Leah Kornfeld -Lubchanski - Herzliya
Translated by Harvey Spitzer
Not far from the open road to the small town of Mir, several tens of meters from Perevelutzki's house, stand three trees, two of which reach up to the sky, with many branches and fresh, green leaves aglow from the golden rays of the sun. Many such trees grow there in that section. There were times when I even bore a hatred to them.
The first in a row of standing, hunchbacked trees is mine. It belongs to my feelings. I took care of it with my own hands.
I remember one day when we assembled in the large hall of the Povshechne synagogue, each class in its place standing in rows. The school principal, Mr. Zolmbe, comes out of the office and says, "Children, tomorrow you have a day off from school. Tomorrow we're going to plant trees on the border of the streets in Korelitz. Those of you who want to take part in planting trees should come tomorrow afternoon with planting tools. And so we set out, loaded down with spades and axes via Ogrodnik to the Pritzonevitch small woods. And on the way, I was chatting with Nechama Meyerovitch, and when we got to the little woods, we saw the last of our group vanish, just as if the woods had swallowed them up. We were afraid to go any deeper into the woods and went back. We returned over the road which connected Ogrodnik with Korelitz, passing by Yisrael Slotzki's mill and through the miller's inclined street. The frolicking sounds of children playing have remained in my memory to this very day as they slid down the hill on their little sleds on frosty, wintery evenings.
But this time, going through Vilner Street, there was no joy in my heart. Due to my own carelessness, I missed the opportunity to decorate the naked streets of Korelitz with trees. There was no reason to be sorry, however, because the pupils from the lower grades went out to plant trees the next day, and my friend Chayke Dushkin and I joined them in planting trees.
The sapling we planted didn't live very long. A cruel hand tore it out of the ground. We planted another sapling, carefully tying the branches around with little ropes and securing it to the ground with stones. We carried water for it from the river more than once to quench its thirst so that it would not dry out. We hoped that when the tree grew and put on fresh, green leaves, we would come and sit under the tree to protect ourselves from the burning sun.
Once, when we passed by, we noticed our little tree standing bare. There were no more ropes by which it was tied to the ground. But, as if on spite, it grew high, with great audacity, to heaven. Is our tree still standing there? Don't say it's not there.
Sitting from right - first row: Chaim Bolotnitzki, Malka Rabinovitch, ……., Elka Mordchovitch, Shifra Rakovitzki, Gutel Mordchovitch, Yitzchak-Berl Gantzbitch;
Second row: Moshe Koznitch, Yarka Yelin, Elka Koznitch, Solomon ( teacher), Raisel Niselbitch, Berl Lubchanski, ……
Third row: Yosef Portnoi (teacher), Grisha, Yaakov Avramovitch, Rivka Yelin, Menucha Avramovitch, Shlomo Davidovski (teacher), Yehudit Karlitzki (Golkovitch), Chaya Nignivitzki, Goldberg (teacher)
Fruma Gulkovitch-Berger, New York
Translated by Harvey Spitzer
Despite the many years that have gone by since the Holocaust, time has not erased our love for the way of life that once characterized our small town. We were all one big family.
Korelitz Jews were not especially wealthy, but they had a good reputation as people who were always concerned about one another. They empathized with someone's sorrow or trouble, and they rejoiced together on happy occasions. The quality of helping someone in need was always developed among the Jews in Korelitz.
In order to ease the difficult material situation of the needy, a people's bank and benevolent fund were created in the small town. Both of these charity institutions were very important for many Jews of Korelitz. The bank was created from subsidies received from the Yakopa organization, whose main committee was in Vilna. Thanks to the energetic efforts of certain activists who were concerned about the welfare of the needy, the doors of the bank were always open for those in need of loans.
Here we should mention the manager and bookkeeper of the bank, Yitzchak- Meyer Klatzkis, a former Jewish teacher, an intelligent, conscientious person who performed his work with love and devotion. The management of the bank was responsible for supervising the bank's work which involved many technical things. For the most part, the bank's administration was made up of three or four officers. I don't remember exactly who they were, but I think the following people belonged to the directorate: G. Namiot (druggist), Gezl Relien (merchant) and T. Kletzitzki (merchant).
Whoever needed a bank loan had to have two guarantors considered trustworthy. The guarantors naturally had to sign. Interest was charged for the borrowed money, but if the borrower was, God forbid, unable to pay back the loan, the co-signers were responsible for covering the debt.
The bank's conditions were often too strict for many poor people, and so a benevolent fund was set up in the town. The fund actually belonged to the handworkers' union. One could take out a short-term, interest free loan, and craftsmen and those belonging to the poorer layer of the population especially enjoyed the benefits of the charity fund.
The benevolent fund was created thanks to money sent from America and from money raised in the town itself for that purpose through various funds and enterprises. Our dramatics club, for example, put on plays, and the proceeds were entirely reserved for the benevolent fund.
The following persons belonged to the management of the fund: Berl Busel, Yaakov Gershinovski, Yisrael Rudel, Efroimski and Berl Falushski. The above-mentioned people accomplished very much and were very active in the area of creating money funds for the benevolent fund charity and managed its operation.
The directorate would often change, of course, and therefore, anyone who was interested and capable of working in the fund would be able to do so. Both institutions - the people's bank and the charity fund - were very important for the Jewish population of Korelitz, both for the businessman and craftsman who often needed loans. The Korelitz Jews knew that there was a place to turn in time of trouble.
This is now all destroyed. No more Jews on the streets of the town - no more Jewish institutions.
The Dramatics Club
With these lines, I will eternalize the amateur theatrical performers from Korelitz and, at the same time, show the creative powers and the contributions of the Korelitz dramatics club for the development of Jewish culture in our small town.
Our small town was on a high cultural level. We had talented and intelligent young people who strove to create something. There were youth organizations bustling with activity in their meeting places. One of the most important and respectable youth groups was the dramatics club, which brought together amateur theatrical performers of the Yiddish stage.
I was the youngest of the third generation of performers in that ensemble. We used to put on Yiddish plays, which brought joy and festivity to young and old alike in our small town. This was the only entertainment of its kind because a troupe of professional actors seldom came to us. There were no movies either. The intake of our ensemble was used for important aims.
Our dramatics club would perform plays and dramas by classical Yiddish playwrights and dramatists.
Many very talented performers who could be compared to professional actors grew up in our dramatics club. Among these were the following:
Berl Falushski, who starred in Koldunia in the role of the witch. Although I was still too young at the time, the picture of the witch as performed by Berl still moves before my eyes today. And together with him, the whole ensemble held the audience spellbound.
Shefe Klatchka, a precious personality in the art of theatre. He was the director and, at the same time, played some of the most difficult roles. He influenced and held the whole ensemble together. We all listened to his remarks and directions with the utmost respect.
Chaim Bosel, a teacher at the Jewish school who would also find time to act in the Yiddish theatre. Many of us remember him in the role of Batiushka Prokop in the play Chasia the Orphan.
Berl Avrinski - one of the rare artists on the stage. I can still see him in the role of Nevalah. With what passion he played in Yosha Kalb! - an unforgettable talent.
The Gershinovski brothers, from the oldest to the youngest, all performed in the theatre - Yankel, Moishel, Yashe and Rutshke. My friend Yashe always acted well and was well suited to his role. Yankel and Moishel especially excelled in various roles. I performed with Moishel in Jewish King Lear, playing the part of his daughter, Teibele. I also performed together with Rutshke in Groisen Gevins. These were talents in whom one could take pride.
The Lifschitz brothers Berl and Dovid played various instruments, sang and danced. They were capable of doing everything.
The Women in the Ensemble:
The comédienne, Rivke Yelin - we called her Esther-Rachel Kaminski - was blessed with a great talent for acting. As soon as she appeared on the stage, she captivated the audience. She brought a lot of joy and laughter to the spectators, who thanked her with long, sustained applause.
Our dramatics club possessed very beautiful women including Menucha Avramovitch (she lives in Israel), Shefia Levit, Chaya-Leahke Shereshevski and others. If we needed someone for a smaller part, there was no problem. One became an artist overnight.
The leading roles - prima donna - were, for the most part, played by Menucha Avramovitch. Mania Kaganovitch (also living in Israel) was also one of the most important actresses.
Several of the former members of the Korelitz Dramatics Club live in America. Two of them are Chayke Dushkin and Bentshe Gulkovitch, my brother. I remember that when I would come to rehearsals, they would also talk about Sheindel, Peshe and Roza as big stars. Unfortunately, I didn't know them personally. They emigrated abroad, but no one in the town wanted to forget them. (Sheindel Koznietz lives in Israel).
We would prepare a presentation for every holiday, and every show would turn into a great cultural event in our small town. The dramatics club would also go out into the provinces to perform in the surrounding small towns and would also bring the local Jews much joy.
Our theatre was located in the firemen's station house or, as we used to joke, our actors were performing on the pumps in the fire brigade. We performed a repertoire of plays from the Yiddish theatre, which gave us spiritual pleasure. Each new production would bring much life to the town. Wherever the townspeople would go, they would talk about the play, the actors and imitate their movements and sing the new little songs.
The last play our ensemble performed was Gott, Mentsh un Teivel (God, Man and the Devil). The Devil - Hitler - destroyed everything. No more Korelitz, no more dramatics club. No one would believe that all of this was once. And today? Nothing remains but desolation and the longing for such a beloved and unforgettable past.
In front from right - first row: Chaya Stoler, Noach Gershinovski, Avraham Niselvitz, Yosef Gershnovski, Yehuda Gershnovski, Berl Lifschitz, Motel Levin, Grinfeld.
Second row: Avraham Lifchin, Moshe Gershnovski, Yitzchak Lifschitz, Bracha Kaplan, Namiot, Eliasberg, Baruch Zelkovitz, Berl Falushski, …., Moshe Shuster, Gitel Londin
Third row: Yitzchak Gershnovitz, Chaim Dushkin, Dovid Lifschitz, Chaim Avramovitz, Teibel Dvortzki (Trotzki), Mania Kaganovitch, Alter Boyarski, Savelia Klatzki, Pesiah Efroimski, Kalman Mordchovitz, …., Zalman Niselvitz, Yaakov Gershnovski, Sheindel Perevelutzki Koznitz
In front: Yehuda Gershnovski
Second row: Chaim Bosel, Chaya Leah Kaplan, Alter Grinfeld, Shifra Levit, Berl Falushski, Fania Lifschitz, Menucha Avramovitch, Rivke Yelin.
Third row: Berl Lifschitz, Mania Kaganovtich, Yaakov Gershnovski, Zalman Niselbitch, Ben-Zion Gulkovitch, Savelia Klatzki, Avraham Gorodiski, Yaakov Avrazshenski, Moshe Gershnovski.
What didn't we have in Korelitz? We even had an amateur theater which enthusiastically presented dramas, tragedies and comedies. The preparations for a performance used to take a long time, but we never presented more than one performance of any play. This was not, G-d forbid, because the play was not good. It was simply because there was no one to perform to, since all the potential theatrical audience had been present at the first performance. On the other hand, the idea of performing outside of Korelitz - in another town - did not arise, nor was it possible.
Our dramatic society was called Dramper for short. This was a form of comparison to the name of the orchestra and the firefighters, who were called Pozharne-Kommande. The dramatic society started off a few decades ago. The initiator, founder, and director was Shefe Klutsky, who was gifted as an actor. The actors were of various ages and at different levels of talent, but all of them were amateurs. The performances were held at the school until the great fire of 1929. At this school, a wall was removed between two classrooms, thus creating a fairly large hall. Rehearsals were held in various private homes. The audience was a good audience. It was not a passive audience who sat listening to what was being said on the stage, but rather an audience who responded and encouraged the actors. The audience tried to show the actors that their efforts in the performance were worthwhile. The actors performed mainly plays by Gordon: Chasia the Orphan, God, Man and Satan, Broken Hearts, as well as The Family and Shulamit by Goldfaden and The Jewish King Lear. The scenery was not of the highest quality and the audience often knew the dresses and props of the actors from before the performance. The tickets were sold at prices which were not high, but the takings were generally enough to cover the expenses, and sometimes a little money was left for philanthropic purposes.
Among the more prominent actors, we can note Sheindel Kuznitz who lives with us in Israel. She was blessed with a fine Soprano voice and a fine acting ability. She was the Prima Donna. Pessia excelled in to-the-point acting. In the male roles, Klutsky excelled. He always played the main role. Berl Polozasky the comedian also stood out. Who among us does not remember him in the role of Bobbe Yachne in The Witch? There was always a shortage of men, and I recall here a curiosity when, in the performance of Three Agents, three women appeared in the roles of the three men. When they appeared on the stage, the three of them broke out into gay women's laugh. Naturally, the audience recognized them immediately and laughed with them. In the course of time, new talents joined the team, among them Menucha Abramowitz and Fruma Golkovitz. The two of them excelled in their comely appearance and fine acting.
Parallel to the Dramper Dramatic Group, there was also an orchestra, which developed over the years and grew into an important part of the entertainment scene in the town. The orchestra appeared in solo appearances but, on the other hand, also participated in performances at various municipal events. Of the founders, I would mention here Mollier who played the violin and the promoter Wiener who played the flute. My father (long may he live!) also played an important part in the orchestra. As in a hazy dream, I remember the continuous evenings on which Moshe Gershunovsky and Baruch Zelkovitz (later to become an orchestral conductor) used to practice in our home, and my father used to help them. He used to devote himself to the clarinet, because this was the instrument that he had played as a youngster. The major part of the orchestra was held by two families. These were the Gershunovsky family (one of whom is with us here), and the Lipshitz family. Korelitzers are still proud of their orchestra until this very day.
Finally, when talking about artistic forces, let us remember the Pozharne Kommande Fire Brigade, which was a faithful accompanist to the artistic forces in the town. None of us have forgotten the drills of the Pozharne on Sundays, and mainly their Parades, accompanied by our orchestra. The whole town was on its feet when the Pozharne appeared on a Parade in the streets, with Klotzko, David Slutsky, and Reuven Begin at their head. The latter used to fly while marching in his beautiful uniform and his white gloves.
This was no theater or an orchestra in the modern sense, but in those days, these institutions used to bring warmth with them and infused rays of light into the gray life of our town.
Kalman Osherowitz - Raanana
The period of the Zionist pioneer youth started towards the end of WW1; in other words, about 50 years ago. This youth produced devoted and faithful pioneers. If we look at them today, we are concerned with various settlements in Israel where people from our town put down their roots, places where they played an important role in building our land. After all the hardship suffered by our youth, we are very proud of their achievements especially after they went through a long route full of alternating sacrifices, hopes and disappointments. These youths went through a glorious period, were educated on the lessons of Tel Chai, went through Hechalutz and Hashomer Hatsa'ir, the conquest of work and defense. They played a large part in the establishment of the State of Israel. Our town of Korelitz symbolizes the way of this youth.
When the battles of WW1 were waning, the town was destroyed and deserted because, during the war, when the Germans occupied the region, the war front was formed on the eastern side of our town and all the town's inhabitants were expelled, and they scattered in all directions. The Jews bought a landholding in the Grodno area and many of them settled temporarily in Novogrodok and its environs. At the end of the war, the Jews returned to the destroyed town and began rebuilding it. Many houses had disappeared from view because the Germans had used their materials to build bunkers on the front. Like good Jews, the inhabitants gave first priority to public institutions. The Synagogue, which had been partially destroyed, was rebuilt, and they started looking for a place for a school. Most of the inhabitants worked in agriculture in those days. Despite the fact that they did not have their own land, the inhabitants covered the empty plots and cultivated them, since these plots had no owners. The artisans returned to their occupations and the shopkeepers started reorganizing their business premises.
In the meanwhile, before they managed to recover from the troubles of the war, the town became involved in the war of the Bolsheviks against the Poles. The Russians entered the town and set up the new regime which was unpopular with the local population. After a while, this war was also forgotten, the town stayed under Polish rule, and life started to return to its normal routine. The Jews once more continued where they had previously stopped: a house was built for the Rabbi, and a school and synagogues were established. Shalom Cohen, the rabbi's son was appointed as principal of the school. The school was under the supervision of the Tarbut schools network. Some of the future Hechalutz members studied at this school.
Between Bund and Zionism
WW1 caused agitation not only among the nations of Europe, but also among the Jews. In this period, an organization by the name of the Bund became active among the Jews. This was an organization of Jewish workers, which was active in raising the standards of Jewish workers and the improvement of their situation. Mainly, it strove for the equality of rights for Jewish workers among the Poles. Our town, which had a Jewish identity, found itself on one side of the barricades - that of Zionism. In this period, just after the Balfour Declaration and the Zionist Wave, the Hechalutz movement arose, first in Russia, and later in the cities and towns of Poland.
The first Swallow of Hechalutz in Korelitz was Mordechai Karolevsky (is known in Israel as Mordechai Malkieli). The Karolevsky family returned at that time from Novogrodok to Korelitz, and the son, Mordechai, was the man who started to organize the Hechalutz Hatsa'ir movement. I remember that once, when I wandered near the market, Yosef Portnoy came up to me and told me that we had a guest lecture, Comrade Bilopolsky from Warsaw. We gathered at the Synagogue and the lecturer read us a brochure about the happenings at Tel-Chai. He ended with the words of Trumpeldor; It is good to die for our country.
Mordechai Karolevsky organized the Young Hechalutz, assisted by Chasia Oberzhansky and others. An older group of members became organized in the Hechalutz. The heads of this group were Moshe-Eli Shuster, Nissan Zalmanovsky and Yosef Portnoy (May he have a long life!).
The first lecturers to appear on the subject of Hechalutz were Yosef Bankover (living today in Ramat Hakovaysh) and Bilopolsky. They explained the principles and ideas of the Hechalutz movement to us. I remember a lecture by Bilopolsky in the Korelitz House of Learning. The school Janitor (we called him Peter Zecks), who used to be the prayer crier for the synagogue (Yidden in Shul arein! - Jews, come to the synagogue!), went out and announced an important speech to be given by a visitor from Warsaw on Saturday afternoon. Indeed, the audience responded. Youngsters and older people appeared. Thus, systematically, we encircled the town with ideas of the Hechalutz, and we set up a framework of cultural action, classes, information, and practical activities. Brina, the Rabbi's daughter, taught Hebrew while Moshe- Eli Shuster taught knowledge of the Land of Israel. We organized literary trials and published a live newspaper every week, which was read collectively every Friday evening. The editor of the newspaper was Alter Rozovsky. The newspaper reflected the ideas of the Hechalutz and promoted its ways. Most of the inhabitants participated in reading the paper at parties of members.
Ups and Downs
When the suspense of enthusiasm arose and the organizational work flourished, something happened which stopped everything, and we had to start all over. This is what happened: The Hechalutz Headquarters rewarded our work and, in order to show its appreciation of us, it allocated us a certificate for Aliya to Palestine, to one member of Hechalutz. This member, who had been awarded the certificate, was heavily involved in business matters and could not release himself for Aliya to Palestine. This caused laxity in our work, and others even left the movement. The nucleus, however, was already too strong to break up. We started rebuilding the Hechalutz anew. We ordered reading material from Palestine and started to inculcate the study of occupations among the members in order to prepare them for Aliya.
We decided that we had to introduce the members to the atmosphere of working for the land of Israel, and to accustom them to sacrifice and action for the Concept. So, it was that we began to teach trades. We started teaching the boys carpentry, and the girls sewing. We went out to fire the stoves of the schools on winter nights and we cleaned out the classrooms. Wages were dedicated to the JNF and to the Palestine workers' fund. We leased the bakery from Alter the baker in order to bake Matzos for Passover. The specialist was Noah Gershunovsky and, in this case as well, revenues were donated to funds in the land of Israel. At that time, I was conscripted to the Polish Army, so I only learned what was happening in the town through letters from friends.
In 1925-6 we received a number of Aliya certificates The first to go on Aliya were Leime Polchak (who now lives in Ramat Hasharon), Yosef Portnoy (who is in Kfar Saba), Gittel Londin (Kfar Saba), Bracha Kaplan (Kibbutz Hakovaysh), Sheindel Perbolitsky (now Kuznitz - in Tel Aviv), Pessia Ephroimsky (Gorfinkel - in Mishmar Hashlosha), Mordechai Karolevsky (Malkiely - in Hod Hasharon). Stoliar (returned to Europe and died in the Holocaust). All those who made Aliya went to Kibbutz Hakovaysh, but in the course of time, they relocated to various places in Israel.
The tension rose and morale was high in Korelitz at that time. A training group arrived in our town from Vilna. This group worked at digging fishponds. This was heavy work. Many members of this training group made Aliya, and are living on Kibbutz Ramat Hakovaysh.
It happened again that there was a drop in tension. The 1927 crisis in Palestine caused a spiritual laxity. We also in Korelitz gained two people who returned to our town from Palestine, and membership dropped once more.
We, the veteran group, decided to continue running Hechalutz in Korelitz. Comrade Leah Kaplan (now living on Kibbutz Giv'at Chaim), who kept faith with the movement, maintained standards, at least with respect to headquarters. In her reports to Headquarters, there appeared more members than there really were. We even paid membership dues for these members from our own pockets, in order to maintain the firm in the eyes of the outside world.
At that time, there appeared an intelligent and lively fellow, by the name of Chaim Bussel. He was a graduate of Hashomer Hatsa'ir and suggested organizing a cell of the movement. The remnants of Hechalutz were opposed, but the crises and disappointments had their effect. The Hashomer Hatsa'ir cell arose from the remnants of Hechalutz, and covered most of the youth in the town There were also graduates who joined. Chaim Bussel proved himself an excellent organizer and he knew how to bridge between various ideas. He tried to draw in those who felt uneasy within the new framework. He divided the cell on the basis of age, and organized groups named after the tribes. Thus it was that I took over the direction of a group called Yehuda. The older people tried to inculcate pioneer education into the youth so that, when the time came, they would be ready and able to make Aliya,
We carried out cultural, sport and entertainment activities. On Lag Ba'Omer, we organized a big camp in one of the forests in the area. I remember how we sang with awe We are Rising, and Techezakna [translator's note: a famous poem/song written/composed by Chaim Nachman Bialik).
In the summer of 1928, we organized a regional convention in Korelitz in the festive atmosphere of a mass movement.
Once more, however, disasters fell upon us. The town was totally burned down in a fire which broke out. The bloody events in Palestine in 1929 added to this by bringing an end to the Hashomer Hatsa'ir movement in Korelitz.
In 1930, I made Aliya with my wife Sarah. When in Palestine, we heard that Korelitz had been rebuilt upon its previous ruins.
Times changed. The yearning for the Land of Israel increased and strengthened in Poland. There was a shortage of Certificates and the many demands of the youth to make Aliya could not be met. The training Kibbutzim in Poland filled up, and the cream of young men and young women who wanted to make Aliya were stuck there for years. The illegal immigration to Palestine started to be organized - the young people of Israel started travelling the seas, often endangering their lives. Some of them managed to reach safe havens in Palestine, where they were considered by the British authorities to be illegal immigrants. Nevertheless, they organized themselves in Palestine and found their places. The majority, however, stayed there… they are no more, because they were destroyed by the Oppressors of Israel.
Our work in Israel, the sacrifice and the heroism of the Youth of Israel are a magnificent monument to the idealistic Zionist Youth that was and is no more.
[** Translator's note: On this page are two photographs]
Malka Polozhesky-Pomerchik - Kfar Saba
The Hashomer Hatsa'ir cell was established in Korelitz in the years 1927-30 by Chaim Bussel, an energetic young man with an amazing organizational ability. He came to us with his family from the town of Klutzk. He brought with him both the concept and the organizational ability. He succeeded in around him the youth and the children of the school where he worked as a teacher and as an instructor. His impressive appearance, formal dress and his red ties; all these, together with the trumpet parades, charmed the youth who united within the movement. As long as Chaim Bussel was active, the cell thrived and developed. A few years passed, however, and Chaim grew older. He entered regular civilian life. Members began leaving the movement, which started to slacken.
This situation was exploited by the leaders of Beitar -- the Gentvitz brothers, Gertel Mordechovitz, Yehoshua Kalmanovitz and others. They increased their numbers at the expense of the Hashomer Hatsa'ir. The youth were thirsty for activities and, without Hashomer Hatsa'ir activities, many joined Beitar.
When I completed my studies in Novogrodok and returned home in 1934, I found the Hashomer Hatsa'ir movement in a state of torpor. I was happy to find the remnants of the movement:-- Mordechai Shimshelevitz, Tanchum Kaplan, Gutel Kivlevitz and David Lipshitz. These serious people were loyal to the ideals of the movement. We started to revive the glorious past of Hashomer Hatsa'ir in Korelitz. When we first started these steps, we had no resources; I offered our private house in order to begin operations. This was made possible, thanks to my parents, who were adherents of Zionism and progress, and who understood our spirit.
In a short time, we started attracting many of the youth to our movement, mainly from the two schools as well as from among the older youth. We started working on cultural and promotional activities. With the growth in the number of members, there was a corresponding growth in means. We rented a clubhouse from Alter Nachumovsky (Alter der Soifer). Every evening, the house was filled with the joyous and fresh voices the cell's children. The movement once more became a prominent and recognizable in the town. Parades were once more held and the sounds of drums and bugles were once more heard. There were Tu Bishvat celebrations and trips to far places and to the nearby woods in order to study nature. Our members took an active part in the Zionist activities of the town, such as emptying the JNF boxes, etc. I especially remember an important and educational project in our cell. We organized an exhibition of handwork of the young members of the movement. The children put their hearts and souls into the assignment, each one in his own hobby and area of interest. The exhibition succeeded to such an extent that it attracted people of all ages, and all of them talked about it enthusiastically. We contacted the movement's headquarters in Warsaw, who sent us emissaries and lecturers. There was singing every evening in the cell.
Apart from our cultural activities, we also had a political struggle with the Beitarists who were entrenched in the house of Dvoshke Ganswitch (the house was called Die Broine Hoiz). The members of Beitar were embarrassed, because most of their most of their members returned one by one to their origins, to Hashomer Hatsa'ir. Even older members joined: Esther Shkolnik (Horowitz), Masha Kaplan, Sarah Mine Meyerovitz, Libke Sharshevsky, Aaron Farbolotsky, Gisha Stoliar, and others. Even today, a pleasant quivering passes through me when I remember that exciting and interesting period.
The graduates of Hashomer Hatsa'ir were automatically also members of Hechalutz when lively new blood was needed, or energetic and lively youngsters were required. We were like that in those days.
Sitting, from right: Esther Shkolnik- Horowitz David Lipshitz, Masha Kaplan.
Standing, from the right: Tanchum Kaplan, Mordechai Shimshelevitz, Malka Poluzhky (Pomerchik), Aaron Nisselevitz, Moshe Kuznitz.
Malka Polozhesky-Pomerchik, Kfar Saba
Translated by Harvey Spitzer
The town of Korelitz lies on the Rudke River, between Novogrudek and Turetz, 21km from Novogrudek and 14km from Turetz. The town is small - just like all the small towns in the area of White Russia. The streets are paved and lined with stores. The entire center of the town was owned by Jews. There were only a few Christian homes on the street. In fact, the Christian population of the town itself was very small. They comprised just a small percentage of the town's residents. However, the parts of the town surrounding the central area were Christian, and Christians lived in the villages. Korelitz was almost exclusively a Jewish town. Before coming to Korelitz, I lived in the small town of Yeremitch where the Jewish and Christian population was mixed. I simply didn't recognize any difference. When I moved to Korelitz, however, I noticed a big contrast. The Jews and Christians lived so much apart that there was no connection between them.
The specific sources of livelihood in the town were the following: small businesses. The market was bordered on both sides by a row of stores. There were about 60 stores in the town. Besides being storekeepers, a large part of the population made their living from farming. They mainly planted cucumbers which were sold in the large cities. And a large part of the residents were craftsmen and handworkers. There were small machines for cleaning wool.
A certain portion of our young people went to schools in the larger city of Novogrudek. Naturally, there was close contact between the youth of Novogrudek and Korelitz. They tried to bring everything they saw and considered progressive in Novogrudek and copy it in Korelitz. Our girls who studied in Novogrudek were members of HaShomer HaTsa'ir (The Young Guard). Coming home, they themselves began to be very active in organizing a HaShomer HaTsa'ir chapter in Korelitz. The culture of the big city had an influence on the cultural level of our small town.
I studied at the Adam Mickiewicz public high school. I graduated in 1934. I came back to Korelitz and then went to Grodno to participate in a training program under the auspices of HaShomer HaTsa'ir for the purpose of immigrating to the Land of Israel. I was in the training program for nine months. Then I returned to Korelitz because I had the opportunity of going to the Land of Israel in the HeChalutz (The Pioneer) organization. We arranged seminars in which all the teachers of the town's Hebrew School participated. The seminars lasted a week and sometimes two. We used to put out lively newspapers. The Jewish National Fund encouraged and supported our endeavors and tradition.
A group of young HaShomer HaTsa'ir graduates
From right: Yosel Berkowitz, Gishe Stoler, Nissin Shimshelvitz, Sarah Beigin, Libke Shereshevski.
[**Translator's note: pages 184-185 are in Yiddish**]
Translated by Harvey Spitzer
Yitzchak began his journey as a writer across the small towns and cites of Lithuania in his birthplace, Korelitz. Kith and kin prepared to greet him. The welcome at the station was a demonstration of the people's love and admiration. They took him to the home of the rabbi, his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Yechiel Benin, where he stayed during his visit. There they showed him his very own cradle which was preserved as a keepsake of their famous fellow-townsman.
Yitzchak remembered that as a child of six he had thrown a ball onto the attic of a house and he now wanted to find it. And so it was. They began walking along the little streets until Yitzchak recognized an old, dilapidated small house. They made a ladder and one of the boys climbed up to the attic and, following Yitzchak's instructions, found the ball. Many years later Yitzchak wove this incident into his dramatic comedy, Fatima.
During the several days he spent in Korelitz, he would walk with the young people along the roadway and all the surrounding places. Yitzchak sang them Yiddish and Hebrew songs, told them Yiddish stories and spoke about the present day Land of Israel (which he never visited). Once he turned to the young people and said, Dear Jewish daughters and sons, your place is in the Land of Israel. Go there and you will build a new, Jewish life.
This is how Yitzchak described a walk in his hometown:
…. and I'm already walking on the roadway, and it's very joyful. Every living person has left the town and has gone onto the roadway. And the roadway is very long. They say that it extends as far as Kabrin…. And Kabrin is very far away. The sky ends and a new sky spreads out over the town of Kabrin.
And here is a description of the roadway on Friday afternoon before the Sabbath
At the roadway, in the avenues
Your bride sits under a tree,
On the roadway, in the avenues
Jewish girls are taking a walk -
Slender pine trees, red roses -
Sparkling Jewish daughters.
The dark, charming girls
In their Sabbath clothes,
Their hair is somewhat unkempt.
Jewish daughters are modest -
Won't comb their hair on the Sabbath.
And the ribbons and kerchiefs
Tied around their neck -
They won't wear on the Sabbath.
Come my beloved to greet the bride.
At the roadway, on the avenues
Sits a sun-drenched girl,
Sits under a green oak
Sits and waits for you, the groom,
Come my beloved to greet the bride.
A group of boys passed by. A boy wearing a red shirt is leading them. A red shirt - and in the town. It seems that they knew I was a new face in town because, as soon as they noticed me, they began singing, Oh, poor workers. Socialist rebels … and in town.
A few minutes later, another group of boys passed by. A boy wearing a blue shirt was leading them. A blue shirt - and in the town. The boys looked me over and went on. And a minute later, I heard someone say, A home for the Jewish worker. Supporters of the Zionist Workers Party…. and in the town.
I looked up - in the distance I saw the two groups going on ahead to the dark forest. Each of the groups went separately, but the area between them was so small that it was easy for them to meld into one group. More sounds of a song reach my ear. One can no longer tell the words apart. I think it's one song - the two songs become one… Without at all intending to, I glanced into the forest - an argument…. and in the town.
* Yitzchak Kazenelson - Zein Leben un Shafen ( His Life and Creative Work) - by Zippora Kazenelson - Nachumov, Chapter 22, Pg. 150.
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