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[Page 79]

Synagogues and Societies
(Memories)

By Eliyahou Chelenchuk

Translated by Rita Friedman

Edited by Iris Sitkin

My hands shake as I prepare to write about the six million Jews who died on Kiddush Ha Shem[1] during the last war, and my heart is broken when I remember the dear Jews of Yanova who were killed by the hands of the Nazi murderers ..............

I wish to write about everyone as well as I can remember. In the town there were Jews with many crafts and trades; they belonged to the different Unions of their crafts, as I did (Shoemaker – Cobbler). The center of these Unions was in Warsaw. Most of the time we would meet at the home of Shmuel Popitchka or at Nathan (Nosel) Shuster's. At Shmuel Popitschka we had a Charity Fund where we could get loans when needed at very comfortable rates.

In the town we had six synagogues — three of Hassidim and three of Mitnagdim (adversative or opposed). The synagogues of the Hassidim were: Beit HaMidrash of Rabbi Abbala, may his memory be blessed, Beit HaMidrash of Leibshay Hassids and the Synagogue of Stolin-Karlin Hassids.

I, and my brother-in-law, Shmuel Tabachnik, prayed at the Stolin Synagogue where the Gabbai (manager or treasurer) was Rabbi Markel for over forty years.

After I was married in 1910, I started to pray in the first minyan of the big Beit Hamidrash. After prayers we studied Mishna. The rabbi of Beit Hamidrash was Rabbi Moshleh son of the preacher. Most of the time the students consisted of craftsman amongst them: Joseph Daniels, Leibke Daniels, Hershel Aras, Gedalia Hatochen, Itzhak Hanger, Shmerul Hanger, Moshe Sanders, Meir Mazamusha and many others. After the afternoon prayers many Jews would collect in the Large Beit-HaMidrash, mostly craftsman and tradesmen, the Rabbi Kosobiski z.l. would teach a page of Gemara. How good and full of satisfaction it was to hear a page of Gemara. Around the tables would sit about thirty people and amongst them: Moshe Minski, Ahron Leib Rubacha, Mordechai Applebaum, Shmuel-Abigdor Kosoviski, Khaim Gerber, Motke der Apthaker (Pharmacist), Rueben Davidis, Meir Mazamusha.

In the Mishna Society there were one hundred and fifty men and fifty women members. Amongst them, the Gabbais: Markel and Rueben Davidis. Those that belonged to the society were in the habit of learning a portion of the Mishna (Jewish oral law) every day after prayers. Women would pay twenty-five rubles so that after their death a portion of Mishna would be said to raise their souls.

Every three-quarters of the year, a feast would be prepared by Meir Mzamlin, Yashuah Rozanski and Markel. The three Shamashim (dues collectors – treasurers) were: Moshe Sanders, Chlauna from the Great Beit Hamidrash and myself Eliyhou Chelenchok (that it should be to my merit). The women would prepare the food; in charge of them was Rifka Rachel, the wife of Markel. We, the shamashim, would help the women with the food. Every eighth meeting of the Mishna Society we would have a Kiddush (light food and wine) at the home of Markel.

In the Society of Lodgings (Hevrat Lina) there were one hundred men and many women who would attend the sick. Every year at Parashat V'Yira (Torah chapter V'Yira) they would have a meal at the DeChaitim (Tailors) Synagogue.

The Society of the Book of Psalms would meet regularly summer or winter, even if there were a terrible snowstorm. Every Saturday, at three in the morning, we would meet outside the Synagogues. The Tailors Synagogue and the Great Beit Hamidrash were lit up by electric lamps. Over the last year, old man Pomerantz donated electric lamps to all the Synagogues.

I remember what happened to Ariah Maustrobok and his brother Abraham, who came to pray in the synagogue every Saturday early in the morning and then returned home. Once when they were returning home, there was a big storm with snow, ice and strong winds and it was very dark. They got lost on the way and when it got light they discovered that they had walked all the way to the town of Lishkavotz. They entered the home of a non-Jew with their last bit of strength and were saved at the last minute. Dearest Jews like these were the people of Yanov.

My son, Meir, studied at the Yeshiva that was in our town, where many young men studied, amongst them youth from the area and even from far away places in Poland. The youths received good food from the houses in which they stayed.

Every month a young man would come from the Yeshiva in Pinsk to ask for donations. Zalig Yulias and I would go all over town and collect donations from all the Jews, who would give willingly. At the Stolin Synagogue we would arrange on Saturdays Sueda Shlishit (third meal) and amongst those present would be: Markel, Michael the Pharmacist, Aaron Nukluk and his brother-in-law, Moshe Ahran Felstein and his brother Zalig, Zalman Chartok, Zavval Eizenstein, Moshe Yanek Kropnik and many others. At these meals we would taste the real meaning of Oneg-Shabbat.

We had five societies: The Sa"sh Society, The Mishna Society, the Psalm Society, The Society for the Sick and Homeless and the Burial Society.

All of them prepared Kiddush. We, the Shamashim (treasurers) and Gabaiem (managers), were busy with the preparations of these over the years before we made aliyah to Israel. We would have meals in the Great Beit Hamidrash. The poor from all the towns around would come to us for a grand meal. Everything in Yanova would be as the law and customs allowed, in trustworthiness and with purpose to our work. Today as the community has vanished and been destroyed and all it's people killed or dispersed to other Nations we, us, those that are in Israel, we must respect and remember the memories of the Jews of our Town and tell the story of their lives and deaths in the name of God.


[Page 81]

Customs in Yanov near Pinsk

By Menakhem Mednik

Translated by Rita Friedman

Edited by Iris Sitkin

Matchmaking, Conditions and Weddings

There were no professional shadchanim[2] in the town; people who knew what they were doing did most of the marriage negotiations. There was matchmaking by personal choice, but mostly it was not a matter of "love." Most of the spouses were chosen from other towns. The couple would meet at a place out of town or in town where the negotiator would describe the young man or women and all his or her good qualities.

After two or three meetings, when the couple had decided that they liked each other, they would make an agreement (of course the parents were involved in this) and a public announcement was made. Then the Nedunia[3] and date of the wedding was decided. In accordance with tradition writing down all of the bethrothal terms would end with the breaking of a plate and the shouting of Mazel Tov. After the signing the couple would be allowed to walk out and openly go for a walk hand in hand.

Immediately after the signing of the agreement the next phase of the wedding started: sewing clothes, etc. Besides cushions and blankets, which every house would have ready for the daughter who was nearing marriage age, planning and writing out the wedding invitations to the entire family had to be done very carefully so as not to forget anyone because the insult to anyone in the family who did not receive an invitation was enormous.

On the Sabbath before the wedding the groom would be walked to the synagogue. In his honor all the relatives would come to pray in the synagogue of the groom. When the groom went up to say the Maftir[4], a storm of nuts, peanuts and sweets would be thrown from the women's section [aufruf]. The Cantor would give a blessing in a special festive and joyful way. The children would run around collecting the sweets and nuts. After prayer everyone went to the house of the groom for Kiddish[5].

On the day of the wedding much was going on. There was no special hall for weddings in Yanov; they would arrange everything in a house or in a big hall close to the home of the bride. Most of the time weddings were held in the homes of Todrus Boyim, Eliazer Levbashovsky, Shamrihu Lipshitz or Moshe Einbinder and others. Two hours before the Chuppah ceremony members of the family and friends of the groom meet at the groom's house. Also, the Rabbi would come, and, as each person arrived they would be received by the musicians led by Moshe Sheia der Kleizmer who would call out the name of the arrivals in this manner: “With a wonderful Mazel Tov, the honorable and respected _____ (name of arrival and if he was from the family of the groom).” Then, the musicians would play a short march, the guest placing a few coins into the hands of the musicians, usually about 20 or 30 kopeck. It happened sometimes that the father of the bride would take off with the bridal money before the Chuppah ceremony[6] . Very rarely, there was an argument over the nadunia.[3]

When all this was settled, the groom was dressed in a special white robe and the musicians and all the guests would make their way to the home of the bride to cover her face. The bride would sit on a special chair, covered with cushions and scarves, and would be surrounded by the women of the family and her friends who would help her pass the time away until the arrival of the groom. The room was usually very crowded. Besides the women of the family, many people would come to have a look at the bride. With great difficulty room was made for the groom and his best-men to make their way through the crowd. On arrival they were received by having nuts and flowers thrown at them. Before the covering stood Nisel Khaim Mlahishin z.l. who showed his facility at composing rhymes for the bride. If the bride was an orphan, Mlashishin would remember and bless the souls of her parents. During this time there was a lot of crying and weeping, but after this ceremony the klezmerin[7] would start playing and happiness and laughter would return.

The wedding ceremony beneath the chuppah took place in from the Great Synagogue. On the way there youths would show their strength by lighting fire-works or by tying cloth to a metal rod and lighting it with gasoline, all the time leading the bride and groom. After the ceremony, the reading of the Kitubah[8] and the handing the Kitubah over to the bride, everyone, with songs and laughter went back to the place where the wedding feast was being held with the musicians playing all the time.

The couple was received by the older generation with dancing and a big plaited Challah[9] which the Grandmother usually held. For the bride and groom who had been fasting all day, there was a light meal before the big feast started. The groom would sit at the head of the table, next to him his father and father-in-law, the Rabbi and close family friends.

The excitement grew as the presents and the names of those who had given them were announced. Mostly the presents were money and things for the home. The announcer would call out the name and say if the person were from the bride or groom's side and then announce the present they brought. It was quite a nice amount for a couple who started out with nothing.

After the blessing of the food the bride and groom were shown to a side room and all the guests would continue to celebrate and enjoy themselves. Then the men, led by the Rabbi would start, in a long row of dancers going round and round, faster and faster the excitement mounting. Even the next day it was the tradition to come and eat lunch at the home of the bride and groom.

The entire week after the wedding was called “Seven days of Celebration” which ended with “Seven blessings” on the Sabbath and finished with the bride coming to the Synagogue.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This great accomplishment is achieved generally in three ways:
    1. By living a life of obeying HaShem's Commandments, as found in the Torah, rendering all aspects of life no longer "profane," but raising them to the level of the "holy", as he or she interacts with their spouse, children, family members, business associates, community members, friends, and with HaShem Himself in the manner and spirit built by the Divine Author into the Torah.
    2. When a Jew performs an act in public requiring unusual courage, risk, honesty or integrity, as for example, when Senator Joseph Lieberman, who had indeed been a friend of the President, rose to criticize the immorality displayed by the Chief Executive, by engaging in various acts that shed no glory on the Office of the Presidency of the United States.
    3. By giving up one's life, if necessary, rather than submit to the betrayal of one's belief in God, and abandonment of Judaism for another religion, as many communities and countless individuals chose to do throughout Jewish History.
    Back
  2. Matchmakers. Back
  3. Bridal money: the money the parents of the bride gave to the couple. Back
  4. Torah Portion — the additional Torah reading added to the seven basic divisions of each Parshah, either a repetition of the last verses of the Parshah, or special holiday-related verses, or the person "called up" to recite the blessing on that portion of the Torah. Back
  5. Kiddish: a light meal of wine and cake and light food. Back
  6. Chuppah: a canopy under which the wedding ceremony takes place. Back
  7. Klezmer: musician or musicians. Back
  8. Kitubah: the marriage contract or agreement. Back
  9. Challah: a white, slightly sweet, specially twisted loaf of bread made specially for the Sabbath. Back


[Page 83]

Yanov Artisans

By Menachem (Monya) Mednick

Translated by David Goldman

Sixty or seventy years ago most people in Yanov were artisans who raised and educated their children in the spirit of religion and work. I do not want to focus on trades such as furriers, tailors, shoemakers, and hat makers. Many families were employed in the trades. I just want to focus on the construction and metal workers because it was in these trades that Yanov was especially blessed with experts the likes of whom could not be found in the entire region around Yanov. No one could tell these tradesmen to go make a living from each other, because as they say, “Scraps are not enough for lions.” Yanov's construction and metal workers were renowned throughout the entire region. They did the best work for the most important landowners, counts, and noblemen of the entire region such as, for example, the Skirmunt, Poslavski Zolesky, Orda and Kontkovski estate holder families.

Yanov workers reached far into Russian cities such as Kaluga, Oriol and Bryansk. Various cabinetmakers such as Yudel the Cabinetmaker and Gimpel Mednick worked on and built the Russian barracks for the army and for Czar Nikolai the Second.

My father, Markel, of blessed memory, worked in Bryansk for 18 months as a metalworker in various government agencies, and they knew how to compete with Russians both in quality and in quantity of work as well as in prices, because Yanov was too small a place for them.

Furthermore, since they were specialized tradesmen, during the twentieth century they started becoming involved and taking an active role in all religious, community and economic institutions in the city. This was a phenomenon that had not yet existed before this century.

I would like to expand and describe those artisans who were involved in those trades:

Shachna Glassman (The Builder), a real down-to-earth Jew who never studied any technical field or attended a trade school, and who certainly never obtained in a degree in construction engineering.

Yet he was the person who constructed the biggest palaces for the Count in Zovisza according to the plans that he prepared himself. I can remember how once in 1925, when Shachna the Builder , of blessed memory, was standing next to my father, of blessed memory, one of Shachna's daughters came running and told him that Binyamin the Wagon Driver had arrived with Motele and wanted to bring him over. He immediately took his pair of horses and went off to Motele. Just before sundown during the summer at the Mincha afternoon prayer service Shachna went to pray in the Lubishayer synagogue. My father asked him what caused him to run over to Motele. My father replied, “The metalworkers began raising funds from a member for a house and were unable to do so. I went with them and they were able to received 5 dollars” (which at that time was equivalent to 26 Polish zlotys).

Todros Baum, or as he was known, Todros the Builder, had golden hands. Whenever he measured and cut a wood plank and made a beam to use in building a house, it was unnecessary to[unknown word] it. There was no one who was more professional than him. His word was sacred. After Shmerl Lifshitz died in 1930, Tordos Baum became the custodian of the Yanov Burial Society-Chevra Kadisha.

Moshe Shmuel Golubchik from Rodoven was essentially an ordinary Jew. He was a blacksmith in the village of Rodoven. However he was a real expert at pumping water from as deep as 100 or 150 meters in the ground. Nowadays you have to graduate as an engineer and spend years gaining experience until you could set up three water pumps like Leizer Lubishovsky, Moshe Reznick, and the pumps at the synagogue and the bathhouse. He demonstrated so much professional expertise and patience whenever he ran up against stones or hard boulders until he finally reached his goal - flowing crystal clear water, real water for a Sabbath glass of tea coming right out of those water pumps.

Moshe Adrozhinsky or Moshe the Locksmith. A real mentsch, who perhaps did not work all the time because after World War One he had a store in the shop circle. But his work area and in general his work attitude was with his hand on his head. I am describing a time before there was electricity in Yanov,

[Page 84]

and when you had to drill holes into everything by hand using an ordinary hammer. There were no electric drilling machines yet, and no welding machines. All major carpentry was done by hand. Moshe the Locksmith left Yanov in the 1930s to go to his son Meir in the Holy Land. He died in 1947 in Kiryat Motzkin.

A comment from Monya's wife Sarah Mednick:

Monya didn't finish his letter because was feeling weak. When he asked me to review it I asked him whether he had anything else to write. He said he had to write about a few people from Yanov, such as Binyamin Kotchikovitch, Shmerl Vichnes, Yossel Shuster, Yitzchak Tabatchnik and a few other quality tradesmen. He died two days after Rosh Hashana in 1963. May his sould be bound among the living.


[Page 86]

Rebellion of the Youth of Janow against the Tsar

By Tsvi Avivi (Roznik)

Translated by David Goldman

I would like to tell the story of the defeat which Nicolas II suffered, the emperor and autocrat of mighty and powerful Russia, by - the Jewish youth in Janow, in their rebellion against him.

As far as is known to me, there is no mention of this rebellion in the histories of the anti-Tsar Russian revolution. and if in this article there is some modest contribution to the history of that revolution, that will be my reward.

It was in 1912, that is, when the tsarist regime still had its full power. From time to time amateur performances were given in Russian in our town, promoted by the senior government civil servants in the town and the surrounding areas. The head of the civil servants was the head of the district council¹. He was the regional judge and a long-standing anti-Semite. Organizing the performances was a source of entertainment for the government officials, who were the most bored, empty people in town.

Naturally the majority of those attending the performances were Jews, but this did not prevent the wife of the district council head from telling people, on a certain occasion, that Jews were not acceptable as actors in these performances. One of the youths - the writer of these lines - got the idea that, since Jews were not acceptable as actors, it is only right that they should not be acceptable as attendees. On the eve of the Sabbath before the next performance he posted announcements in Hebrew and Yiddish at the four synagogues in town, appealing (anonymously, of course) to the Jewish population, rousing them to stand for their honor and avoid attending shows organized by anti-Semites. The announcements were posted with great conspiratorial care, when there was no one in the synagogues, and with a trustworthy young man keeping watch outside during the posting. The announcements caused a stir among the congregants, who did not hang around for long, but got away before the service had begun, because of the danger that was to be expected from the authorities. Nevertheless many of them did succeed in reading them, and their contents were passed from mouth to mouth among all the congregants.

Along with the distribution of the announcements I began a quiet but intensive publicity campaign among the Jews of the town, especially among the young people, to get them not to go to the performance. A great help to me in the campaign was a sharp witted young man named Heshl[a] (I forget his last name). The government officials had entrusted the admission tickets for the performance to a police officer, who was to distribute them among the families in the town; Heshl undertook to block the distribution among the Jews. Before the officer could get to them, he secretly went around to all the Jewish houses to which the officer intended to go, to persuade the families not to buy the tickets. Heshl's operation was very successful: Only a few Jews bought tickets, out of a fear of sending away a government agent empty handed, and many of them tore them up as soon as the officer left.

When the evening of the performance came, we, the band of youths, stood in front of the hall of the Russian National School in Levašy Street, where the performance was being held, and we persuaded the few Jews who showed up not to buy tickets. The publicity campaign had been undertaken quietly and cautiously. We waited at the door of the hall until the performance ended, close to two in the morning, to see if, and how many, Jews had been there. It was clear that a total of only six Jews were at the performance (half of them from surrounding villages), who on account of business were very well known to the senior civil servants, so that they could not see any possibility of not attending. The performance had taken place in a mostly empty hall. We were very excited; we had succeeded beyond our expectations.

In a very few days the matter of the Jewish boycott which had led to the failure of the performance became known to the authorities - apparently from a Jewish “informer” - and the head of the district council summoned the “faces” of the Jews to a meeting. There he angrily attacked the Jews of the town and accused them - of rebellion against the state! He demanded that those at the meeting give him the name of whoever had issued the announcements. They all stated, and correctly, that they did not know it. I too was present at this meeting, as an observer, and I both laughed and trembled silently at the words of the head of the council as he accused us of rebellion against the state. The incident was on the minds of the Jews of Janow for a long time, and led to great excitement, especially among the young people, which strengthened nationalist sentiment within them. An account of the incident which I published in “HaTsfira” under the signature “X” publicized it beyond our town.


The author states: In my introduction I joked a bit about the rebellion of the young people of Janow against the Tsar and about the absence of any trace of this “rebellion” in the history of the Russian anti-Tsarist revolution. But on the other hand, is not the revolt of the Jewish youth in Janow, and similarly in the other towns in the dispersion, interwoven with the web of the Jewish revolt against diasporism and against the Diaspora exile itself, which is the great revolt which has brought us from there to here - to the State of Israel?

 


Footnote

  1. If these words reach Heshl, where ever he may be (I remember that sometime before the First World War he emigrated to the US), I send him my greetings. - Ts. A. Return

 

Translator's note
  1. זמסטבו = zemstvo = district council under the Tsars.


[Page 88]

A Collection of Memories

By Sarah Mednik

Translated by David Goldman

After our group of young girls completed our studies with Alter Feinstein, of blessed memory, we studied with Mrs. Vladovsky at her home. We all loved our teacher because she used to tell us interesting stories. Every Friday we would sing instead of study. I can still remember those Hebrew songs that Chaya taught us.

Once a week we did our assignments outside and would go out next to the house in the courtyard where we sat down on the ground as our teacher would test us on our assignments. Our classroom was small, and behind our room above the wall was another little room where Chaya's father, of blessed memory, taught children. When we got together in the kitchen to drink some water Chaya's mother, Chana Pesha, of blessed memory, would yell at us about the fact that we didn't let her into the kitchen.

We especially loved the summertime when we would run out at recess to Hershel the Izborchik in his garden to buy food from old Itka Karsh and sit down together and eat. What we liked the most was when our teacher would tell us that she would go out for a stroll out of town and return home late in the evening with us after the Sabbath meal if we did well and completed our lessons. I still recall that on just such a Sabbath we left her courtyard in a happy mood because she told us that this time we would go very far, as far as the Snitev booth. As soon as we got as far as the boundary of the Mohilev road a group of gentiles ran out of the courtyard and started thrown rocks at us. We were in a panic and started running. One of the girls, Rachel Kowall, was hit in the head by a rock. That Sabbath we

[Page 89]

didn't get to go on our stroll at all. We didn't study with Chaya for very long - it lasted only one year, and then new children arrived from Alter Feinstein's class.

Our group of girls attended classes with various teachers who were in Yanov at that time: Reuven Starebinsky; Reznick, a teacher from Wisotzk; Fanya Optik, the law professor; Berel Lev from Kolonia (who now lives in Israel), and Yisrael Reznick. We would be grouped together in groups of four or five girls and studied for one hour a day because there were no schools in town in those days.

My father, of blessed memory, Moshe Tannenbaum, a wealth merchant, wanted me to study away from home in Pinsk, but then Chana's sister Rosa Borisovna arrived in town. She said she would prepare me for high school. We were getting older and had nowhere to go. There were no cinemas and no live theaters in Yanov. The mud outside was terrible. On the Sabbath we were scared to go on a stroll because gentiles would throw stones or provoke dogs to attack us. Instead we got together at the home of Freidshe Einbinder and played lotteries. This is how we spent all our time. There wasn't any kind of social organization.

World War One broke out in 1914 and the Germans arrived, which meant we could forget about our studies. We were busy sowing the fields and we were happy just to have bread to eat. When the war ended, a typhus epidemic broke out in Yanov, and many people died, especially many young people. Things were chaotic in town and we did not know what to do. There was a blind fellow in town named Pinchas the Blind, and the whole town was involved in getting him married off to a poor orphan girl. The wedding was held on top of the cemetery, which was considered auspicious against the epidemic. I cannot forget that wedding. Moshe Yeshayahu the Klezmer played all the way to the cemetery and back again. The wedding was at the home [sic] of Michel the Kelech. We danced all night long and had a wonderful time - a real local wedding. Then times changed and the city started developing. Business started coming back and the town flowered as a wonderful youth population emerged. They started organizations. I stayed at home and helped my mother in the store. I can still remember the days of summer when the local peasants were busy in the fields and the local market was quiet. I sat next to the store and listened to Pinchas the Blind was singing next to Mordechai Feldman and Osna on the bridge. I can still hear him singing:

[Page 90]

My, my luck, How did you disappear from me,
Oy, I am looking for you in every little corner,
And can't find you, dear luck,
etc.

When better times arrived our town now had Tarbut [Culture] organization schools with good teachers and the young people did really well there. In 1929 a fire broke out and more than half the town burned down. However, it was rebuilt very quickly and was like a new town with beautiful homes and stores.

Unfortunately, this did not last long because in 1939 World War Two broke out and the Soviet regime occupied our area and took everything we had right away. Our store, merchandise and everything else was taken. Finally they woke us up one night and told us to gather together because they were going to send us out of town. A panic broke out and we could not take anything along. We thought that my husband's parents would be able to send us where we could survive. My husband, three children and I were sent away to Siberia, and as soon as we left the Germans took over our town.

We were released five years later after five years in Siberia where we suffered from hunger and cold, and returned to Poland. However, we didn't find anyone from our entire family alive, and we were able to make our way to the Land of Israel, where we were homeless for two years in several camps. We were finally offered a place on the hills of Haifa. I slowly got settled in the country, my husband worked, and we got a house. However, this was where we suffered the greatest misfortune of our lives when war broke out with the Arabs in Sinai, and our son Moshe died as a hero for our land. Yes, for our land. But the blow to us, his parents, was tremendous, and we fell apart. We were visited by all of our brethren from Yanov and consoled us. But the wound in our hearts will never heal. First we lost our dear parents, sisters, brothers and their families who were killed by Hitler, may his name be obliterated, and then the misfortune we suffered from our dear son, Moshe. But what else can we do but mourn for him?!


[Page 99]

Jewish Life in Yanov near Pinsk

By Tsemach Portnoy (Mexico)

Translated by David Goldman

Intellectually and linguistically Yanov was a typical Lithuanian town, though geographically it was a part of Poland. Using Hebrew in class, the religious elementary schools, and the Tarbut secular school and yeshiva followed the same program and style as in all other places in Lithuania. Jewish education and life was extensive, filled with religious and nationalist traditions as was usual in rich and cultural Eastern European meaning of a Jewish lifestyle. The Sabbaths and Jewish holidays were observed and respected in the strictest meaning of the term. Even the so-called secular youth who studied in Polish schools and at the Tarbut school did not allow themselves to publicly desecrate the Sabbath because of their deep respect for their parents and families, and in order not to offend the feelings of the overwhelming majority of the Jews who were religious.

As in all provincial communities in Polesia and almost everywhere in Poland until 1933 our hometown was a middle-class community. The Jewish residents were mostly merchants, brokers, storekeepers and some were artisans. However without exception everyone had to work hard for a living. Some worked hard and bitterly in order to be able to enjoy even the basic human needs and to raise and educate their children in a respectable way.

Political and social life of the older generation concentrated mostly on the Zionist organization, and expressed itself with nationalism. The Keren Hayesod [Palestine Foundation Fund] ran an annual campaign among the more well-to-do Jews. The Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet systematically used to hold regular meeting and fund raisers. The popular Zionist shekel was one of the most emotional and most important activities of every conscious Zionist, and at the same time a democratic community was organized and the council members were very active in getting the greatest number of Jews involved.

[Page 99]

Elections to the Polish Parliament, the Sejm, were turned into expressions of the deepest feelings of the Jewish struggle for the ability to live according to our culture, traditions and lifestyle as a basic minimum while having all the same rights and protections as all Polish citizens. The dramatic period rebirth disappeared rapidly, and the stark reality became worse and harder by the day. The hopes of Jews for a new emerging Poland to be democratic and liberal, providing all of its citizens with the same possibilities of life and existence were soon forgotten. Therefore we wanted the elections to express our cry and protest against anti-Semitism, crudeness, university quotas, and against closing all sources of work and livelihood from the Jewish population.

On election day the Polish policy arrested many of the representatives of the Jewish community as well as young activists for electioneering on behalf of the Zionist list headed by Yitzchak Greenbaum.

The youth of Yanov were idealistic and dreamers. They dreamed about a better tomorrow and better times. They were always ready to pack their suitcases in order to realize their dreams of the Land of Israel or other countries because everyone felt that Jews had no future in Poland.

The youth had an unusual desire for learning, and almost all received a strong nationalist and traditional upbringing. The teachers at the educational institutions instilled a deep love for the Land of Israel, our culture, national language and history in their students. At home their parents supplemented the education with observance of Judaism, the holidays and tradition, thereby providing us with an intellectual armor to withstand the dangers of assimilation. They gave us strength to withstand that handle physical anti-Semitism believing in better times and in G-d.

Lectures and open discussion were always packed with young people of all Zionist movements and ideologies who struggled with their beliefs and convictions in their true commitment to Zionism and Judaism.

The youth were organized almost entirely in the various Zionist pioneer youth organizations. The training programs that were founded in 1929 at the sawmill of Messrs. Gorodetzky and Burstein

[Page 100]

contributed a great deal to strengthening Zionist commitment of the young people and adults. The youth organizations such as Hechalutz [the Pioneer], Hashomer Hatsa'ir [the Young Guard], Betar [Revisionists], Gordonia [non-Marxist Socialists] and the Shomer Haleumi [National Guard of the General Zionists], now called the Zionist Youth, numbered hundreds of members who held regular Zionist educational activities and related cultural work. Some organizations did so in Hebrew. Teachers from the Tarbut School provided a great deal of help or led the activities.

For personal reasons we would like to discuss a little more about the community Zionist youth organization.

The Shomer Haleumi movement (today the Noar Hatzioni) was founded in Yanov in 1928, one year after it was established in Warsaw as a consequence of the decision of the Shomer Hatsa'ir 1) to become a Marxist-socialist youth movement, and 2) to recognize the kibbutz as the only path of self-realization in the training of pioneers. The opponents of these changes broke away from the Hashomer Hatsa'ir and established the Hashomer Haleumi in Warsaw. It spread around Poland very quickly.

The activities in Hashomer Haleumi were based on a program which was provided by the general leadership in Pinsk, as was the material we used in various publications such as Derech Hashomer Haleumi [The Path of Hashomer Haleumi], Menahel [Director], Igeret Hamoshavot [Settlement Letter], and others. The emissaries from headquarters provided a great deal of assistance in conducting Zionist cultural activities. Our friend Misha Kolodny (today Moshe Kol, Minister of Development and Tourism in the Israeli government) visited Yanov several times in order to strengthen and stimulate activity by our branch.

In 1932 the Hashomer Haleumi had almost 200 members in Yanov between the ages of 10 and 18.

The longstanding secretary of Branch 8, Nehemiah Katzikovitz (today Nehemiah Nadav) and the leading members Yitzchak Nimetzkovitz, Yisrael Wiernik, Fishel Wisotsky and Markel Katzikovitz (today Mordechai Nadav) now live in Israel. The members were divided up into three levels of wolves from 10 to 12 years old, from 13 to 15 year old, and the senior scouts from 16 to 18.

Hundreds of members were trained in the Hashomer Haleumi and the other pioneer youth organizations, conscious and dedicated Zionists many of whom live in Israel, while many others live in other countries and are active in all areas of Jewish life, especially in Zionism for Israel and Hebrew education.

We, the survivors of Yanov, must be proud and recount the intellectual life of our parents with love

[Page 101]

and respect, their Zionist consciousness, and faith, and the continued existence of our people, their deepest nationalist and traditional Judaism, and their dedication in love of Jewish education and values. We will thereby be able to eternalize the memory of the holy community of Yanov near Pinsk.

 

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