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Devora Gold-Gurvitz / Petah Tikva
Translated by Esther Mann Snyder
When I reminisce, after many years, about my town Bricheva where I was born, I see the image of three small streets lined with green trees, and puddles in the lane near us where we liked to play in the water until we were wet through to the bone.
As if in a movie I see my parents' house. My father zl was a Hebrew teacher and regularly received the newspapers Hamelitz, Hashiloah, and Hatzfira. I was only a child but I remember how father collected the newspapers after reading them and saved them as if they were holy. My father's ambition was to reach Eretz Yisrael and therefore he was diligent in educating us in this spirit and our home was a nationalist Zionist one.
All of us five children studied in the Tarbut school in our town and when we progressed and learned Hebrew, our father's joy was limitless. Our mother zl (daughter of our grandfather Meir Perlman from Hutin) was a pretty woman, presentable and educated who, even in those days, had graduated from secondary school (gymnasia) and knew Russian very well. When my parents married, my father came from a wealthy home, the home of Baruch Tomanivker zl. After a number of years their financial position changed and not for the better. I remember that despite the difficulties, we aspired to study, to develop and to acquire as much knowledge as possible.
My brother Shlomo studied in the Gymnasia in Baravoi (with our friend Sonia Pilat zl); my sister Sarah studied in the gymnasia in Novoslitz whose principal was our uncle, Dr. Rabinovitz who was among the founders of the Tarbut school in Bessarabia. After that she studied in the university
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in Tzernovitz; she had a remarkable personality and was an outstanding student. And I, after a day's work and study, gave lessons to small children in the evenings to earn some money for the family. My brother Yitzhak was very intelligent, with black, clever, intense eyes. He loved to sing Hasidic melodies, so we at home called him the Hasid. In the gymnasia he didn't care much for studies and my mother zl worked to impress upon him the importance of learning. He was talented but with no interest in studies. He liked playing tricks. For instance, when the water-carrier came to the house, my brother quickly removed the plug from the barrel and let the water flow out; or he would gather small children and put pepper in their eyes. The children screamed and the frightened mothers ran out into the town to find some remedy and put bandages on the children's eyes. After such tricks he would hide in the attic that was his strategic place. Mother would say that he must be up to something that's why he's hiding. My younger brother was 13 when I made aliya to Eretz Yisrael and I remember that he continued his studies in the Tarbut school. I used to receive lovely letters from him in Hebrew.
My mother took a great interest in our receiving a good education. She made every effort to set us on the right path; she really gave up much towards this goal. Our home was the social center for youth of my age. My mother, who knew how to sing beautifully and to play the guitar, fit into the group and often was able to break the boredom and raise the mood of the entire group.
I recall many memories of my childhood and youth. We liked to pick apples in the garden of Itzik Lemel. When he saw us he made a show of scaring us. But by the time he came the apples were hidden in a safe places, shoved into dresses or other places which were specially tied with elastic so as not to lose them, and we ran away.
A trip to Riout - our joyous singing filled the roads on the way to Baravoi and Gizdita (the romantic paths), going together to the cinema of Aharon Tzinman which was loud and deafening. On Tisha B'Av running around and throwing thorns at each other. Sarah Aitshis zl was the target because she had lovely blonde curly hair. I loved the spirit of Shabbat, lighting the candles, my father going to the synagogue (he prayed at the Sadigori synagogue where he had a seat in the eastern section even when my grandfather was alive), waiting expectantly until he returned and made Kiddush (Shabbat prayer over a goblet of wine). I greatly miss those holidays that were so beautiful and added so much spirit to our lives. The night of Rosh Hashana [New Year] going to the synagogue, where I so loved to slip in and absorb the holy atmosphere. The melody of Ida-Itza who came through the town early in the morning to wake the community from their sleep to say the Slichot prayers. The well-know melody Rise up, rise up to pray to G-d. Ida-Itza who was the undertaker sometimes had to squeeze out the pus from the sore throats of sick children.
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The day before Yom Kippur we did kapparot (acts of absolution). Mother zl would hold a chicken over our heads, and while the chicken cawed and its wings hit our heads, Mother would whisper, This is my absolution, this is my substitute Later we had the meal before the beginning of the fast, then we went to the synagogue to hear the Kol Nidrei prayers. As the oldest daughter it was my responsibility to take care of the younger children during the day and feed them. As the hours of the fast lengthened the children's appetite grew. They liked to eat on the porch watching the fasting passersby. Simhat Torah we loved to accompany father who was a friend of our neighbor R' Yeshaia Apelbaum zl and watch the Hasidim dance with the Torah. Passover a special beauty in the Pesach seder led by my father with his touching melodious melodies. Mother's food had a special taste (indeed Passover was the holiday when all the mothers worked very hard), the delicious matzo balls and borsht. Never since have I tasted such tasty dishes. And we all sat around the table while the singing and lamenting went on until late at night.
There were always to be found in our town veteran Zionists whose activities were manifold: raising funds for Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael and other projects. Who doesn't remember The Gavriel and Sarah Fishman zl family, the dear ones, our outstanding teacher, who raised a generation of pupils and teachers who made aliya to Eretz Yisrael to build and be rebuilt and in this way immortalized himself. Among his pupils was our admirable and beloved friend, the pride of our town, Bertini Aharon (from the family of David Gulirgant, zl, the enthusiastic Zionist). How proud was our educator and teacher, Gavriel Fishman, of the achievements of this outstanding pupil; how happy he was on the appearance of his every new work!
My teacher was Pinhas Gulirgant, who died tragically in Transnistra, and also the teacher Zev Agret (Agres). I remember the aliya of the first pioneers, how the whole town accompanied them with a band of musicians as we children followed at the tail end for as long as we could see them on the horizon. The youth of Bricheva sought a way to expend its energy in positive activities to bring content to their lives.
When the youth group Gordonia was established in our town, we gathered the best of the youth, visited every home and all levels of society. The Culture-League was already functioning at that time. And Gifa Kramer preached and promised secrets from the land of tomorrow. Often he would come to our home with various literary materials, and my mother, zl, would stand guard and send him away. Our friend Yehoshua Shuster (died in Eretz Yisrael) from the founders of the ken [group] invested much time and effort. The group grew and we received help from
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the emissaries from the main branch who would come to teach us and strengthen our activities.
At the age of 14 I was chosen to serve on the administration of our branch (also then there were the chosen) and I was a counselor of the girls group. What remains are the memories and pictures because most of them did not have the privilege of making aliya only a few succeeded. After this I went into training (hachshara). The first place I went was a factory in Belz, the second was Rifitchan where I had the position of being responsible for the management of the house, a huge house, that once served a large army camp. When Ada Maimon went to Poland and to Bessarabia to select girls to be workers of the settlement, Ayanot, I was one of the lucky ones to be chosen. After a short time I succeeded in receiving a certificate for one person to go to Eretz Yisrael (that was especially lucky in those days), because my parents didn't allow me to travel as a fictitious married woman as was common then. I made aliya with a group in 1935. A responsible position was given to me; it wasn't easy; the longings for home were great. After a few months with the group, I left it because I made plans to bring my family to Eretz Yisrael, which I wanted very much. I was accepted to work with payment in the workers settlement, Ayanot, where I worked for three years as a counselor. After that I went to Tel-Aviv and studied for two years to complete my education and general knowledge.
I have been working for thirty years in a responsible position dealing with rehabilitation and treatment of holocaust survivors (in Bet Ha'olot). While working I saw in them the eyes of my brothers, sisters and friends who weren't able to fulfill their ambition to make aliya. How sad and painful it is that my parents did not see me here, to get to know my partner, to see my children. I can still hear my mother's last words before I left for Eretz Yisrael: socialism is a nice idea, but it will take a long time to realize it: my child, you are about to embark on a difficult journey! And my mother didn't know and her heart refused to believe that they would have a journey of suffering, oppression and torture; a difficult road and a wretched and bitter end. There are so many memories and so much pain to remember all the unforgettable family, our youthful friends and acquaintances with whom I grew up, and the beautiful days of our childhood.
Only two remained from our family I in Eretz Yisrael and my brother Shlomo who suffered, fought at the front at Stalingrad and lives with his family for twenty years in Colombia. My parents perished together with my brother Azriel from starvation and lice in Brashad, and they were buried in a mass grave along with others from Bricheva. My brother Yitzhak was killed while fighting in the front at Sebastifal. My sister Sarah and her husband a math professor, Mili Roizman (who were planning to make aliya) were shot near Kaminitz-Podolsk in 1941. Pictures of my friends hover before my eyes they planned to make aliya as we did but weren't able to realize this ambition.
I will mention some of them:
1) Monia Kramer drowned in the waters of the Prout while he was in training
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in Rifichan. This happened 3 weeks before he was to make aliya, in 1932.
2) Haim Shichman - perished in Romania after he succeeded in returning from Transnistria and as was told he carved with his fingers the names of our dear ones buried in a mass grave in Brashad.
3) Sarah Eitshiz 4) Sonia Pilat 5) Gittel Tendler and many others such wonderful youth. The list is long. My heart is crushed with pain, to remember and to know that they will never be with us, not here and not in any other place.
of the loss of Moni Kramer while in training [hachshara]
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by Hinda Blank (Litwin)/ Tel-Aviv
Translated by Esther Mann Snyder
I would like to record recollections of our home in Bricheva in memory of my parents. However, my memory does not serve me; whether because of age or due to the difficult years I have experienced I cannot remember names and dates. But there is one thing I do recall from my childhood that made a deep impression on me and which characterized the atmosphere in our home.
It was during the reign of the Czar when my parents zl decided to travel to Shtipansht in Romania to visit the Rebbe. They had to arrange passports and that in itself was something new and different. Word of their impending journey spread throughout the town and the surrounding area immediately causing activity and bustle in our house. At first, various people came to find out whether the rumor was true and as the date for the journey came near, there were even more visits. The evening before the trip Father told us that we must rise early the next morning. My grandfather zl who lived with us used to rise early every day to read Psalms but that morning I awakened before him; because of my excitement I hadn't slept all night.
I dressed and went out to the windowed hall near the entrance to our home. I heard a knock at the door, opened it and standing there were two women, Sosi Hadassa's (Kestlman) and Fradel Gutman (the mother of Avraham-Yossel and Nathan). A few moments later Menachem Shub (Gruzman) and Haim-Yoel the judge (dayan) arrived. They sat down at two tables that were on each side of the hall and began writing notes - pitkaot - to give to the Rebbe. Many more people came
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and each one of them waited in turn to also write their notes. Meanwhile bottles of drinks were placed on the table (not juice, of course, but wines and liquor). Then they began drinking and making toasts (l'haim) in this way; each one wiped his hand on his kapota (long, black Hasidic coat) and spread his fingertips to my father almost as if he was shaking the Rebbe's hand. Each added to the handshake a heartfelt appeal that Father should give the Rebbe his request for what he needed - livelihood, good health or a dowry for his daughter.
Then Yankel the wagon driver arrived to transport my parents to the Romanian border. Father gathered all the notes and placed them in a box in the order in which they were received. When my parents went out to the carriage they were accompanied by the large crowd that had gathered in the house. As they bade farewell, many broke out in tears and they asked again that Father should give the notes to the Rebbe and should please receive a blessing from the Rebbe for each one of them.
When my parents returned from Shtipansht many people again came to our home. Each one welcomed Father with the saying, Shalom Aleichem and fully believed that the Rebbe sent his blessing to each one according to the request in his note.
Since Father was a Shtipansht Hasid, all the other hasids in town used to gather at our home after the Sabbath to celebrate a Melaveh Malka [Accompanying the Sabbath Queen party], sitting together and recounting Hasidic stories about the Rebbe. I used to listen without understanding everything, but I didn't dare ask. I was happy that they let me sit there quietly and I listened with great interest to the stories about the Rebbe and his customs, and even about the Rebbe's wife and their relationship
One day they started talking at home that the Rebbe himself, Rebbe Nahum'ni, was coming to Bricheva. The excitement was great especially since he was to stay in our home. I saw that they prepared three rooms and I didn't understand why one person needed three rooms. Until now I had been used to the visits of the gabbai - the Rebbe's assistant, R' Naftali zl, who was already an elderly man with a long white beard. Once, another gabbai called Moshe Klarfeld, came for a visit.
The reason for the three rooms became clear later when the Rebbe himself arrived: one room was for the Rebbe's bedroom, the second room (which was our parlor) served as his reception area
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where he received visitors according to the pitkaot - notes. In the third room, the largest of them all, the Hasids of Shtipansht sat all day long until late at night. They ate and drank there, conversing about the Rebbe and his marvels. They also told many details about the imprisonment of the Rijini.
I remember very well the day the Rebbe arrived. The Hasids went out in wagons and carriages to receive him at the train station in Tirnova. Meanwhile preparations were under way at home. These were not the usual fare for regular festivities but the sort of delicacies that were made for large weddings, with special cooks who specialized in catering weddings. I remember them well: the wife of Baruch the tailor, who was called half-dead, who lived in an alley near the inn in the center of the middle street. The second one was the wife of Aharon the shoemaker who lived behind Shaitel's house. And the third, who was called by her husband Meir's name - Hameirit, whom I knew very well because she lived opposite our friend Etel (the daughter of Yidel) Gon.
The whole congregation of the Shtipansht synagogue and, of course, we children, stood outside the house and waited for the arrival of our distinguished guest. When the Rebbe descended from the carriage, I saw before me a handsome man and felt a special scent emanating from his clothes. I think that from then until today I have never seen such a handsome and meticulously cared for man. Two gabbaim (assistants) accompanied him; one, who was called Yosele, was his personal assistant, and the second one received the notes and passed them to the Rebbe.
Later, I learned that the Rebbe did not study only in a Yeshiva but also in the University of Vienna. Its likely that he knew medicine since he used to give advice about medical matters. Even then I heard that he was extraordinarily intelligent and was considered a philosopher. Of course, while he stayed in our home I didn't dare to enter his room but after he left, I saw that the walls in his bedroom were covered with drawings. The people of Bricheva didn't understand how a person could have drawn such pictures. I also remember that in the synagogue, which was near the home of Gavriel Licht, they prepared a special place like a closed booth for the Rebbe to pray, and Yosele his assistant stood next to it during the entire prayer service so that the people wouldn't interrupt the Rebbe's prayers. Every morning and evening the people of the congregation accompanied him to prayers in the synagogue and back to our house.
And I remember another matter - the Hasids complained about me to the Rebbe. The matter was that the people were very eager to get some of the sherayim of the Rebbe - remainders of food from his meals - but I decided that I should get all the sherayim. When Yosele came out of the Rebbe's room with a tray, I stood on a chair near the door wearing an apron and grabbed all the remainders of the meal into my apron and ran away. Because of the Hasids' complaint the Rebbe called me to his room. With a pleasant smile
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he gave me a gift - his wooden cigarette box and a small bottle of cologne. He gently explained that the Hasids were annoyed when I took all of the sherayim. Leave some for them, he requested.
He explained to the Hasids that it is hard to withstand the feelings of a young girl. A friend of my father's, Shalom Shpiegal zl, suggested an arrangement between the Hasids and me. And what did I do with the sherayim? I distributed them among the workers in the kitchen who were thrilled to receive them and take them home to their families.
Clearly, the hospitality cost my father many expenses. People were amazed how he could afford such expenses. And he, since he had great faith, answered that he never lost money because of it; the Blessed Holy One returns to him double of what he spent.
Standing: Sheva Apleboim, Sarah Barad, Hinda Blank, Polia Weinstein, Sheva Shpielberg, Bracha Barand, Roza Zimmerman.
Sitting: Henia Gelman, Toiva Shpielberg, Hantzi Shpielberg, Hava Gelman
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