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[Pages 151 - 153]

Rivers

by Sclomo Reibel

Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

If you want to talk about a paradise on earth, it was Borchov in the summertime. As soon as summer started people left their residences and went to cool off in the waters of the Nichtawa [phonetic spelling “Nitchlava”]. It was the smallest river; the largest was the Dniester. [There were four rivers in, or near the town.]

This river flowed in an area full of malaria. From the northeast the river was surrounded by hills on which grew all kinds of grasses. On the western side there were fields where wheat, corn and tobacco grew, and the whole area, particularly Borchov, was very rich with all these crops. When you stood on the surrounding hills the flat fields looked like a design of all kinds of colors. Water flowed through like quicksilver.

There were a lot of swimmers, especially in the summer months. It was particularly lively on Shabbos. From early morning people started to come there in masses, [men,] women and youth. As soon as they came down the hill, people would throw off their clothes. Men in their bathing suits would stretch out on the fragrant grass at the foot of the hill.

When they tired of lying on the beach, people sat under the willow trees, some reading a book or a newspaper, some doing handicraft work. Young couples distanced themselves from the crowd. Here and there groups gathered on the grass and they had discussions.

Some people took off to the creek to cool off with the cold water [from the spring] A lot of people participated in sports; they played ball.

If a person wanted to doze off he went further away to a small group of pine trees that was [on another road]. Nobody disturbed them and nobody, God forbid, was attacked.

Before people went home they went down beneath the “shturtz” [waterfall]. They returned home fresh, cool, clean and refreshed from the heat of the summer day.

How different the Nitchlava appeared in August, 1944, after the liberation. At that time a void, an emptiness, existed all around. There were no longer any bathers. No longer could you hear the sound of joyous, youthful song, even the beautiful surrounding hills and valleys were silent and empty. All could see was a few lean cows and horses grazing on the grass near the river, in the place where previously the Borchover Jewish youth bathed and lounged on the beach.

On the other side of the river, non-Jewish kids were herding geese and other fowl.


[Another river, the Dalina, was the third largest in the area.] From the German Street, you came down the hill [towards the river] and you entered another world. The large houses disappeared. There was no sidewalk, no park, and no trees. There were low huts with straw roofs, primitive gutters for the water to run off. There was a railroad that went down the hill to Stary-Borchov.

A lot of Christians lived in the Dalina area. A very few Jews lived there, most of them paupers. They were called by the name of the area where they lived.

The bath- house was in this area. On Friday they made a “shvitz.” Yosef Beder had his permanent home in the bath- house because he took care of it. Even during the Soviet rule, there was a “shvitz” erev Shabbos.

Buncher Rosenblatt, a Jew, was the one who electrified the street in the last years before the Second World War. This changed the character of the area. People started to build houses there, property got expensive. Respectable people were no longer ashamed to live there. On Rosh Hashonah the Jews went to “tashlich” in the Dalina. They threw their sins in the little body of water. It ran near Motel Finger's house.

In the winter, Jewish children came with sleds to slide down the hill to the Dalina.

That's how it was, until Hitler came. After the liberation there were no Jews in the Dalina region. The only sign of the Jewish life that was once there was the bath house.

Caption of picture on page 152: The road to Nitchlava.


[Page 95]

Talmud Torah

Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

[From a memoir written in Hebrew by Shmuel Zimmerman about his school experiences before World War I p. 95]
When we were young we went to a Beit Midrash from morning until ten o'clock at night, but on Thursday we got up at 3 a.m. and we studied the portion of the week and the Tanach.


[Pages 161 - 164]

[This section was written in Yiddish by Shlomo Reibel. p. 161 – 164]
In a side street behind the Weinstein's long house that faced the main street there was a neglected house with a garret. It had a large yard with a high brick wall. The design of this house was different from other houses in the shtetl and made an unwelcome impression partly because it had been vacant for so long. At one time an old rov lived there but for a long time after he died there was no one to replace him and the house stood empty.

In the years before the First World War Katz, the new Rov lived there with his family. But at the outbreak of the war the Rov left the village, leaving his belongings in the house and a “buchor” [scholar] whom he had brought with him when he came to the village, to take over the “rabbinot.”

Nobody knew the “buchor.” He had long payas [side locks] and a beard. [He was] the only one in the village who looked like that and nobody knew if he was the Rov's relative or, indeed, who he was in general. He sat and studied night and day and nobody had anything to do with him. The villagers were upset with the Rov because he had left this fellow all by himself in such a large house in a time of unrest and uncertainty.

This buchor, whose name was possibly Lazar, sat all alone in the house and learned and davened until the cholera epidemic came in 1916/17. He died of cholera “quiet as a dove.” Nobody even noticed, and there was nobody who could save him.

The house stood vacant again. From time to time, refugees from the surrounding shtetls lived there. They were looking for protection from the village people and from the Russian soldiers. Later on, in the years 1918 - 20, the Shomrim organization met in these empty rooms. [The Shomrim was a precursor of the Haganah.] The members would practice their gymnastics and had Hebrew instruction. They read Bialik. They received a publication in Polish that used to come from Lvov (Lemberg). It was written in a high, poetic Polish that was “too good for our purposes” but it didn't carry on for very long.

Later on, the Hebrew school was organized there, but because of a misunderstanding they studied in the garret, and not in the four rooms below. The Kehilla didn't allow the bottom quarters to be used for the school, because they had in mind that maybe one day a “Rov” would come there [to live.]

In 1924 a Rov came to the village. The new rov was called Shlomo Airst and he took over the whole house which was properly cleaned out and redecorated. Soon, above the entrance of the house on the triangular wall of the garret, a sign appeared in Polish and in Hebrew, "Talmud Torah of the Foundation for Leib Brucksmeier." So the Talmud Torah was established there. It was not in the main house, but in the courtyard. For years there was a brick wall [around the house] and the entrance was from the inside of the courtyard. Now they chopped out an entrance on another street that was directly opposite another courtyard belonging to the Greek Catholic Church. These premises were redecorated and two classrooms were established for study.

The president of the Talmud Torah was the Rov who lived there, and the treasurer was David Blumenthal. Another officer was Menachim Gottesman who hired two or three teachers. He used modern methods to teach. The students even sat on proper school benches not the way they usually did in the Cheder. [In the cheder they usually sat on one long bench.]

There were about one hundred students [probably boys], divided into four grades. They went to the Talmud Torah in the afternoon and in the morning they attended the government school where they studied in Polish. In the morning, only the Rov's kinder [children] went to the Talmud Torah.

The Talmud Torah supported itself from the money paid by [families of] the wealthier children and from the money that they received from the Borchover Society in New York.

They received one hundred dollars a year [from New York]. In addition to that, the Borchover Jews from America used to send special funds from time to time for additional purchases like shoes and clothing. The president used to send hearty thank you letters for the money that they received from which the following is extracted:

“In the name of our poor Talmud Torah children and in the name of the ones who paid. Even the children who paid owe you thanks because if you wouldn't support the Talmud Torah even the children who paid wouldn't have a place to learn because they wouldn't be in a position to provide the teachers. In the name of the whole Village of Borchov and in the name of the Talmud Torah committee say I and our most important Reb Shimshon Gottesman, who was the head of the Kehilla, and David Blumenthal, who was the treasurer, convey our deepest and most hearty thanks for your good deed that you do for our village.”
[This was written in 1927.]
In another letter written in the same year to the president of the N.Y. Society, Levi Neuringer, the Rov writes,

“If you were here and you would see what we do with the money that you send, how approximately one hundred children learn Torah seriously with good teachers and a good study program in a good location in a Talmud Torah that we built ourselves in 1924 and how the kids can recite [passages from the Talmud and commentaries] orally from memory, you would dance for joy. I'm not writing with exaggeration - God forbid. On the contrary, I am writing even less than it really is.”

The Talmud Torah existed until the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. In the years of the Soviet regime, 1939 - 1941, the Soviets turned it into a workshop for craftsmen. From that time on, in the years of the German occupation until its liquidation in June,1943, the Yeshivah and the Rov's residence, again, were left vacant.

Picture page 164, Levi Neuringer


[Pages 167 - 171]

Social Life and Culture Between the Two Wars

by Shlomo Reibel

Translated from Hebrew by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

After the First World War, organizations in Borchov as in all the cities of Galicia rose from the dead and came to life again. Included were various educational organizations, such as the Talmud Torah that replaced the traditional cheder. People tried to introduce new methods according to the times.

The first Hebrew school was started under the direction of Ydusyia Blumenthal, who tried to give a modern Hebrew education to the children of Borchov. The success [of this] was greater than expected. Many of the children, both boys and girls, from all levels and of all ages registered in this new school. Even though the more Orthodox weren't so pleased, they had no choice and agreed to this new approach to education. They did not even object to this new school being in the building that belonged to the Kehilla in Borchov.

Organizations such as Betar, Ha NoarHatzion [Zionist Youth], Gordonia and also a club called “Degel Yishoron” were founded. A dramatic club, whose repertoire included the Yiddish version of King Lear, was formed. These [organizations] were very successful.

In 1924, Reuven (“Bunche”) Rosenblatt, Faibish Dohal, Koffel Liebster, Yisroel Schecter, and others founded a cultural organization which was the first non- party [affiliated] organization. They established the first large library and dramatic group. They held regular lectures on various cultural subjects, books and so on. They did this almost without any [financial] means. The organization was led by “stubborn ones.” They organized celebrations and campaigns among the members and among the general population of Borchov.

This group founded a large library with thousands of books in Yiddish, Polish, German, and Hebrew. The name of the library was Czytelnia. Many Polish and Ukrainian intelligentsia were among the subscribers to this library. Popular lectures [at the library] on varied subjects were given by its members as well as outside lecturers.

The first lectures were given by Nachman Blumenthal every Shabbos morning under the heading “Scientific Talks.” [He was the editor of the Sefer Borchov book.] There was such great interest in these lectures that each time the number of attendees grew, and public lectures on all kinds of subjects were offered. [These were held] nearly every [Saturday] evening, with the participation of Moishe Blumenthal, Mendel Blumenthal, Faivish Dohal, Koffel Lipster, Dr. Ulak Friedman, Dr. Sholom Rosenblatt and Yisrael Schecter, among others. Besides this, our library invited special lecturers from outside [Borchov], including Nachman Meisel, Lily Frischman, the widow of David Frischman ,and Melech Ravitch. [He later became very famous in Toronto and Montreal, as a Canadian Jewish writer] and others.

Among the most important cultural visitors were artists and theatre people, actors… The cultural and artistic stars of Polish Jewry came to Borchov. Yiddish theatre was [performed] on a very high level. The troupes used to travel the breadth of Poland, mainly to the large cities, understandably, because they could not attract a large enough crowd in the small cities. However, Borchov was large enough to host these groups.

The troupes had to be given a deposit of a certain sum to support their appearance in Borchov. There were a lot of people who had their doubts [about doing this]. They said it is not worthwhile to invite certain theatre groups because of the potential of a large [financial] loss. The result was consistently surprising [referring to the attendance]. [Enough of a profit was made] that the library was able to expand.

After the invitation of the first theatre group, which was called “Yiddishe Bande”, it wasn't only the Czytelnia that undertook such presentations.

After the first presentation was so successful, the board of the Czytelnia started to invite troupes from large cities from all over Poland. As a result Ida Kaminska visited there with her troupe. [Ida Kaminska was a famous Jewish-Polish actress. “The Shop on Main Street,” one of her films made in the 1960's, was shown throughout North America.]

The people who came to see the performances weren't only from Borchov, but from neighboring towns. It was like a real festival for the whole area. The artists were very impressed with the Borchov crowd.

In the reading room of the Czytelnia there were 50 newspapers from all over the world written in Yiddish, Polish, Hebrew, Ukrainian and German. Thanks to this library there were many that learned to read a Yiddish or a Polish paper. This Czytelnia was also concerned with entertainment for its members and from time to time they organized parties. In later years when anti-Semitism started to get stronger much of the Jewish population preferred to participate in parties amongst themselves rather than going to parties that were held by the Polish [people], even though they were held in the fanciest halls.

The executive of the Czytelnia remained in place for 15 years. Its activities ended in the year 1939 because all these institutions were swallowed up by the Soviet Union. I remember well when the decision was taken at the last meeting to include this Czytelnia with the cultural organizations of the Ukrainian [community], so that they would all be one. But no one could have imagined that in another two years the Nazis would put an end to all the cultural achievements of the Jewish people in such a horrendous fashion.

In 1934, a survey about the Yiddish library was undertaken and the responses of the Yiddish reading room of Borchov were [published] in the literary pages of a Warsaw [journal.]

There it states that the Jewish reading room was established in 1925 and it maintained itself by collecting monthly dues from the members and from certain [other] institutions. The budget for 1933 amounted to1515 guilden. The reading room was in two rented rooms. Two people worked there. It was open twice a week throughout the day, as well as every day in the evening hours.

The library had 2000 books, 800 which were in Yiddish, 1000 were in Polish, and the rest in Hebrew and German. Eighty percent of the books were literary works.

In 1933, 6084 books were checked out. New books were bought for 684 guilden. In 1936 a drama studio, which was called Maske [Mask], performed a play by Mendele and another one called “Lost Hope.”

In this Jewish reading room there also existed a circle of people that gathered material for YIVO in Vilna. The Czytelnia used to help special messengers who were sent to Vilna for the benefit of YIVO.

In the last news from YIVO, which was dated March-April,1931, we read that Abba Sidovsky visited Borchov and was warmly received. His mission was accomplished with great success, greater than the year before. This success was helped by the news [given] by the people [who were part of the Czytelnia board.]

Caption of picture p. 168:

[from right to left] S. Reibel, S. Hessing, M. Videberg, B. Blumenthal, Z. Brocksmeier, M. Blumenthal, H. Scheckter, N. Skolnick

 

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