsaw's description of 1920 in Antopol, during the war between Poland and the Bolsheviks :
"Day and night were heard the enemy's artillery giving out fearsome sounds and painting the skies red and blue. Clouds, painted green-white, were moving and disappearing in the sky. The forest, with its golden-yellow leaves shining in the autumn sun, resounds its, echo to the bursting shells which stir the world. On the ground, drenched with blood, you can see people crawling in green clothes the color of grass. Through hidden trails people walk silently to keep away from the enemy and its airplanes which throw fire and human limbs. Hundreds of human beings in green are swallowed in the forest in which every minute the -steel, fire and lead put out the lives of scores of people".
The Jews of Antopol do not want either one of the fighting enemies: The Poles hate the Jews, kill and loot them, and the Bolsheviks hate Jewish life in general, Still better they than the Poles. One live Jew is better than dead by the Poles. But on the first day of Bolshevik rule, on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jews feel that the newcomers hate also Jewish religion:
"In the market, on an elevated stand, the new speakers attacked God, tradition, old culture, etc. The voices penetrated the open windows and doors of the prayer houses, and the praying Jews were stunned, as if asking - what is happening here?"
Warsaw's stories give the reader an opportunity to meet the people of Antopol. Here is Meier'l the builder, "a phlegmatic man, a great believer, a hospitable man in secret". In this story Warsaw describes the great respect of Antopol Jews to scholars, a respect without outside manifestations, but with inner respect to the Torah itself, and to the scholar who studies it.
The language in Warsaw's stories is idiomatic. The descriptions are
extremely plastic. In the rather great story "Fire and Blood" Warsaw achieved
a high literary standard. He penetrated into the deep beings of the types,
whom he describes, their soul psychology, and their situation. He brings
forth the early period of the Russian revolution, when the Jews still looked
up to it, hoping to benefit from it in their dire existence.
Here is the description of the town revolutionary. the future commisar, a man with a sensitive soul, who detests dogmatism and terror, although he himself got involved to perform brutal deeds by order to the authorities, under the disguise of the proletarian dictatorship.
A. Warsaw draws his inspiration from the love of his birth town, from his Antopol. He is proud of her, and rightly so:
"We, the small children of Israel, listened attentively to the stories, of our elders about the greatness of our town, and they told about her with pride and enthusiasm. After all in its cemetery were the "tents" of great Rabbis like Reb Moshe-Zvi and Reb Pinchas Michael, may they pray for us. And the Cold Shul whose fame is known all over. And where is the list of rabbis who graduated from the ancient Yeshiva? All this gave us a feeling of joy and self pride".
He studied law at the University of Toronto and began practice in 1926. He was a Carleton County magistrate from 1937 to 1945 and served on the Collegiate Institute Board, the board of directors of St. Vincent's Hospital, and service clubs.
Mr. Lieff was the first Jewish lawyer to be elevated to the bench of the Ontario Supreme Court, and Mrs. Lieff, the former Sadie Lazarovitz, received her law degree in Nova Scotia, where she was a member of the bar even after moving with her husband to a new residence.
Both were associated all their life with religious, fraternal, social and educational organizations.
At a testimonial dinner in honor of Mr. Lieff upon his retirement as President of Agudath Israel Congregation, creation of the A. H. Lieff Cultural Foundation was announced to express his interest in the promotion of the tradition and culture of the Jewish community.
The Antepoler Y.M.B.A. sent yearly contributions towards the orphans' home, and after my father came to the U.S.A., he initiated help also for other institutions in Antopol, namely: Talmud-Torah, Hebrew Tarbut School, Gmilus Hasodim, and the Matzo Fund (Maos Hitim).
Later a committee was organized incorporating all societies of Antepoler, namely THE ANTEPOLER FEDERATION OF AMERICA, with David Bayuk as president, Hyman Goldberg and Leon Wolowelsky as secretaries, and we started to send help to the above institutions. The same committee helped also in building the public Mikve in Antopol, as well as other necessities of the Jewish community.
With the establishment of the State of Israel, a committee of the United Jewish Appeal was organized with Leon Wolowelsky as chairman, Joseph Rosen as co-chairman, to collect money for Israel, and two years later, when the first Bonds issue was proclaimed, we the Antepoler made a big drive to sell Israel Bonds. The President now is brother Hyman Sterman.
Several ladies of the association assembled together to form a branch, which they named "Ladies Auxiliary of Harlem", to dedicate themselves for benevolent activities. In my house we gathered: Mirke Palewski, Tamar Wolinetz, Bessie Gerstein, Yente Haya Lifshitz, Fanny Greenman, Reisl Sapir, Miriam Feldman, Bracha Farer, Gussy Bernhardt, Sara Reisl Birnbaum, Miriam Palewski, Henia Sadowski, Babil Blecher, Hanke Potolski, Sheinke Aronowski and Goldie Aronov.
We had our first celebration in my house. We were happy and sure that our organization will survive and expand. A short time later we invited our beloved Rabbi Abraham Kotler for a benediction. We rented a large hall and invited all our landsleit to the meeting. I was elected president and we all made it our goal to help our needy people.
Although we were spread out in New York and vicinity, we continued to maintain our ties. When something had to be done for Antopol, we always managed to continue the nice tradition of helping the needy. I must mention again Rabbi Kotler and his dear wife, who were always ready to answer our call. Although we enjoyed our meetings socially, we made it our goal to help the needy Antepoler. All the money raised in benefit shows, Purim and Hanuka campaigns, and other projects, was dedicated for aid. Every celebration, or G-d forbid, mourning, was an occasion for collecting donations to be sent to the late Rabbi Wolkin in Antopol, and he used to distribute the money among the town institutions.
Our greatest grief came when we heard that Antopol was no more, after that the Nazi murderers had put to death all our dear ones.
During all the time we contributed also to HIAS, JOINT, NATIONAL FUND, UJA, as well as individuals. We also purchased a bed in the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital of Brooklyn.
A major project undertaken by us was the adoption of a girl survivor from a concentration camp. We sent every year $ 360 as well as packages until she grew up. We contributed also to Maos Hittin and local charities like the Red Cross.
Finally, when the Antepoler landsleit undertook to publish this Yizkor Book, we were among the first to give a hand in this holy work.
Coming from different cities, towns and villages from the old homeland, they were not satisfied to live in an unorganized community as individuals; they felt a certain strangeness, a loneliness, a longing for the past association and comradeship which they had in common in the old hometown where they were born and grew to manhood. They had an urge to reconstruct the past and to surround themselves in an environment of their own.
To overcome these shortcomings, they felt that they must combine themselves with other landsleit in groups. The synagogue was the first of the institutions thus formed, where landsleit congregated for religious services.
The younger element soon found that the Synagoue had to be supplemented by other group institutions. Living in an era where the individual was subjected to various kinds of economic pressures and uncertainties and feeling insecure on many fronts, they were looking for some sort of mutual protection. To a considerable degree our association provided its members with the sense of security which they were seeking.
On or about September 20, 1906, a group of young men under the leadership of the late Brother David Bayuk, met at the apartment of our late Brother Nathan Weissman at 23 Orchard Street in New York City and decided to organize the Antepoler Y.M.B.A.
A charter was applied for at the Department of State in Albany, N. Y., which was granted and officially recorded as at October 6, 1906.
The signers of the Charter were Max London No. 1, David Bayuk, Max London No. 2, Philip Goldman, Sam Feinberg, Aaron Cohen, Sam Hoffman and Israel Hellman.
The first meeting of the Antepoler Y.M.B.A. was held on October 4th, 1906 at 412 Grand Street in New York City. In addition to the charter members, the following were present: Louis Goldman, Joe Eisenberg, Joe Greenberg, Nathan Weissman, Max Cohen, Sam Cohen, Isidore Lipofsky, Louis Gerstein, Abe Kolodner and a number of others whose names we do not remember.
A Committee was appointed to work out rules and regulations and to interpret the meaning of Benevolence as to be applied to our membership in a practical way. Those named to the Committee were Max London No. 1, David Bayuk, Louis Goldman, Sam Feinberg and Philip Goldman.
The next meeting was called for November 10, 1906, at 96 Clinton Street, New York City. The Committee brought in its report which was adopted after some discussion and modification as follows:
1. Dues shall be $ 150 per quarter.
2. The financial and recording secretaries shall serve without pay.
3. A limited amount of six dollars per week was to be paid to members in case of sickness and also as a Shivah benefit.
4. Aid and assistance was to be provided to members in distress.
5. No benefit of any kind could be paid to members if the. Treasury held $ 500 or less,
6. Free medical services were to be provided to members, their wives and their minor children.
7. As soon as financially possible, the organization would provide for in case of death, for a free cemetery plot, and the payment of funeral expenses and death benefits.
8. All officers were to be elected for a term of six months.
The following officers were elected: Max London No. 1, Chairman; Philip Goldman, Vice-Chairman; Sam Feinberg, Treasurer; Aaron Cohen, Financial Secretary; Louis Goldman, Recording Secretary; David Bayuk, Joe Eisenberg and Joseph Greenberg, Trustees; and Abe Kolodner, Inner Guard. Thereafter, progress was steady and within three years, the membership exceeded 200.
The list of the brethren who have served as President and who have guided us ably and successfully, in the order in which they served are as follows: Max London No. 1, Sam Feinberg, Louis Goldman, Nathan I. Corbin, Philip Goldman, Joseph Greenberg, Abe Kolodner, David Bayuk, David Bayarsky, Hyman Goldberg, Hyman Resnick, Israel Rabinowitz, Julius Cuttler, Oscar Palefsky, Max Katz, Julius Garber, Joseph Rosen and Hyman Sterman.
Our present officers and leaders give their time and effort to the service of our organization and its members and serve with loyalty, honor and distinction.
In reviewing our accomplishments for the past 64 years, we find that the objectives which we set out to achieve were carried out both in letter and in spirit and our membership was always served honestly and well. No small part of this achievement is due to our Leaders, both past and present, who with dedication contributed their ability and resourcefulness to make our organization a significant force in the Jewish Community
In 1924 the increased number of Antopoler encouraged the foundation of an association to keep ties with the old country and to keep in touch in the new one. Newcomers were given hospitality and aid and usually were helped in finding work in the new environment.
In addition to sending aid to Antopol, also a local loan association was founded, whose first president was the Shohet Reb Kalman Mazkewitz, son in law of the late Reb Feivl Shagan. A home for the Aged was built as well as a Jewish center. Many other institutions and fund raising campaigns pave the history of the Jewish community.
All over the country there are landsleit from our little birth town, and in every place they represent Antopol tradition with pride and honor.
The major part was taken by our devoted brethren in America, and we in Israel undertook to promote the commemoration of our Antopol tradition.
A special project has been inaugurated in the form of a IL 50,000 fund, from the interest of which scholarships will be granted annually to needy talented high schools children.
A great synagogue in the center of Tel-Aviv was constructed in memory of the martyrs of Antopol. Funds were raised mainly in the U.S.A. to help us build this community center in which we dedicated a special room, on whose walls are inscribed the names of our dear ones.
Another project of commemoration is a tombstone in the Yad Vashem center in Jerusalem, where the tombstone or Antopol stands among others of the 6 million Jews murdered in Europe. A complete list of all our Antopol dear ones is placed there.
We also placed a memorial plaque on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
In Beer-Sheva, capital of the Negev, and in Hazor, in upper Galilee, we established, with funds from our brethren in America, vocational schools and large houses for new immigrants, all in memory of our dear martyrs who lost their lives in Antopol.
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