[Using metaphor from first verse of Exodus]
Henia Gingberg Kanievsky
Translated by David Goldman
These are the names of the members of my family who were killed and murdered at the hands of the accursed Nazis: my father, Yosef Gingberg; my mother, Zisel; my brother Yehoshua and his wife Leah, daughter Miriam; and my sister Batya. They were all slaughtered with the rest of the Jews of Olyka, may G-d take revenge for their blood.
My sister Batya, was a good and lovely girl. After great effort, she obtained a certificate to emigrate to Palestine, but at the last moment she was gripped by guilt about leaving our parents alone who would take care of them? Honoring one's parents was a fundamental principle. Therefore, in life and in death they were together. She was twenty years old, and didn't necessarily only know Springs when she died, but also knew autumn and winter.
My late father was a fabric merchant. He wasn't all that wealthy, but were there ever any wealthy people at all in Olyka? However, he was considered to be among the prosperous in town. He was modest and a Trisker chassid. He was one of the first who gave redemption money to his rebbe, and one of the first of his synagogue (where his seat was at the eastern side mizrach ) to contribute to the Zionist funds.
Do you think he actually pushed himself into that seat in the synagogue? Not at all. He was asked to sit there because of his contributions to the synagogue. For the verse, Love your fellow as yourself he fulfilled Aid your fellow even if he isn't actually your friend, because a person ends up helping himself more than he helped the other person. Father knew how to speak and explain clearly, but he spent most of his time doing good deeds.
He felt obliged to invite a guest to his Shabbat or Yomtof table, and felt that those meals on those days had no taste otherwise, since it is written, A guest at home the Divine Presence at home and the Divine Presence on Shabbat is greatest, since it raises a Jew's extra Sabbath soul. I remember one of the usual guests at our table, Yisraelikl Hoftchak, the stary kozzak [Old Cossack] . He made the meal a pleasurable experience, and would lead the singing and after meal blessing.
My father loved life. He was a handsome man and his beard was well-combed, which
added to his princely face. On Simchat Torah he was one of the dancers, and whenever he held a glass of wine in his hand, he would always make the blessing with great warmth and end with Next year in Jerusalem. He longed for Jerusalem, the holy city, from where the Word of G-d would depart one day.
[Photo] Yosef Gingberg family. Another generation of Zionists. They were killed. The daughters, Henia and Sara, are in Israel.
My mother was a naturally good woman. She was sensitive and devoted to my father's belief in actively helping other people and not just in words. She was very active in the local woman's organization, the Orphans Committee, and others. Her hands were always involved deeply in community work. She was the secretary of the Women's Association, which included the following members: Hinda Gostinsky, Rebbetzin [rabbi's wife] Bett, Chana Rosenbaum and Rachel Waldman. Their main work was assisting the needy. They employed Feldsher, young mothers' helpers, and would pay for medicines at the pharmacy and provided funds to the sick. These activities was paid for by the Doctors Association. Mother would add her signature to the doctor's on medicine prescriptions, that is, so that the medicine would be charged to the Association. The Association received money from the Joint and from local contributors. The orphans were attended to from their childhood by good ladies, who took care of their every need, as if they were their real mothers. They did this until the children grew up, got married and were on their own.
I remember the wedding of an orphan girl and a refugee that took place in town at the cemetery. He was a refugee from Serbia after World War I. The meaning of cemetery is that the wedding stopped the stomach typhus plague and Asian flu that broke out in town and that took many lives, as the verse says, There was no house where someone hadn't died [referring to the plagues of Egypt in Exodus]. Before the wedding, people were saying prayers in front of the open ark in the synagogue and visiting graves. However, nothing helped, and the wedding took place in the cemetery with the entire town in attendance. Everyone brought a gift and offered their help, headed by the Women's Association. Of course, other women also offered assistance to this couple and a miracle happened! All the plagues stopped!
My brother Yehoshua Gingberg was an active member of the cultural committee at the Zionist Organization, and was one of the loyal assistants to the head of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet) at that time, Simcha Glickman, who is still living. He made great efforts to help the pioneer training kibbutz in town, and was always running around trying to find them jobs. He helped them get food, and took care of the cultural activities of the members of the kibbutz. I can still remember the meetings held in our home with the late Shmuel Rosenhak, for everything from the Cultural Center and Yeshivas to the Keren Kayemet and Keren HaYesod. He had a knack for reality and was an active person from his youth. When the city imposed heavy taxes in those days in order to pay for paving the streets and sidewalks, and few people could handle the tax burden, he issued a statement not to pay the taxes, but to pay in labor. We will pave the streets and sidewalks with our own hands. It happened pampered Yehoshua went out to perform crude and black labor, and this caused the great miracle in that almost all the youth in town followed him!
As I mentioned above, my little sister was Batya was an amazing child. She was modest and self-effacing, just like Father. When she grew up and started walking I was already in Palestine my parents and relatives were always blessed because of her, and praised her beauty and good heartedness in their letters to me.
I still remember a few episodes in town that are worth recounting here. For example, the visit to Olyka of Yitzchak Greenbaum, a candidate to the Polish parliament. He managed the election campaign all by himself. The car he was using got stuck in mud, and boards and branches didn't help, neither did pushing or pulling - just like a stubborn horse. What did the youth of Olyka do, including my brother? They lifted up the car and carried it all the way to the synagogue where the guest gave a speech, and the townspeople accompanied them with cries of joy and encouragement. My elderly aunt, Chava Orles-Finkestein, ran after the procession crying out, Long Live the Jewish King! Such sounds of the procession still resonate in my ears.
[Photo:] Pioneer Group, (1928). Almost all are in Israel.
There was a large spontaneous procession, including adults and children, that took place in Olyka when we accompanied the first emigrants leaving for Palestine. Absolutely everyone in town took part in the procession, and we walked eight kilometers all the way to the train station, carrying the emigrants on our shoulders and singing Zionist songs.
There was another mass procession: the daughter of the old rebbetzin got married, and the sky and earth thundered. Jews wearing kappotas [chassidic coats] and shtreimels [round fur hats] danced in the street. For two weeks there were musical performances in her courtyard together with bride and groom (maybe in the rabbinical judge's house). Following two weeks of celebrations, the whole town, young and old went out to accompany the newly married couple again.
Those were good times in our town - times when day-to-day worries were forgotten, though they were rare times. More common were the Christian festivities, which we didn't participate in. Their youths would go out wildly with whips in hand to perhaps hit some Jews. On Christmas, for example, no Jew ventured outdoors, though the Christians would also celebrate in their homes. We all remember the Ukrainian prosveita [I couldn't find the meaning of this word] with their co-op store at Siderchuk's house, and the announcements about Don't buy from the murderers of our Messiah, Jesus. They placed guards next to every Jewish shop, and didn't allow Christians to enter. These events took place a long time before the Nazis.
Of all my family, only I and my sister Sarah remained alive, since we were able to get to the Homeland. We had the privilege of a life that they couldn't even dream about. However, this very fact causes us pain until today, like the pain involving a circumcision (In your blood you shall live). [A verse recited at a circumcision].
Translated by David Goldman
We were a large family with deep roots in Olyka. Who didn't know the family of Yehoshua and Rachel Gorbaty? A family with many generations in town, its family tree.
Our parents had five daughter and two sons. We all absorbed the spirit of traditional Judaism and nationalist-Zionist education. However, our parents also educated us to be humanitarians. A person has both his "in your tent" and when you go out". The slogan in our home was Be Jews that way Jews are supposed to be. We were the children of the merciful which is the same thing as love of Jews. They taught us practical Jewish laws, to help the unfortunate, giving charity anonymously, etc. etc.
By those days' standards, Father Yehoshua, of blessed memory, had a large-scale wheat business. Mother, of blessed memory, took care of the family and visitors. The house was always full of people who came to stay with us some for business dealings with Father, and many friends of the sons and daughters. Thus, it was a home open to all.
My mother passed away in the flower of her youth. Despite the fact that she suffered from an extended illness, and the doctors warned her not to over-exert herself, she didn't cease assisting those in need. Although he was always involved in his business life, he never stopped studying Torah. Every day he got up early to study and pray with his congregation at dawn. The Code of Jewish Law and other such texts of Law and commentaries never left his table. He had one goal in life: to help the needy; he gave alot of charity anonymously.
He was always careful and measured in his speech. He said little and did much. He enjoyed always asking us something with humor and seriousness. After we got married, he stayed in Olyka.
Only six months before he died, he agreed to let my husband, our daughter Rachel and I move to Brazil because of the worsening economic situation in our country. Our entire family was involved in community activities, especially for the Land of Israel. My eldest sister, Chana, was in the women's committee that assisted the poor and was the treasurer.
[Photo:] The Yehoshua Gorbaty family. Zionist activists, they died in the Holocaust. Their daughter, Zisel Burstein, is in Israel.
I remember how she and many others in Olyka would go from door to door throughout town to collect money for the poor. For years, her husband, Pinny, was a member of the Parents Committee at the school, and of other organizations. The children were good in school, and they were always dreaming of moving to Palestine. My sister Rachel and her husband were among the first Zionists.
I can still remember how in 1917, two months before Mother died, there was a large meeting in our home where they read the Balfour Declaration with enthusiastic "commentaries. My sister Rachel and brother Yaakov were among the first committee to promote emigration to Palestine.
My brother Yaakov was the manager of Bank HaPoalim [I am not sure if she means the bank known by that name in Israel or some other workers' bank] and was active in many institutions for the A"R [this might be Arbeiter Ring Workers' Circle?], the Joint, the Orphans Committee, the funds and the scouts. He was also a member of the Palestine Office Committee. When my husband the teacher, my sister Reitsel and I wanted to move to Palestine, he refused to recommend us to receive certificates. He claimed that Palestine didn't need unskilled people or teachers, only professionals and healthy and strong people who could put up with difficult physical work.
[Photo:] Children and grandchildren in the family of Yehoshua Gorbarty. They died in the Holocaust.
This brother, his lovely wife Freidele and their two children Moshele and Rachele were killed in the Holocaust. When they were forced to go to the death chamber, they were all so weak they couldn't even walk there. They were beaten so badly they died on the way.
My brother Yitzchak, a successful wheat merchant and community activist, was involved in Zionist activities in town. He was also involved in all the committees on behalf of Palestine, etc. His wife, Breindel, from the Dekelbaum family, and their children Velvele, Motele and Rachele, who was born during the war, were all killed. My sister Reitse died in Brazil, and her husband and two children are in Israel and
service in the standing army. One of them is a senior officer, and the other (Isaac Arkady) is a doctor. My younger sister, Reva, and her husband, Aharon Yukelson, and their children Yehoshua and Rachele moved to Brozhitch, and they suffered cruel treatment there. They all died after cruel and horrible suffering in ditches.
[Photo:] At Reitze Gorbaty's wedding. The family of Hershel and Zisel Erga. The only survivor was their son Moshe.
I eulogize all my brothers and sisters and their families, and everyone in Olyka who died to sanctify G-d's name, with a heavy and broken heart. It's hard to believe that such a thing could happen in the twentieth century. I feel as if they are all still in Olyka, but that we just don't get any letters from them.
May this Yizkor book substitute for letters that we don't get. Many of us will soak its pages with our tears.
Translated by David Goldman
The tailor Avraham Chaim Goldberg lived not far from my grandmother, Rivka Moshkeles, of blessed memory. Anyone who can remember Olyka from those days during the First World War will certainly recall quiet hardworking Avraham Chaim, who calmly and modestly lived from his tailoring business. He was also active in community affairs with no thought of monetary compensation for his activities. He was always the manager [gabbai] of the Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society]. Every year, on the sabbath morning of the reading of the first Torah portion [Bereshis], he sponsored a kiddush in synagogue. He would keep in touch with neighboring shtetls and would tell them that if there were any fugitives from the front who wanted to hide, he would hide them in his cellar. He was able to take in 14 Jews, arrange a bunker for them in his cellar and provide them with food, drink and clothing almost until the very end of the war.
Someone reported him to the authorities and one of his fugitives was captured. Avraham Chaim was given a death sentence, and the entire town together with the Rebbe interceded on his behalf. Thanks to their mediation, he was spared.
May these few words serve as a testimony to the illustrious image of Avraham Chaim the tailor from our town, Olyka.
Translated by David Goldman
My little town! How did they used to make fun of you? Some say used to say if you rolled a barrel from one end of town, it would roll all the way to the other end. But for that very reason, you were dear to us sevenfold. Who didn't know your Jews? We used to accompany every bride and groom to the wedding canopy, and if, G-d forbid, a tragedy occurred, we all knew how to pay final respects. We knew every little alley. Do you still remember the alley of Motel Glickman? I used to walk through there several times a day, and took a shortcut to the main road to go shopping at the store of my Uncle Iddel (my mother's brother), or of Yechezkel and Rivka, my father's sister. They also used to take the same shortcut to come to our house and warm up next to the oven or sip some hot tea. Due to its strategic location, our house served as the hub of the family. We lived next to the synagogue, and each Sabbath and festival after services, our relatives used to come for a visit. Probably because we lived in the area it was possible for me to vividly remember festivals and happy occasions in town. I always watched Jews running back and forth to synagogue.
I can mention many experiences. One of them was the following: our front door was located right across from a hill. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the mailman would walk up the hill to hand out holiday greeting cards. No sooner did people see him, then crowds of Jews and their children all congregated around him. Each person anxiously waited hearing his name; when he heard his name, he called out that's me! In general, our home served sometimes as a branch for each of us: our friends used to come over, and we loved to sing. My sister, Devorah and brother, Ephraim, knew how to sing very well. We all helped out, and the large choir soon included Mother, whose voice was heard through the small window of kitchen. People used to tell me that my mother was a real pioneer to this very day they tell me that.
I would like to take the opportunity here to devote a few words to all the mothers in town. Jewish mothers! You were able to run your homes under such primitive conditions with such wisdom.
You didn't just push buttons to turn on various electric appliances like we do nowadays. You didn't just turn on the faucet with the water flowing. You didn't just switch on the oven and stove. You never even heard of heating systems and modern refrigerators. Frequently you carried wood on your shoulders to use to heat the oven. You even brought pails of water from the well. You made your bread by hand, since nothing was ready-made, from mushrooms to jam! On Fridays you were busy at the stove until candle-lighting time preparing the Sabbath meals. Unfortunately, you can no longer hear how much we miss Mother's cooking.
I remember Father as a man who was very busy earning a living, and was absent from home most of the time. He had a golden heart, and many people (mostly gentiles) took advantage of him, resulting in the loss of part of his earnings. Nevertheless, even those who enjoyed better luck, and who had some money in their pockets, never knew what it meant to have extra money. It's possible, however, that they enjoyed a quality of life that we don't know about.
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