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[Page 255]

PEOPLE'S LIBRARY

In approximately 1910 a Hebrew-Russian library was opened in Drohitchin. The initiator of the library were the brothers Avraham and Yosef Gratch, and Zeidel Weissman, Sender Gratch, Menachem Averbuch, Yudel Silberstein, Shmuel Epstein, Reuven Lev, Ezra Weissman and others. Prior to this, young people had access to reading material from the teacher Naftali Steinberg for a small fee.

        At the same time, another group of young people opened a Yiddish library. Among the founders were Yehoshua Schmid, Rasha-Leah Lev-Schmid, Noach Leifer, Berl Lopatin, Yitzchak Baum, Eliyahu Garber (Peshas), Shmuel Leifer, Yudel Miller and Gedaliah Kaplan.

        Later the two libraries merged, and the Enlightenment Dissemination Society was very helpful in developing the library by sending money and books. Shalom Gratch and Moshe Kalenkovitch also belonged to the library.

        The number of books increased daily. The library had three sections: a Yiddish one, a Hebrew one and a Russian one. The Yiddish section was run by Gedaliah Kaplan. The Hebrew one by Yehoshua Schmid, and the Russian one by Rasha Leah Lev-Schmid.

[photo:] A. B. Drohitchin, Grodno Gubernia.
A group of the founders of the Workers' Library. From right: Gedaliah Kaplan, Berl Lopatin, Noach Leifer (murdered by the Balakhov gangs in Zakazalia in 1921) and Yudel Miller. Yiztchak Baum and Eliyahu Poliak are missing from the photo. Above is the stamp of the Workers' Library. The photo was taken in 1910.

        From the outset, the library was located in the house of Berl Kozack, and was later transferred to the brick house of Chaim and Lieba Rimland. When World War I broke out in 1914, the library – which contained 1,500 Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian books as well as magazines bound in volumes – was located at the home of Alter Goldberg.

        Due to the war the library was abandoned and left without an administration or permanent location. After a meeting of a few culture activists, Hersh Leib Eisenstein took the initiative to run the library. At the end of 1915 he transferred the library to his own home, and during the entire period that it was there, Hersh Leib was the director and librarian. However in May, 1920 he moved to the United States.

        All cultural and community activities of the youth focused on the library. The young people organized meetings, discussions, literary evenings and amateur theatrical productions. During the war years the library room at Eisenstein's home was used for meetings and conferences of various groups and societies such as the Visitors' Welcome Committee, Hebrew-Speakers Association and Young Zion (this organization had

[Page 256]

S. Shiffman as chairman and H. L. Eisenstein as secretary). The celebration about the Balfour Declaration was also planned in the library room, as was the fundraising appeal of the Jewish National Fund and others.

        After Eisenstein left for the United States, Sheinka Feldman transferred the library to her home (Meir Feldman's house). Later the library was transferred to the home of Leah-Beila Mishovsky.

        In 1925 the library administrative committee took over the entire second floor of Lieba Rimland's brick house, where there was not only the library, but also a reading room, and for the first time – a radio. Still later, the library was transferred to the home of of Chaytshe Epstein (her parents were Chaim Moshe Leizers and Sarah). Its last home was the Moriah school building.

        Among the activists of the library were Hersh Leib Eisenstein, Sheinka Feldman, Yudel David Goldman, Feigel Epstein, Yitzchak Shuchman, Bluma Warshavsky-Gutov, Rivka Rosenszweig-Sertshuk, Esther Mishovsky, David Epstein, Chaytsha Epstein and others (see photo on p. 73). They were joined later by Reizel Milner, Risha Epstein-Feldman, Kobrinsky, and others. In 1931 the administration committee of the People's Library was made up of Menachem Kalenkovitch, Yaakov Mishovsky, Leiba Lievack, Beila Milner, Kalman Oberman, Sarah Slonimsky, Shmuel Milner, Mary Schwartzberg-Kalenkovitch, Shalom Beich, Leah Mazursky and others. New culture activists joined and the library functioned until the Holocaust.

For more information, see p. 49 and the photo there.

Sources: Gedaliah Kaplan, Shalom Gratch, Hersh-Leib Eisenstein, Yosef Feldman and D. B. W.

[photo:] Standing, from right: Yudel David Goldman, Feigel Epstein, Rivka Rosenzweigg-Sertshuk, Itsha Pisetsky, Esther Mishovsky, Bluma Warshavsky and her husband Mordechai Gutov. Seated from right: Baruch Katzman, Sheinka Feldman, Yitzchak Shuchman, Menucha Rabinovitch, Menachem Avernuch and Sarah Kreines.

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