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[Page 495]

My Grandfather Reb Menahem Mendl Potashnik

By Hayim Ashlagi (Kfar Vitkin)

Translated by M. Porat

Edited by Judy Montel

Reb Menahem Mendl Potashnik

Our Potashnik family business was glass production. It was produced mainly from potassium, which was found abundantly in Volozhin vicinity. It was the reason for our family's name.

Reb Menahem Mendl was a much honored citizen. He used to pray in the Klayzl Shool. If it happened and he was late to Shakhriss [the morning prayer] the congregation awaited him and did not begin the prayers till he arrived.

A committee, nominated by the town-Rabbi, existed during the Tsar's regime. Grandfather was a member there. He functioned also as deputy chairman of the Jewish Communities Committee during the Polish rule. He was among the founders of “Jewish Public Bank” and served as member of its management until the day he was murdered.

Our brothers from the other side of the ocean used to help our impoverished post-war congregation. They would send the money to assist the poor at Grandfather's address, because they trusted him, knowing his honesty and blamelessness.

Grandmother Groonia excelled in her goodness of heart and altruism. She dealt with charity and anonymous donation. She cared for wedding ceremonies and if there were not enough means she would mortgage her own ornaments.

Grandfather managed his house in a patriarchal way. He was firm and not compromising in traditional matters. But as a wise man, he knew when to be flexible. He was tolerant of the desire of his daughter-in-law and agreed to send his granddaughters to study at the Russian High School in Minsk. But he never consented to permit his grandsons to behave in such a way. He insisted on educating them in orthodox schools. His firstborn grandson was sent to study in the Vilcomir Yeshiva.

Grandfather was not a Zionist as we understand its meaning now; he was a “Lover of Zion”.

Reb Menahem Mendl Potashnik was robbed and murdered by bandits on his way to work in the early thirties. He was sorry at my decision to make Aliya.


[Page 496]

Abraham Tsart the Physician

By Shoshana Nishri – Berkovitsh

Translated by M. Porat

Abraham Tsart

Avrom Tsart was called “Der Dokter” but he had never been qualified to practice medicine by an academic school. He learned the profession in a military paramedical school and was certified as a Feltsher (paramedic). His patients trusted his ability as a doctor without checking his formalqualifications. He was an excellent diagnostic and very talented. “The talent, as said, dripped from all his fingers”.

A.Tsart represented the community in all the governmental festivities and events. His speeches were pronounced in an excellent Polish language, they were good humored and attractive.

Tsiviya, his wife was the sole midwife in Volozhin. She was much occupied. She was always called to a woman who was near her time.

A. Tsart's speech talent became the cause of his tragic end. The Soviets asked him to speak before public. When the Germans occupied Volozhin, they did not pardon him his pro-Soviet speeches. Avrom Tsart was among the first executed Volozhin Jews. His wife Tsivia, daughter Nekhama, sons Hirshl and Are were murdered during the Holocaust.


[Page 498]

Shneur Kivilevitsh

By Reuven Rogovin

Translated by M. Porat

Edited by Eilat Gordin Levitan and Judy Feinsilver Montel

Shneur Kivilevitsh

I recall the Kivilevitsh family with much warmth. The family was renowned for their dedication and self-sacrificing nature during the First World War. And this was their story. At the outbreak of the war, two Yeshiva-students were stranded in Volozhin. They could not reach their hometowns since the Germans already occupied their towns at that point. Even worse, they were at an age in which the Russian authorities could draft them for service in the war, but they refused to serve in the Tsar's army. The Kivilevitshes took an enormous risk and concealed the young men in the family's apartment for three years (from 1915 until 1918). They knew that hiding “deserters” greatly endangered them: if they were caught they would receive very severe punishment, possibly even capital punishment.

The Yeshiva students returned home after war and told their parents about the kindness of the Kivilevitsh family. Their parents sent a thankful letter to Volozhin. The letter was very emotional and often brings its readers to tears. I've read this letter and I too, shed a tear while reading it.

The family's mother, Sima Kivilevitsh (nee Shriro) was born in Molodetshno. She lived in Yatskevo after marriage. She had a generous heart. Her donations to poor people were distributed largely and secretly, so as not to shame the needy.

The honoring of his mother was the cause of my first encounter with Shneur. The members of the Volozhin Khevre Kadishe (Interment Society) were the ones responsible for deciding the burial place and its price.

When his mother died, Shneur went to the Khevre Kadishe and pronounced these words: “All of you know who my mother was, and the good deeds she has done, you also know. Therefore choose the best place to which she can be brought to eternal peace and I will pay full price for it.”

He would say Kadish not like a member of the enlightened circle, but as would be done by a simple Jew, at Shakharis (Morning Prayer), at Minkha (Midday Prayer) and Maariv (Evening Prayer), every day and without fail. He did this without missing one single day during the Mourning Year. As it's written “the Fathers' is their sons' glory”. Shneur had seen his glory and honor in the image of his mother. He might be an example in honoring mother and father for the children of our generation.

We prayed with Shneur in the same Klayzl. Both of us had places at the East Wall (facing Jerusalem). He inherited this place from his father Moshe. His father, who was a sage scholar, had bought the place at the honored wall before the First World War. Prior to his demise he donated his extensive Judaic library to the Klayzl.

I remember an event from Shneur's life that showed his national pride and readiness to passionately defend Jewish honor. The son of Vartman (the Volozhin district governor -Starosta) was a high school student in Warsaw. After lunch on Saturdays, Jewish families would take a walk in Count Tishkevitsh's park. The high school student, who was an ardent anti-Semite, came back to Volozhin during his vacations and took sadistic pleasure in taking his father's horse and bursting into peacefully walking groups to create dismay among them, on more than one occasion hurting or wounding someone.

Vilna Street - Volozhin (Nineteen thirties)

Vilna Street - Volozhin (Nineteen thirties)
The first house at left is the Kivilevitsh's

One day Shneur met me and said, “Reuven we must end this maltreatment of our Jewish inhabitants.” We decided to put an end to the Volozhin Hooligan's mini-pogroms. And this is what happened. Once when the Starosta's offspring entered the park on horseback, we stopped him, we pulled the rider from his horse and we beat him severely. When the high school student lay down, Shneur made movements as if he were photographing him and said, “If you complain to your father and tell him of this event, we'll send the pictures to your High School director in Warsaw to show him and your classmates how you were beaten by Jews and how you lay ashamed on the soil.”

Our exercise worked, and he never said a word to his father or anyone else. He never again attempted his horse riding escapades, to the great relief of the Volozhin Jews.

Shneur reached the summit of his noble essence during the time of the Shoah. He loved his shtetl's inhabitants, and as the head of his local Judenrat, he did all that was conceivable to support them and to save their lives.

Shneur had the opportunity to save his life. However, he could not and did not want to abandon his wife Rachel and their son Yigal whom he loved more than his own life. He also knew that his escape would have brought instantaneous catastrophe to the Jews imprisoned in Ghetto.

Shneur was always encouraging the Ghetto captives to construct hideouts, the so-called “Malinas”. He suggested that they hide there as much as they could since it was clear that the day of the massacre would soon arrive. Some Ghetto dwellers survived the mass slaughters inside Malinas, and when the slaughter was over they escaped to the forest.

One day Shneur was led away by the Ghetto Politsay and murdered en route to Molodetshno.

Shneur bravely carried out his tragic duty until the very end. He went stoically to his death, knowing that he would not return from this trip.

Shneur's death was the death of a saint and he was bestowed the crown of a good name. It is known that this crown is more important than the crown of Torah and than the crown of royalty.

Shneur's wife Rachel Kivilevitsh (nee Melzer) was a born Volozhiner. She taught Hebrew and natural sciences at the Volozhin Tarbut School.

Rachel Kivilevitsh

Rachel spoke with her students only in Hebrew, avoiding Yiddish even during the breaks while the children in other classes spoke Yiddish. She was the sole Jewish teacher in the Polish High (Evening) School. Rachel graduated from a Russian high school and the Hebrew Seminar for teachers.

Translator's note: Rachel with their little son Yigal were exterminated in the hamlet of Zabrezhe (ten Kilometers from Volozhin). Her name appears on the martyrs list of Zabrezhe in the “Pamiat Memory” book (page 262), published by the Volozhin Region authorities (1996).

Rachel Kivilevitsh, Moyshe Meltser's daughter her name is written in the “Pamiat' book among the Zabrezhe victims of the Fascist terror, in the Belarus language, in Cyrillic characters.

“Meltser Rakhilya Moyshawna, born 1909”


[Page 500]

Grand Father Rabbi Aharon Rapoport

(Named in error Rosenberg in the Yizkor Book- corrected by Ms. Miriam Levitan)

by Miriam Levitan (Rosenberg)

Translated by Moshe Porat

Edited by Judy Montel

Grand Father Rabbi Aharon Rapoport

My grandfather was born in Volozhin on 1853. He was very wealthy. He spent most of his time on torah study. He had rabbinical certification and his house was filled with ancient books. In his last years he became blind. But he continued to learn and to teach a page of Talmud every day to the inhabitants of Volozhin. Despite his blindness, he managed to find his own way to the synagogue.

Grandpa possessed many tar mills. There were many wood roots in Count Tyshkevitch's forests from which turpentine, tar, and charcoal were produced. Near one of these mills he built his house. He also established a big house in Volozhin in which running water was installed for the first time in our shtetl.

Grandfather was so rich that he could equip his each one of his five children with a tar mill as a very generous dowry. His son Moyshe Rapoport lived in the house, which was equipped with running water. In association with Mr. Yosef Perlman he established a sawmill and gristmill on the bank of the Volozhinka in Volozhin.

The count when visiting his forests stopped once to take a rest at the isolated house in the woods. Grandpa was immersed in a serious Talmudic subject, but seeing the count he stood up to honor his sudden guest. The count, looking at the heavy loaded bookshelves, asked the old man “Who's studying all this wisdom?” “Its me” answered Grandfather. “And do you understand what is in these writings”, “Yes, your Honor.” was the answer. The count remained on his feet, asked the old Jew to sit and said: “I should be honored to stay before a person skilled in the mysteries of ancient writings”.

Grandfather occupied himself with charity and benevolence. He assisted poor brides to marry and helped them later in hardship. Every one who was in distress could find support in his house.

Grandpa Aharon Rapoport passed away at the age of 88. He was brought to rest on the day the Nazis occupied Volozhin.

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