Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki From her childhood our mother was aware of Jewish cultural ideals. The first person who fostered that feeling was her father, Reb Benyomen OBM, our grandfather. He read to our boba Sheinke Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers and journals. Our grandfather was, clearly, a pious Jew, but he was also an enlightened person and subscribed to the newspapers Hacfira, Hamelits as well as Der frint (The friend), which were published at the time in St Petersburg. When grandma was taking a rest from daily chores and even when she worked, grandfather read to her the most important items about the world and sometimes less weighty items. And on Sabbath eve and Sabbath he read to her Nochim Sokolow's essays. He read in a clear diction and tone. When he noticed that his daughter Yachnele (as he called our mother) was paying attention to her father's reading, he would put a stronger emphasis on his words. The readings created in mother a desire to read. Our mother was a good, pleasant reader. The father, Reb Benyomen, hired for his children in Kotlovo (a village 14 km from Novogrudok) good teachers. They thought his children general studies, Hebrew, and Chumash, and the boys Rashi and Gemorah. Grandfather invited children from neighboring villages to attend the lessons, to build up the numbers. No matter how busy he may have been he would supervise the learning and teaching of the pupils. As it turned out, our mother was a good pupil. Each time visitors came they were astonished by the knowledge of the children. Grandfather would display his daughter Yachnele as an example of a child with good abilities. Our mother came to the States in 1905, when she was 11 years old. Here she obtained her general schooling and her Yiddish education. Our grandfather, who was a respected resident of Novogrudok, sent his children to the States because of repeated attacks by hooligans on smaller Jewish communities. He was looking for a country where his children would have a better future. In 1925 our mother began teaching Yiddish. She taught for 30 years. She was devoted to the cause of Yiddish education. Our father died when we were very young. Mother gave us a good Jewish education and instilled the respect for the Jewish traditions, for the Jewish people and for our national aspirations. Our mother new well and liked the Yiddish literature. She had an extraordinary feeling for, and understanding of, good poetry. She collected her favorite pieces. Her collection held hundreds of remarkable Yiddish songs. Our mother was also a busy writer, but she published little. She wrote episodes from her childhood, which showed the strong influence of her upbringing on her formative years. Our mother had a specific ideological attitude when she was speaking or writing in Yiddish. She had a liking of the Hebrew language. She believed that in time a world order would be established which would be built on the foundations of freedom and justice. From her earliest youth she had a strong feeling of tolerance for people who believed in ideals different to her own. In all her doings there was order and a system. When she retired from her teaching carrier, she handed over to YVO (Jewish Institute of Knowledge) her collections of festive songs, national, social, and folk tunes, also games, tales for children, and short essays arranged according to subjects and festivals. In the last few years of her life she was busy helping the editors of Pinkas Novogrudok. She did the work with enthusiasm and a sense of responsibility. If our mother undertook something, she was certain to finish it. Her word was her bond. Her correspondence with her Novogrudok compatriots was a nice chapter of her social activities. Her correspondence in the last few years of her life with Dovid Cohen, writer and teacher, the editor of Pinkas Novogrudok, is of certain historical value. It reflects mother's honesty and devotion. She kept up the correspondence to the last letter, which she received a day before she died.
Translated by O. Delatycki A tree fell we lost a young and friendly companion. Louie was born and raised in Novogrudok in a poor household. He did not have an elementary education. At the age of thirteen he was apprenticed to a blacksmith. To recompense him, God gave him a good soul and a warm heart. Louie was a man of the people who spread warmth and love. A friendly atmosphere always surrounded him. He spread the eagerness for communal work. Louie migrated to the States in 1913. Shortly after his arrival he involved himself with enthusiasm in communal work, and became an organiser in the Branch 146 of the Workers Circle. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Workers Home for the Elderly. He participated in the activities of the United Jewish Appeal, the Histadrut, and bonds for Israel. Louie was not a man of many words. He always donated to worthy causes. Louie held for 8 years the position of the chairman of the Alexander Harkavy Aid Committee. He did all he could to help refugees in their need. He participated in establishing in Israel the Loan Found for the Jews of Novogrudok. Louie was a trustworthy friend of Israel. He loved the Jewish people with all their faults. There are no bad Jews, he used to say, but only Jews that had bad luck--one should show understanding for people who had bad luck, one should show sympathy, consideration, and extend help. And Louie did provide help to many friends. His heart and hand were always open for everyone.
With the death of Louie Zlotnik, the Alexander Harkavy Aid Committee, Branch 146 of the Workers Circle, and all Jews from Novogrudok in New York lost one of their most devoted members. His communal work, his friendly, affable conduct, and his open handed generosity have left an indelible mark. The Jews of Novogrudok will always remember with respect the modest and good hearted Louie Zlotnik.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki He arrived in Novogrudok in 1925, and he worked as a lawyer. Gumener was one of the most outstanding individuals who participated in the communal activities in Novogrudok. He took part in many public affairs, and did not restrict himself by belonging to one organization. He was the head of a number of progressive societies and public institutions. He was a member of the city council of Novogrudok, as well as chairman of the committee of the orphanage. He was a member of the council of Shogday Melocho and the city library. He was a representative of the societies YAKAPA and ORT. He participated in the establishment of a furniture trade school at Shogday Melocho, where many youths were given an opportunity of becoming well qualified tradesman. He participated also in arranging evening classes for the working youth. And though Gumener stemmed from a russified family that spoke Russian at home, he had a great respect for, and love of, the Yiddish language, literature and culture. Gumener put a great effort into the foundation of a kindergarten and a Yiddish elementary school. He had to uphold the economic existence of the elementary school and fight its opponents from the right and left. Gumener was always a steadfast defender of the elementary school and the Yiddish tongue. Since his youth, he was a member of SS and later Friland (full English name Freeland League for Jewish Territorial Colonization). He always taught how to fight for national and social liberation. He was constantly following his chosen path with youthful vigour. He never allowed side issues or personal interests to influence him and was staunchly following the ideas in which he believed.
Ilia Gumener with his wife and daughter were murdered by the Germans on the 9th of August 1942 in a slaughter in Dvorets.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki Shmuel Salomon was born in Vilno in 1896. From his early youth Shmuel was displaying outstanding ability to learn. After he finished the Yiddish elementary school, he enrolled in the renowned Teachers Seminary, which he finished with distinction. The director of the Teachers Seminary sent him to Ekatarinoslav (now Dniepropetrovsk) to work as a teacher. He stayed there till the outbreak of the Russian revolution. He then returned to Vilno and was employed in the central administration of schools. His next appointment was to establish a Jewish elementary school in Danilevich, where he taught for 3 years. From there he was sent to Horodyshch and subsequently to Novogrudok. He was by than a well-experienced teacher with a love of the Yiddish language, and was teaching in the Yiddish elementary school and in the evening classes of Shogday Melocho. He displayed inordinate abilities to teach. Regardless of the difficult economic conditions, he did not give up his work. In that period Solomon was involved in a number of committees of institutions such as Shogday Melocho, TOZ, library etc. Shmuel had a liking for music. He organized a choir, and when the dramatic society would produce a new show, he would prepare songs and parodies on current events, both lyrics and melody. His parodies could be heard all over town. He was totally involved in the matter of schooling when the Jewish school changed from Fisher to Tarbut. At the change, he gave up education. He was very involved in the study of Jewish (Yiddish?) literature and took an active part in all Jewish cultural events. He was a lively promoter of the use of the Yiddish language and made certain that this tongue was not neglected. The main characteristic of Salomon was modesty. He never offended an opponent in a discussion. He was honored in the democratic circles. He was nominated by the democrats to the position of an alderman on the city council. In that capacity he responded to all problems under consideration. He was a good speaker and a correspondent for the Navaredkier Lebn. When the war started, Shmuel Salomon tried to escape to Russia. Having almost made it to Minsk, he was forced to return. He was among the first 52 Jews who were executed without reason by the Germans in the marketplace. Their bodies were taken to the Jewish cemetery and buried in a pit. Thus died Salomon, the cheerful singer and friend. Died the gifted poet who recited his parody on a buried little town. Alas, his parody became an appalling reality. Our town is now a cemetery. Who knows if even the cemetery exists. Who knows
(We can answer the above question. In 1952 the Soviets allowed the tombstones of the Jewish cemetery to be carted away by the local populace and used as foundations. On the deserted hill goats are grazing.)
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki Nobody could equal his devotion to the people who stemmed from Novogrudok. Where he obtained his information about Novogrudker, even of those living in distant Siberia, nobody knew. But the expression on his face gave him away today he is in a festive mood he has a new address. It is a hot summer's day and it is too hot to travel in the midday sun, let alone to walk in the sand. But Itzchak Gurvich is on the move, with his thick jacket under his arm, his face sweaty. His breathing is laboured, but the eyes are shiny. After a brief respite he exclaims I found her, one of Limon's daughters', she is in the depth of Russia. He had already sent her a parcel. It is no wonder that all those who settled a long time ago in Eretz Israel, not to mention newcomers, considered him their envoyto Novogrudok. They were all asking for his advice. The newcomers knew no other address. Many spent the first night in Israel in his home. Itzchak Gurvich had a good nature so typical of many of our townsmen. Though he cast his roots deep in Israel, he lived to his last breath in Novogrudok. The help for a survivor from Novogrudok was his first aim. One of his greatest pleasures was to chat about Novogrudok. He is remembered with love and admiration by all who knew him. It is natural that the loan fund of the Novogrudok committee, which assisted people in need over the years, carries the name of Itzchak Gurvich. His memory will linger in our hearts.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki The family consisted of two sisters Chana and Nachama and a brother Mandl. Chana and Mandl were well educated and were considered to belong to the intelligentsia. Nachama, who was also well educated, clever and businesslike, was the provider for the family. She managed the family business, which was a shoe shop. She assumed the part of a mother in the family Vager. Mandl and particularly Chana were good teachers. Mandl, as far as I know, was an adherent to socialism. The pupils and teachers of the gymnasium respected them. Nachama was honest and good hearted and sought contacts with ordinary people. The people of the town looked with approval on the engagement of Nachama, not with a member of the intelligentsia, but to a man who was working in her trade and was also a gifted artist. The theatre was one of the few diversions available in the gloomy days of the German occupation (the author writes of the German occupation in the First world war). It was destined by fate that the family Vager left Novogrudok and was spread to different parts of the world. Mandl went to Russia, where he worked as an engineer in Moscow. Chana lived in Vilno where she perished together with all of the Jewish community. Nachama found a new home in America. Nachama channelled all her efforts and love into the work of the Novogrudok Relief Committee. She conducted the correspondence with the Novogrudok committee in Israel. Her letters were filled with love and devotion to those who survived the Holocaust. Her work on the committee was her sacred duty. The death of Nachama was a great loss to the relief effort in America, and to all survivors from Novogrudok. May her memory remain with us forever.
Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil When the great granddaughter heard her parents talk about the very old grandmother, who passed away, she said with a child's seriousness: "you are mistaken, the grandmother did not die; she is asleep". There was some truth in it, all those who knew her believed that grandmother would go on and on to live her clean and beautiful life, that she would continue to sit on the veranda on clear days, follow with a merciful and loving look the children of the street, who now and then would glance at her in amazement - such an old woman!
The old woman arrived in Eretz-Israel more then 30 years ago, and lived in the home of her only daughter. She was then 70 years old.
In her hometown Novogrudok in Byelorussia she was one of the striking figures on the Jewish street. Simplicity and grace, loyalty and devotion added to her charm. Here, in the new land, she found that the weather was different. She observed the robust way of life of her grandchildren, natives of that land, and their interest in current events. The new surroundings influenced her and added to the old women's personality. She also knew the secret of silence. The two worlds - past and present - became combined in her soul and she loved them both.
Her memories of the distant days were full of anecdotes and humour. She told the story of the Turkish prisoners of war, who passed through the town and asked for "ak mak" (bread). The Russians ordered to give them nothing, but she disobeyed and fed them. "And when was it?" asked the grandchildren. "It was then, a long time ago" she answered.
She remembered the event when the Rabbi of Novogrudok, Rabbi Yitzchak Alchanan, before departing to accept the rabbinical chair of Kovna, blessed her, as a little girl, wishing her a long life. When asked how old she was she would answer with a smile: "I did not learn accountancy."
A hundred years old and she did not listen to the doctor, who told her that it was permitted for her to eat something on Yom Kippur . "Are you promising me that I will reach the next Yom-Kippur?" she asked and added that "the One who helped me to go through all the other fasts, will help me to go through this one too." She had the good fortune to take part in the elections to the "Knesset" twice and considered it a great Mitzvah.
The years burdened her, her back was bent, her hearing had diminished and she complained that the Cantors of today could not reach the volume of the voices of cantors of the past. " I could hear the trill then, but I can not hear it now" she told us. She brought a special material from home and secretly prepared her last garment. She was not afraid of death, the fate of all that were born is to be buried. She was happy to be buried in the soil of Israel. (She would not have "Chibut Kever" - beating in the grave - on the way from the Diaspora to Jerusalem or Israel?).
No wonder that her great granddaughter, who was much loved by her, could not accept her death. "Grandmother is asleep in her eternal sleep, our grandmother and mother", she told us.
Translated from Yiddish by Oskar Delatycki His father Eliyahu Ber was a chazan (cantor) and shochet (ritual butcher) in Zetl. He was liked and valued by all. Many remember his original tunes. The son lived in Novogrudok and was a timber merchant. He was a respected business man, whilst at the same time he was immersed body and soul in communal work. He was a member of the Kehile (Jewish self-governing body), a member of the committee of Hakodesh hospital, of the Chevre Kadishe (burial society) and Mojshev Skeinim (old people's home). Almost all of his spare time was spent visiting old people. He scrutinized the cleanliness of the establishment and its inhabitants. He introduced a weekly day of cleanliness. On that day the whole house [Mojshev Skeinim] was washed and cleaned. All old people had to bathe and clean all corners of the house. He was helping them in that task. He used to say in jest on such occasions I cleaned out today a cart load of sins. He meant by it that he removed all rags, which the old people kept and treasured, though they were of no use to them.
He liked a joke and a wise saying. He had a knack of solving all problems playfully and with ease. He never offended anyone and was liked by all. He had no enemies. Because of these attributes he was called upon often to act as arbitrator if altercations between business men, neighbours or married couples occurred. He always found a way to a peaceful solution of problems without offending anyone. At home he was always cheerful and smiling and therefore harmony always prevailed. His wife Bejlke was good and handsome and she always met her husband with a smile. If she saw good humour on his face, which indicated that a good piece of work had been done, a good outcome had been reached, a worthwhile arbitration had been concluded, she would meet him with a witty remark will they give you a pallet of wine for your troubles?. He was doing his work unsparingly when it was necessary. When the new Tarbut school was being built he put a lot of energy into the project. He was supervising, providing materials of construction and resources as if the school was his private possession. If he saw an injustice he was ready to put up a bitter fight. For example - he was the adherent of the Lubch rabbi [see p.129 The last of the rabbis by Yehoshua Yaffe] he was devoted to him body and soul and fought for him with all his might. He was a constant supplicant in the Shloss gass shul. Reb Alter would not tolerate a wrong doing against a Jew or a gentile. All remember the story of the cow. One market day Reb Alter was seen leading a cow to the market. Everyone looked at him in wonder. They asked what he was doing with a cow? He told them wait and see. He went to the market place and found a woman who was the wife of one of his workers. He told her: take the cow, it's yours. He explained: your husband works for me in the forest, I know that he spends his wages on liquor and let you and your children starve, so I started without him knowing it, to deduct every week a small part of his wages and saved up enough to buy the cow, here is the detailed account he said, handing over to her the record, take the cow home and feed your children. The farmers of the whole district repeated the story and esteemed his name.
Kaminiecki with thousands of others in the district was killed by the Germans on the eighteens day of Kislev Tov Shin Bet [8 December 1941].
Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil I see it as my duty to add to the number of personalities in our town before and after W.W.1, the image of my father Reb Shmuel Goldberg of blessed memory, who died on Kaf in the month of Adar 1922. He was chosen as a bridegroom for my mother from the Yeshiva of Lubch, where he had qualified as a Rabbi, but he did not practice as one. He joined the business of my uncle Reb Leib Boruchovich, learned slaughtering and Nikur in Minsk and was the first to introduce ñNikurî to our town.
Like all men of Torah, he knew how to divide his time between Torah and daily contact with people. In the late hours of the night, after midnight, one could hear his pleasant voice as he was learning a page of the Gmarah. He was also an enthusiastic Zionist and dreamt about going to Eretz-Israel. His daughter studied Hebrew and received a secular education. He subscribed to a Hebrew newspaper and distributed the Shekel. My father was among the studious people of Sha's and taught Gemarah at the Kloiz. Many members of the Kloiz were people revered in the community. I remember the dinners of Sha's, which were held at our house and became a celebration to all. My father had a good voice and during the holidays he acted as the Ba'al Musaf and Ba'al Hakriah Ve' Hatkiah in the synagogue. I was at the time a young girl of 10, yet I accompanied my father to hear him sing in front of the ark. I can still hear his melodious voice when the days of Atonement come close.
Father was the treasurer of the societies Gmilut Chesed and Maskil el Dal (welfare societies), which were established, in their time, by a number of great people including Mr.Gatzov and Leib Harakavy. He was whole-heartedly devoted to this modest enterprise, which gave loans with no interest to the needy. These people would come to our house after Sabbath to either return loans or to borrow money for their small businesses at the market. They were given a cup of tea and spent some time in a social atmosphere, discussing daily affairs.
The elderly and strict Mohel, Rabbi Danzig, kept an eye on talented men and trained my father to replace him. He was very gifted and his name as an expert Mohel became famous. On many Shabbats and Holidays he left his family and spent time in the villages for Brit-Milah.
Because of all of father's duties, mother had to assist him in their business. In his later years, when he was terminally ill, he still went on serving the community and never expected any reward. Father passed away at the age of 60. He was liked and revered by all his friends and many turned to him for advice.
Mother was lucky enough to come to Erets-Israel and lived with her daughter's family. She grew very old and lived to see her grandchildren and great grand children. (See the article Grandmother is asleep).
Those good Jews bequeathed to their children attributes, which helped them in their struggles in their new land.
The Jewish town and its good people were erased, but their memory will stay with us forever.
Translated from Yiddish by Oskar Delatycki On sleepless nights, when the thoughts take one over the seas and fields to the far lands and return to one's birthplace, to our town Novogrudok, which not so long ago pulsated with the life of Jews. Now there are only ruins, empty as a desert. There is no one there. The stones in the ruins are crying and the voices of our brothers are emanating from the bloody earth. And among all the voices I can hear my father calling with his voice full of love and warmth.
The figure of my father stands before my eyes, his smile, his penetrating look full of wisdom. This is how he looked when he was alive.
Since the early days of our childhood, as soon as we could comprehend, he implanted in us the love of knowledge and the love of Eretz Isroel. He was an active member of the Zionist organisation of Novogrudok. He mentioned frequently that if he had sons (he had three daughters) he would have wound up his possessions in Novogrudok and would have gone to Israel, but with young daughters this would be a difficult task.
Our house was a traditional Jewish home. It was a warm dwelling for everyone. Our mother a quite, reserved and noble soul met everyone with hearty friendship. Many of our friends who came to study in our high school, found in our house a warm home.
In our home we had a large Jewish library of the classics as well as many Hebrew books. In those days there was no Hebrew school in our town and we learnt Hebrew from the private teacher, Mr Auservitz. He was a bachelor from Korelich, very shy but very knowledgeable. In his quite, rasping voice he was finding for the children the sources of Hebrew literature.
My father had a serious problem where should his children continue their studies? At the time there was a Talmid Torah (which was not open to girls) and a Jewish primary school. The Polish primary school (powszechna) was not considered to be suitable. Due to his energy and strong will, and with the help of like minded supporters, the Tarbut school was started in 1923-24 (but see p.89, Hebrew Education in Novogrudok, By Moshe Steinberg-Sarig).
In the Tarbut school most subjects were taught in Hebrew, from arithmetic to geography. The first director of the Tarbut school was Korn and the teachers were Lidski, Pieresedski, Mrs Yorman, Gudsvirk, Chasn Rabinovich, who taught singing and the school doctor was Dr Marmurshtin. Later came the director Steinberg. Father had to conduct strong battles. The problems were created by the various political parties. But in time the opposition got used to the idea of the changes and they became resigned to it.
Large expenses were required to maintain the Tarbut school. The Tarbut School was situated in the upper story of Israelit's house. The City Council (magistrat) did not contribute to the upkeep of the school. The organisers had to find the means to maintain the school. This was the most difficult issue. In the beginning, the pupils came from middle class homes. It was not possible to charge high fees. There were also pupils who had to be assisted by providing them with books.
Father was not at a loss in those difficult times. He created a parent's committee of which he was the chairman. They tried to raise funds by different means: they brought to town the Chasn Sierota, as well as artists, lecturers etc. Thus the Tarbut School grew in size in time and became the centre of Zionist organisations and of the enlightened youth. But father did not rest. His dream was to build a new building to house the Tarbut school. His dream came to fruition. A splendid building with all facilities was erected with a large yard surrounding it. His joy was boundless. Even though father was very busy in his own business, he always had time for community affairs. He was a member of the merchant association, he was a member of the commission for rates. He was also respected in non-Jewish circles. His opinions were taken in consideration. He was the secretary of Chevra Kadisha (burial society) to his last day. Among other members of the Chevra Kadisha, it is worth mentioning Raphael Yoselevich the shoemaker, who was a fine, honest Jew, clever and good. And there was Leizer Izraelit the painter.
Father wanted us to be acquainted with a wide range of things. His cosy chats were full of good humour, wisdom and deep thoughts. I can hear his voice to this day. Those were the days when the big troubles were about to begin, when the German murderers have occupied Novogrudok and an order was given that Jews were to wear the yellow Star of David. I had sewn on the yellow patch to my father's jacket. My father burst into tears like a small child and said my child I am proud to be a Jew, I believe and hope that you will survive the slaughters and that a new world will arise. Then you will frame the yellow patch and that will be the witness of our pains for generations to come.
May his memory be with us forever.
Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil With a heavy heart and a trembling hand I am trying to recreate some memories of my dear mother Beilka Simchovich and my two sisters Lea and Masha.
My mother became a widow at a young age. She had to provide for her three daughters by working as a linen seamstress.
She made an effort, using her meagre earnings, to give her daughters a good education. She always worked till late at night. My sister Lea graduated from the Tarbut school and was a teacher.
Despite her lack of means, mother took pity on the hungry boys who studied at the Shulhoif near our house. She came out smiling and shared with them the little she had.
My poor mother, she felt, when we said our goodbyes, that she would not see us again.
The cruel hand of the enemy put an end to her life and to the lives of my two sisters and all the dear community of our town Novogrudok.
I will never forget my dear ones.
Translated from Yiddish by Oskar Delatycki Novogrudok was blessed with great rabbis, a large and famous Musar Yeshiva and with ordinary, hearty people. Novogrudok had also a goods and worldly intelligentsia, which was distinguished by its devotion to work for common causes. They had good habits, open hearts and pockets and had a broad Jewish and worldly secular education.
From far away my thoughts at times go to the family Ostashinski: he was known as father Hirsh and she as mother Rivka. Their shop in the Yiddish street, not far from the Market place, sold textiles. Yet it was unusual a Jewish shop where there was no bargaining, where the prices were not raised and not lowered. Every customer knew that here he was treated fairly the prices were firm and the measurements were accurate. Also the treatment of the customers, be it a Jew or a gentile, was courteous, and with grace. Hirsh Ostashinski was acknowledged by everybody in town. In the town council, where he was a councillor, and in all other communal organizations he was widely respected. He was never servile to high officials.
It was a pleasure to enter his shop or the home of the family Ostashinski, which was radiating with courtesy and goodwill.
Let these lines inscribe and commemorate the well regarded family Ostashinski. Let it also remind us of the surviving son of the family Avrom Ostashinski, who is a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry in Warsaw, and is in close contact with the Novogrudker in Israel.
The Yeshivas were destroyed, Torah and Musar were uprooted and the Rabbi's bones were to be removed because the Kiev cemetery was to be demolished.
His followers performed a great chesed and much effort into bringing his bones to Israel.
Among those who accompanied the coffin were members of the committee of the Jews of Novogrudok in Israel and the editors of Pinkas Novogrudok, who dedicated a place of honour in the Pinkas to the memory of the Rabbi, the Yeshiva and the Musar movement.
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