Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 99]

Images of Lechowitz

By Chaim Tseitman, Brazil

Two who divided spheres of influence

Translated by Andrew and Stephen Warshall

The two: Yakov-Meir the shul-caller and Mordecai-Blintze the trumpeter between them divided areas of influence over our town; the first took for himself the older generation of Jews, the pious, the God-fearing; and the other - the urchins, the young crowd of pranksters, naughty children. When Yakov-Meir's cry was heard: “Into the shul!” Sabbath eve and especially on holiday eves, in the High Holy Day season, interrupting the middle of the work week, the grey town Jews, worried about business, would draw fresh breath, cheered up, consecrated. Doors would begin to squeak, lights would appear bright and sparkling in all the windows, Jews in their most beautiful clothes would begin to gravitate to the shul-place, among them Zalman Rusenevitcher with the big eyebrows and Mikhal-Benyaminkes the wide-bellied, both of whom awakened particular interest among the children.

And when, on the other hand, Mordecai-Blintze would appear in the street, dressed in his uniform with the brass hat on his head, in a parade of firemen, and he would make a blast with his horn, we children would pour out into the street, leaving behind our unfinished games, and run to him, experiencing “a great moment” of the “exaltation of the soul”...

Both of them, Yakov-Meir the shul-caller and Mordecai-Blintze the trumpeter, we children would, of course, industriously imitate every day of the year ...

Our “Hakafos”

We youngsters were envious of the grownups and developed our own “Hakafos” version. When and where did we observe it, our special “Hakafos”? - on Thursday, the observance [all-night study -Tr] nights, when we would have to, as it were, repeat what we had learned in the Yeshiva during the whole week, in the House of Study, after which, when our eyes would begin to stick from fatigue in the sleepless night and we had to figure out some way to strengthen ourselves against the evil impulse of wanting to sleep, then we would observe our special “Hakafos”.

Each of us would take in hand an overturned lectern and would start circling around the bima, singing in the Hakafos tune the rather different version we had devised. We would shout out and honor with tributes all the eminent men of the town, in alphabetical order, and we would thus circle and sing until the Yeshiva supervisor Eliyahu Bonde would run in breathlessly and berate us.

And I still remember the lyrics of our special “Hakafos”:

- Alter Bonde - hoshiya na, Berel-Baruch Meir's - hatzlicha na, Gedalia Dode's - anenu, b'yom koreinu. And so on, in accordance with the order of the alphabet:

- Dodka Mikhale's - hoshiya na, Hoshea the rattle - hatzlicha na, Velvel Motte Barushka's - aneinu, b'yom koreinu.

And after: Zundel Gedalia's, Chaim Boshe, Tovia der bonder, Yude with the little socks, Katviel the Horoditscher, Leibchik the teacher, Mendel Savan, Nachman Yellin, Shimmel Baruch-Meir's, Ozer Borek, Pinya Avraham-Yakov's, Tsadok the teacher, Kalman-Jossel the gaiter-maker, Reuven the baker, Shmuler the lawyer, and to the end - s - s - s - students, sisu l'simcha, b'talmud Torah [be joyous in the study of Torah -Tr] !


[Page 112]

The Beloved Brook

by Berta Turbowitz-Brevda, Tel Aviv

Translated by Andrew and Stephen Warshall

When I was still a child of nine or ten, I used to happily go with our [Christian] servant Zasya “on the wall” (the town rampart -Tr) to the brook. There she would rinse the wash and I would play, stretch out on the hill (the only hill in Lechowitz) between the ruin and the brook, warm myself in the sun, soaking in the fresh morning air. From time to time I would jump into the brook, grabbing little fish with the enthusiasm of a scientist performing a successful experiment on the miraculous resuscitation of the dead: first, I would hold the fish until they became immobile, roll them in the sand and then rinse them off with water when wonder! - they would suddenly revive, squirm and move themselves...

Our “wall” had lots of pretty little corners filled with historical secrets. A lot of splendor was added to it by the apothecary's orchard with a pond from which the croaking of frogs would constantly carry.

One time I listened to a conversation between my older sister and her friends. The next evening they were going for an outing in a boat on the brook all the way to the “Fofleve”. All day long I was very agreeable to my sister and with particular effort did everything she asked of me. She, as usual, did not understand the real cause of such a change in my behavior. In the evening I said to her: “I also want to boat on the brook, darling, take me with you!”, and imagine my happiness: “Good, said she, you can come with us.” So immediately I was in the boat, my white puppy in my lap, my picture-perfect sister and her girl friend on one side and a pair of male friends with a mandolin on the other. The beautiful quiet evening, the blue water of the brook, the blue sky, the singing of the girls and the strumming of the mandolin - from all of them my joy was so great and strong, not to be expressed, and thus we were soon at our destination, the “Fofleve”! - we all jump out and find ourselves right in the middle of a sea of many-colored flowers. It was so hard to leave that sea, we spent a considerable time there, having fun and twining garlands. On the way back, a storm arose over the brook, our boat threw itself from side to side as in a real sea. But we survived it with only a scare, returning home in peace to our very worried parents with our hearts still beating hard - not from fear, only from our overwhelming good fortune ...

Oh, our beautiful, little brook! It would sometimes justify its name: “Viedma” (witch) and devour a human sacrifice ... My parents once told me a true story: once, on a quiet winter evening, a whole bunch of boys and girls went out quite cheerfully to skate; everything seemed safe and calm. But suddenly there was heard a crack ... and right afterward was heard a scream: Help! All efforts were in vain, and several of the once-happy group were drawn in, oy vay !, under the ice - it was for them their last moment of a happy life ...

Our brook also brought material for our town to use and was an important economic asset for a lot of Jewish families: in the winter under the ice of the brook were stored and preserved pickled cucumbers. Lechowitz cucumbers had a reputation throughout the region, and there was a great demand for them as far as Minsk and Vilna, in the best big city restaurants.

Our little, beautiful brook would also sometimes play tricks. Small as it appeared to be, it would often in springtime become much larger. The rushing water would flood an ever-greater distance over its banks and it would become - as we used to call it - “the Lechowitzer Volga”. More than once a keg of pickled cucumbers from under the ice of our flooding brook was found as far away as Slonim, Pinsk, even Danzig ...

And what of our brook now, when Jewish Lechowitz is, woe to us, no longer to be found?! ...


There are three photographs illustrating this memoir, captioned:

  1. Nechama Brevda - the mother of Berta Turbowitz
  2. The boat on our brook by the “kortsch” (stump)
  3. The brook in winter. A goy loads ice on a wagon


[Page 128]

Curious tales of Lechowitz

by Nisan Tukachinsky

Translated by Andrew and Stephen Warshall

Dedicated to my dear friend Moshe Cohen, Miami Beach, Florida


1. Reb Meir Manias and the nobleman

Reb Meir Manias once tried to teach a nobleman the alphabet. There once stopped near Frumke Naftalike's shop an exquisite lordly carriage. In the carriage - a noble. There sat a sort of count twirling his long mustache and looking haughty. As usual there soon gathered together around the carriage a group of idlers. Reb Meir Manias was also among them.

- Well, Rabbi Meir, what is the alphabet about?

- That you will soon see!

And forthwith Reb Meir jumps next to the carriage, bows quite humbly before the noble, and asks a question:

- Can his most noble lordship not tell me, what is “kametz tsadik” ?
{These Hebrew signs are pronounced “tso”. -Tr}

The nobleman didn't understand a word.

-Co? , he asked Reb Meir.
{This Polish word, meaning “what?”, is also pronounced “tso”. -Tr}

- You see, Jews, “kametz tsadik” he already knows. What remains? Wait, don't run away!

The people laugh and enjoy themselves.

2. The lucky young man

Yoshinka Meir Manias, or Yoshinka the mountaineer, when he would meet a young man with a big nose, used to say: This youngster, if it please God, should have a good old age.

-Why, Reb Yoshe?

-He has, may there be no evil eye, what is needed to support spectacles.

3. Yoshinka and the idol

On the rebleh(?) stood a stone idol. It was some kind of memorial, nobody knew for what or whom it represented or who had put it there or how long it had been standing. When a Lechowitzer would pass by, he would say three times: “sheketz t'shaktzenu” {“you shall utterly detest it” -Deuteronomy 7:26 -Tr} and give a good spit.

For Yoshinka the idol was a source of jokes.

A wedding. Yoshinka collects donations.

- Give something toward a pair of pants for a poor boy. The unfortunate one stands in the rain and cold with bare thighs. And Yoshinka makes as well a pitiful, pious face, so people give with a generous hand.

In a short while, Yoshinka carries to tha table flasks of liquor, wine. These he has bought with the donations. The naked boy - it is the idol.

Again a wedding.

Yoshinka collects more donations. Now it is for an old bachelor, who must have a poor wedding for he hasn't a peruta. The public gives again. The end is the same. L'chaim tovim v'shalom.

The old bachelor - it is the idol.

4. Yoshinka reproaches a goy

The first day of Succos after the morning prayers. Jews are starting to leave the shul, tallis bag under the arm, children carrying forward their father's lulav with the silver esrog -box. People are conversing easily, one invites another for honeycakes, for piroshkes.

Suddenly there appears - right in the middle of the market, near a shed, a wagon of branches. By the wagon, leaning on the whip wand, a goy. He is probably waiting for customers.

That's all Yoshinka needs to see! Asking nothing, what he did to the goy !

- Aren't you ashamed of yourself, you goyishe head that you are? When did you bring branches to the town? Are you crazy from drink? When it is our holiday, hah? And so on. He berated the goy until, poor fellow, he didn't know where to bury himself for shame. He swears, he crosses himself:

- Believe me, folks, forget it, dalebukh, zavu-usha ! The devil snared me! He grabs with his fists at my heart.

Yoshinka then pardoned him.

- But remember, again this shouldn't happen, do you hear?

The goy turns the horse back. Be sure: in future he would know when we Jews have a holiday.

5. Yoshinka's cure for toothache

Take a mouthful of milk. Bang your head against the wall until the milk becomes butter.

The toothache goes away one-two.

6. Yoshinka in the Koidanover shul

Yoshinka was a Koidanover chasid. When praying he had the habit of swaying about, forward and back, hands clasped behind him under the tallis..

His piercing look gropes all around. He seeks a chance to play some sort of prank.

Flies, in the middle of the first slikhos, a handkerchief on a head, be sure - a bit of Yoshinka's doing. Although he stands and rocks piously in his place.

Yom Kippur when kneeling - that was already for him a score - Leipzig the milkman, from Potapovitch, thus snared in his tallis, as - the leader of the service is already ahead, far beyond the kneeling - Leipzig still bends forward on the ground unable to get out his hands or feet. Youngsters crack from laughter. Older ones slap the reading stands: Well, ay, aw, feh! Yoshinka, whom nobody notices, stands and rocks, like a tsadik.

7. Yoshinka on Simchas Torah

One is called up to the Torah and begins to say the brakhas : asher bokhar bonu mikol ... Yoshinka whispers to him from behind ... mikol am v'rommonu mikol loshon ... the Jew wanders, poor fellow, into the festival kiddush. The young ones laugh. The old ones hit the stands.

Simchas Torah afternoon. The leader of the service is a little bit intoxicated. He comes to the end: “v'imru amen”. Yoshinka has already tuned up the congregation and the shul resounds with an “amen” with the before-Hallel nigun. The service leader wanders into the Hallel. Yoshinka jumps behind him, gives him a pull by his long coat ....

Whoa! Koda zales ? (Where are you wandering?) Like a colt. Everybody laughs.

8. Simchas Torah in the streets

It was nothing for a such a master as Yoshinka to sneak out the cholent, kugels, tsimmeses from the ovens. For him it was nothing, the concealment, the locks. Even if the housewife had ten heads. Everybody knew of it, but what could the poor ones do?

A housewife invites guests. She wants to honor them with a little piece of cold tsimmes-fleysh or fat stuffed helzel - she goes to the oven or to the pantry, oy! a break! Not a sign! Yoshinka's work.

A bunch of Koidanover chasidim go on the streets on Simchas Torah. They sing, they dance, one chasid in the lead, in each hand a bit of challah. He dances and pretends to clap the bits together. Yoshinka hauls stolen kishke, helzel, tsimmes-fleysh, breaded gizzards, shares every piece. Thus, singing and dancing, they go from house to house. Everywhere they are welcomed with wine, with liquor, with all good things.

Nosan Aharon-Leibes dances on the tables. That is his specialty. He hops about and yells: Holy sheep! A group of young men answers: Meh! Around and around the tables dance chasidim, hands clasping a neighbor's shoulder, a chain! They sing: v'shom na'aleh v'nireh v'nishtakhaveh l'fanekhoh!! Sisu v'simchu v'Simchas Torah !! Chai - Life!

9. Yoshinka and Aharon-Itcha the saloonkeeper

One Simchas Torah Yoshinka played a curious prank on Aharon-Itcha the saloonkeeper. If one recalls it, he has to laugh.

A little before ma-ariv, at the end of Simchas Torah. Suddenly, it is realized: after today no more Reb Aharon-Itcha! Ay, ay, ay, thus to forget, feh!

And the whole shul of chasidim releases itself, singing and dancing, to him, to Reb Aharon-Itcha.

As is customary in a saloon, Reb Aharon-Itcha's main room is big and spacious. Opposite the door, a big buffet with glass doors, near the buffet a counter. In the counter a drawer for money and over the drawer in the counter board a slot into which are thrown the takings of silver and copper coins.

Immediately upon arriving at Aharon-Itcha's place, Yoshinka shuffled up to the cash drawer. Found there a silver half-ruble. In a second Yoshinka is already dancing on the table next to Nosan Aharon-Leibes: - “There is no god like our God - ayn kelohaynu ! no lord like our Lord, ayn kadonaynu ! no king like ours .... Rabbi Aharon-Itcha! Furnish the table! Today I pay cash!” And Yoshinka throws the half-ruble into the air and catches it like a magician.

Aharon-Itcha responds. Cash, which is not so common. And on the table appeared: liquor, wine, fish and all good things. Aharon-Itcha receives payment for everything with silver half-rubles. Once Yoshinka pays, once Moshe-Mordecai pays, once Ahre the scribe, once Nosan Aharon-Leibes ... Aharon-Itcha serves; Pesya-Chane, his wife, serves; Male, his daughter, serves;Shlomo Aharon-Itche's [son] serves. What was lacking in the house, they brought up from the ice cellar: heaps of gizzards, heaps of griebenes, thighs, helzels, cold beer foaming in copper quarts, which are narrow at the top and broad at the base. The people eat and drink, sing and dance. Nosan Aharon-Leibes cries: Holy sheep! Points with his hand at Aharon-Itcha - why do you remain silent, Aharon-Itcha, yell, beast, meh!! Aharon-Itcha is full of rapture. Such a fortune, such a fortune, a paying customer, and after a full year ...

But when Aharon-Itcha went the next morning to count his cash, he found in the drawer no more than a half-ruble - the same half-ruble he threw in on the eve of the holiday ....

Now he remembered the paid-in half-rubles he threw into the slot yesterday ... Yes, he remembers also that he saw too much of Yoshinka going around the counter ...

Go catch a cat over water! ....


There is one photograph, illustrating the third tale, captioned: the idol


[Page 132]

The Bund is Triumphant

by Nisan Tukachinsky

Translated by Andrew and Stephen Warshall

1905. A debate between Bundists and Zionists. Already the sides have been arguing for two successive hours. Each side wants to prove that its teaching is the best. Finally, the Zionists have somehow caught the Bundists by some trick of words and presently the Bundists will be conquered. The Zionists already see victory very close. Their faces shine with happiness.

Suddenly a voice is heard from the Bundist side:

- Let me, I will soon skewer them, they will soon be scratched by me!

This is said by the “babbling child” - a young shoemaker, a latutnik and an immense shlimazel. He is always the first to grab the glue.

- Listen, bourgeois, you want a kingdom, an entirely Jewish kingdom, is that what you want? - he asks the Zionist.

- Yes.

- Well, and in your kingdom would one be allowed to eat pig?

- God forbid!

- Well, and would one be allowed to raise pigs?

- Also not.

- Tell me then, my wise one, where in your kingdom would one get hog bristle for cobbler's thread?

The Zionist does not know what to answer.

A blow. The Bundists have won. Bravo!


[Page 133]

Faivel Rivkin hits Nikolai

by Nisan Tukachinsky

Translated by Andrew and Stephen Warshall

Dedicated to my dear cousins: the brothers Shual, Shlomo, and Yakov Tukachinsky, Shanghai - New York

When I recall this story, a doubt appears in my heart, whether I have not made a mistake? Maybe the whole tale is a dream, or maybe I have borrowed it from a story book? Indeed, from where could a 16-year-old Lechowitz brat, a grandchild of Yankel the slaughterer, have gotten such power, such chutzpah, such boldness? To appear publicly in broad daylight before a crowd of 10,000 goyim, keep them electrified for two solid hours, openly ridicule Nikolai, and in order his ministers, the nobles, and who is omitted? Now you must see the brat, how he is standing in the middle of the market on a high wagon, head held high, one foot a little forward, left hand by his side, the right stretched out, Napoleon, truly the Napoleon of Lechowitz!

And the goyim ? Amazed, with mouths half open, in dead silence they swallow literally every word which he, Faivel Shlomo Yankel the slaughterer's, lets out of his mouth. Only from time to time would he pause, when a spontaneous thunder “Pravilna - correct! ! Molodets! {Sharp fellow! - Tr} “ would wrench itself from a thousand hearts and roll over the sea of heads and far around and around.

- The forests of the nobles rot, versts of forests! Should one of you try to take but a splinter away from the forest to warm the soul of your babies! What would they then do to him? Into prison they would throw him! They would put him on trial! He is a thief! Is it not so?

- Pravilna !!! T-r-u-e!

And when Faivel has made his last outcry: - Well, brothers, I have ended! When he has jumped down from the wagon - my God, what a trick has he played! A forest of red flags, made of handkerchiefs, tied to whiphandles, to shaft-braces, to shafts, a sea of people is released, singing through the Sanitarskegasse to the east wall...

A clamor, a noise, a yell, a scream! Exactly as if someone has stepped on the tail of a thousand dogs. Singing as if at a burial, the - as in a goyishe wedding - the main in-laws - the Jews - want to outyell the goyim, they sing clearly revolutionary songs: - Hey, hey, daloy {down with - Tr} the police, daloy the Emperor of Russia! Other Jews sing in Yiddish: - Railroads have we considered? We travel on them, sure, when the worker makes a creation, the capitalist has a scourge ...

- To the Monopoly, to the Monopoly! - Suddenly are heard voices, to the Monopoly!! And at that point the real “comedy” begins. Each goy wants to be first ...

Right in the middle of the market, near Israel Moshkovsky's, on the wall hangs over the front door a broad green sign; on the sign with big yellow letters an inscription: “Kazyonaya, vinaya, lavka”; that is the state liquor store. From the middle of the sign looks down a yellow two-headed czarist eagle.

You go up the little stairs and when you open the door, there is a loud noise. You must take off your hat, because from the wall over the shelves there looks at you a bad portrait of Nikolai himself. On the shelves - flasks, as in an apothecary's: neatly grouped - large to large, small to small. All with labels- white, red, green, gold. The labels all have eagles. The seller - such conceit - what one sees only in a high priest or at least a minister: he barely favors you with a glance. If you want to drink your liquor on the premises, may God be watchful and protective - you are not allowed to. Nikolai is looking from the portrait!...

***

The doors and windows of the Monopoly were shut. They run to the butchers' shops across the way, take a hatchet and go to break the shutters. Suddenly from somewhere springs out the Lechowitz policeman Zakharowitz. He throws himself on the crowd, waves with a naked sword to the right and to the left, a whole mishmash. Goyim run away, Jews fire off revolvers. The Jews understand - this is a fake: Zakharowitz wants a medal from Nikolai, so he pretends to wave [his sword]. The Jews shoot into the air. A minute - Zakharowitz is already gone. Then began the real game. Through the broken windows goyim pile themselves, one atop the other ... enough to produce constipation. One has to drag the undermost out by the feet, like [birthing] calves. Afterward, creeping out the back with liquor - still worse, for every goy has become quite fat: bottles in their shirts, bottles in their trousers, bottles in all their pockets. The bottles break. Rivers of liquor leak from the goyim. Bloody from glass, bruised,scratched they were finally pushed outside. Wet as from a bath, they drag themselves through the streets of Lechowitz. But there they meet a new trouble. Imagine a fat goy opposed by a lean one, who has not yet visited the Monopoly and starts a fight: the skinny one wants to take the liquor away from the fat one. Around them appears a pool from broken bottles. And both are soon lying with their faces in the puddle and sip the liquor which flows from the shirt front... Soon you see the two former enemies in friendly embrace, and drunken voices are heard in the air.

Late in the evening it became still in the town. What remains of Nikolai's Monopoly is crushed shelves and heaps of little pieces of glass.


Later, when Nikolai is a little more in charge, an order appears: to arrest the robbers and take back the liquor. For this purpose are appointed a police commissioner with constables. This however was about as helpful as a cupping glass for a dead man. From every town the goyim would bring back the police commissioner and his constables dead drunk in a wagon, drunk from the liquor thay had confiscated.

Well, and our Faivel?

Faivel, poor fellow, had to escape with his bones from Lechowitz and seek safety in the free country of Columbus.


There are two photographs illustrating this memoir, captioned:

  1. Faivel Rivkin (seated); his friend Alter Loss (standing)
  2. Left, under the second balcony, was the “Monopoly”. (The house with the first balcony - is Nechama Raisel's inn. On the right is the house of Alter Bonde - with the enclosed balcony.


[Page 136]

The Revolving Ten Rubles

by Nisan Tukachinsky

Translated by Andrew and Stephen Warshall

This event occurred at the end of Yom Kippur in the year 1905. We have just broken the fast and opened the store. We settle ourselves and chat, when suddenly - voices: in the street there is a sound of running. Suddenly somebody bursts in and yells to my father: Reb Moshe Mordecai, they are hitting your Shebsel!

When we ran there, to the scene of action, it was already all over. We learned, however, that Shaya, Lemke-Daykhes, had for some reason been fighting with my brother Shebsel, why, nobody knows. In a while my brother comes home. Not so terrible. He got a smack, gave a smack, but bearable.

A couple of days later, there come to us a pair of young men and demand ten rubles from my father. For what? Because, they say, my brother hit their fellow party member, the Zionist Socialist Shaya-Lemkes. The penalty has been judged against my father, they say, by the court of the Zionist Socialists.

In those days ten rubles was quite a sum. But what could one do? Start something with a revolutionary party! My father takes out a 10-ruble coin and gives it to the young men. A beautiful, clean conclusion.

In another couple of days there appears the town strong man Nota Katzap with yet another youth - both Bundists. - Good, morning, good year. For what reason would Nota say good wishes?

- You gave the SS-niks ten rubles?

- Yes.

- For what?

- Their court demanded it.

- We will bring you back the ten rubles! Tomorrow you will have them!

The next day at ten o'clock at night, they are there. They hand my father the ten rubles. My father is happy. Nota and his friend are not however in a hurry to leave.

- You want to say something?

- Something is coming to us for our trouble.

- How much is coming to you?

- Ten rubles ...

My father said not a word. He gave Nota the ten rubles...

Fittingly earned, not so?


[Page 137]

A Socialist for a week

by Nisan Tukachinsky

Translated by Andrew and Stephen Warshall

Dedicated to my best young friend Dr. Y.D.Mintz, Mexico

God in heaven! From where does Sinai know so many crazy words? In my life I never heard such a thing!

Sinai, Chaim-Dovid the shoemaker's 15-year-old grandson, from Mislobozer Street, is giving us an “agitation”; he is organizing us into a Kleyne SS soviet {a cell of Zionist-Socialist Youth -Tr}. We are a group of 5-6 grandchildren. Almost all of one age - 14 to 15 years old. All - friends, all - taught by the same teachers. In that time, in 1905, every grandchild belonged to some party: the Kleyne SS, the Kleyne Bund, the Zionists.

For a long time in silence we follow our friend Chaim-Dovid, whose father is a furrier by Lemchikh in the wall. He is in the Kleyne Bund. He wants to tell us to join the Kleyne Bund. Sinai, apparently, has more luck. By the way, the SS is closer to our hearts: despite being a more conservative party - to the SS belong Malke Berkowitz, Shaya Gavza, Shmuel Shaya Bussel, etc.

We have wanted already for some time to have the “agitation”. Sinai, however, kept putting everything off. One must, he says, be careful so “the police should not catch us”.

When I arrived, to the train, near Mislobozer kiosk, I already met there Abremele Lev, Yosefke Mazie, Yekhiel Yellin. Each of them has come by a different route - “the police should not catch them”. I can understand nothing, why should the police want to catch me? I surely come here often - to pick berries, to cut willow twigs. Never have I even thought about the police wanting to catch me. But since Sinai says so, perhaps he knows. And the fact that I do a thing which “the police can catch me for it” pleases me especially...

To my friends I have said not a word. Nor they to me. Everybody's face is so secretive, so earnest. A little sinking of the heart, it would seem. Who knows? A difficulty with the police...

I exert all my wits. I want to understand what Sinai is saying. But I can't. More than half I understand absolutely not at all. He pours out crazy words, all of which end with either “ation” or “ism” - agitation, emancipation, concentration, socialism, capitalism, I haven't the least idea!

From his whole agitation, what I clearly knew was that quickly all the money in the world would find itself in the hands of only 2-3 people. Everyone else would be proletariat. Then one would have to perform a trifle: take the money from the three rich people, throw it into the sea, and it's done - we have socialism. And socialism, he says, is a very good thing. What Sinai says, maybe he knows. But, what connection the whole story has to me, Nissel Moshe Mordecai's, that I have not yet chewed over. But to ask? Feh!

Afterward Sinai has explained in ordinary language what are all our assignments in the Kleyne SS. The main thing, he says, one must have a naheyke. A naheyke with an iron glove. And on the spot he gave us a lesson, how to make the naheyke and where to get the iron glove. In a leather tube, he says, one sews up a pound of lead and attaches a wooden handle. And it is finished. You have a naheyke.

In the morning I already have a naheyke with an iron glove. I am already a true SS...

The second Shabbos dusk I have already proudly walked with my friends forward and back on the “turf” of the SS; it was down Pinsk Street, behind the mills. Heh, heh, I am worthy to be in the company of big people in the party! Who is like me? I have already, by the way, nibbled at several words ending with “ation” and “ism”. I bang them out in a loud voice - so that all may hear...

For Havdala I recalled that we must already go home and together with my five friends I leave the “turf”.

We were already near Feigele Avraham Yakov's house in Pinsk Street when suddenly - trakh, trakh!Naheykes rain on us from all sides... There is heard the voice of Chaim-Dovid the furrier's: Aha, Zionists, packed! Packed up, bourgeoisie!...

And without my naheyke which lies forgotten in my pocket...

When I came to myself in bed, I don't know. Three weeks I lay sick a wreck, a slaughtered one.

When I got well, I already didn't want to know any more of Sinai, of the SS, of naheykes.

Thus I had my Socialism quickly “knocked out” of my head ...


{This memoir is illustrated with a photograph: The windmills - silent witnesses of the Lechowitz revolutionary-cauldron.}


[Page 140]

The Rescued Sefer Torah

by Nisan Tukachinsky

Translated by Andrew and Stephen Warshall

Dedicated to my good friend Rabbi Moshe Aharon Mikhlin, Chicago


1915. The Germans are invading Russia. Every day there continues through Lechowitz a stream of covered wagons. Without a beginning, without an end. Refugees fleeing from deep in Poland. They flee from the war. They flow through our village to the Slutsk highway.

Whenever an axle breaks or a horse collapses, the entire stream halts. Goyim quickly jump down from the wagons to drag aside the broken wagon or the dead horse and the stream starts up again.

Lechowitz is already used to this. On nobody does it now make any impression.

One day, it was at 10 o'clock in the morning, suddenly the line of wagons stands still! From a particular place are heard curses, cries - heavens open! Goyim jump down from the wagons. In the air wave whiphandles, shaft-braces, shafts. Jews: shopkeepers, butchers, hostlers - all run to the place. And there one sees: a tall goy stands on a wagon, thrashes his horse with the whip, yanks the reins, swears with deadly curses. But his horse - doesn't budge! What is going on there?

Several Jews managed to penetrate into the thick of it and there they saw - Father in heaven! Who would have known it? who could have predicted this, that Rabbi Mikhal Rabinowitz, the most gentle, the kindest, the son-in-law of the wealthy Avraham Yakov, that he alone should be the culprit in the whole mess? Now look! Sweat glued by the Lord to his forehead, lips bloodied, his long coat torn, his clenched hands twisted in the horse's bridle as in a tefillin strap, there dangles Rabbi Mikhal, hanging and dragging the horse's head down to the ground! And sounds, queer hoarse sounds, can be heard from his mouth. “You must give it to me, scoundrel! Here, the Torah! You will not move from this place!”

And when he saw Jews:

“Here, here, brothers, rescue the Torah!”

For a moment it is as though a thunderbolt has struck the Jews on the head. Rabbi Mikhal? He, who was always afraid of a fly? Rabbi Mikhal who, his whole life, knew only one path - the way from home to the House of Study and back again! What is he doing here? But as soon as the Lechowitzer Jews hear the words: TORAH! RESCUE THE TORAH! they jump nearer - Rabbi Mikhal, what are you saying? Where Torah, what Torah?

- There, Jews, there, go quickly, by the goy on the covered wagon! - he squeezed out the words and immediately fainted.

In an instant several hostlers replaced Rabbi Mikhal by the horse. Other Jews went up to the goy's covered wagon. - In truth, the wagon is in fact covered with the parchment of a Sefer Torah ...

At another time such a goy might have been killed by the Lechowitzer Jews, as he deserves. But in that time, God forbid!

Who knows how the story would have ended if a butcher had not hit upon an idea - buy it up. And the goy did not permit himself to act too reluctant: it was apparent with whom he was dealing. It lasted a short while - the goy received a fiver with a sack in addition - and the Torah was transferred to Jewish hands ...

In my whole life I have never seen anybody so happy as Rabbi Mikhal Rabinowitz at that time. Tired, pale as chalk, but with a holy fire in his good blue eyes and with a contented smile on his bruised lips, he went with measured little steps on his customary way, on the way to the House of Study.

The Torah, now already wrapped, covered with a bridal veil of new velvet, pressed to his heart like his own only child.

The whole gathered multitude of Jews followed Rabbi Mikhal in dead silence ...


[Page 172]

Shuls of Lechowitz

by Alter Brevda of Tel Aviv

(written on his sickbed, shortly before his death)

Translated by Andrew and Stephen Warshall

The Kalte Shul was an architectural rarity, not only to us, but renowned in the whole neighborhood. Over the door was written the age (was it necessary to point to the indication of the construction date?) from 500 years back. To come into the shul one had to descend 5-6 little steps, to fulfill what is said: “ from the depths I call to you Lord”. Right across from the door was the great circular bima, for the reading of Torah, and over it was a canopy with a carved giant eagle within it. In its beak the eagle always held a cake. That was the eruv, in order to prevent the Lechowitzer Jews from desecrating the Shabbos, Heaven forbid, to have to carry a burden on the Shabbos. The rabbi alone used to prevent, that the cake should not be too old or moldy, and he used often to change it for a fresh one. The aron kodesh, in the eastern wall, with its powerful height held up the ceiling. It was composed of a whole network of rarely beautiful carvings. At every opening of the aron kodesh doors flew out doves-cherubim, which bore a delicately carved keter torah. A little higher, two other doves held the Crown of Priesthood: two priestly hands held up with their fingers as during the Priestly Blessing. And even higher glistened with its splendor the Crown of Kingship. On both sides of the aron kodesh were set in the earth four-cornered stone tables and on right and left there were menorahs on them. The lectern was decorated with short verses and abbreviations. The ceiling of the shul was like a great basin painted in sky blue, and on it painted the sun, moon, and stars, as well as also all twelve tribes with their flags and symbols, woven through with various flowers and with verses. By the ledge of the walls were a lot of little candlesticks. On Chanukah and Simchas Torah candles were lit in all of them to achieve an appearance of fiery illumination. All four walls were covered with carved texts of prayers and supplications and of angels and seraphim-names. On the western wall, over the door - a pair of large lions with open mouths. Over us children - I remember - they would always cast fear, just as in the verse carved nearby: “A lion roars, who shall not fear?”. Our Kalte Shul was the real “small Beis haMikdosh”. When you would come in to this our shul from outside, from the small dark little houses, and set eyes on all the splendor, you used to begin to understand the sense of “this is nothing but the house of God” ...

And as the shul so also its gabais and clergy: beauty leads to beauty. The two gabais of those whom I remember: - Yakov Layzer, a Jew, a scholar of uncommonly stately appearance, and Eliyahu Liess, my brother-in-law, a great scholar, the Cantor Lippe was known as the pious maskil (enlightened one) of that time.

2

The Groyser Beis Midrash was a large building with vaulted immense doors, where was the place of study for Chevra Sha”s, Chevra Mishnayos, Chevra Ayin-Yakov, Chevra Tehillim. There all strata of the congregation, from scholars to ordinary Jews, used, as they say, to concentrate on studying and saying Torah for its own sake. From among the eminent members of that Groyser Beis Midrash should here be remembered Hirshel der Schreiber (his official family name: Mishkowsky), who received his name “schreiber” in recognition of his talent for writing written letters just like printing. He printed out and ornamented the walls of the Beis Midrash, between all twelve windows, with texts of various prayers, blessings of the Torah, counting. With pithy printed texts was provided also the lectern, over which the eternal light burned constantly, day and night.

3

The Schustershe {Shoemakers'} Shul, the Schneidershe {Tailors'} Shul, two Chasidic meeting houses, - one where in its time prayed the great R. Aharle, and the other of the Koidanover Chasidim - all of these were also to be found in the shul-court. For the sake of completeness one must also recall the Beis-Yakov Shul, which was erected through the rich man of the town, R. Avraham-Yakov Kaplan, a Jew a great scholar and master of charity with a branched-out beautiful family. His son Pinye took for son-in-law the Pinsker Rabbi's brother, a famous son of Torah, who in himself combined Torah and enlightenment (he, that son-in-law of Pinye's, Tzizling, with his children and children's children, Pinye's grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, live with us in the land of Israel and occupy a distinguished place in local social life).


This chapter has three illustrations:

  1. The Kalte Shul in Lechowitz (drawing by the author)
  2. The Schneidershe Shul (right), left - ruins of the burned Beis Yakov Shul (after the first World War)
  3. The great Beis Midrash in Lechowitz

Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Lyakhovichi, Belarus     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Mike Kalt

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 23 Mar 2006 by LA