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The “Rothschilds” of Pinsk and Karlin

A Historical Evaluation

by Dr. Wolf Zeev Rabinowitsch

"Rothschild" is not just a family name, but a concept designating historically creative spiritual values. The special power of the "Rothschilds" did not lie simply in their wealth, since there were numerous other wealthy Jews. What distinguished the "Rothschilds" was their possession of three essentially Jewish qualities -- respect for the Torah, provision of employment for their brethren, and gemiluth hasadim (charitable aid to both individuals and the whole community). Such "Rothschilds" came to the fore in various towns in Lithuania and White Russia (e.g., in Shklov, Grodno, Biknov and other places) but these were for the most part sporadic individual cases. In Pinsk and Karlin, by contrast, there arose whole families of philanthropists who constituted a special social phenomenon unparalleled in any of the other Jewish communities. These families were distinguished, first of all by their lineage, wealth, and unity. They were closely related to each other either by blood or by their practice of inter-marriage, the latter resulting from their consciousness of family unity and their desire to preserve their "purity of descent", since their sense of belonging to the Jewish aristocracy made them zealous guardians of their family tradition. However, although many of them kept themselves aloof and formed a seemingly closed, exclusive "clique", this characteristic did not impair their responsiveness to either individual or communal needs. They displayed a reverence for Jewish values and a special warmth of affection for their fellow Jews. They built economic enterprises in Pinsk and Karlin, developed industry and commerce, and established public and private banks, while at the same time endeavoring to follow the injunction that "man does not live by bread alone". In addition to their constructive economic activity, they were also remarkable for their generous philanthropic work in providing for religious needs, in the field of education, in the setting up of various institutions of social welfare, and in support of charitable societies. In Pinsk and Karlin they built synagogues, religious schools, hospitals for the poor, old age homes, and the like. They also provided for the proper upkeep of the institutions which they had founded, making lavish financial contributions for this purpose. Furthermore, they rendered assistance to their fellow Jews in times of urgent need, such as the aftermath of fires, expulsions, and various other disasters. They also made use of the civic standing accorded them by their wealth to intercede with the secular authorities on behalf of both the Jewish community as a whole and its individual members, whenever necessary. Starting from the end of the 18th century, throughout the 19th century, and continuing into the 20th century down to the extermination of Pinsk Jewry by the Nazis -- in all, for a period of five generations -- they left a deep imprint on the history of their communities. In retrospect, it can be seen that these families constituted the aristocracy of Lithuanian Jewry during all this long time. Every one of their members was the bearer of various Jewish and general cultural values, like most of the Jewish intelligentsia in the 19th and 20th centuries, though even within the same family there were considerable differences of attitude, in a positive or negative sense, to these same values. Thanks to their education, their social position, and their active participation in both communal and general affairs, every member of these families is representative to a greater or lesser degree -- of some well known type in the Jewish public of their time. This is true even of those among the latter-day descendants of these families who followed the path of assimilation to the point of no return. Every single one of them set his own example and left his own distinctive legacy behind him. Thus the legacy left by the founder of the Pinsk "family", Shaul Karliner, was very different from that left by some of the last of the Louriés. The history of these families thus reflects, in microcosm, the various factors and tendencies which were at work shaping the larger history of the Jewish community of their town and of Jewish society as a whole -- some of them were highly conservative, others adopted the ideas of the HaskaIah and Zionism, and still others created the conditions for the development of the socialist movements though usually without themselves participating in their activities. In view of all this, it is impossible to write the history of the Pinsk and Karlin Jewish communities without a proper description and evaluation of the activities of these Jewish individuals who deserve to be called "the Rothschilds of Pinsk and Karlin".

The following are the families of Pinsk "RothschiIds" in chronological order: Shaul Karliner (Levin) and his sons, Hayyah Lourié and her descendants, and the Eliasbergs and Halperns who married the sons and daughters of the Levin and Lourié families.

The Levin Family

The founder of this "dynasty" was ShauI Karliner (1775? - 1834), the son of R. Moshe. His long and interesting will shows him to have been a pious, god-fearing Jew, with cabbalistic leanings, and a rich man. At his death he left "land, movable property, goods, cash, and debts". During his life he built two batei midrash (synagogues), one in Pinsk and the other in Karlin. In his will, he gives instructions that, after his death, provision should be made from his fortune for his poor relatives, “the scholar being given preference over the ignorant man, for the defraying of wedding expenses, for the redemption of Jewish captives, for the repair of my beth midrash … and for the poor of the Holy Land... ". He also allocated sums of money to various institutions, such as the Pinsk Bikkur Holim (Society for Visiting the Sick) and Talmud Torah, the Karlin Bikkur Holim and Hevrah Kaddishah (burial society), and the charity fund. He was evidently one of the communal leaders, if not actually the head of the community. Thus, he writes in his will: "I did my duty in my lifetime by my fellow-townsmen... All my life I served them honestly and conscientiously". He was also influential in the neighboring small towns -- Liubeshov (Libeshei), Stolin. Pohost near Libchin, Pohost beyond the river, and Horodnoye -- and bequeathed sums for the support of their Jewish communities. "In all the small towns … let them proclaim in their synagogues ... that they forgive me if I gave them any advice and (God forbid!) it was not good, even though I did not act for my own personal benefit, neither against any individual nor against the community... The distribution of my bequests to charity shall continue down the generations and the injunctions of this will shall be performed for a thousand generations … And the sums to charity shall be paid in full till the rebuilding of the Temple".

Printed on the title pages of the book" Efes Damim" ("No Blood"), written against the blood-libel in Russia by the haskaIah author Y. B. Levinsohn (Warsaw 1884), there is a letter from the well-known rabbi, R. Aryeh-Leib Katzenellenbogen of Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) in Lithuania, to Shaul Karliner (1833) requesting him to assist the writer "with payment and money for printing … seeing that Your Honor shows concern for the above-mentioned scholar, especially when the occasion calls. Therefore, let Your Honor act … and also be so good as to rouse others to bestir themselves and send him money, so that he may devote himself wholly to this task". The wording of this letter testifies to Shaul Karliner's standing in Lithuanian Jewry. According to a Russian source, he was the owner of the Telekhan estate, close to Pinsk, and rendered Russia loyal service in the war against Napoleon, for which a popular tradition relates that he was honored by the Tsar Alexander I. He was popularly depicted as a powerful personality, "the communal leader of the generation", and became the subject of various legends[1]. One of his descendants, Anton Lourié made a detailed study of his will and his personality[2]. The terms of his will indicate that he was strongly opposed to Hasidism, which in his time was spreading in Karlin and its surroundings.

Shaul Karliner's sons were also remarkable for their good works.

His eldest son Zalman Levin is said to have been a timber merchant and philanthropist, “the great and glorious gevir (rich man)”[3].

Shaul Karliner's second son, Moshe-Yitshak Levin (1802 – 1872) was a rich timber-merchant, who also apparently traded in corn and fats and was employed as a government contractor. Together with his sister, Hayyah Lourié, he built the paupers hospital in Karlin[4]. He also had a beth midrash – built by his father – in Karlin, which bore his name till modern times. Between Purim and Pesach, the street next to this beth midrash was thronged with the poor of the town who, as reported by an eye-witness (Mordekhai Kerman), were invited by Moshe-Yitshak Levin to come there to receive maoth hittim (money for marsah). The shamash of the beth midrash would draw up the lists of the poor and present them to Moshe-Yitshak for signature. The first to be thus authorized to receive this free matsah straight from the mill were the poor of the immediate neighborhood and after them came the other paupers of the town. Many were sent their share secretly by special messenger, to save them embarrassment. Besides the maoth hittim, Moshe Yitshak used also to distribute potatoes and other Pesach commodities to the poor. On the days preceding the Festival, chits for the four cups of wine (to be drunk at the Seder) were handed out in his beth midrash. The crowd of applicants was so great that the regular students of the beth midrash had to suspend their studies during these days. One of these students was the young Moshe Aharon Shatskes, the later famous maskil and author of “Ha-Mafteah” (Warsaw 1866, 1869). Another maskil, R. Yehezkeel Slutsker, who was “well versed in the deeper meaning of the torah and an acute and discerning interpreter of the profound sayings of the sages, took up residence in the beth midrash of R. Moshe Yitshak Levin”[5]. Moshe Yitshak used to make matsah shemurah in his own home, under his own and his sons' supervision. On the eve of Yom Kippur he used to visit the cemetery with his sons, and on leaving he would hold out his hand to the shamash to receive his gift of a piece of honey-cake, just like all the other visitors, including even the poorest among them, to show the equality of all mortals on the Day of Judgment. Altogether, Moshe Yitshak Levin was a shining example of the life lived by a Pinsk philanthropist in those days. After his death, Nahum-Meir Shaikevich wrote of him as follows: “A bitter cry is raised in Pinsk and a great disaster has come upon Karlin with the death of R. Moshe-Yitshak Levin, who passed away on the 6th Elul, 1872. Thousands of people are lamenting and mourning the passing of their town's glory and the loss of its crown. Death has robbed Karlin of its greatest philanthropist, the famed giver of charity, helper of the poor and father of the wretched, R. Moshe-Yitshak Levin, who was renowned throughout Russia for his many benevolences, and who all his life worked for the good of those that sought his help … For he was their father, their helper, and their protector … always ready to aid them with his generosity. It is no exaggeration to say that he was one of the noblest men … of our generation. Thousands of families were supported by him. From all over Russia crowds of wretched people came flocking to him … Every morning, when he entered his house of prayer, he would put on his tallith and set his hat on the table, and all that were wretched and bitter in spirit would place their petitions and requests, written on pieces of paper, in the hat. After this wonderfully generous man had finished his prayers, he would put on his hat, taking great care that not one of the pieces of paper should fall out, and hurry home. There he would not touch any food until he had read all the letters and performed the requests of all those that sought his help ... God granted him four fine sons. ... He was esteemed by Jews and Christians alike… He greatly revered students of the torah, and also esteemed the scholars of the haskaIah. ... Thousands of people ... had their distress relieved by the help of this generous man. Many say that the sums which he donated to charity in the course of his life amounted (according to the account found written down in his private records) to one million and forty rubles... On the day of R. Moshe-Yitshak's ascent to heaven all the shops were closed and all the people, young and old, assembled ... to accompany him to his eternal home ... About twenty thousand people filled the streets surrounding his house ... And when they came to the synagogue, which his noble father, R. Shaul Levin of blessed memory, had built, they placed his bier on the ground ... and all of them stood in silence to hear the words of the maggid of the Pinsk congregation, who was about to eulogize the deceased"[6].

A different form of philanthropic activity was chosen by WoIf Levin, Shaul Karliner's third son. He too traded in timber, and perhaps also in corn and fats, and was a government contractor. As early as the beginning of the second half of the 19th century, he had the idea of encouraging the members of his community to take up a life of productive physical labor, by founding an agricultural settlement for them just outside Pinsk. In furtherance of his project, he applied to the central Russian government in Petersburg for permission to purchase an area of land in the vicinity of his native town. In his written request, he explained his idea in detail, and undertook to bear alone all the heavy outlay involved in settling the Jews on the land. When his request was granted, he purchased some land about seven kilometers to the north of the town, close to the village of Ivanik, put up houses and fitted them out, and bought cattle and flocks and agricultural equipment, all at his own expense. Not only were the settlers provided in advance with all their requirements, but they were also exempted from payment of government taxes and their sons were not liable to military service. Fifteen families responded to Wolf Levin's call.

However, it soon became clear that these first settlers -- most of who were from the nearby small town of Lohishin -- had only responded to the call in order to get exemption from military service and payment of taxes, and not at all out of any real interest in the founder's idea. They lived in Ivanik, but continued to run their businesses in Pinsk; and when factories were subsequently established in Pinsk, their sons and daughters went to work in them, renting the fields to Gentiles from the nearby village. Nevertheless, the produce of the little agricultural work done by some of the settlers on their farms provided them with a source of livelihood in summer, and in their old age. Much later, during the economic crisis that Pinsk went through at the end of the First World War, the inhabitants of Ivanik kept themselves alive by turning to agriculture. They received assistance from the "Alliance" and "Ort" organizations, and some of the settlers remained faithful to the noble idea conceived and devotedly forwarded by Wolf Levin of Karlin, though he himself was completely forgotten by them in the end. Tradition records that Wolf Levin also defrayed the whole cost of building the beth midrash known as the "Pinsker Kloiz", which was the center of talmudical studies in Pinsk. Here the Av (president) of the Pinsk Beth-Din (religious court), the Gaon R. Elazar-Moshe Hurwitz, used to pray, together with a member of his court, the dayyan (religious judge) R. Yaacov-Meir Hurwitz, and also the great talmudic scholar, R. Barukh Epstein, and others. At the end of his life, Wolf Levin lost all his fortune in a business law-suit with another estate-owner. He died, it would seem, in 1870"[7].

Akhsah, Saul Karliner's third daughter, was married to R. Yaakov-Meir Padva[8]. He first lived in Pinsk, and subsequently became the Av Beth-Din of Brisk. He wrote the following works: "Mekor Mayyim Hayyim, Kthoneth Passim", "Sheeloth u-Teshuvoth” (Responsa). His son, Aharon-Moshe Padva, lived in Karlin and wrote "Beur Haram" ("Commentary of R. Aharon-Moshe"), a commentary on the midrash "Shoher Tov" (Warsaw, 1865). In connection with this work, Aharon-Moshe used to correspond from Pinsk with the well-known midrashic scholar, Shelomo Buber[9].

Shaul Karliner's fifth daughter, Dinah, also built a synagogue in Karlin (in Siver Street) which continued to bear her name ("Dinehles Shulchen") right to the end. She died in 1865[10].

Meir Levin, Moshe-Yitshak Levin's eldest son, followed the example set by his father and grandfather in their way of life and concern for the welfare of their community. He was one of the first Pinsk merchants to buy a steamship and set it to plying between Pinsk and the Ukraine (before 1862). A man of wide Jewish and secular learning, he concerned himself with the upkeep of the Karlin Talmud Torah, and saw to the establishment in Pinsk of heders for the study of the Talmud. He brought in melammedim (children's teachers) from various Lithuanian towns, taking care to ensure that they should be conscientious and properly qualified for their task. He also befriended them in various ways. They used to pray in his synagogue in Karlin, which bore his name ("Meiches Shulchen", or "Meir Levins Shulchen"), and eat the third Sabbath meal at his table. In his house too they would eat the last meal before a fast; and they sat down to his table for the Purim feast. Meir Levin also had close connections with the Russian government authorities, on account of his commercial undertakings and his social standing in the town. Thus, for example, whenever the provincial governor visited Pinsk, he would call on Meir Levin to discuss the affairs of the town with him.

Among the response of the Karlin Av Beth-Din, the Gaon R. David Friedman[11], we find one sent by the author “to my very dear friend, the perfect and glorious gevir (rich man) our teacher R. Meir Halevi Levin, from here in Karlin-Pinsk”.

This responsium, which deals with Maimonides' remarks on the laws governing temple contributions, is very long and detailed, and its contents indicate that Meir Levin's original question was, characteristically, that of a real Talmudic scholar. Indeed, Meir Levin's son-in-law, Aharon Lourié, a man of wide Jewish and general education, refers to his father-in-law, in a letter to J. L. Gordon dated 19 Iyyar, 1863, as follows: “The great rabbi, R. Meir Levin … a well-educated and intelligent man, who can vie with the greatest in the land in knowledge of the torah and also desires the light of civilization (i.e. general culture)”.

Meir Levin moved to Kiev, apparently in 1875, since in 1876 his place as director of the Karlin Talmud Torah was taken by one of his relatives, Mikhal the son of Yosef Ettinger. In 1879, when the Russian government called on the Jews to elect a committee for the clarification of various religious and social Jewish questions, Meir Levin was one of the three members chosen. The chronicler Yaacov Lifschitz, writes of him: "The one Talmudic scholar on the committee, the famous Rav and Gaon R. Meir Levin of Kiev, was elected in Minsk... ". And in 1882, Meir Levin was chosen as a member of the committee which was sent to Petersburg to intervene with the Russian Government on behalf of the Jews. The same chronicler writes of him: "The Kiev community sent to Petersburg its leading dignitary, the rich Rav and Gaon of noble descent, R. Meir Levin of blessed memory, who was on very friendly terms with Baron Ginsburg and highly respected by all the other Petersburg aristocrats... It was thought particularly fortunate that R. Meir Levin was there (in Petersburg), because he was the representative of the millionaire R. Yisrael Brodsky of blessed memory from Kiev, the head of the Brodsky family”[12].

0f Moshe-Yitshak Levin's son, Zalman, it is related by the Pinsk Jewish writer, Nahum-Meir Shaikevich, that, after his father's death, he prayed to him to "intercede with Him That Dwells On High to strengthen our heart to follow in your paths and to do your deeds"[13].

The Levin family began at this time to move out of Pinsk, and its influence there came to an end before the last quarter of the 19th century.

Hayyah Lourié and Her Sons

The heirs to the Levin "dynasty" in Pinsk, both genealogically and in terms of social status and way of life, were the Lourié family, with Hayyah (1791 - 1873), the daughter of Shaul Karliner, at their head. After being twice widowed -- by the death (in 1816) of her first husband, Gad-Asher Rokeah, the son of the Pinsk Av Beth-Din R. Yehoshua, who was the grandson of the Gaon R. Elazar Rokeah of Amsterdam, and then again (in 1835) by the death of her second husband, Aharon Lourié, the son of R. Iser Lourié of Mohilev -- Hayyah herself took over the direction of the family business in corn, timber, fat, and salt. Taking advantage of Pinsk's central geographical position, she developed her trading connections to the south and west, between the fertile region of the Ukraine and the Baltic countries and Poland. As a sign of the Russian government's recognition of the great importance of her contribution to the development of Pinsk as a port-town and communications center, the Tsar Alexander II made Hayyah Lourié and her descendants "honorary citizens" of the Russian empire. The first and foremost beneficiaries of her enterprises were, naturally, the Jews of Pinsk. One of her greatest services to her fellow Jews was rendered during the famine which came upon the predominantly Jewish populated province of Kovno during the drought years 1866 - 1867. The starving populace was compelled to abandon their homes and possessions and make their way to the southern provinces. Large numbers of migrants streamed into Pinsk, seeking to continue their way southwards by steamship. Hayyah Lourié came to the aid of the wretched refugees by setting up a large camp for them in Pinsk where she fed and clothed them, provided for all their needs, and saw to it that they were transported southwards to their destination in steamboats belonging to her sons, Moshe and David Lourié and her nephew, Meir Levin. She also supplied them with money and with food for the journey. For two whole years she directed this rescue operation, and thereby saved thousands from hunger and even from death by starvation. If such was her concern for the poor of other towns, her devotion to the poor of her own town can readily be imagined. In about 1865 she built four charitable institutions in Karlin: the Talmud Torah, the hospital (together with her brother, Moshe-Yitshak Levin), a synagogue (which was named after her “Hayyehles Shulchen"), and an old-age home (together with her relative, Feigel Levin). Representations of these four buildings were engraved on her tombstone. Hayyah inherited her father's hatred of Hasidism. Near to her home in Karlin stood the "court" of the Hasidic tsaddik, R. Aharon the Second of Karlin[14], and its noisiness, especially on the Festivals, disturbed her quiet. This led to an open quarrel between her and the hasidim, which resulted in the rebbe being forced by police-order to leave Karlin and transfer his "court" to the nearby small town of Stolin (before 1864). This happening shows how great the influence of the Lourié family was in Pinsk and Karlin in those days. Hayyah Lourié died in 1873. An eye-witness (Mordekhai Kerman) recounts that the books recording the acts of charity performed by her and the institutions erected by her were placed on her coffin, which was then carried to its last resting-place, stopping at the synagogue that she had built[15]. She had also been a generous supporter of the Pinsk Talmud Torah, the building of which, according to a newspaper report from the year of its foundation, was made possible by her generosity[16].

Havvah Lourié was connected by marriage with the family of the well-known Rav, R. Akiva Eiger, through the union of Heshe Rokeah (b. 1814), her eldest son by her first husband, with the daughter of R. Eiger's son, R. Shelomo. One of Heshe Rokeah's most intimate friends was his wife's brother, R. Yisrael Eiger, who was the Rav of Antopol, a small town close to Pinsk, and who subsequently resided in Pinsk where there was a synagogue (in Peretz Street) named after him ("R. Yisrael Eigers Shulchen"). Heshe Rokeah's father-in-law, R. Shelomo Eiger, writes of him as follows: "Praise be to God, my first son-in-law, Heshel Rokeah who lives in Pinsk, is also a delightful man, keen-minded and well-versed in the Torah, pious and God-fearing, a Hebrew writer, owner of a property amounting to from ten to thirteen rubles. His mother is a very rich woman, with a known (not estimated) fortune of 150 thousand rubles, and he is of distinguished lineage, a grandson of the Gaon, R. Elazar the Av Beth-Din of Amsterdam... author of the book 'Maaseh Rokeah'. He was also loved and respected by my revered father and teacher, R. Akiva Eiger, who often proudly referred to him as in truth a great talmudic scholar. He is now about 24 years of age"[17]. Heshe Rokeah was the leading supporter of the Karlin Talmud Torah[18]. His appearance in the photograph reproduced here shows him to have been a strictly orthodox Jew; and the contrast with the photographs of his uncles, Moshe-Yitshak and Wolf Levin, and his brother, Moshe Lourié, is no doubt indicative of the differences of outlook found in the Pinsk Jewish community of those times on educational and cultural questions.

A place of special importance is reserved for Hayyah Lourié's second son, Gad-Asher Levin-Rokeah (or Godye, as he was popularly called). Like his uncle, Wolf Levin, Godye gave a great deal of thought to ways and means of training Jewish youth of his town for productive work. But, whereas his uncle sought to achieve this aim by agricultural labor, Gad-Asher Levin took as his slogan the Jewish saying: “A man should always teach his son a craft”. Both these philanthropists aimed at realizing in the Pinsk of their time, and by their own private means, the program that was later carried out on a national scale by the “Alliance” and “Ort” organizations. Gad-Asher Levin had a traditional Jewish education including, besides the Talmud and the commentaries on it, such works as Maimonides' “Guide to the Perplexed” and “Yad ha-Hazakah” and Yehudah Halevi's “Cuzari”. He began his business career as a partner in the family timber and steamboat concerns. Then, for personal reasons originating in his outlook and character (which he is thought to have inherited in part, together with some of his wealth, from his grandfather, Shaul Karliner), he parted company with his relatives and set up his own business, run by new methods. He owned the steamboats “Pina” and “Nieman” which plied between, Pinsk, Kremenchug and other towns (1868). His “credo” in life was based on two main principles. First, he stressed both in theory and in practice the enlightened ethical values of Judaism and, though a practicing Jew, avoided any purely formal religious observance. His criticism of the prevailing forms of Jewish belief and of the character of the believing Jew involved him in numerous clashes, particularly with the members of his own family. Shunning public honor and hating sycophants, he held firmly to his own individual views. Indeed, it was truly said of him that if he had not been a wealthy man and generous give of donations, the rabbis would have decreed his excommunication or ordered him to be flogged, so “unorthodox” was he. The second of his principles was summed up in the saying: “He that lives by the labor of his hands is greater than the God-fearing man”. He refused to support people who were capable of working for their living, on the grounds that “man is required to provide for himself”. The help he gave to others was therefore of a constructive nature, rather than purely philanthropic. Thus, in the sixties of the last century, he made it known to the members of his community that whoever wished to teach his son a craft could apply to him and he would defray the expense of the boy's training. Since to be a “craftsman” was in those days considered by Jews a despised occupation, this generous offer was not taken up even by the poor. Thereupon, Gad-Asher proceeded to carry out his plan by collecting together a number of orphan children, especially from the “Linishches” quarter of the town where the poor lived, and every year placing thirty to thirty-five of them as apprentices with tailors, cobblers, carpenters, watchmakers, and the like. He drew up a contract with these craftsmen, specifying the period of training, terms of maintenance, and conditions of work, and paid out of his own pocket for every young apprentice, stipulating only that he should learn the particular trade for three years, till he became thoroughly proficient in it, and during all this period be provided with food and lodging by his master[19]. He himself personally made sure that the boys were given a real apprenticeship, and did not simply become servants in their masters' homes. He also made provision for their Jewish education and for melammedim to teach them torah. These lessons were given in “Dinehles Shulchen”, the synagogue named after his aunt and mother-in-law, Dinah. Every Sabbath Gad-Asher Levin would come to this synagogue and examine “his” boys on what they had learnt from their teacher. At the same time, he would ask each one of them about what had happened in his little world during the previous week. He would also find out if the apprentices were observing the mitzvoth properly. He saw to it that they were properly clothed, providing them at his own expense with uniform outfits for week days and Sabbaths, and for summer and winter. We have an eye-witness account of how, every Sabbath, “his” boys used to walk together, all dressed in the same clothes, through the town on their way to the synagogue. These boys were popularly known as “Godye's Troop” (“Godyes Polk”). It need hardly be added how devotedly he cared for these boys when they were ill. Indeed, he bore alone the burden of functions that would normally be carried out by a whole organization. At the end of the period of apprenticeship, he gave each youth a sum of money to help set him up on his own in his trade or to cover the expense of further training. In this way, he set up two hundred and fourteen of the young Jewish men of his town as qualified artisans, sending forty of them to Russia for further training. Some of his trainees moved to other towns, but the majority remained in Pinsk. It is said that in South Africa there was for several decades an association of Jewish immigrants called “Godye's Troop”, whose members were former trainees of Gad-Asher Levin. His concern for vocational training and Jewish education was equaled by his support for general education. He used himself to defray the tuition fees for needy youngsters at the Pinsk "Realschule" (High School for Sciences), and that at a time when the Jews of Pinsk were opposed to educating their children in schools of any kind, let alone a gentile school, Gad-Asher's financial support of these pupils is thus eloquent testimony to his views on education. At the same time, he also supported the Talmud Torah institutions and their pupils. He likewise provided assistance for adults, though in the form of productive aid rather than by gifts of charity. Thus, he would buy a horse for a poor carter, and would help poor shopkeepers by loans for the purchase of stock. There was a special arrangement in Pinsk whereby in winter the grocers used to give the carters food on credit, to be repaid in the summer when the carters' business was good, and Gad- Asher used to guarantee these debts[20]. In memory of his wife, who was killed in Germany in a railway accident, he donated fifteen thousand rubles for the annual purchase, during the intermediate days of Sukkoth, of winter clothes for the old and infirm. Being estranged from the other members of his family, he carried out all his public work alone, performing his philanthropic acts with the minimum of publicity. Before his death, he distributed sums of money to charitable institutions and to his poor relations. In his will he bequeathed one of his houses for needy old people. For many years, his descendants used to mark the day of his death by distributing to the poor and sick clothes bought with money from his legacy. His personality and opinions are reflected in his will. He died on 22nd Kislev, 1877[21]. The Jews of Pinsk did not forget Godye. On the 25th anniversary of his death, an article in his memory was published in the journal, "Pinsker Stot-Luah" (Vilna 1903/4). And on the fiftieth anniversary, the leading members of the community gathered together in his house, which had been used as a home for orphans during and after the First World War, for a memorial service to commemorate the man and his work. The older people present, who still remembered Gad-Asher recalled his views and his efforts to improve the social, economic, and cultural situation in his days, and spoke about the changes that had occurred in the town since his death -- how an industrial proletariat had come into existence and Pinsk had become a workers' town.

Among the men responsible for the creation of opportunities of work for the Jews of Pinsk were Gad-Asher Levin's two sons-in law (he had no sons of his own). The first of these was Yosef Halpern (the husband of his daughter, Beileh). In 1897, Yosef Halpern bought and extended the match-factory, which became a source of livelihood for hundreds of Pinsk families. 400 - 500 workers were employed in it, 80-90% of them Jews. This was the second largest factory, after the Lourié works, in Pinsk, and one of the largest in all Russia. Its products were sold as far afield as southern Russia, the Caucasus, and the towns along the shores of the Caspian Sea. Here too, as in the Lourié works, a Jewish atmosphere prevailed. The workers included both orthodox Jews and also members of the "Bund" who, at the time of the 1905 revolution, emigrated to America and were among the founders and active members of the well-known "Pinsker Brentsch 210 Arbeter Ring" organization in New York; while many of the clerks in the factory belonged to the Zionist movement. In his public benefactions, Yosef Halpern showed particular concern for social institutions. He was lifelong president of the Pinsk hospital, where the town's poor received treatment free, and always used his social standing and personal influence to raise funds for its upkeep. In 1880, when the hospital was in the throes of a grave financial crisis, he saved it by prevailing on his fellow Jews to make contributions to it as thank-offerings for being called up to the Reading of the Law in synagogue. Together with members of the Lourié family, Yosef Halpern headed the Somekh Nofelim (Supporter of the Falling) charitable society in Karlin, for the provision of aid to people who had lost their money and needed financial support to enable them to keep their businesses going. And he was also one of the directors of the Karlin Old Age Home established by Hayyah Lourié.

Gad-Ash Leyin's second son-in-law was Shemuel Rabinovich., one of the owners of the Karlin candle-factory, which employed 120 workers, almost all of them Jews.

When Yosef Halpern died in Vienna in about 1919, his son, Beni (Bernard), took over the management of the match-factory, which he completely rebuilt after it had been burnt down (in 1923). 15% of the town's Jewish population worked in this factory. However, under pressure from the anti-Semitic Polish government, Beni Halpern was in 1925 obliged to sell the factory to a Swedish trust and agree, in fact, to its nationalization. This expropriation brought to an end one of the largest industrial concerns of its kind, founded and operated by Jews, in Russia. It is related that, when the new Gentile owners of the plant demanded of Beni Halpern, who was still the manager, that he should gradually layoff the Jewish workers, he replied that, in that case, he himself should be the first to be dismissed -- a step forbidden under the terms of the sale of the factory.

Apart from the regular contributions that he made to various institutions in Pinsk, in particular to the “Oze” and “orphans Home”, Beni Halpern also showed practical concern for his fellow-Jews in times of special need. After the First World War, when many refugees arrived in Pinsk, while many Pinsk Jews themselves returned to their houses without any means of livelihood, he was chairman of the committee set up by the “Jewish Representatives in the Polish Sejm” to help these unfortunate people. In 1924, he was one of the founders of the Jewish commercial and industrial bank in Pinsk, and served as chairman of its board of directors. The former residence of Yosef Halpern, which he had inherited from Gad-Asher Levin, was made over by Beni Halpern to the Orphans' Home set up by the Jews of Pinsk after the First World War and the pogrom perpetrated by Bulak Balakhovich's troops. Like his father before him, Beni Halpern did not join the Zionist Organization. He spent his last years in Warsaw, where he was killed, together with his wife (Sonia, the daughter of Yeshayahu Berlin of Riga), in the ghetto. He had no children.

Yosef Halpern's second son Georg (or Gad), who was born a few months after the death of his grandfather, Gad-Asher Levin, and named after him, joined the Zionist movement and for many years headed its economic bodies. He was one of the directors of the Keren Hayesod (together with his fellow-townsman, Yitshak-Asher Naidich), was elected at the twelfth Zionist Organization, and was a member of the first board of governors of the Keren Hayesod and a member of the executive committee of the World Zionist Organization. In Jerusalem he founded the large insurance company "Migdal". At the fifth Congress he was a member of the "Democratic Faction of Weizmann and Motzkin, and from then onwards remained one of Weizmann's loyal supporters and one of his advisers on economic matters affecting the Zionist Organization. Weizmann's letters to and about Georg Halpern show, in particular, that Halpern was one of Weizmann's loyal supporters in the activities of the Democratic Faction, in the project of establishing the Hebrew University, and in the opposition to the Uganda plan for Jewish settlement. The two of them together with Grigory Lourié, Shaul Lourié, and the Eliasberg family -- see below -- used to meet in Pinsk, both out of personal friendship and also to discuss the problems of the Zionist movement at that time. When the match-factory in Pinsk was about to be sold to Gentiles, he stipulated that the Jewish workers should continue to be employed there, and that the new owners should not be allowed to compete with the "Nur" match-factory that Gershon Weizmann had set up in Acre in 1924. Georg Halpern wrote his doctoral thesis on "The Jewish Workers of London". Although he emigrated from Pinsk in his youth to Western Europe, he retained a strong emotional attachment to his birthplace, and right to the end of his life, whenever he met a Pinsk Jew, he would say to him: "Please don't call me Georg. Call me Godye" (as his grandfather had been called in Pinsk). He died in 1962 in Jerusalem[22], where his daughter, the journalist Lea Ben-Dor, lives.

The Lourié Family

The Lourié "dynasty" was continued in Pinsk by Moshe Lourié (1824 - 1906), Hayyah's eldest son by her second husband, Aharon Lourié ("Orele Pinsker"). Following the example set by his mother with regard both to the economic development of the town and the support of charitable institutions, he became one of the most important figures in the whole history of Pinsk, the man who developed the town's commerce and later created a modern, Westernized industry in it. As one of the operators of the steamboats plying between Pinsk and southern Russia, he helped (like his mother before him) to turn Pinsk into an inland port and a transport junction between the south and west (through his firm "The Brothers (Moshe and David) Lourié & Co.”) When, in the 80s of the 19th century, the construction of a railway running through Pinsk reduced the town's importance as a port and seriously affected its commerce, Moshe Lourié set up a whole variety of industrial plants in the town. In 1865 he built a flour-mill, which was in 1872 powered by a steam-engine imported from Germany, and also a fat-factory, likewise steam-powered. In 1879 – 80, he founded a large plant for wooden nails, the first of its kind in Russia; and, in 1881, a factory to manufacture wooden boxes for the greasing of wagon-wheels. Then, together with two of his children, he constructed a large saw-mill (in 1890) and a factory (in 1898 - 99) for the production of large plywood- boards for building and furniture. The establishment of all these enterprises created a Jewish industrial proletariat and made Pinsk into a workers' town. With the co-operation of his senior officials, Moshe Lourié saw to it that there was a traditional Jewish atmosphere in his factories, in keeping with the Pinsk Jewish way of life. When taking on new clerks, he gave preference to Talmud Torah students; and he showed his Jewish consciousness and national pride by naming one of his steamboats "Montefiore". There were in those days very few factories within the Jewish "Pale" that could boast of a Jewish atmosphere and an observance of Jewish customs such as were to be found in Moshe Lourié's enterprises and in the match-factory belonging to his relative, Yosef Halpern (see above). It has rightly been said that these concerns were Jewish in the full sense of the word, and not just Jewish-owned. On the eve of the Sabbath or of a Festival, the workers downed tools one hour before the time for the lighting of the candles. Two long siren-blasts from the Lourié factory proclaimed the incoming of the Sabbath -- the first as a sign for the closing of the shops, and the second for the lighting of the Sabbath candles. Not only the Jews of Pinsk but also those of the smaller communities round about, on the far side of the lakes and rivers, brought in the Sabbath according to these blasts of the factory siren. On Sabbaths and Festivals the Lourié factory complex was closed and empty. In it, there was a synagogue in which, especially on the Yamim Noraim [Penitential Days), the manager and the ordinary workers prayed together. There was also a minyan on the Yamim Noraim in Halpern's match-factory. The workers in the Lourié factory, who started their first shift before dawn, used to make a special work-break for morning prayers in the synagogue, where they had installed an Ark with a sefer torah. Those that worked on Saturday night would come to the factory still dressed in their Sabbath clothes, and (so a reliable witness reports), would change into their working clothes only after one of their number had said the havdalah prayer marking the end of the Sabbath. At the approach of Pesach, the workers in the plywood-factory used to receive a gift of boards to cover their tables with, so as to make them kosher for the Festival. They were also, in normal years, given free matzoth. In the part of the town where the Lourié and Halpern factories stood there was a synagogue, known as the “Monastierchiener Shulchen”, in which almost all the congregants were workers from those factories, many of whom spent their free time together there on Sabbaths and Festivals, and also on week-day evenings. Close by the synagogue lived a dayyan (Rav Hindin) who served as the workers' religious authority and guide, and to whom they used to appear for decisions on questions of halakhah (religious law), or for settlement of their money disputes, and also for instruction in the torah, or a lesson on a page of the Talmud or a chapter of “Ein Yaacov” (a collection of talmudic stories).

In the philanthropic field, Moshe Lourié devoted his efforts to the maintenance of the institutions established by his mother: the Talmud Torah, the hospital, and the Karlin Old-Age Home. The management of these institutions was controlled by members of the Lourié family who, out of respect for their founder, continued the family tradition of support for them right to the end. They also provided for the upkeep of "HayyeIes Schulchen”, in which the numerous members of the family used to pray. Together with Hayyah's other children, Moshe Lourié founded the Karlin Gemiluth Hasadim society (1872) and placed at its disposal one of the apartments in his mothers former house, in which the society set up a trade school intended primarily for the poor of the town (1885, 1888). On his golden wedding (1890), Moshe Lourié donated a thousand rubles to the institutions established by his mother; and on his diamond wedding (1900) he gave ten thousand rubles for the building of a new Talmud Torah in Karlin, to replace the old one erected by his mother. In 1903 he shared in the cost of extensive renovations to the Pinsk hospital; and he also provided financial aid for the Somekh Nofelim society, which had been founded by his wife, Miriam-Leah, together with their relative, Feigel Levin, (in about 1875) and which was managed by the women of the Lourié family. During the food shortage in Pinsk in 1887, Moshe Lourié and his brother David distributed sixty pud (1 pud = 16.3 kg.) of grain from their mill weekly to the poor of the town; and in 1891 Moshe undertook to grind five thousand pud of rye flour for the same poor free of charge. After the great fire that broke out in Pinsk in 1901, he donated 800 rubles for relief work. On the other hand, after the Kishinev pogrom in 1903, he did not respond generously to an appeal for aid for the victims, perhaps because such a contribution was not in keeping with the rule that he apparently followed of giving preference to the needy of his own town. When the Association of Pinsk Jewish Boatmen was founded in 1890, Moshe Lourié contributed his share of the cost. A contemporary writer reports (1880): “After them (sc. After Hayyah Lourié, Moshe Yitshak and Gad-Asher Levin) … their sons continue … to perform innumerable acts of charity and are even more generous in their provision for the Talmud Torah and the Bikkur Holim (hospital), so that all the people of Karlin look to them for support”. An eye-witness (Mordekhai Kerman) describes how the Louriés of his day, and in particular Moshe, employed an agent to distribute their charities to the needy in the beth midrash during the minhah prayer, in a discreet way unnoticed by any but the recipient. Moshe Lourié was not a member of Hovevei Tsion, nor indeed of the Zionist Organization, and did not contribute to them as he did to charity. Herzl's ideas did not evoke any emotional response in him and his indifference greatly angered the supporters of the strong Zionist movement that arose in the town. However, he was not positively opposed to this movement; indeed, in 1899 a thoroughly Zionist-style Hanukkah party was held in his home, with the participation of the town's leading and most active Zionists (Shimshon Rosenbaum and others). This was no doubt due to the influence of Moshe Lourié's son-in-law, Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg (one of the oldest Pinsk members of Hovevei Tsion and the town's delegate to the Second and Sixth Zionist Congresses), and also of his two grandsons, Grigory the son of Aharon Lourié and Shaul the son of Idel Lourié (both of them Pinsk delegates to the First Congress). Despite his indifference to Zionism, Moshe Lourié was a member of the "Society for the Spread of haskalah"[23].

Times changed. Following the growing unrest among the workers caused by the various socialist movements at the end of the 19th century, Louriés began to leave Pinsk, as the Levins had (for different reasons) done before them. Typical of the changed attitude to the Lourié family is the following fact, reported by Hayyah Weizmann-Lichtenstein: "W. Lourié and his wife (Beileh) lived for decades in the same house and the same street. She used to go out on to the balcony and watch what was going on in the street and make comments. Year after year she sat there taking the passers-by to task for faults in their appearance and dress, and being listened to with the respect due to such a 'lady'. Came the year 1905, and she was still sitting there on her balcony and making her critical observations. As a young man and woman passed by Mrs. Lourié told the girl off for not having her hair combed and for talking in a loud voice in the street. Looking her straight in the eye, the girl answered her back: 'That's no business of yours, Beilkeh! Mind your own business, if you don't want to get hurt.' Pale and frightened, Mrs. Lourié went into the house and said to her husband, 'Our days are over. There is no more room for us in Pinsk.' And indeed, on]y a short time later they left Pinsk and settled in Wiesbaden, where they lived the rest of their lives"[24].

Moshe Lourié also left Pinsk, the town of his ancestors, towards the end of his life and went to Wiesbaden, where he died in 1906, and his wife died in 1911.

Moshe Lourié's industrial concern was inherited by his two sons, Leopold (Lippa) and Alexander Lourié, who had already enlarged and improved it while their father was still alive, adding a saw-mill and a plywood plant. On his death, they took over not only the running of the concern but also its "Jewishness": the clerks and workers, the atmosphere and customs, remained Jewish as in their father's day. Right to the very end there was, in the main office, a list of the charitable institutions to which contributions were sent every year, in accordance with the family tradition. Heading the list, of course, were those institutions which had been established or particularly supported by the founders of the family.

The spirit prevailing in the Lourié factory was well symbolized by the person of the gatekeeper, a man known as "Shmuelke der Shomer" who worked for both Moshe Lourié and his sons, and who was one of the most popular characters in the works. For several decades he stood on guard at the entrance to this large concern, deciding who should be allowed in and out. A Jew of the old school, with a flowing beard and a typical peaked hasidic cap, a follower of the tsaddik of nearby Libeshei, he used to read the biblical Portion of the Week, together with the targum and Rashi's commentary and hasidic exegesis, while actually on duty, without once making a mistake in the performance of his responsible task. And he was representative of many other conscientious and reliable Jewish workers in the plant.

In 1889 Leopold Lourié moved to Vienna, after marrying Fanny Landau of Brody, a descendant of the Gaon R. Yehezkeel Landau (author of "Noda bi-Yehudah") of Brody and Prague. Even after leaving Pinsk, Leopold continued to visit the town, since he was still responsible for the technical supervision of the factory, and he remained true to the Jewish upbringing that he had received there. "He judged the happenings of the world" -- wrote his son, Paul, in the small volume dedicated to his father's memory -- ''as a Jew, and bequeathed his Jewish outlook to his sons. He was well versed in the Torah and used to study it in his leisure hours... He inherited a tradition of charitable works from his forefathers". Although not an active Zionist, Leopold Lourié made the acquaintance of Dr. Herzl and had several meetings with him. As a result of this, Herzl in 1898 published in his weekly, "Die Welt", an article by Leopold Lourié (under the pseudonym "Kadiner") on Pinsk, entitled "Eine jüdische Arbeiterstadt”, containing extremely important details of the economic situation of the town at that time. In 1904, when the stream of refugees from the Russian pogroms reached Vienna, Leopold Lourié headed the Rescue Committee set up on their behalf. Through his efforts, many of these refugees found work in Vienna, while many others were enabled to continue on their way, mostly to America.

Leopold Lourié occupies a special place in the family annals. A gifted mechanic, he designed and developed new machines and adapted old ones to new purposes, making improvements in their structure and functioning. The machines developed by him in Pinsk were an economic boon to his fellow-townsmen, and made a name for themselves in Russian, and even in West European, industry. After finishing his studies at the technical institute in Karlsruhe, Germany (in 1881), he went to France and took a further degree in mechanical engineering. Here he saw for the first time a special veneer peeling machine which had just begun to be used for the manufacture of fine plywood-boards. On his journey home, he stopped in Germany to buy a machine of this kind, brought it to Pinsk, and put it into operation in his father's factory for the production of axle-boxes for the greasing of carriage- and cart-wheels. Since the horse-carriage was at that time a very common vehicle in Russia, these boxes were widely sold and the factory became an important source of livelihood for the Jews of Pinsk. In 1894 Leopold had the idea of making strong, but light, parts for these grease-boxes by gluing a crisscross of plywood strips on to them with a hydraulic press which was used in his father's oil factory. He fitted this press with plates of heatable cast-iron, between which the plywood boards were squeezed flat. Then, in 1898, he embarked on the production of large plywood-boards for building and furniture by the same method. Thanks to this invention of Leopold Lourié's, a new industry came into being in Pinsk and spread rapidly all over Russia, wherever there were alder-trees to supply the kind of wood from which plywood could be made by this new method. Since the alder grew in Polesia, around Pinsk, in the Rokitno marshes, and in other parts of the Jewish "Pale", this industry provided a living for thousands of Jews, and particularly for the Jews of Leopold Lourié's own town. A cast-iron plate from one of the first presses constructed by him is still preserved in the Haifa Technion. In addition to this invention, he also developed a technique of using wet glue, in place of the then customary dry glue, for the sticking together of boards of alder-wood. This new discovery led to the creation of a special branch in the plywood industry which was of great benefit to the Jews of Pinsk and its environs. Thus, thanks to these two technical improvements of Leopold Lourié's, one of the local natural resources of Pinsk became a source of livelihood for the Jews in the town. The factories of the “L[eopold] and Al[exander] Lourié" company employed as many as 800 workers, nearly all of them Jewish. Leopold Lourié died in London in 1938, at the age of 79.

After his death (his brother Alexander had died before him in 1924), the factory was managed by his eldest son Paul (or Shemuel, now living in Canada), until it was nationalized by the Bolsheviks after their occupation of Pinsk in 1939. Paul continued the family tradition of making yearly contributions to charitable institutions in the town as did his youngest brother, Arthur (now in Ireland). Leopold Lourié's second son, Anton (now in the United States) published the will of Hayyah Lourié's father, the "great" Shaul Karliner, in "Yivo Bletter", together with a careful analysis of its historical veracity. This study contains some very important information about Pinsk at the beginning of the 19th century. Anton also wrote a monograph, "Die Familie Lourié", giving genealogical details of this family from the 14th century onwards, down to the last three generations of its connection with, and work in, Pinsk. The three sons of Leopold Lourié were the last of the "Rothschilds" of Pinsk and Karlin.

Dr. Alexander Lourié (1861-1924), the youngest of Moshe Lourié's eight sons and daughters, was a very well-known figure in Pinsk and the last representative of the "Lourié" tradition there. Most of the members of the family -- including Moshe Lourié's brothers, Shemuel and David, and their children -- had left Pinsk by the beginning of the 20th century, but Alexander Lourié maintained his connection with the town till his death in 1924. After his brother Leopold moved to Vienna (1889), Alexander still went on living for some time in Pinsk; and even after he himself had made his home in Vienna, he frequently visited Pinsk in connection with the family's industrial affairs. As a child he received both a Jewish and a general education; and when he grew up he continued his studies in Germany, obtaining a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg. On his return to Pinsk, he and his brother set up the firm of "The Brothers L. and AI. Lourié". He used to give his workers various gratuities in time of need, but he could also be harsh and unyielding with them. When, in March 1905, a strike broke out in his factory, he called in the police and the Cossacks to load the goods on to the railway wagons; and during this whole period of industrial unrest there was considerable tension between him and his workers who were members of the "Bund". He was, as already stated, a student of the humanities, and his education had a lasting effect on him. Although very busy with the affairs of his factory, he made time for study, and for several years took lessons in talmud and Jewish philosophy in Vienna from the well-known scholar and rabbi, Dr. Aharon Kaminka. In Pinsk he continued the philanthropic tradition of his forebears. He gave generously, both in his own name and on behalf of his Company, to charitable institutions, especially those established by his father's mother, Hayyah Lourié. After the great fire in Pinsk in 1901 he headed the Rescue Committee, together with his brother Aharon. In 1903 he contributed a thousand rubles to the renovation of the Pinsk hospital. In 1905 he served as "advisor" in the Pinsk municipality, but gave up this position when the "Association for the Attainment of Full Equality for the Jewish People in Russia" directed such Jewish "advisors" to resign, because they had not been elected by the Jewish community but had been appointed by the Russian authorities. Alexander Lourié proved his loyalty to the Jews of Pinsk during the First World War, when the town was conquered in 1915 by the Germans. Although he could have returned to his family in Vienna, he told his friends that he would not abandon his fellow-townsmen in that hard time of bloodshed and hunger. He thought, and rightly so, that with his social standing, education and knowledge of German, he would be able to ensure that the rights of the Jews of his town were respected by the German conqueror. And indeed, the Germans appointed him chairman of the "Citizens Committee", i.e. mayor of the town, in which position he worked indefatigably to protect the interests of the people of Pinsk. During the food shortage that was felt all over Germany, and particularly in the conquered parts of Russia, he even succeeded in somewhere getting hold of a wagon full of grain for Pesach and was thus able to provide every Jew with a pound of matsah for the Festival. However, it soon became clear to him that the Germans were using the "Citizens' Committee" as a convenient tool to enable them to carry out their plans for exploiting the local population and its property for their own advantage. When he courageously opposed their demands -- including an order to hand over the girls of the town as camp prostitutes -- he was arrested and marched through the streets of Pinsk, under a guard of German soldiers, to serve a short prison sentence. On another occasion, he was taken by the Germans as a hostage, together with four other of the town's leading citizens. Although the local population saw that the ineffectiveness of the "Citizens' Committee" was not due to any lack of effort on its part, they nevertheless started a whispering campaign against it and its chairman. Disheartened by this state of affairs, Alexander Lourié resigned from his position and left the town in the summer of 1916, returning to his family in Vienna.

Unlike his brother Leopold, Alexander Lourié was opposed to the Zionist movement, a fact that saddened and angered the Zionists of Pinsk, including Chaim Weizmann[25]. In the Lourié factory at the beginning of the present century, as in the Halpern match-factory, there was a clear ideological stratification on Jewish matters: the workers were either religiously observant Jews or members of the "Bund" socialist party; the clerks and officials were Zionists of one kind or another; and Alexander Lourié himself represented the philanthropic attitude[26]. He died in 1924, after having successfully rebuilt his factory after the First World War. His daughter, Paula Strauss, who was born of his marriage with Natalia Wahl of Königsberg, is now living in Canada.

Moshe Lourié's oldest son, Aharon, was one of the leading public figures in Pinsk in the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. He founded social institutions, was chairman of schools and hospitals and used his good connections with the Russian authorities to help his fellow-townsmen. By nature strong-willed and authoritarian, he was nevertheless a devoted servant of the Jewish community. Although he lived in the aristocratic manner of the gevir, he mixed freely with his fellow Jews, and was easily approachable and ready to listen to any request. Hence he was affectionately known by the ordinary people as "Ore Lourié". He was born in 1842 and given a traditional education by private teachers. He married Beileh, the daughter of the above-mentioned Meir Levin, his father's cousin (see his own letter to Y. L. Gordon, reproduced in full below). In 1860 - 1868 he was the Pinsk correspondent of the Russian Jewish paper "Tsion" and the Vilna Jewish journal "Hacarmel". In 1851, the poet Y. L. Gordon happened to come to Pinsk and Aharon Lourié had for 2 - 3 months the good fortune of being his pupil. A friendship sprang up between them which was to last the rest of their lives, as is shown by Gordon's letters to Aharon Lourié from 1862 to 1888[27]. Some excerpts from these letters will indicate the affection and respect felt for Aharon Lourié by a poet of the haskalah period. On the 20th Teveth, 1862, Gordon writes to him: "... I hasten to let you know that I am the man you are seeking. I stayed twelve years ago in your town and was a frequent visitor in the house of your respected parents. You were taught by me for two or three months. I still remember you as a small, delicate child ... I at that time predicted to your respected father that you would grow up to be well educated and intelligent, as indeed you have. I see from your short, well and tastefully written letter... that your heart and soul are filled with wisdom and knowledge. I am also very, very glad to see that you still remember me... for you too are dear to me…and I feel a strong affection for you… Tell me about all that has happened to you since I left all of you… Is all well with your generous-hearted father, the dear and respected R. Moshe, and with your wise and capable mother? Is your grandmother, Hayyah Lourié, still living? How is your widely-learned uncle, R. Yosef Ettinger (the husband of Gite Ettinger, a step-sister of Moshe Lourié)? And what about your two towns, Pinsk and Karlin -- have they advanced towards the light of the haskaIah or have they fallen back?... Also tell me, please, if the A. Lourié that writes in the Jewish journals is none other than yourself... I can hardly wait for your reply... If you have a photograph of yourself... please send it to me... Ever your affectionate friend, Yalag". And from another letter, written in a similar vein on the 10th Nisan 1863 : "... In the year 1850, when I was nineteen, my father, of blessed memory, sent me to Pinsk to claim a sum of money owed him by a man who was a teacher in the school there. In connection with this claim, I was obliged to remain in that town [Pinsk] for several weeks and I bethought myself to earn my keep by private teaching... Thus I came to know you, you and your respected father and mother, and that wonderful woman, your grandmother, and all the other upright and dear members of your family and inhabitants of your town, some of whom I still remember and yearn to see". In yet another letter, dated the 10th Adar, 1864, Gordon writes to Lourié: "... When I read your letter a second time today, I found it full of sound remarks, written with wisdom and intelligence, and testifying to your wide knowledge and balanced thought. The situation in your towns [Pinsk and Karlin] with regard to the haskalah movement is the same as that in most of the towns in our country where our brethren reside: the great mass of the people is still walking in darkness…. But … the sun's rays can be seen reaching out to these rejecters of the light … Your style is good and elegant, and you have a ready writer's pen … In your letter … there were foreign words … as I have also found in your articles in 'Carmel'. Train yourself to speak Hebrew, so that you should have no need of non-Hebrew words”.

On the 15th Iyyar, 1868, Gordon writes to tell Lourié about his satirical story describing the tsaddik R. Aharon the Second and the hasidic milieu that he created around himself, the quarrel between the Karlin hasidim and the Lourié family who lived close to the rebbe' s "court", and the expulsion of R. Aharon from Karlin. "... I want you to know that, among the many stories that I have ready in manuscript, there is one called 'Aharith Simhah Tugah' ['Joy Ends in Sorrow'] .., about the life of the hasidic sect. This story is a tribute... to that great Jewish lady, your grandmother, and to your respected father. Of course, I have been careful to change their names completely, but all who know them will recognize them in my characters, for they are a seed blessed by God… Since I know you, my friends, to be a man of understanding, full of the spirit of divine wisdom, I beg you to let me know your opinion of my new poems... You alone do I know of all ... the leading citizens of your towns Pinsk and Karlin … Please be so good as to hand the book to Mr. Shatskes, the author of 'Ha-Mafteah' [a key to the rabbinical writings, one of the pioneering works of the haskaIah literature, written by a native of Karlin] …". On the publication of a new book by Gordon, the author sent a copy of it to Lourié with the following letter (1868): "... For about two weeks I have been busy distributing copies of my new book... but till now I have not sent one to your town... Apart from yourself I have no one on whom I can rely in your town". In another letter written on the day after Yom Kippur, 1868, Gordon gives some details about the business affairs of Aharon Lourié's father and uncle: "... Tell me, my very dear friend, what kind of business is carried on by your firm 'The Brothers [Moshe and David] Lourié & Co.'. I have heard that you have a steamboat. Where does it sail to? And what goods does it carry? What is your line of business? Do you deal in timber and grain, as your family has done for generations? Or are you building railway lines?" When his book "Olam ke-Minhago" ["Everything As Usual"] appeared, Gordon wrote to Lourié (on the first of the intermediate days of Pesach, 1873): "I am sending you all, you and your father and grandmother, one... copy of the second story from my book '0Iam ke-Minhago', which has just been published. I know that your grandmother understands Hebrew fairly well, and therefore I could not refrain from sending her a special copy of the book, as a token of my gratitude for the kindness that she showed me many years ago. When you read my book, you will easily recognize the real identity of the heroes and villains hinted at by my descriptions. But you must keep this to yourselves and behave as if you did not know, so that I should not be accused of wickedness... Also tell me how the reading of the story affects the members of your household... ". On the 22nd Av, 1874, Gordon writes to Lourié about the sale of certain books and about the Hebrew newspaper "Hatsefirah": "... You will have seen from the papers that the committee is prepared to publish the Five Books of Moses in a new Russian translation for our Jewish youth and that it is trying to get people to covenant to buy this book... For it has been firmly decided not to publish the torah until we have collected a thousand paid-up covenants in your town, for which purpose you will find enclosed ... a printed form for recording the names of the people who sign a covenant… I have also sent one of these forms to the rabbi of your holy congregation, R. Rosenberg [the rabbi appointed by the Russian authorities] ... Furthermore, R. Hayyim Selig Slonimski has begun republishing 'Hatsefirah' and has made me its general agent throughout Russia. Please be so good, therefore, as to recommend to me a trustworthy man in your town whom I can employ as my agent, on a business basis... Always your sincere friend, Yalag". On August 13th 1876, Gordon wrote to Lourié from Marienbad: " ...I was very happy to meet your dear mother again after twenty-five years… I send you my greetings from far away... We shall see each other again in Petersburg... Don't forget me on your arrival there... Your brother A[lexander] told me last night that you had enquired after me in your letter to your mother... I think I told you at the time that my daughter has become engaged to a young lawyer... I therefore request you to provide this future son-in-law of mine with law-suits, either your own or others', for he is a quick and able lawyer... ". On Nov. 1st 1876, Gordon wrote to Lourié about an article which he had received from him: "... Your letter... with the enclosed article... did not reach me until today, and that is why I have not answered it... Now I have also received your second letter with… 12 rubles... If only we had a million members like you!... Next week you will receive a small tribute from me -- the poem that I have written... Give my best regards to your respected mother, whom I was delighted to meet again after more than twenty years. Your friend, Yalag".

In 1888, Aharon Lourié published a notice in "Hamelits" and "Voshod" announcing that he required a teacher for the trade school which he had opened in Pinsk, and requesting applicants to send details of their education and qualifications to Gordon's address in Petersburg. This shows how close the relations between the two men were. On the 12th Av, 1888, Gordon wrote to Lourié about the candidates who were applying for the position: "Following on the notice that you placed in 'Voshod' and 'Hamelits', I am receiving a large number of applications, some in person and some by letter from remote places, from carpenters and iron-smiths who want to work in your school... You have not yet told me the terms... what the teacher's salary will be... So... let me have all the details... so that I should know what replies to give to the applicants' questions... Always your affectionate and sincere friend, Yalag".

Aharon Lourié's feeling for Y. L. Gordon is illustrated in the following two letters[28], which also contain details of the condition of Pinsk Jewry at the time and of Lourié's views on educational and cultural questions:

"19th Iyyar 1863

First of all, I will finish what I started to write in my last letter.

At the end of the week I returned home and found Perl [the Pinsk teacher, Marcus Perl] once again doing the work that I love, without any proper equipment for this task. I realized that I was woefully ignorant (for apart from the Holy Tongue, at which I had worked without any teacher, I had no clear knowledge of any other language, still less of any of the other necessary subjects))... I said to my father: Please be so good as to find me someone to teach me...

But there was no second Perl in our town. In the government Hebrew School... there were at that time two charlatans of teachers... completely ignorant melammedim. So my father decided to take the unprecedented step of finding me an instructor from among the teachers of the town's high school and was divinely guided to pick on the school's inspector, Ovtchinikov[29] ... a man who knew various languages and was versed in all the sciences, and who also had the advantage of having perfected his instruction by long practice, for he had been teaching for over twenty years. He had already taught many pupils by his new method, without any of the wearisome books of dry rules and theorems... He knew how to impart to his pupils all the rigorous laws of every subject in such a direct, easy, effective, and pleasant way that they were never again forgotten. And in addition to all these qualities, he was a man of great integrity and culture, one who loved and respected his fellow-creatures regardless of their nationality. At that time, my father had many shadkhanim [marriage-brokers] knocking at his door, for they could not bear to see a youth of sixteen still single. Before long, I heard myself being called 'hathan' [bridegroom]: my parents had betrothed me to a cultured young lady, Shulamith, the daughter of R. Meir Levin (of our town). This R. Meir is an educated and wise man, who can vie with the greatest scholars in the land in knowledge of the torah, and who at the same time is a seeker of general enlightenment. My parents wisely delayed the day of my marriage for two years, till I reached the age of 18. During this period (and afterwards too), I continued my studies with my teacher, the upright and good inspector. Apart from teaching me language and literature, and some other necessary knowledge, he constantly strove to widen my understanding and to show me what attitude a human being should adopt to the world around him, to everything that is done under the sun.

This is how the ten years passed, from the time you left us to the happy day of my marriage (the 11th Elul, 1859). During all this period, most of my time was devoted to the talmud, and two or three hours a day to secular studies. Of all my teachers of talmud the only one that had any real understanding of his task was a certain old man named R. Moshe-Leib, who taught me in my fifteenth and sixteenth years... My teachers never taught me the Bible at all, because they thought this study a waste of time, or because they considered that the words of the prophets were an encouragement to sinners. Alas! When will the Jewish people become truly wise?

I have now been four years in the house of the Rav and Gaon, my father-in-law, and I have still one more year -- God willing -- to live a life of peace and quiet in his house. God has blessed me with two lovely boys. May it be granted me to educate them in the torah, in Jewish observance, and in worldly knowledge!

By God's grace, I am permanently resident in the town where my dear parents live. I am no longer their only child, for I have four brothers, besides the three sisters who had already passed away when you were staying here. All is well with us, as with my grandmother, Hayyah (long may she live!).

It is now more than two years since I started to engage in the business of bringing animal fat from the district of Yekaterinoslav by ship to Pinsk. The business has declined in this last year, on account of the railway between Petersburg and Warsaw, but there is good hope of its playing an important part in Pinsk's commerce... if the Lithuanian line is built between Pinsk and Bialystok, the junction for the Warsaw line which connects... also with foreign lands.

Till now I have kept up my Jewish and secular studies; and my reading of German, French, and particularly Russian and Hebrew books has been my daily recreation. I also sometimes devote time... to writing articles in... Hebrew and Russian for journals written in these languages. Usually I sign them with my own name, A. Lourié, but occasionally I employ various pseudonyms. I am 'Abram the Hebrew' who was attacked by many people for his 'philological remarks' in 'Hamaggid', till I answered them in 'A Reply to My Critics'.

I shall postpone my reply to your question about the state of the haskaIah movement in Pinsk in these days to another letter.

I received your last letter and was glad to see in it that you know how to devote a large part of these letters to your wise comments.

You try to convince me that there is no point in my hearing the story of your life. But I think differently, since I learn many things by reading between the lines, and above all this: that there was a man whose teachers did not take proper pains with him and whose education was left to unqualified melammedim with no knowledge of pedagogy -- and who nevertheless eventually became a very wise and learned man, a shining intellectual example to his brethren, greatly admired for his wisdom... This is a lesson to me, and one that I have learnt!

Please send me ten copies of your book 'Mishlei Yehudah' for me to distribute in my town. You should know that two years ago I also bought ten copies of this book in Vilna and distributed them among my acquaintances, so that I cannot now promise you a good price for the ten new copies. If you fix a low price, I shall do my best for you...

The best way to send the books is through R. Yitshak Mikhalovski in Vilna. If you write to him that these books are for me, he will send them to me with one of the consignments of books that he sends to my town.

Also, please let me have some copies of 'Ahavath David', if you agree to a price of 30 kopek, for copies of the book are plentiful in our town.

Your affectionate and respectful friend,
A. Lourié

P.S. The R. Hayyim Lourié about whom you ask in your letter is the son-in-law of R. Henekh Eisenstadt of Minsk and is at present the owner of a shop [?] in partnership with Eisenstadt's son, the name of their firm being 'Eisenstadt and Lourié' (in Minsk)".

In the second letter to Gordon, Lourié writes as follows:

"Sunday. January 29th, Pinsk

My dear friend,

I hasten to reply to your letter of the 20th which I received yesterday, to be sure of this reaching you in Telsh.

I see from your letter that you sent me a small volume of 'Meshalim' ['Fables'] which I never received. Please send me another one on your return.

Please find enclosed 75 kopek, the price of 6 copies of your book -- 5 of 'Mishlei Yehudah', and one of 'Olam ke-Minhago, Pt. I'.

When the second part of your 'Olam' appears, be sure to send it to me.

You have presumably seen the book 'Milhemeth Soferim' (by Müller), which my friends thought would be still-born… This work is characteristic of a certain set of Russian Jews, the yeshivah students who, having looked through some books in Hebrew on secular subjects, think that they have mastered the whole of secular wisdom and make a noisy display of their supposed knowledge, like a few coins rattling in an empty jar. I was particularly amused by the author's statement that the truth of the akedah [binding of Isaac] was proved by the words occurring in the shemoneh esreh prayer for the New Year: 'Thou wilt remember the binding of Isaac for his seed'. Irrefutable proof indeed'.

Your affectionate and respectful friend,
A. Lourié"

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