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[Pages 166-167]

Mendel and Leah Naychin of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Mendel and Leah Naychin (parents of Bendik)

Mendel and Leah Naychin (parents of Bendik)

 

Bendik Naychin

Bendik Naychin

Mendel Naychin was a teacher of bible and Hebrew language for many years. He taught in the Talmud Torah of Orheyev for many years, and gave private lessons as well. Despite his weak body, he bore a heavy yoke of work to sustain his eight person family, and to provide his children with education according to the spirit of the times.

Hundreds of children from our city received their education from this illustrious teacher and educator. I also had the merit of being one of his students, and I see it as my duty to dedicate these lines to his memory.

Reb Mendel was short in stature, thin and sickly in his body, but healthy of spirit. He was full to the brim with the fundamentals of both the written and oral Torah, expert in Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and his command of grammar was great.

His pleasant mode of explanation, and his flowery language filled with natural humor attracted the hearts of his audience, and a strong bond was quickly formed between them and their teacher. During the class, he felt the obligation to present the material in a fashion that the student would be able to understand thoroughly, without being satisfied with a mechanical understanding. Therefore, the students loved the studies and we thirsted for his lessons. The time that we spent with Reb Mendel of blessed memory gave us great spiritual enjoyment. He knew how to instill his love of bible to his students. I recall his enthusiasm during the studying of the Book of Isaiah. His teaching of that book always aroused in us a deep feeling and a unique experience. We learned entire chapters by heart, and it was not too difficult for us. His stories about the poet Yehudah Halevi and his longing for the return to Zion ignited in us the first spark of love of Zion. The pleasant voice of Reb Mendel as he read sections of the poems of Yehudah Halevi still rings in my ears. Our enthusiasm grew when he reached the following stanza: “To weep for you I am a jackal, and when I dream about the return to you, I am like a harp for your songs.”

It is difficult to describe the soulful enthusiasm and special love of Reb Mendel for the poems of Ch. N. Bialik of blessed memory. As one of the enthusiastic fans of this poet, he dedicated the best of his strength to impart his poems to his students. It is no surprised that we also studied diligently and knew many of the poems by heart.

The educational style, the refinement of the soul and the unceasing dedication of the education ensured the maintenance of the bond between him and us even after the conclusion of the time of study. His home was always open to us, and we would visit his home willingly. We asked for his advice in private matters, and pleasantly discussed topics of sports and matters relating to the Zionist movement. All of the members of his household had a Zionist consciousness. To our dismay, not one of them succeeded in making it to the Land. The cruel Holocaust cut off the fate of this precious family: From the two sons and two daughters, only one (Sara and her family) survived. The youngest son Bendik worked in the offices of the Keren Kayemet in Kishinev. He dedicated himself completely to the Zionist movement (in “Hanoar Hachalutzi”), and prepared to make aliya. However the cruel fate ambushed him, and he was murdered by a Romanian policeman on May 1, 1924.

The tragic event completely destroyed the weak health of Reb Mendel, and it was difficult for him to overcome this until his last day.

The bitter fate also overtook the older son of Reb Mendel, Nissan Naychin and his noble family. The hand of the murderers reached him as well during the tragic circumstances of WWII.

Sara and Nissan Naychin

Sara and Nissan Naychin

A. Malovchki


[Page 167]

Yosef and Yehudit Naychin-Geler of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Yosef  and Yehudit Naychin Geler

Yosef and Yehudit Naychin Geler

Yehudit was born in Orheyev. She was attracted to the activities of the Zionist movement from a young age. She married Yosef Geler, an intelligent and handsome man. Yehudit's heart strove for greatness, and she did not find satisfaction with the provincial life in the four ells (ed. note: in the minutiae of Jewish Law) of her family. Communal work was a necessity for her soul. Her talents and character spurred her on to action. With the little money she saved, she moved on to study in the Faculty of Law at the University of Iasi. When she finished, she received her permit to serve as an attorney. The family moved to Kishinev. There, their home became a meeting place for activists of the movement. Yehudit and Yosef, with their joy and pleasantness, attracted the hearts of anyone who thirsted for vigorous conversation and pleasant company. The “stormy” Yehudit played an important role in the Zionist center, the Young Zion center, and the Aliya center, and became the president of Young WIZO (Women's International Zionist Organization). This task suited her the most. She won over many with her pleasant countenance and nobility of spirit…

*

… Yehudit Geler of blessed memory was a woman with Jewish-Hebrew cultural inclinations that she inherited in the home of her erudite father. She enchanted the audience in her appearances with her deep knowledge, her polished oratory, her fine, flowery language, and her soft, pleasant voice.

Even though she was well accepted in the circles of lawyers in Kishinev and had the opportunity to forge for herself a stable economic status, she abandoned the work and spent most of her time on communal affairs, especially with WIZO and the Keren Kayemet. She was willing to fulfill her duty at all times that she was needed. Her visits to cities and towns were always crowned with great success. More than one city awaited her visit impatiently. The time that she remained in such a city was like festival days for the Jewish population. With all this, Yehudit dreamed of a new life in the Land of Israel. However… fate did not desire that this dream be actualized.

The Red Army invaded Bessarabia in July 1940. All of the dreams of Yehudit Geler were hidden away…

When the Red Army camped in Bessarabia, Yehudit maintained the hope that she would be able to extricate herself and make aliya to the land. She did not exhibit depression like the others. On the contrary, when she met her friends and acquaintances, she exuded optimism and encouraged others. She waited to meet them in Israel, for despair and doubt were foreign to her spirit. This was the manifestation of her high character.

*

When the Red Army left Bessarabia, Yehudit remained in Kishinev. She had her own reasons for this. To her, going to the depths of Russia meant parting forever from the idea of making aliya to the Land. In Bessarabia, there was hope that she might make her way there.

In time, when she lived in the closed ghetto of Kishinev and her husband was dragged from there to death (she did not know of this), she continued to believe in a miracle, that she would be able to arrive in the Land from the ghetto… this time she placed her hope in the activists of Bucharest, hoping that they might redeem the active Zionists. However, the Zionists of Romania did not succeed in their efforts, and nobody made aliya.

All of the afflicted people were deported to death camps in October, 1941. She walked on foot along with thousands of orphaned deportees on the long, difficult route to Transnistria, in rain and cold. Broken and crushed, ill with typhus, with swollen feet, dripping with blood, the refined Yehudit was dragged along with her last strength on the long route to death, and she still hoped for a miracle…

Yehudit Geler was shot in Transnistria along with many others by the Fascist beasts. She suffered a cruel and painful death…

May her memory be a blessing!

Y. Shildkroit: “On the Ruins of Bessarabia”


[Page 168]

Dr. R. Nirenberg of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Dr. R. Nirenberg

Dr. R. Nirenberg

Dr. Nirenberg was his name as known to everybody, young and old. This name encompassed his essence – love and honor.

I do not know from where Dr. Nirenberg came. One clear day, he appeared on the streets of the city. He had a solid body, broad shoulders, with the uniform of a high army captain, an army cap with an insignia (kokarada in the vernacular) sprouting from his head. He was splendid of countenance, and won the hearts of all who saw him. As he passed through the streets, people whispered to each other: This is the new doctor who has just now (1904) returned from the war (between Russia and Japan).

Within a brief period, he became the most popular person in the city, both as a doctor and as a man of the community.

However, his nobility and splendid countenance with which he was blessed separated him to a large degree from the wide community. He was even somewhat strict with his fellowman. Nevertheless, everyone loved him and revered him.

On account of the spirit of reverence that surrounded him and his fine relations with all strata of the community, the communal activists crowned him as head of the community. They imposed difficult and even unpleasant tasks upon him, as the times required. Dr. Nirenberg has the power of forging compromise and straightening out the obstacles that came up within the community in our city.

For example, when a dispute broke out among the activists of the loan fund of the small scale merchants, Dr. Nirenberg was invited to make peace between the disputants.

He was once again drafted into the army during WWI. At the end of the war, he returned to Orheyev and once again was asked to stand at the head of communal affairs.

At times one would ask oneself why did men of greater experience and influence than Dr. Nirenberg, more active than him, such as M. Ravich, Yosef Yoelich Pagis, Moshe Kalmanovitz, Aharon Gluzgold, Gershon Weinstock and others, activists with great communal vision – why were they not called to the helm of the community despite their important and effective activities in many communal areas of our city, and only Dr. Nirenberg was given the mantle of head of the community?

This is what we answered: His splendid countenance, his combined internal and external nobility, his boundless integrity, his level headedness and even his insistence on the truth – all of these positive characteristics caused the leadership of communal affairs in our city to be given to him.

At the outbreak of WWII (1940) he was again drafted by the Russians as a physician. He was close to 70. He overcame all of the difficulties that faced an army doctor during wartime. He returned to Orheyev filled with suffering and weakened, widowed from his refined and noble wife who perished on the way. He returned to the place where he dedicated the vast majority of his life – to both the sick and the healthy… However, he found emptiness and nothingness… Orheyev was destroyed, abandoned, desolate and ruined… There was nobody, no friend or acquaintance…

A few months before his death, he answered the writer of these lines with a letter written in Russian, as follows:

“23 February, 1955.

Dear M. Rotkov!

I received your letter on the 10th of this month. I was very glad to hear the news that old acquaintances are alive and well, and take interest in me. I am already very old and severely ill. I am 83 years old. The Yonovitz family is well. I gave them your regards and told them of your wish to correspond with them. The elder Yonovitz and his daughter live in Kishinev. Both of them work. To those in whose house you saw a picture of my granddaughter and from whom you received the news about us and about the death of my wife, please give them our best regards. I wish you health, long life, and all good things.

Dr. Nirenberg”

Fate was favorable, and his words will be perpetuated in the book of the community to which he dedicated the best of his efforts.


[Pages 168-169]

Avraham and Charna Spivak of blessed memory

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Avraham and Charna Spivak

Avraham and Charna Spivak

One of the activists about whom is said “those who faithfully work for the welfare of the community.” One of the few maskilim in our city, and the only one in the city who subscribed to the Hamelitz newspaper. He also possessed Sifrei Agora which was published by Tushia, and he generously lent them to whomever wanted them. He viewed this as a national duty, that he was able to benefit the public.

He was a native of Chinisheutsy, a large village in the region of Orheyev. Later, during the 1930s, it became a town. Then, the Jewish population grew to 100 families. A Jewish community was formed that established a synagogue and set aside a place for the cemetery. Avraham was the gabbai of the synagogue and the head of the Chevra Kadisha (burial society).

His large home stood in the center of the town. Anyone passing through the town would stop at his home, whether for conversation, for rest, or to obtain news about what was going on in town. Whenever there was a dispute between residents of the town, they would turn to him, and whatever he decided would stand. This was not only for his community, but also for the gentile community, who also related to him with honor and trust and regarded him as an expert not only in monetary matters, but also in religious matters. On one occasion there was a dispute in their church about the setting of the date of one of the holidays (at that time, they transferred from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar). The dispute was growing stronger. One of them advised turning the question over to Avraham. They all agreed (including the priest). His advice was accepted by all of them, and the storm in the church abated.

Another incident took place at the time of the change of regime. A Romanian official arrived in town and set up residence in his home. Obviously, the relations between him and the official were very friendly. It happened that a certain Jew was caught smuggling sugar across the Dniester from Rybnitsa to Rezina. The smuggler was brought to the police, where they treated him as a guilty prisoner. The relatives immediately turned to Avraham, who went to the official and explained to him that the captured man was about to get married, and the sugar was brought for the wedding celebration. The official accepted this, ordered that the prisoner be freed and that the confiscated sugar be returned, on condition that he too is invited to the wedding. They did this…

During the years of 1918-1920, when the refugees were streaming in, his home was open to every refugee who came through the town. There they received assistance and support as was needed, whether with food, clothing or lodging, as well as legal advice relating to the preparing of the documents that they needed to continue along their route.

In the interim, the family prepared to make aliya to the Land. They decided to send the children first (three daughters and two sons). Two daughters remained at home and waited their turn…

When the Holocaust arrived in 1940, the lot of this family was the lot of all of their exiled brethren. Their lot included hunger, want, and all the tribulations of the journey that afflicted the rest of the exiles. Avraham died of hunger and tribulations of hell on 25 Elul 5702 (1942) enroute to Astrakhan. His wife Charna died a few months later (23 Iyar 5703).

May their souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life.

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