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[Page 576]

Yisroel Kopeliov

Translated by Odelia Alroy

Israel Yechiel Kopelov was born in November 1858 to a religious, middle-class family of storekeepers. His father, Yaakov Kopel, was a great scholar and enthusiastic Lubavitch Hasid, and gave him a strong Jewish upbringing. He studied in a cheder from ages of four to twelve, and afterward in the yeshivas and study houses of Slutsk, Shklov, on his own and with his father. He was very well versed in the Talmud, Bible, Hasidism, and Kabalah. He came to Haskalah [Enlightenment] later. He knew Russian and German. Because of military service, he was sent away to Dvinsk to a relative, the gvir (rich man) Yudel Nashatir. He spent eight months there and came in contact with socialists and became a free-thinker, a socialist and a cosmopolite, and because of incidents with the police, he left for America in the summer of 1882. (Z. Reisen, Lexicon). In America, Kopelov participated in the Jewish socialist and Anarchist movements. He was a member of Poalei Zion. [The “Workers of Zion” was a Marxist/Zionist movement.] In his book “Once Upon a Time” (New York, 1926) the author describes his memories clearly and freshly events of the Jewish lifestyle in Russian towns and villages of 100 years ago.” (Z. Reisen). His books “Once in America” (Warsaw, 1928) and “Once and Later” (Vilna, 1932) depict the first years of a Jewish immigrant in America in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century.

Kopelov died in New York in 1933. We include in our book several chapters of his wonderful memories about old Bobruisk from about 100 years ago (see pages 233-247).


[Page 578]

Reuven Guskin

Translated by Odelia Alroy

Rubin Guskin was one of the most dedicated and important activists in the Jewish Socialist and Labor movement. He dedicated his whole life to the cause which he served wholeheartedly as an ordinary soldier and also later, when he became of her generals.

Rubin Guskin was born in Bobruisk on August 1, 1887. His parents, Yosef and Rasha, were poor people. His father was a tradesman. Rubin studied in cheders but because of the need he went to work. He became an apprentice to a carpenter. Later he became a barber.

In his home city he was attracted to the “Bund” and in participated in the Bundist self defense against pogroms which took place in Homel in 1903.

A year later he escaped to America to avoid an arrest for his revolutionary activity. In his new home he threw himself into the Socialist movement. He was one of the founders of the Bobruisker Branch 206 of the “Workmen's Circle” which bears his name. He also helped organize the “Barber's Union” where he became a leader.

After the first World War Guskin organized help for his home town, Bobruisk, which was arranged through the Bobruisker Workmen's Circle Branch and landsman groups.

Thanks to his abundant energy and dedication, he was entrusted with important and responsible tasks in all areas of the Jewish labor movement. He was chosen as a member of the National Executive and later was President of the Workmen's Circle.

In 1918, the “Jewish Actors Union” selected Guskin as Director, a post he kept until he died. Under Guskin's leadership and thanks to his energy, the Jewish theater reached the highest degree of material and cultural attainment that a Jewish theater had when it reached America.

Rubin Guskin had great respect for the value of Jewish culture, for the bearers of Jewish culture and all that concerns Jewish ways. He was a devoted friend of the Jewish land, both in establishing the State of Israel and later.

His sudden death on October 4, 1951 was a true loss for the entire Jewish Socialist and Workers movement and most of all for the Jewish theater in America, where his place was vacant because there was no one to fill his shoes.

 

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