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[Page 165]

At Home and in the Area

 

A Jewish Family

by M.D.

Translated by Pamela Russ

Horodyszcze [Horodyshche in Yiddish]  a village like all other villages in eastern Galicia  is populated by Ukrainian non-Jews and a few Jewish families. The Altman family  a husband, wife, and five young children, four boys and one girl, was one of those Jewish families. They had a hole-in-the-wall store, bought their products from the non-Jews, and lived their lives that way.

But at that time, even before World War One, incitement had already begun. Earning a livelihood became difficult, and in 1913 the husband went to America to look for means of earning a living. Unfortunately, very soon the tragic news arrived that he was no longer alive. She  Fruma was her name  remained a widow with five children.

1914. The Austro-Russian war broke out. The village was taken over by the Russians and they ordered the Jews to leave the village, all the villages. Fruma and her children also had to leave Horodyszcze.

She harnessed their horse and wagon, took some provisions and some bed linen, put the children into the wagon, tied the cow to the wagon (so that they would at least have some milk while they were in a strange place), and they left. They abandoned their little hovel and tiny amount of merchandise. But where does one go? Only God knows!

The roads were filled with those who were fleeing, with horses and wagons that were filled with bundles, bed linen, men, women and children. People were going this way and that way, … and that's how they came to the town of Bursztyn. Here they were ordered to go back to Horodyszcze … and as they were en route, Fruma would always look at her young children to make sure no one was missing, heaven forbid, or that no one had fallen off. Very often she heard the voices of mothers and fathers as they were calling to their lost children.

As they arrived back in Horodyszcze, she no longer had anywhere to go with her children  everything had been burned down. There was nowhere to lay down one's head. So she had to keep going  to her father in Jezierna. Her father, Peretz the teacher, lived in a tiny house with his wife and daughter who had two children, and now this daughter Fruma came with her five children. And he still had to manage his cheder  he was a Gemara teacher and had many students.

1916. The Jews of Jezierna fled to Hungary and returned in 1918. The worries were the same. Fruma worked hard, day and night. She baked bread, rolls, challahs, and sold them herself. Money was very sparse  but she had one goal, that was to raise her children to be proper adults. The young boys studied in cheder and in school and later on each one studied a trade. The daughter helped Fruma in the beginning and then later got married.

The poor widow raised her children with lots of hard work but they grew to be fine adults. Three of her sons moved to Eretz Yisrael. Pesach became a shoemaker, an expert in his trade, and went to Israel in 1934. He has an orthopedic shoe store in Haifa. Shmuel learned carpentry and went to Israel in 1936; he has a furniture workshop in Haifa and is chairman of the Craftsmen's Association in Haifa. The third son, Michael, went to Israel in 1939 and has a tailoring shop in Haifa.

The son Moishe and his family and the daughter Feige and her family were exterminated in the Holocaust, and Fruma herself, the elderly, exhausted mother, was murdered in Auschwitz in the year 1943. Before her tragic end, she no doubt reviewed her life and thought about her three sons in Eretz Yisrael, who would never forget their mother, the Ayshet Chayil (Woman of Valor).


[Page 169]

The Zilberman (Caspi) Family

by Sarah Klein

Translated by Connie Edell Reisner

In November 1934, Michael Zilberman and his wife Tovah (nee Hochberg) immigrated to Israel from Jezierna with three of their children: 14-year old Yaakov, 12-year old Sarah, and 10-year old Itamar, and settled in Haifa. However, their eldest son, 18 year old Yosef, was prevented from joining them at that time and succeeded in doing so only after a year of intense effort on the part of the family.

When they arrived in Israel, they were welcomed by Michael's parents, Shmuel and Rosia Zilberman and his three sisters, who had been living in Israel for the previous eight years, and also by two of his brothers, Pinchas and Moshe, who had made aliyah in 1920. (Yet another brother, Eliyahu, had succumbed to malaria in Israel in 1931.)

Michael, who had owned a fabric store in Jezierna, decided to work in Israel as a laborer, in order to physically help build the Land, as did his two idealistic brothers.

In January 1942, a great tragedy struck the family. Their son, Yaakov (Yankele), at that time aged 22, was killed while serving as a sailor on the merchant ship “Hatikvah”.

Upon arriving in Israel, Yaakov studied to become an electrician. He began to work and joined Ha-Noar haOved (the Youth Labor Movement). In 1938, he went with a group of his young friends from the Movement for a year's training at Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov. At the end of this training period, he and his friends joined the kibbutz Sdot Yam.

For a period of time at the kibbutz, he worked as a fisherman; this was a branch the kibbutz had begun to develop. During this period he developed a love and attachment to the sea. Nonetheless, by the end of 1940, Ya`akov decided to leave the kibbutz temporarily in order to help his parents, who were then having financial difficulty.

His parents urged him to find a city job in his original field, as an electrician, but Ya`akov stubbornly insisted on boarding a ship; he had hopes of visiting different lands and of seeing the world. However, fate disappointed him. On his trip from Haifa to Turkey, not far from Lebanon's shore, a huge storm blew up; his ship was damaged and began to sink.

The crew of 21 men tried to save themselves in a life-boat, in an attempt to reach safe harbour, but huge waves overturned it. Sixteen men managed to swim ashore; five Jewish sailors drowned; three bodies were carried out to seaamong them, the body of Yaakov z'l. This occurred on the fourth day of Shevat, 5702 (January 1942). He was buried in a Jewish cemetery in Beirut. This terrible disaster so horrified the family that it left scars for many years to come.

His father, Michael z'l, died suddenly on the first day of Adar Aleph, 5708 (February 1948), at age 58, at the height of the Israeli War of Independence. He was not destined to see the fulfillment of his Zionist dream, the establishment of the State of Israel. He was also not blessed with knowing his first granddaughter, Rachel, who was born one month after he passed away. Michael had been a man of faith, a man who observed the commandments, honored and loved by all who knew him.

His mother Tovah, after her husband's death, continued to live with her son, Yosef, even after he married, finding solace in her children and five grandchildren, born in the years that followed. Tovah died on the fourth of Tevet, 5722 (December 1961), after a severe illness. She was known to be a wise woman with a sense of humor and a good heart, devoted to her family and friends.

Yosef, their eldest son, during his first years in Israel, worked as a builder and a stonecutter until 1949, after which he became a clerk at the Israeli Treasury Department, where he continued to work for the rest of his days. Not yet 50, Yosef died of a heart-attack on the thirtieth of Av, 5725 (August 1965), leaving behind his wife Aliza and their 10-year old daughter Nurit. Yosef was remembered by all as an honest man, a seeker of justice, widely respected and admired by all who knew him.

Their daughter, Sarah, studied in an Israeli elementary and high-school. She married Joseph Klein and they raised two children--Rachel and Michael.

The youngest son, Itamar, first attended an Israeli elementary school, followed by studies at the Ben-Shemen Youth Village. He spent a year in a pioneer training group at Kibbutz Ginegar and, when he turned 18, he signed up for the Jewish Brigade in WWII. At the Italian front he was seriously wounded, and spent about a year there recuperating in various hospitals. Today he works at the “Koor” steel plant in Haifa. He is married and the father of a daughter and son, Michal and Yaakov.


[Page 171]

Yaakov Caspi, The Fisherman

by Yaakov Caspi

On December 28th, 1941 the ship “Tikva” sailed for the first time from the port of Haifa to Mersin, Turkey. After a heavy storm the ship reached Alexandretta. It remained anchored there from early January 1st, 1942 till January 19th. Then it sailed on to Port Said. At dawn, a big storm came up that worsened over two days, until the waves started to cover the decks and flood the engine rooms. The sea water extinguished the coal fire which reduced the steam. The overwhelming waves caused sections of the deck to fall apart one after another. The situation was terrible. All the workers, except the mechanic and the fire stoker, were on the deck for 50 hours with neither sleep nor food (the kitchen was flooded).

On the morning of the 22nd, it was decided to go down into the life–boats. They managed to lower only one boat, and all 21 people who were on board were lowered into it. The boat was a toy for the waves. Most of the oars were broken and lost. The people's spirits fell once they saw the rocky beach. A feeling of despair prevailed. They tried to sing in order to raise their spirits, but again they were silenced. Only Yaakov continued to sing: “Five went out …” and in the middle of the song a huge wave flipped the boat upside down. The people were wearing life jackets and were seen bobbing, up and down, between the waves.

Here fate's judgment gave it's cruel sentence: five were smashed against the rocks and drowned. The water spit three corpses onto the beach; among them was Yaakov's. They were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Beirut.

By Anschel

For two and a half years you were with us; not a short time, yet not many succeeded in getting to know you intimately. Only a few of us came to know you closely and appreciate your spiritual qualities. You shared your concerns with few. You were among the very few who knew how to form a barrier between the accumulated bitterness of day–to–day concerns and personal characteristics. You knew how to remain good and be loyal.

You were able to take on, and indeed fulfill every assignment quietly, with reserve and humility. And hence, Fate chose you as his first sacrifice. Seemingly, you did not leave among us anything at all; an empty hole remained. But in that space the echo of your song was heard, an echo of the dream we all dreamed together for three years to the sound of your song, seated on the grass on moonlit nights. You knew how to sing, how to dream and how to realize.

Even facing death, you stood tall, accepting even it in song. Indeed you proved in your final moments, that you knew how to die quietly and bravely, and more than that, for what purpose and why. You expressed this in your last song: “Five went out to build a Homeland.”

By Yiska

(Excerpt from the journal “Yaakov Caspi”, published by Kibbutz Sdot–Yam)

Editor's Note:

Photograph of Yaakov Caspi, of blessed memory View Image 174 online http://yizkor.nypl.org/index.php?id=1289

 

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