AND THESE ARE THE NAMES
[Using metaphor from first verse of Exodus]
Henia Gingberg Kanievsky
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
) 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
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
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
[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].
We were a large family with deep roots in Olyka. Who
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"
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
May this Yizkor book substitute
for letters that we don't get. Many of us will
soak its pages with our tears.
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