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[Page 121]

RABBIS YISRAEL VALEVELSKY AND ZVI ELIYAHU REICHMAN

As told by Rabbi Zusha Warshavsky, received from Rabbi Yisrael Be'eri (Kolodner) from the Land of Israel.*

More than one hundred years ago Rabbi Yisrael Valevelsky lived in Drohitchin, and because of the small size of Drohitchin, he lived in abject poverty. Rabbi Valevelsky spent some time wandering throughout the country, looking for another place to serve as a rabbi, and where a community could provide him and his family with a livelihood. Therefore, in every city and town he would give speeches and make a small amount of money.

        Rabbi Valevelsky once received an invitation from a town that wanted to offer him the position of town rabbi, and he immediately departed Drohitchin. Before his departure, he told the Drohitchin businessmen that if he didn't return within 9 months, they could choose another rabbi.

        Nine months went by, and Rabbi Valevelsky didn't return. The community waited another two months but heard nothing from him. The community leaders called a meeting of the local community, and a decision was taken to appoint a new rabbi.

        There was a large yeshiva in the town of Kossova that counted many scholars among its students. A delegation from Drohitchin traveled to Kossova and asked the local rabbi to recommend a worthy candidate for the position of rabbi of Drohitchin. The rabbi of Kossova paused briefly and then recommended the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Zvi-Eliyahu as rabbi of Drohitchin. As soon as the Drohitchin community leaders became acquainted with Rabbi Zvi Eliyahu, who was a real scholar and a pious individual, they sent Rabbi Zvi-Eliyahu a Letter of Appointment, and he became the rabbi of Drohitchin.

        One year later the former rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael Valevelsky, came back to Drohitchin totally unexpectedly. He announced that since he didn't fulfill the agreement to return within 9 months, he would not be claiming his position as rabbi of Drohitchin.

        On the issue of the question of the position of rabbi there were two camps, especially by virtue of the fact that Rabbi Valevelsky had a large family in Drohitchin. A sharp dispute between the sides broke out that even resulted in violence; in one case, someone even hit someone else with a piece of wood.

        In view of the fact that the rabbinical dispute could lead to tragic results, and since Drohitchin could not support two rabbis, an agreement in Drohitchin was reached to resolve the question in a rabbinical court under the leadership of the rabbi of Slonim, Rabbi Eisel Kharif; the agreement also resolved to accept as rabbi of Drohitchin whomever won in the rabbinical court.

        After hearing the claims of the two rabbis, Rabbi Kharif responded, “Both rabbis are correct. I cannot direct or compel either rabbi to leave Drohitchin. We are going to draw lots. Both rabbis will study a section of Talmud, and whoever provides me with three correct answers to my questions will be the rabbi of Drohitchin.

        Both rabbis naturally agreed to the proposal, and they looked over the Talmudic material. A while later, Rabbi Zvi-Eliyahu stated that he was prepared to answer Rabbi Kharif's questions. Rabbi Zvi-Eliyahu responded with wisdom and erudition. Rabbi Kharif ruled that Rabbi Zvi-Eliyahu should remain in Drohitchin. Rabbi Valavelsky accepted the outcome and moved from Drohitchin to Yanova.

        After Rabbi Eliyahu passed away, his son, R. Menachem, became the rabbi of Drohitchin. After R. Menachem, his own son-in-law, R. Isaac Yaakov Kalenkovich, became the rabbi of Drohitchin, and was the last rabbi of Drohitchin.

[Page 122]

Yosef Kallen (New York)

[
Photo:] Rabbi Menachem Reichman

RABBI MENACHEM REICHMAN

        He was called “the Old Rabbi,” and replaced his father, Rabbi Zvi-Eliyahu Reichman, as the head rabbi of Drohitchin for forty years until moved to Palestine. His wife, Riva Mindel, was the daughter of the famous lumber businessman, R. Moshe Hirsh Unterman.

        Just like his father, Rabbi Menachem Reichman was the rabbi for everyone in Drohitchin. However, when his son-in-law, Rabbi Isaac Kalenkovich, became rabbi, two camps developed in town. In 1904, R. Menachem moved to Palestine. He arrived in Jerusalem on the day before Rosh Hashanah, and on the following 22 of Kislev, he passed away. His wife, Riva Mindel, died four years later, and both were buried on the Mount of Olives.

        When the sad news of the death of Rabbi Reichman got to Drohitchin, the community invited the famous preacher, R. Elyakim Getzel, to eulogize the great rabbi. R. Elyakim Getzel eulogized Rabbi Reichman for an entire week. Every day, between the afternoon and evening prayers he offered a two-hour long eulogy that moved everyone listening.

        Riva Mindel was a true righteous woman. She devoted her entire life to helping her community, and would go around town collecting contributions: one day she would collect for the children's school; another day she would collect for poor brides, etc. On Fridays she would collect challah for the poor, referred to as “bread for the poor.” She supported a teacher for the children of poor parents who couldn't afford tuition.

        All children who were born in Drohitchin during the year following Rabbi Reichman's death were named Menachem.

        When he died, Rabbi Menachem was 76 years old. He had 7 children: Reuven Reichman (a broker and circumcisor in Kiev); Yaakov Mordechai Richman (a tea and coffee wholesaler in Hartford, CT); Avraham Yosef Richman (in Chicago); Shmuel Richman (Chicago); Zvi Eliyahu Reichman (Brisk); Devorah Berman (a wine producer in Brisk), and Chana Yehudit Kalenkovich, the wife of the rabbi of Brisk, Rabbi Isaac Yaakov Kalenkovich, who occupied the position of rabbi in Drohitchin after Rabbi Reichman left for Palestine.

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