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[Page 225]

        You set out to save a rocking ship at sea,
        You were a saving angel when the battle began,
        When the Balakhov gangs wanted to destroy us,
        And you were there to rescue us.

        He is the man who is beloved of G-d,
        Because you were faithfully involved in the community at every stage,
        May G-d bless you with a long life,
May the Creator give you a life of happiness and pleasure.
Of satisfaction and joy.

May He who gives and adds fulfill your every wish,
With purity forever, until your old age,
You were acceptable to us all as treasurer of the House of Study,
You helped us build the House of Study of Sinai,
You crowned the House of Study with all your strength,
Your acts were faithful, and you acted with wisdom and understanding,
You were also a member of the Talmud Study Group,
And joyfully provided charity,
May your successes shine like seventy suns,
And your memory crowned with jewels!

Our wish is directed to Heaven,
That He grant you a sweet long life, as well as your family,
And that your pure charity continue always.

He who chooses Zion and resides in Jerusalem
Shall fulfill all the blessings,
He did great things here in our town,
G-d saw and heard our prayers
that issued forth from the depths of our hearts.

These lines are few, but great in quality. To R. Betzalel, son of R. Yehoshua Heshel Hershenhaus, we the undersigned express our goodbye blessings and the feelings of our hearts for the wondrous things you did here for the community, from the days of chaos until today. Thursday of the Torah portion recounting the construction of the Tabernacle in the Desert by Betzalel. Drohitchin, 1926.

Rabbi Isaac Yaakov Kalenkovitch, Yosef David, the Ritual Slaughterer, Aharon Leifer, Meir Kaplan, Betzalel Khatzkilevitch, Alexander Eppelbaum, Michel, son of R. David, Zvi Goldman, Shmuel Snitovsky, Meir Vigutov, Alter, son of R. Michel Cooperman, Yitzchak Zvi Wisotsky, Shmuel Berman, Yehoshua Zovilovsky, Avraham Abba Leifman, Gedaliah Grossman, Yitzchak Levinovich, Chaim, so of R. Eliyahu Valevelsky, Feivel Katz, Yisrael Eliezer Kharsel. On behalf of everyone at the Great Synagogue and Talmud Study Group, Yosef David, Ritual Slaughterer of Drohitchin.

His children were: Feiga Rachel (perished with her family in Pinsk), Zeidel (Backsley, Georgia), Henya (Baltimore), Sarah, Leiba, Avraham (Miami) and Micheleh (Cuba).


Yaakov Shimon Lev

        [photo:] R. Yaakov Shimon Lev

Yaakov Shimon Lev, who was born in Drohitchin, was a quiet, scholarly and refined person. He ran a large tailor shop, and employed many workers. His business was high quality and always produced first class products. Most of his customers were noblemen and government officials.

Yaakov Shimon was a regular member of the Street House of Study, which he attended on the Sabbath and frequently on weekdays. When he had time, he spent it studying, and was respected in town.

In 1915, when the Germans took over Drohitchin, R. Yaakov Shimon and his family ended up in Horbacha (a village near Drohitchin), and it was there that he passed away at the age of 69 on August 5, 1916. His wife had died on August 1, 1907.

R. Yaakov Shimon had seven children: Fruma (died in Drohitchin), Avraham Yitzchak (died in New York); Rasha-Leah, Yoshka, Feigel, Rachel, Shmuel all [live] in New York.

[Page 226]

Zvi Reifuss

[Photo:] R. Zvi Reifuss

Hershel the Doctor, as he was called, was a tall man with a long white beard, thick eyebrows and a long cane – which made him appear to be an angry person. Actually, however, Hershel had a soft and good heart and a crystal clear soul.

        Hershel the Doctor loved to do favors and help poor and needy Jews. Whenever he heard that someone was in a tough situation, Hershel took him a couple of rubles as a loan. However, Hershel always forgot to collect the loan. His house was open for visitors and traveling emissaries of Jewish institutions.

On Fridays, his wife Fraida, always baked challah bread and distributed it to the poor, leaving it at their doors anonymously.

The poor people in Drohitchin always turned to R. Hershel for the Sabbath since they knew that Hershel's wife Fraida would provide them with a good meal. David Klepack of Khomsk would always stop by Hershel's house and offer him and his guests the best and biggest fish for the Sabbath. R. Hershel especially enjoyed having learned people at his table.

R. Hershel also healed the sick. He had a special room containing all kinds of bottles with medicine. It was like a real pharmacy. Hershel would mix prescriptions himself. For example, he had a known cure for swollen tonsils as well as a cough syrup. He could also make various preparations to heal wounds. R. Hershel and Fraida used cupping glasses to draw blood to the surface and leeches, and he considered his work to be a great mitzvah, a good deed.

R. Hershel treated both Jews and non-Jews. The peasants from the nearby villages would come to Hershel, or bring him to their villages, to cure them with his folk remedies, and would pay him with bags of potatoes and grain. However, Hershel always distributed these items to the poor of Drohitchin.

Once R. Hershel applied cupping glasses to a village peasant woman. A couple of days later the peasant woman died. Her husband reported R. Hershel to the authorities, accusing him of having caused his wife's death. Hershel was heavily fined for practicing medicine without a license. Before he appeared at the district court, Hershel's wife went to the Slonim rebbe, R. Mordechele for a blessing. R. Mordechele promised her that her husband would be released.

The prosecutor in court demanded 30 years hard labor for R. Hershel. Then a young gentile girl spoke, declaring that she mistakenly gave the peasant woman carbolic acid, which killed her. Hershel was released immediately.

When Hershel returned from court a free man, he broke all his bottles and jars containing his medicines, and devoted the rest of his life to community affairs. R. Hershel reached the age of 80 when he died on November 1, 1915. R. Hershel the Doctor was buried in the Drohitchin Cemetery.

Gedaliah Kaplan

Aharon David Kaplan

Aharon David Kaplan was born and raised in Khomsk. After he married Bobba, the daughter of R. Zvi Reifuss (known as Hershel the Doctor), he began to work in Drohitchin. All his life he earned his own living, and each summer he would travel to trade fairs in Balta and Yarmelinitz where he would purchase krakols for pumpkins from Pinsk, as well as his for own shop in Drohitchin. He also made hats for the peasants.

At the time of the great fire on the festival of Shemini Atzeret, 1905, Aharon David lost all his property. He then traveled together with his daughters Chana and Sarah to the United States. However, for religious reasons he could not remain there, and returned to Drohitchi. Shimshon Goldman and David Valevelsky lent him some money,

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