[Page XXXIII English]
by Fruma Gulkowich-Berger
Korelitz's Jews were never affluent, but they were known for their taking care on one another, sharing joy and sorrow alike and ever ready to lend a helping hand.
It was this sense of mutual responsibility which led to the founding of a people's bank and a free loan fund - two of the community's foremost institutions. The bank was established thanks to subsidies received from the Yekope Society of Wilna and its doors were open to everyone in need of financial assistance.
The manager and bookkeeper of the bank was Yitzhok-Meir Klatzkis, a former teacher and a devoted worker, and the Board of Directors consisted of three or four individuals (I recall the names of G. Namiot, the druggist; Getzl Relien, a merchant, and T. Klecicki, also a merchant). Borrowers had to have two guarantors and to pay interest. However, this arrangement was beyond the means of some of the people, and a Free Loan Fund was founded, operated mainly by the Artisans Guild, which made short-term, interest-free loans, mostly to artisans and the poorer members of the community. The Fund received gifts from America and from special events arranged in the town itself, among them theatre performances put on by the Drama Circle.
Among the Fund's administrators were Berl Bussel, Jacob Gershenovsky, Israel Rudi, Efroymsky and Berl Polizhesky, but others were co-opted to help in this important work. Many a Korelitzer had the bank and the Fund to thank for tiding him over some difficult situation.
[Page XXXIV English]
by Fruma Gulkowich-Berger
Among the outstanding characteristics of Korelitz was its Jewish youth - talented, intelligent, resourceful. Youth groups flourished, particularly those engaged in the arts. Among these, the Drama Circle was the most distinguished, since professional theatre troupes rarely visited the town, the Circle was a major source of entertainment, and its income went to support worthy causes in the community.
Several of the Circle members possessed genuine dramatic talent: Bert Polizhesky, excellent in the role of the witch (Koldunie); Sheppe Klatchka, the stage director and outstanding actor who maintained a high group morale; Hayim Bussel, a teacher in the Jewish school still remembered for his role of Batyushka Prokop in Hassia the Orphan; Berl Obrinski, who turned in a passionate performance in Yoshe Kalb; the Gershinovsky brothers - Yankl, Moishe'le, Yashe and Ruchke, and the musicians Berl and David Lifshitz.
The women were no less talented: Rivka Yellin, the excellent comedienne; a bevy of beauties - Menuha Abramanowich, Levitt, Chaya-Leike Sherehevsky; Menuha and Mania Kaganowich usually played the lead roles.
Several of the Circle members went abroad in quest of a better life, amongst them Chaike Dushkin and Ben-Zion Gulkowich.
The Circle put on a new performance for each holiday, and this was the social event of the season, not only in Korelitz but also in surrounding communities which the Circle visited.
The last play put on by the Circle was God, Man and the Devil. The Devil - Hitler - put an end to the Circle, as he did to so many Korelitzes throughout Europe.
[Page XXXV English]
by Yaacov Abramowich
The Brigade was the pride of Korelitz - deservedly. Its structure, I recall, was highly formal; I also remember the names of the officers in my day:
President: the druggist Eliasberg:
Commander: David Slutsky:
Deputy-Commander: Savelle Klatzko:
Adjutant: Mordechai Bezin:
Manager: Gertz Namiat:
First Unit Commander: Reuben Perevelutsky:
Second Unit Commander: Israel Israelit:
Third Unit Commander: Hayim Abramovich:
Water Director: Boruch Zalkowich:
Orchestra Conductor: Shimon Miller
I used to attend the band's rehearsals, but I wasn't accepted to the Brigade because I was too young. I also watched their drills - up the rope, high on the ladder, pumping the water. Later, as the years went by and I joined the Brigade, Commander David Slutzky appointed me House Commander, in charge of the firehouse and its contents. I had to see to it that the hoses didn't leak and the carriages were in good shape. I painted the wheels, greased the axles, saw that the barrels on the two-wheelers were always filled with water. If the job was beyond my capacity, I called in a professional. However, Commander Slutzky's first order was for me to go to the market place, buy material for my uniform and cap and take it to Shloimke Kabak the tailor. My joy was indescribable.
I spent more time in the firehouse than at home, under the tutelage of Noah Gershenovsky, who lived across the street and kept the keys to the place.
The drill schedule, on Sundays, was announced by Yasha Gershenovsky to all the members; later the job was taken over by his brother Yodke, David Lifshitz and Leibe Ozochovsky. The Brigade gathered in the firehouse yard, where Adjutant Bezin would already be waiting. The drill began with a parade, led by the band: Moishe Gershenovsky and Moishe Lifshitz -clarinet; Noah Gershenovsky - trombone; Yasha Gershenovsky and Berl Lifshitz - trumpet; David Lifshitz - tenor sax; Isaiah Gershenovsky, Markel Gershenovsky, Avreml Lipchon - drums; Azerovsky and Idl Savitzky - cymbals.
A few paces behind the orchestra marched the officers, the hook-and-ladder unit and the firefighters - brawny lads in copper helmets and uniforms, small axes thrust into the broad leather bands around their waists. Last came the water suppliers. The good people of Korelitz lined the streets and applauded mightily.
Back at the firehouse, the Brigade went into its drill, using all its equipment and apparatus. It then moved to the river for further manouevers.
The firehouse was maintained chiefly by the townspeople through a monthly tax. If a citizen showed signs of not wanting to pay (such as being in arrears), the Brigade would send a hose down his chimney and give him a choice: pay up or suffer the consequences of a flood. He would inevitably choose the obvious.
The firehouse also served as the town's theatre. Traveling troupes would pay for the use of the premises, which would be cleared of all the apparatus and have a stage set up. A local theatre group, directed first by Alter Boyarsky and later by Savelie Klatzko also gave performances in the firehouse, which benefited from the income. The cashier was the beloved Yudel Efroimsky, president of the Labor Association.
The firefighters also helped maintain law and order, particularly on market days, when the peasants, bolstered by liquor, would create disturbances and let their horses run wild. The Brigade was authorized to catch the horses and hose down their owners.
In time the Brigade received mechanized fire equipment from the authorities and was on call for fires in neighboring settlements as well.
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