Translated by Yocheved Klausner
We feel it is necessary to reprint the Kremenets Jewish community budget for 1932-1933, which illustrates its leaders' worth and talent.
The publication of the community budget aroused criticism even before it was discussed in the community itself. It was talked about everywhere, and several articles were published on the subject, even in the Kremenets press. The Kremenets budget was compared to that of Vohlin, and the general demand was to take into account the general Jewish population's circumstances.
Community leaders made every effort to present a realistic budget that wouldn't end in deficit. The community budget for 1935 was 71,304 zloty. Among its expense items were Tarbut, Talmud Torah, the Jewish Hospital, a free loan fund, accommodation of guests, care of orphans, aid for winter fuel, matzos for Passover, immigration, the sports club, etc.- Editorial Board
|1. General income:
Documents, licenses etc.
|200 zl.||200 zl.|
|2. The Rabbinate:
400 oxen and cows
|1,700 young cows||3.20 each||5,440|
|4,200 calves||1.35 each||5,670|
|8,200 geese||0.65 each||5,330|
|38,000 hens, ducks||0.40 each||15,200|
|1500 young chickens||0.20 each||3,000||37,260|
|Licenses to erect tombstones||6,000||10,000|
From 1,104 individuals
|Penalties and executions||1,780||37,380|
|Bank and private||2,350|
|Slaughterhouse construction in 1929-30||2,780||5,130|
|Furniture: 2 tables||50|
|24 chairs at 3 zl.||72|
|Installation of 20 lamps||150|
|Court and trial expenses||300|
|Health-care fund & unemployment aid||16||11,392|
|R' Duvid Rog||600|
|Secretary, registry keeper||1,200|
|Rabbi emeritus: Rabbi Bernshteyn||1,500|
|Family of Rabbi Rapaport, of blessed memory||2,560|
|Family of Rabbi Senderovits, of blessed memory||1,300|
|Ballot box for the election of a rabbi and a judge||500||12,262|
|4. Slaughtering and Kashrut|
|1 slaughterer-4,160 zl.||4,160|
|2 Kashrut workers||1,900|
|Coaches for the rabbi and the supervisors||1,000|
|Pension for the slaughterhouse treasurer||1,300|
|Pension for the slaughterhouse manager||400|
|Maintenance of the slaughterhouse building||200|
|Health care fund||1,100|
|Writing material for the slaughterhouse||400||22,820|
|A tailor for preparing the burial shrouds||200|
|Health care fund||206|
|10 burial shrouds free for the poor at 20 zl||200|
|10 tombstones for the poor||350|
|Maintenance & repair||500||6,256|
|6. Religious needs|
|Ritual bath preparation||500|
|7. Home for the Aged|
|Maintenance, taking into account incomes, subsidies, etc.||3,000|
|Religious education for the young||5,000|
|Accommodation of guests||600|
|Free loan fund||1,500|
|Free loan fund, D. Rog||200|
|Ice for the poor||300|
|Wood for the poor||1,000|
|Passover matzos for the poor||2000|
|Hosting Jewish soldiers for Passover||300|
|Hosting Jewish prisoners for Passover||300|
|Single requests for increase in support||1,000||22,700|
|9. Debt Payments|
|Printing & printed matter||100|
|Distribution of printed matter||100|
|Interest at 5%||1,780||1,980|
Translation Editor's Note
by H. Gelernt (New York)
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
This was the synagogue that stood in the center of town; it was also called the Old Synagogue. According to our oral tradition, it was built during the first half of the 18th century. This can also be learned from the synagogue's Gothic architecture: the windows in the high walls were narrow and tall, with an arch on top. The ceiling was arched as well, diagonally, and formed an ornate dome. Two windows appeared in the synagogue's eastern wall, and three each in the north and south walls. The building was about 55 meters long on the outside and about 35 inside, and 35 meters wide. Inside the building, an ornate stone railing ran along the entire length of the western wall-that was the gallery of the women's section.
Several hundred people prayed in the synagogue. We didn't have shelves for the books. The main furniture consisted of prayer stands, with only one long table and two benches standing in the north corner near the wall. These seats were for the poorest of Your people. You entered the synagogue through white stone stairs. In the middle, several stairs led to the pulpit. In the east, there was a small depression, one step below the floor-the cantor's stand. This was the custom: the cantor would recite the prayers from a lower level in literal observance of the verse in Psalms 130:1: Out of the depths I have cried to You, Lord. Above the cantor's stand hung a tall shiviti. The letters were written by an authorized scribe, and it was adorned by two lion figures leaning on diagonally painted, gilded columns. On both sides of the shiviti were various paintings. The frame was made of hand-carved mahogany. The bright colors coalesced majestically with light from two candles burning in two shining brass candlesticks and flickering candle flames in the big brass chandelier.
Splendor also emanated from the tall ark holding the Torah scrolls, which was entirely hand carved. Two angels spread wings that reached to the domed ceiling.
The Ten Commandments soared into the air from the crown in the middle, the letters made of gilded wood. The green velvet curtain with golden trim, and light reflected from the lamp garlands, gave the inside of our synagogue a majestic appearance.
There were two entrances to the building from the cobblestone courtyard. The south entrance led to the women's section. Several tombstones stood half-sunk into the earth in a hidden corner not far from this entrance: tradition held that these were the remains of an old special cemetery where two couples, both bride and groom, died during the plague and were buried on their wedding day.
Another small synagogue, the Tailors' Synagogue, was located in the vestibule. The southwestern corner was used for reciting Lamentations on the Ninth of Av. It was also used for the performance of the special, complicated Removing ceremony. At the beginning of the 20th century, Rabbi Hertsele performed one such ceremony one day before the afternoon prayer,
Each Sabbath afternoon in this same little prayer room, R' Avrahamtse Melamed, the regular Torah reader, would study the portion of the week and the Alshikh commentary with the people. During the summer, he would study Sayings of the Fathers with them.
At the same time, Ite the ritual slaughterer's wife would read the weekly chapter of the women's book Tsena Urena to the women.
The synagogue courtyard was where the wedding canopy would be raised for every wedding in town. Every funeral procession would stop in the same place for the memorial prayer, God, Full of Compassion. This was the tradition in Kremenets for generations-that both the living and the dead would be sanctified near the synagogue
According to our tradition, there was no mezuzah on the synagogue doorpost, but the corner was black from the many hands that had touched the place, kissing the shape of the Hebrew letter shin that was there. This letter, the people said, would block the way of the souls of the dead who came every midnight to pray in the synagogue. Where did that story come from?
One Saturday night, in the cold winter of 1904, Jews' Street suddenly awoke to wild, frightened cries.
It was during the Russo-Japanese war, when many Jews had been drafted into the military and sent to the front, and there was no news from them for months. Everybody was certain that their bodies were deep in the ocean in Russian ships sunk by the Japanese. Late that night, Rabbi Mendele the ritual slaughterer and his son, Leybele, were returning from the slaughterhouse. The street was empty, it was pitch black, and only the flickering Eternal Light could be seen through the synagogue windows, casting light and shadows. Leybele became very frightened, sure that he heard voices murmuring inside the synagogue-the voices of the dead coming for the midnight prayer. He fainted and fell onto the frozen snow, and his father's wild cries for help woke up the entire street.
But Leybele couldn't be calmed. The next morning, the entire town was in an uproar. R' Moshke'le, the grandson of R' Mordekhay'le the righteous, who lived in back of the synagogue, added to the excitement by saying, This isn't new; he'd heard those voices every night So it was decided unanimously that that the dead must be pacified. Consequently, on Monday evening, a special minyan was assembled, and the ceremony began.
They studied portions of the Mishna in the vestibule until midnight, as was the custom, and at 12 o'clock they went to the synagogue door, knocked three times, and declared, Dead souls, 10 Jews are coming to appease you, please calm yourselves! As they stepped in, they recited from Psalms and various prayers, and said Kaddish. This was the end of the affair.
The synagogue attendant, Mendele the Short, kept the synagogue tidy and spotless. He would open the synagogue and close up after prayers, and when someone observed the anniversary of a death, he would provide the necessary brandy and egg cookies. Mendele had no fear of his synagogue's dead, since he was familiar with them, as was Leybish's wife (whose regular job was to lead the prayers in the women's section), who would go to the cemetery and discuss matters with her dead
The synagogue commanded respect from all passers-by. The square nearby was the marketplace where peasants would come once a week with their horse-drawn wagons to sell their wares. They would never park their wagons too close to the building.
It was the only synagogue in town in which prayers were performed by a professional cantor accompanied by a choir.
The most respected people in town would pray there, and the official ceremony for Czar Nikolas's Coronation Day was performed there every year. We would hold large meetings there, and there we celebrated the czar's Constitutional Declaration after the 1905 revolution and demonstrated in the street, singing Hatikva and The Oath. Binyamin Yaspe, the son of Tsadok the ritual slaughterer, led the procession and the songs.
There is no more synagogue, as there are no more Jews. Their souls have no one to visit, no one to pray for. The souls have turned to dust, as have the bodies that they once kept alive.
May their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life.
Translation Editor's Notes
by Bela Bernshteyn (Buenos Aires)
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The story of orphan care in Kremenets is strongly connected with the name of Mrs. Sofia Isakovna Kremenetskaya-the longtime head of the orphanage, until the last moment of the tragic destruction. She rightly deserved to be called mother of the orphans.
Sofia was born in Niezhin and went to school in Petersburg, where she met Azriel Kremenetski, a student from Kremenets. They married and came to live in our town.
During World War I, when heavy fighting was underway around Lake Ikva, many Jewish families from the towns and villages along the front lines fled to Kremenets. The refugees were poor, and they were robbed on the way. Sofia-then still a young woman-was the first to care for the refugee families. She visited them house by house and began rounding up help. She was particularly affected by the grim circumstances of the solitary refugee children, many of whom were orphans and half-orphans whose parents had been killed on the various fronts or died wandering from place to place.
She devoted all her attention and effort to these children, and even before an official body was formed to care for the orphans, on her own initiative she registered all the children, took on the burden, and began her own support efforts. She collected food from acquaintances and well-to-do people, explained the cause, and succeeded in her endeavors. However, she came to the conclusion that such support wasn't enough; to really help these children, take care of their needs, and give them a good education, they would have to be removed from their problematic environment-the atmosphere of poverty and need-and given proper care.
At that time, the Joint had already begun relief efforts for the Jewish population. However, due to the special circumstances of Kremenets, which was a border crossing, the Joint hadn't reached it. Moreover, that institution was hardly known in Kremenets. The energetic and devoted Sofia organized a committee, which several young girls, including my sister Rive and me, immediately joined. We all began working for the war orphans as a volunteer team. In 1922, she rented a house near Dubno and established a summer camp for 60 orphans under Rive Bernshteyn's management and supervision. The situation wasn't an easy one: there wasn't enough food, but they managed to keep the camp functioning until the end of the summer. However, only then did the real problem arise: the camp had to be closed, but there was no place to send the children. After a great deal of effort, two rooms were rented on Beaupr? Street: this was the beginning of the orphanage in Kremenets.
Now, they did manage to receive some support from the Joint, but it wasn't enough to maintain the place and care for the children, and certainly not enough to hire the personnel needed. Sofia herself began to work in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, and performing all other necessary tasks. With love and devotion, she dedicated her time and health to the children. She sent the older children to the ORT School or private workshops to learn a trade; she cared for each and every child as if she were his or her mother.
The Orphanage Committee's secretary and bookkeeper, Leybke Rozental, a dedicated volunteer for all civic activities in town, was one of Sofia's devoted helpers. He made every effort to find new funding sources for the orphan organization. He found addresses for townspeople in America and, with Sofia, asked them for support. In time, he established strong ties with the Kremenets Society in America, and its representative, Buma Treger, of blessed memory (Roza Vaynberg's husband from Kremenets), managed to collect significant sums of money from the Kremenets Society and sent regular help for the orphans.
Thanks to this support, the children relocated to a more comfortable apartment, at Mrs. Boym's on Slovatski Street. It was also possible to buy a piano and hire a supervisor, Mrs. Manye Kotlar. As expenses increased continuously, Sofia organized a tax collection from almost every family in town, a street collection, collection days, and various other activities aimed at raising money.
There was a strongly felt need for the orphans to have their own building. It was time to stop wandering from place to place. For a long time, this was only a dream, but finally it seemed that the dream could be realized. Azriel Kremenitski, a member of the City Council, lobbied for the cause. Finally, the council decided to donate a site on Slovatski Street, and a two-story building was built for the orphans. A festive and joyous housewarming party was held in April 1930. Mayor Beaupr? was given the honor of cutting the ribbon, after which he kissed Mrs. Sofia on the forehead in recognition of her outstanding work. It was a grand civic celebration in Kremenets.
The orphanage already held 70 children. Time passed, and the children grew up, became men and women, and left the institution, and new children arrived. But Sofia never lost contact with her children, even when they became adults. She helped them find work, assisted them with deeds and advice, and remained forever their devoted guide.
Sofia had a family of her own-a husband and a child-but she still found time to care for the lonely and suffering. She was active in several institutions, such as ORT, OZE, the hospital, etc. She often visited poor families in town, helped when needed, offered encouragement, taught the mothers hygiene, and had a warm word for everyone. She generated an understanding of her work in people and received the support and assistance she needed from them.
She educated an entire generation of women who became active in social work in Kremenets; she was an important role model for them.
But she was mainly dedicated to her orphans with every beat of her big heart-until the murderous hand cut off her life and her life's work.
May my words remain as an eternal memorial for Sofia, her noble husband, and their only daughter, and the institution that bore the name Kremenets Orphanage.
Note from the Editorial Board
According to Kremenitser Shtime, the people involved in orphanage activities during the last few years were Ch. Grinberg, B. Feldman, Mrs. Landesberg, Naumik Fingerhut, Mrs. Kremenetskaya, Pinchasovitsh, D. Vaynberg, B. Yospe, Mrs. F. Baytler, M. Kapuzer, and Dr. Landesberg.
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