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Chapter 7:

Our Losses in Our Homeland

 

[Pages 249-253]
Feiga Roichman (Nechtelman)

By Ch. Rabin

Feiga was born in Pikulski, a small village near Maryniker, north of Shumsk. Her father, Yeheskel Nechtelman, was known in the area as Yeheskel the Maryniker due to the fact that his cattle ranch was located between Maryinker and Pikulski.

In her youth, she experienced the loneliness as Jewess among Gentiles. She also experienced a great love within her family. It was thus natural that she would ponder over the fate of a lonely person and on ways of helping such people. She viewed society not as a large and abstract concept, but as a group where a person can do a good deed. She felt that as long as she was able to help a single person, she planted a positive seed in her society, above and beyond the help she provided to the needy person.

Her family was murdered by locals close to the time of her wedding, with her and her young sister, Sonia, the only survivors. The loss of her parents deepened her loneliness. Feiga took Sonia into her new household and raised her as if it was her child.

Her husband, Tsvi Roichman, loved his wife and admired her calm nature. He let her run the family household as she saw fit. He, who knew poverty as a child, appreciated her good nature and her tolerance. His patience was admirable. He tolerated his wife's charitable work eve when their children were hungry. When Tsvi became wealthy in Poland as a general supplier to the regional army camps, he firmly believed that it was due to his wife's charity work. Feiga continued her work because she believed in the goodness of people.

She kept a leather glove in her house in Hadera, Israel, that had a thumb, but no fingers, similar to the ones found in a Ukrainian village household. The glove lay on a table at all times. When asked about it she explained that the glove was an inheritance from her father-in-law which he used to save one tenth of his income for needy people. It was her way of giving him credit for her charitable work. Every penny that was left over from the household budget went into this glove - a savings account for the needy.

Feiga carried out her charitable work avoiding all publicity. It was unimportant to her how much was distributed to needy people as long as she kept up the tradition of giving.

Lanowitz, the home town of her husband, was the anchor for her good deeds. She did not plan to leave her town, and was glad that some of the needy she supported spoke of her glowingly.

It so happened that due to an incident, her husband had to leave his town hurriedly and chose to emigrate to Palestine. She joined him subsequently.

Here in Israel, where class differences did not exist, Feiga's charitable efforts were again fully recognized. She arrived in Hadera with the same positive attitude to others she had in the Diaspora. Her husband initially worked in the building trade. In addition, he worked for the Tepper Co. [from Shumsk] after regular work hours. By the time Feiga arrived with their sons, he had managed to save enough money to become a sewer and well-digging contractor together with his sons. The earning from this activity enabled him to return to his former occupation as a butcher. With his wife's encouragement, he rented a butcher shop. With the help of his sons, the business developed nicely. After a while it became clear thatFeiga's encouragement to open a butcher shop was not in order to get rich. She realized that in the sewer business she would not be able to identify local financial needs. The aforementioned glove wandered with her to Israel and was again used to collect money for charity. In the butcher shop, the men served customers and she operated the cash register. The successful business enabled her to offer cash to those she knew to be in need. In addition, she occasionally gave them meat that went unsold. For the recipient it was like a dream.

The butcher store business developed slowly at first. After Tsvi invested in his store, there was not enough money left to purchase cows. Feiga's “business” developed. She regularly packaged meat portions and brought these to needy locals during the noon hours when the store was closed.

After a while she became a known institution. “Witzo” leaders used to meet at her house secretly to find constructive solutions in an effort to help people who lost their livelihood, or ones who needed a loan to finance a wedding, or other cases where a family was about to disintegrate.

As time went on, Tsvi's butcher business developed in part due to the recognition given to Feiga's charitable work. Whoever knew Feiga recognized her warm heart and willingness to help others. She viewed her husband and sons as facilitators to allow her to do the desired good deeds.

When her son, Ya'acov was still a child he noticed that his mother would package meat portions and give these to certain customers in addition to the portions they just purchased. It angered him that he and his brothers, Mordechai and Eliezer worked hard in the store and she was so generous with the merchandise. At first, he did not dare protest. However, when a well-dressed woman customer received a double portion, he protested her action. Feiga calmed him and said: “There are people who save on food to maintain their appearance. Her dress proves nothing, except that she needs to be treated with extra care. I know this woman and know what I am doing.”

Feiga did not question generally held opinions, but on issues dear to her she came to significant conclusions. She saw Zionism as a continuation of the Lanowitz community culture as if to say: “If we do not carry with us this culture of sharing we will not succeed here. Let our leaders do what they need to do. We simple folks need to recognize that Zionism was meant to save and secure Jewish lives. We need to examine all our deeds to make sure his objective is met.”

She saw in the Lanowitz tradition her mission in life in Israel. Accordingly, she was ready to help and guide each Lanowitz immigrant. Her house was available to her “Landsmen.” They could sleep over, or stay until they could move into their own apartment. They all enjoyed her good cooking.

Feiga's character combined the simplicity of her village life and the good relations she found in Lanowitz. She passed these two traits to her sons.

She died in 1951 after an illness that lasted one year. While she was ill, many of her friends cared and prayed for her. Her funeral was the largest Hadera experienced. Many cried secretly for they realized that their source of support died with her.

Lanowitz residents followed her casket. They were proud of her and of her accomplishments.

Feiga's life included many satisfying moments but was not devoid of tragedies that depressed her. Her husband was murdered by a criminal. Immediately thereafter her son Avraham was killed accidentely shortly before his scheduled wedding day.

Feiga was consoled by her efforts to raise her remaining three sons and by her continued charitable work. Yet, when alone, her sorrow increased leading to a fatal disease that attacked her body. “May her soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life” [= a typical instruction on a Jewish grave.]

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