« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 269]

Ratno Descendants
in Israel and Abroad


[Page 271]

The Stories of the Early Olim
[Immigrants to the Land of Israel]


The Story of Mordechai Gefen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Ratno natives in Israel regard me as the first of the olim from Ratno. I will not contradict this, for it is a great honor for me, and I have a great privilege in being Nachshon the son of Aminadav[1] with respect to aliya to the Land. Nevertheless, from a true historical perspective, I am unsure if this privilege is valid for me. We must not forget that four years before I made aliya, a Jew from Ratno named Yaakov Srochok made aliya to the Land of Israel. He was a tailor. He spent a brief time in Tel Aviv and then returned to the Diaspora. Yaakov Tuker, who fell along with Trumpeldor and his comrades in the defense of Tel Hai, was a Ratno native who certainly earned the rights of being the Nachshon. We cannot forget my friend Moshe Stern who made aliya to the Land of Israel at that time.

On the other hand, I am also prepared to accept the title that the natives of Ratno bestow upon me, for I did not first make aliya to Israel in 1929, the year that I made aliya in reality, but actually much before that. When I was a five-year-old child, I already thought of the Land of Israel as my future home. I absorbed my longing and desire for the homeland from my teachers in the cheders and certainly later from my teachers in the Tarbut School. I recall how my father was moved with emotion at the news of the Balfour Declaration, which he saw as the beginning of the redemption. The words that he said when he read in the newspaper that the Jew Herbert Samuel was appointed as the High Commissioner of the Land of Israel, as a King in Judah, still echo in my ears: “If I was now a twenty-year-old, I would not hesitate for one moment to make aliya to the Land of Israel!” There is no doubt that he was the first to impart Zionism to me, despite the fact that he himself was not an official Zionist, but rather one of the worshippers of the Trisk Shtibel, who believed in G-d and trusted his Rebbe.

The second factor that influenced me and hastened my aliya was the Jewish reality in our town. I would say with the words of Bialik, “My father is the bitter exile, and my mother is dark poverty.” I saw with my own eyes how the Jews became disparaged and downtrodden. I saw the hooligans of Petliura[2] and still recall the pogroms of Bulak Balachowicz and his gang of murderers. Although only a few Jews were murdered in Ratno itself, we knew that about 100 Jews were murdered in nearby Kamin Kashirsk. Even after the rise of the new Polish republic, I saw how the fine declarations of national equality were carried out in actuality. I saw what Grabowski and other ministers of the reborn Poland did to the Jews. They literally squeezed them to the bone. I had closer contact with the realities and lot of Polish Jewry after the death of my father in 1925, when I assisted my mother

[Page 300]

in the store and became familiar with business in a Jewish town, the competition for every Ukrainian customer, the weak foundations of Jewish economy, etc. I recall that, shortly before my father died, a fire broke out in the home of Avraham Ides in Ratno. The house went up in flames after all of the family members were murdered by the Polish commandant who did not want his act of pillage to become widely known. They spoke a great deal about this at home, and when I dared to ask father, “Why are we quiet?”, he responded tersely, “We are in exile, my son. Perhaps you will understand the reason for our quiet and restraint when you grow up…”

{Photo page 272: M. Gefen and M. Stern, members of Givat Hashlosha, in the Yam Hamelach Group of Hakibbutz Hameuchad (1931).}

I was 16 years old when I joined the ranks of Hechalutz. I would declare and announce at every opportunity that I see no reason and no permanence in Diaspora life, and I firmly decided to make aliya to the Land of Israel. Many difficulties came my way after the death of my father. My mother was widowed, and three orphans remained at home: my two sisters, and I, who was the eldest. I had to take the place of my father and assist in the livelihood of our family by maintaining a metal material and locksmith supplies store. However, as I have said, I was unable to come to terms with the reality and the detachment of the Jewish town. At the first opportunity, and this was

[Page 273]

at the beginning of 1929, I arose and went out to hachshara in Klesowa, which was at that time a beacon to the entire chalutz movement.

I had only been on hachshara for six months when I received a permit for aliya. Many were forced to wait for a year, two years, or more to receive the awaited permit. Apparently, I had passed through the proletariatization process in Klesowa in a satisfactory manner; I had become accustomed to work with detonators, rock exploding, and the like. Aside from all this, I had apparently found favor in the eyes of Maharshak, who, as is known, was the living spirit and moving force in Klesowa. The fact was that I was authorized for aliya after only six months of hachshara. When I returned home for my final preparations for aliya, I endured such pressure that I was only able to withstand it through a miracle. Nobody believed that I would indeed make aliya, especially in that tidings of Job came from the Land one after another. I recall that when I was in Brisk after hachshara, I met two people who knew my family - Gutman and Naftali Gloz - and I told them that I was about to travel to the land of Israel. Gloz raised his finger over his head in a gesture that the lad - that is me - has taken leave of his senses… It was specifically my grandfather who placed the greatest pressure upon me. Grandfather constantly complained in my ears, “Upon whom will your mother and sisters rely?” “You are the oldest, where is your responsibility?” When he realized that his words bore no fruit, he tried another method, “You want to go, go. Within two months I can get you an immigration permit to Canada or Denver, Colorado where we already have relatives. You will go, and the entire family will follow.” When he realized that my motivation for aliya was much stronger than his practical reasons, he began to use an entirely different method against me, by trying to prevent my aliya by reporting to the authorities that I was avoiding Polish Army service… That is the extent to which things went.

Without any feelings of misery, I can dare to say, that if I look back now with a retrospective glance, with all the obstacles, difficulties and pressure that I withstood, I am full of respect for that 18-year-old lad Mottel Weinstock, as I was called then, who succeeded in overcoming all the difficulties and actualizing his aspiration.

On sleepless nights when doubts and worries overcame me, when the admonitions of my grandfather regarding my rebellion and stubbornness with respect to aliya echoed in my ears, when I saw the tears of my mother and the faces of my sisters - I found support and comfort in the memory of my late father. He was the one who fortified me for the difficult struggle. I comforted myself that my father would certainly have wanted for me to make aliya to the Land of Israel. He understood the spirit of the new generation. He, the Hassid of Trisk, was a progressive man. He always claimed to those who opposed his efforts to set up a Hebrew School, “The world is advancing, and we must advance along with it.” He was a Zionist in his heart and soul, and I, his only son, was actualizing the theory of his Zionism.

I will not even attempt to describe what went on at home when I received

[Page 274]

the certificate, and the day of parting came. There was an atmosphere of Tisha Be'Av, and I can still hear the weeping of Mother even now, as I write these lines. Who could have realized then that on account of my stubbornness, through my aliya to the Land of Israel, I would succeed in saving Mother and my sisters from the bitter fate that was awaiting them?

{Photo page 274: Zelda and M. Gefen and their children next to their barn in Kfar Sirkin (1956).}

In October 1929, when I arrived in the Land on deck of the ship that transported many chalutzim such as I, the “Yishuv,” as the Jewish population of the Land of Israel was known then, was suffering from the after effects of the disturbances of the summer of 5689 (1929). The restrictions of aliya were in full force, and, above all, the kibbutzim required additional manpower. I set out directly for Kibbutz Givat Hashelosha, as I had already decided when I was in Klesowa. I did not have many difficulties in absorption. My hachshara in Klesowa was not in vain, and it contributed greatly to my rapid acclimatization. I thought that that they would give me work in building (something which apparently enchanted me from the time that I was a volunteer firefighter in Ratno, when I excelled at climbing over roofs and unstable objects). However, instead, I was assigned by the work office to work at hoeing and porting in the orchards. This was not easy work, and, after a short time I was the only one of my four friends in the kibbutz who remained in this job. I was not a tradesmen and this led them to “peg” me as a hired worker in the orchard.

I did not find satisfaction in this work. My heart carried me to greater things than these. I derived no satisfaction from continuing on a path forged by others. I wanted to be among the path forgers. After a brief period as a hired worker outside the bounds of the kibbutz, I found the opportunity to actualize this ideal of mine, when I was among the forces behind the founding of Kfar Sirkin. This was not an easy task. I dedicated myself to the establishment of this village and my kibbutz with my entire being. It can be said that I attained what I attained with my ten fingers, and of course with the assistance of my wife and family members. We did not receive grants or subsidies, but the village that sprouted up splendidly is a living testimony to

[Page 275]

the great pioneering efforts that the first settlers imbued in it.

I have been living in this town for approximately 50 years, and even now, close to 80, I still work the land despite the various restrictions imposed by old age. I had thought that my children would continue in my path, but they did not want to do so, and fate did not have it such. Other paths and other lands enchanted them more, but I have remained a lover of this land. When I survey my path and my achievements here - I have nothing to be ashamed of, Heaven forbid. I do not look backward in anger.

{Photo page 275 top: Shmuel Marder and Mordechai Gefen with building workers in Petach Tikva.}

{Photo page 275 bottom: Veterans and new immigrants from Ratno. Top: Maya and Miriam Weinstock-Gefen. Sara Ginzburg, Ethel Gutman. Bottom: Pnina and Moshe Droog, Mordechai Gefen.}

Translator's Footnotes

  1. By tradition, the first person of the Jewish people who jumped into the Red Sea before it turned to dry land. Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symon_Petliura Return

[Page 276]

The Story of Moshe Droog

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Approximately 50 years have passed since I left Ratno, but at times I attempt to recall the days of my childhood and youth, and I see in the eyes of my spirit the events and happenings of those far-off days.

I see myself as a four-year-old child, hiding with my sister in a wagon hitched to a horse standing outside the town as it was going up in flames. A Cossack riding a horse was demanding ransom from Father in return for letting the family live.

I see the Germans, who entered the town during the First World War, chasing the Russian Czarist soldiers. Their captain was housed in a portion of our house.

I see barefooted Bolshevik soldiers, wearing torn and worn-out clothes, breaking into the town. Most of their captains were Jewish lads. They were storming in the direction of Warsaw; however, the regime changed before long and the Hallerczyks of the Polish army attacked the Bolsheviks, who were forced to retreat in the direction of Kiev. On the way, they “incidentally” attacked the Jews of the town, cut beards, administered 25 lashes with their whips for all sorts of imagined transgressions, and plundered and pillaged everything that came to their hands.

I see myself hiding next to some monument in the old cemetery during the days of the infamous Bulak Balachowicz, as his soldiers were running wild in Ratno, plundering and murdering without anyone to stop them.

Behold, the events are changing and the pictures are turning. There is a pastoral silence around, and I am walking on a snowy night from the cheder of Reb Leizer the teacher, with a “lantern”, which is nothing more than a candle in a bottle; or I was escaping along with other children from the cheder of Reb Nechemia, who was running after us to bring us back to the cheder.

Again the years pass, and I see myself as a student in the Tarbut School, founded by Noach Kotzker, as I was becoming accustomed to the Hebrew Language with Ashkenazic pronunciation.

Now, our spacious, wooden house stands before me, surrounded by a fruit and vegetable garden, with a granary, stable and barn. The neighbors close to my house were Ukrainian farmers. The house was always bustling with movement. My friends, and the friends of my sisters Amalia and Pnina, were discussing and conversing with childhood enthusiasm about important matters, questions of whether Hebrew or Yiddish was the “eternal” language; the Land of Israel versus Birobidzhan[1], etc. Despite the sharp differences of opinion, friendship remained strong between them all, and the “politics” did not disturb the friendship.

Here I am in the large city of Kowel, dressed in the uniform of the Hebrew gymnasium, with the Hebrew Language in Sephardic pronunciation rolling off my tongue in

[Page 277]

a most natural manner. This was indeed a great event in my life, and perhaps not only in my life. Many Jews in Ratno regarded the travel of my sister Amalia to study in Kowel as a brazen act with respect to my parents. She was the pioneer, and one year later, I also joined her as a student in the Tarbut Gymnasium. We both joined the Hashomer Hatzair chapter during our studies in Kowel. This movement that blended scouting, pioneering, labor and Zionism, and later also Socialism, enchanted us greatly. It was natural that when we came to Ratno during our vacations we attempted to give over our experiences to the local youth. We founded a chapter of Hashomer Hatzair in Ratno. At that time we felt, and there was definitely a basis for that feeling, that we were thereby enriching the lives of the youths who had no meaning or purpose. We were taking them out of the miry pit of gradual degeneration, and we were imparting to them something that was sorely missing in those days - a purpose for their lives. After some time, about a half year before I concluded the gymnasium, I dedicated almost all of my time to that aim. As I was forced to interrupt my studies due to an illness, I dedicated myself to the activities of the movement with all my means.

As I write these lines, I recall how we performed Lamdan's “Masada” on stage. This performance was a topic of conversation for a long time for everybody. We did not regard Lamdan's “Masada” as merely a literary creation, but rather as a flag, as a call against the degeneration of the Jewish youth in the Diaspora, and the presentation of new challenges and goals that would impart meaning to these youths. I directed the play, even though I had no stage experience at all. Accomplishing this task was a challenge for me.

{Photo page 277: A group of the first Olim from Ratno. On the bottom: M. Gutman of blessed memory, M. Gefen, Sh. Marder. On top: A Kosnik, M. Stern, M. Droog, Sh. Lavie, A. Feintuch.}

[Page 278]

These and similar occurrences leap before me as a kaleidoscope of my childhood and youth. Many of my generation certainly see the same images and pictures as they recall the days of their youth in Polish Wolhyn.


I made aliya to the land in May 1934 on the Polonia ship. For health reasons, I did not go through hachshara on a kibbutz in the Diaspora, and I made aliya as a student with the intention of graduating from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I did not remain in Haifa after I arrived, and I immediately attempted to visit my fellow townsmen Mordechai Gefen, Moshe Gutman and Moshe Stern, who left the kibbutz Givat Hashlosha at that time and were later among the founders of Kfar Sirkin. After several days of rest and touring, they arranged work for me with a building contractor in Petach Tikva.

These days of work are etched in my mind. I had never before held a spade or a hoe in my hands, but on my first day, the contractor gave me the task of preparing concrete from a mixture of gravel, coarse sand, sand and cement in a large basin for the purpose of pouring on roofs. I held my own through the workday with difficulty. The skin on my hands peeled off and my hands themselves lost their functionality for a few days. What vexed me especially was that the payment for that first difficult day of work never reached me, for the contractor went bankrupt. I made note that “Working Land of Israel” remains in debt to me for one day of work… I moved to Haifa after I decided to study structural engineering in the Technion, and I attempted to spend the months that remained until the beginning of the semester by working and saving money for my studies. The section for general workers of the Council of Workers of Haifa set me up in digging pits for placing hydro poles in the Tira region. I also remember well my first workday in Tira. This was a fine summer day, and since I was not yet familiar with the strength of the Israeli sun, I took off my shirt and undershirt after two or three hours of work to ease the heat of the sun a bit. When I returned to my room and wanted to take a shower, I removed my clothes along with - the skin of my back, which had turned completely into water vesicles. Thus did my second day of work in the Land end.

I did not despair, for I was prepared for the pangs of acclimatation. After some time, I began to work in one of the many building groups that existed in Haifa at that time, and apprenticed in iron construction and scaffolding. My original plan of studying at the Technion slowly faded to the background. This was largely due to the scale of values that was accepted in the Land of Israel at that time, where the value of labor was supreme.

The lack of work was felt strongly in Haifa during the time of the Italian-Abyssinian War. I and five other youths set up a civic commune. We rented a three room dwelling in the city and divided our meager belongings equally. As time went on, this house of ours became a transit dwelling for many new immigrants who found some assistance there, with the workers kitchen providing the remainder…

[Page 279]

{Photo page 279 top: Moshe Droog as an iron worker on the roof of a building in Haifa.}

{Photo page 279 bottom: M. Droog with residents of Netanya digging defense positions in the region of Kfar Yona (1948).}

After some time, when the employment situation improved, I arranged an independent building group. Our first job was building the Ziv neighborhood in Neve Shaanan atop the Carmel. At that time, I built my own house, but was forced to sell it for I was unable to make the payments during wartime. These were the times of “disturbances” and their effect was felt throughout the entire country, especially in Haifa. In order to reach the Ziv neighborhood, we had to go through the Arabi area of Chalisa and an area of the Jordanian Legion that was stationed atop the mountain. The situation was fraught with danger, and at times we were “honored” with a volley of shots as we returned home. As a member of the Haganah, I was sent to a course for squad leaders organized in the forest of the Carmel after the murder of eight guards on the mountain. At the end of the course, I was given the responsibility of security in the Ziv neighborhood. From that time, my nights were dedicated to guard duty and my days to work. I was not the only one involved in difficult work and uncomfortable conditions. Many others like me lived and worked in similar conditions. Everyone performed to the best of their abilities and even beyond.

My work group disbanded due to issues of the times. I worked at Solel Boneh for a period of time, and later at a security gate in the north, in “Pillboxim ,” and in setting up security walls for the oil tanks in Haifa. At about that time, I was offered the job of supervisor of the consumer's organization in Netanya. I took on the job knowing the importance of these organizations for the workers who were living on meager salaries and having difficulty meeting their budgets. I regarded this as a specific challenge, and moved to Netanya in 1943…

After a few years , the organization that I ran turned into a very important part of the supply chain in the city, first and foremost for the local community of workers. This was in the midst of the era of austerity of Dov Yosef[2]. All the citizens of the state were ordered to “tighten their belts,” but even with the belt tightening, there was a need for food. The organization also served as a supply source for units of the Israel Defense Forces that camped and were active in the eastern Sharon during the War of Independence.

In addition to my role as director of the consumer's organization, I was simultaneously active in the Consumer's Cooperative League. In 1956, I was asked to represent it

[Page 280]

on the leadership of the “Central Provision Depot” (Hamashbir Hamerkazi) as the director of the food department, which was then one of the central departments. I had to do on a national basis what I used to do on a local basis. The supply network of “Hamashbir” was not restricted to consumers' unions but also served kibbutzim of all types, the Moshav movement, government and communal institutions, and other such things. Among other activities, I set up an independent trucking network for the institution. In addition to local branches, I opened up branches of Hamashbir Hamerkazi in Eilat and Kiryat Shmona. Part of my responsibility was the building of a new center on Giborei Yisrael Street in Tel Aviv, the tank in Kiryat Gat, the branch in Beer Sheva, the central warehouse for foodstuffs, and others.

The period of my service also included the years 1956, 1967, and 1973, which, as is known, were years of war. The burden of responsibility for food supply to all of the settlements united by Mashbir, first and foremost for those living near the borders, was double and more. These years placed many difficult challenges before me with respect to supply, trucking, manpower, etc.

After 21 years of activity in Hamashbir Hamerkazi, I left its leadership in 1977 and became involved in the development of a company for cooperative importing of foodstuffs for Hamashbir Hamerkazi and the consumers' organizations, as well as setting up a central warehouse for those institutions. I retired in 1981 and transferred my task to someone younger than I.

{Photo page 280 top: Moshe Droog on a squad leaders course in the forests of the Carmel.}

{Photo page 280 center: Armored vehicles of the Haganah ascending to the forests of the Carmel.}

{Photo page 280 bottom: Yehudit Sandiok, M. Droog, Dvora Grabov and Feiga Marin at Kibbutz Mesilot.}

Translator's Footnotes

  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birobidzhan Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dov_Yosef Return

[Page 281]

The Story of Shmuel Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I spent my early childhood years in the Ukrainian village of Dubechno, 17 kilometers from Ratno. Very few families lived in that village. Some of them owned stores, and the rest, who lived near the Kowel-Brisk railway station, worked in the lumber trade. My father was among them, and he expanded his business and even acted as a building contractor for the extensive forestry authorities in the district.

Good neighborliness pervaded among the Jewish families and the Ukrainian population. Many of the Ukrainians worked with the Jewish merchants at sawing lumber in the forests, transporting the lumber, and loading it on the transport trains.

As a child, I played with the children of our Ukrainian neighbors. I would go to their homes, and I even went out to the fields with them during harvest time to watch them bring in their produce. I loved village life, the surrounding forests, and the gathering of various types of berries and mushrooms. I recall the “Brioza” trees next to our house that would drip their natural, tasty sap into the cans that we had hung on them. We had a vegetable garden, a cow, a goat, fresh milk for drinking, and homemade dairy products.

Our large house was next door to the house of my paternal grandfather, Pinchas, a scholar who never stopped learning. He always sat and studied Torah, for the work was primarily the task of Grandmother. She ran the guesthouse and tended to the guests - the various foresters, bankers and lumber merchants. This was the accepted custom in those days: She concerned herself with this world, and he concerned himself with the World to Come.

With anything related to the vanities of this world, Grandfather satisfied himself with very little. He was modest, upright, and forgiving. When Grandmother was railing against someone who owned something and was not paying his debt, Grandfather responded, “If he did not pay yet, it is a sign that he does not have anything now, and when he can afford it, he will pay.”

My father Shamai studied during his youth in the Yeshiva of Brest-Litovsk under Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, who was an important person in those days, and not everyone was able to be among his students. Later, my father realized that “the way of the world precedes Torah” and that a livelihood takes precedence over scholarship. Therefore, he ended his studies and began to work as a lumber merchant - a common profession amongst the Jews in our district in that era. My maternal grandfather David and his family lived in Ratno, where he had a workshop for tanning hides.

On the High Holidays, all the Jews would leave our village to go to their relatives, so that they could attend the public prayer services in the synagogues with the rest of the People of Israel. Of course, our family did so as well. My mother Breindel was an intelligent woman who knew Hebrew and Bible. She was an exemplary housewife and mother. Through the influence of Grandfather David, my father became a Karliner Hassid. He drew close to Hassidism, and whenever Rev Melechke (Elimelech) came

[Page 282]

to Ratno, my father turned away from his business endeavors and went to be with the Tzadik. At times, he would even travel to the Rebbe for advice and a blessing.

I am in gratitude to Rabi Elimelech for permitting me to make aliya to the Land. Once, when I was returning from hachshara to prepare for my aliya, there was sadness in the house and my parents were going around depressed. My father traveled to the Rebbe to request his advice. The rabbi listened, pondered, and decided, “He wants to go - let him go in peace!”

When he returned home and repeated what the Rebbe had said, there was calm in the house. My mother even added, “I wish we would merit to also go.” My heart is pained because that wish was never realized. May the name of the Rebbe be blessed.

In Ratno, I studied with Leizer Broszniker, Nechemia, and Reb Hershel. Then I moved to Brisk. I was in the Yeshiva of Rabbi Sokolovski for a brief period. I belonged to the “Hitorerut” group that stemmed from extremist Torah education. I began to swim through the “Sea of Talmud.” However, at that time, I was also influenced by the spirit of Zionism that had penetrated the Jewish youth circles of Brisk, including the members of the household in which I lived, who belonged to the Gordonia chapter. The Hebrew songs that I heard in that home blended with my Gemara melodies. I was then a lad of 14 or 15. I began to think about the ways of the world and my own path. It seems that, in the Gemara, I did not find a solution to the questions that bothered me, and the Hitorerut group in the Yeshiva was not sufficient to satisfy the way of life of a lad who had witnessed pogroms with his own eyes. I transferred to the Tachkemoni School, and from there to the Tarbut High School. A new spirit began to pulsate within me, that found expression through youth activities in the pioneering movement.

{Photo page 282: Shmuel Goldman at a formation of watchmen.}

[Page 283]

Along with a few other friends, including Avraham Grabov of blessed memory, Yisrael Honig, Simcha Leiker, Charna Greenstein, and Maya Weinstock, and with the assistance of Mordechai Yanover of blessed memory, we founded a chapter of Hechalutz Hatzair in Ratno. From that time, I devoted all my energies to that movement. I participated in the first summer Moshava of Hechalutz Hatzair in the town of Bereszchka in Wolhyn. The counselors included Chuma Chayes of blessed memory and Moshe Breslewsky of blessed memory from the Land of Israel. This Moshava fortified me ideologically, freed me from doubts and uncertainties that had found expression in poems that I had written at that time, and in my pouring out my heart in my personal diary. I regarded Hechalutz Hatzair as the forger of Jewish reality in the town, and I cleaved to it with my entire essence and soul.

I went out to hachshara in Klesowa. From there I went to the world seminar of Hechalutz in Warsaw, under the direction of Yitzchak Tabenkin. The participants of that seminar later formed the active group of the pioneering movement. According to our plan, we spread out into different districts. At first I worked in the headquarters of Hechalutz Hatzair in the organizational committee. Later I was sent to the Tel Chai division in Niemen, where I worked at organizing the chapters of Hechalutz Hatzair. It seems that there was not one town between Lida and Vilna which I did not visit on business of the organization. I was even arrested by the police in one of the towns, for I was suspected by them of Communist activities.

Later, I was elected as secretary of the Tel Chai division, which saw itself as destined to settle in the Upper Galilee. Indeed, when I made aliya in October 1933 with my wife Sara, who was also an activist of the movement, we went directly to Ayelet Hashachar, where the members of the Tel Chai division of Poland gathered.


First Steps in the Land

{Photo page 283: Shmuel Goldman with his oldest son at Ayelet Hashachar.}

Our dream was realized. The stormy period of movement activities in the Diaspora found its expression with our coming to Ayelet Hashachar in the Upper Galilee. We were burdened with the yoke of the kibbutz, of the building efforts, of clearing the fields and preparing them for cultivation and planting, of drilling for water, of guarding the fields, and of defense. I was among the drafted guards.

As every new immigrant in those days, we were afflicted with fever, dysentery and skin diseases. I was chosen for various tasks: secretary of the kibbutz, treasurer, editor of the internal newspaper, etc. I was able to meet all of these challenges. To my great dismay, we became entangled in a certain crisis that led to our leaving the kibbutz. This was a painful and dismaying departure both for us and for the kibbutz. Looking back, it is unfortunate that we did not have the strength to overcome the various difficulties, and were forced to leave. However, we remain connected to the kibbutz with all the strands of our soul to this day. We have deep feelings of gratitude for members who said to us during the farewell gathering, “Whenever you wish to return - the kibbutz is open to you.” These words encouraged me when I went out frustrated and perplexed toward a new path of life.

My wife obtained work in a school for abandoned children in Kfar Avoda near Nehalal, under the auspices of the prominent educator Dr. Lubinsky. The school received it support from the institutions of the national committee. We received an apartment in this institution, and we moved there with our son,

[Page 284]

and my mother-in-law Henya. I wanted to join the Beit Shearim Moshav, but I was lacking the 50 Israeli Lira that was needed for this. I was unable to obtain a loan for this purpose under any circumstances, and the idea of the Moshav was shelved.

Later, the principal of the institution offered me a job as a substitute teacher in the village school, on the condition that I obtain a permit from Professor Shalit, the head of the supervisory committee of the school. After a discussion with Professor Shalit, I received a letter of recommendation for the principal of the institution, authorizing me to be given work.

As a teacher of literature, Bible and history, I developed educational activities within the youth groups for children of various ages that were affiliated with the institution. I entered them into the ranks of the Working Youth, I forged a connection with their families, and with the assistance of some friends from the neighboring kibbutzim, I forged a connection between the oldest group of the youth of the institution and people of the same age from the surrounding settlements. I drew them close to a new way of life, to work and creativity, rather than the life that they knew on the streets to this point.

This work gave me satisfaction and calm. Apparently, I was destined for educational activities. I received significant assistance and encouragement for this work from David Cohen of blessed memory, of the Working Youth.

I am happy to note that a group of the youth whom I educated even joined the kibbutzim, and are members to this day.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, and the organization of the British Army, the buildings of the institution, which bordered an airfield, were captured by the British Army, and we were forced to vacate the place. We moved to Hadera, and from there, after a period of transition, to our permanent residence next to Moshav Herut. On account of the situation, the character of the institution and composition of the children changed, and we decided to leave this work. We moved to Rishon Lezion, where I worked at first as the director of the consumer's organization. After some time, I was chosen as secretary of the Workers Council of Rishon Lezion. My wife worked at first in Sarafand, and later in the kindergarten of the Organization of Working Mothers.

During my tenure at the consumers' union, I searched for ways to draw the community of workers close to the consumers' institution. During that era of work shortages, we found a solution to the pressure by supplying the agricultural workers who received their provisions through special grants. During that period of time, I was also chosen as a member of the advisory council of the consumers' cooperative, and I served on the city council of Rishon Lezion.

My years of work as secretary of the workers' council were dedicated to two areas: the social consolidation of the community of workers by setting up cultural institutions and educational activities. The secretary for cultural matters, the writer Mordechai Taviv of blessed memory, should be remembered positively. He worked a great deal in this area. I dedicated myself to the setting up of communal institutions. We even began to set up a workers neighborhood in the area of the Histadrut institutions as well as an agricultural center. We concerned ourselves with obtaining loans for the workers who did not have the needed sums for a first payment.

During that period, our home in Rishon Lezion was open to new immigrants who arrived from Ratno, thanks to a significant extent to my mother-in-law Henya of blessed memory, who saw it as

[Page 285]

her duty to assist the absorption of Ratno natives in the land.

The years 1946-1947 were years of economic pressure and work shortages. The danger existed that additional functioning enterprises might close. Among others, the Gavish cooperative, which employed many workers, was liable to close. Upon realizing the danger awaiting the local community of workers, I advised the owners of Gavish to set up an equal partnership between the local workers and the owners. The workers were promised loans to finance the investment that each person was required to invest in this cooperative. This initiative was based on the following assumptions.

  1. With the establishment of the cooperative, relations between the workers and employers would improve.
  2. Work productivity would increase.
  3. The workers would be equal partners with management, which would ease the pressure on the owner of bearing the yoke during that era.

The owners of Gavish, who did not at all want their precious institution to close, agreed to my recommendation. I had to enlist the help of the wives of the workers and explain to them that if the enterprise was not rehabilitated, their husbands might face a long period of unemployment.

The efforts bore fruit, and the plan came to fruition. We raised the first sums that were needed for the shares, and the partnership commenced. To everyone's joy, a positive change began and the period of growth began.

This successful experience of Gavish, and the will to continue along this path of a 50:50 partnership between private capital and the workers' cooperatives obligated the cooperative headquarters to bring this matter to the central committee of the Histadrut for a fundamental decision.

When I spoke before the central committee, I defended this path as a broad opportunity for ensuring employment for workers in failing enterprises during this period of economic straits, and perhaps also as a means of widening the network of creative cooperatives in general.

The executive committee gave its blessings to this path, and the cooperative center began to operate in that direction. I was invited to the cooperative headquarters in December 1947 as a member of the secretariat. One of the first tasks given to me was looking after the enterprises that had formed partnerships between private capital and the workers' cooperatives, in the scope of my role as director of the metals branch.

During this period, Hamalachim, Pliz, Karpuman, Maalit, Keren-Or and others were established. From this, the partnership between Ampa and Haargaz was born, forming the Amcor Concern.

I worked at the cooperative center for ten years, and I concluded my work in December 1957. From then until this day, I am the director of the Amron factory in Herzliya that belongs to the Amcor Concern. This enterprise employs 200 workers, and is especially involved in the export of receivers and ionization devices throughout the world. In the most recent year of 1982, the export revenues reached six million dollars. It also manufactures television receivers under the auspices of the Nordmende Company.

[Page 286]

{Photo page 286 top: Ratno natives at the drilling of wells in the area of Herzliya.}

{Photo page 286 bottom: Members of the pioneering movements taking leave of the head of their organization, Moshe Droog, before his aliya to the Land of Israel.}

[Page 287]

The Story of Simcha Lavie (Leker)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 287: Uncaptioned. Simcha Lavie}

I was 20 years old when I left Ratno on my journey to the Land of Israel. From time to time, various visions of the town come to my mind. Some of them, especially of the landscape, I will attempt to bring here in these lines. Perhaps because I left Ratno in the month of December, I frequently see it as covered in the snows of that month. When I left the town, I had a feeling of liberation from the straits, as if I went through a tunnel with a beacon of light on the other side signaling to me the path that I was to follow. I would be telling the truth if I state that it was not just light that I saw in Ratno. Symptoms of haughtiness, heavy–handedness, lording, and the like were very prominent in communal Jewish life. When I was in Hechalutz and the youth movements, I rebelled against all types of symptoms that were not apparent to me at that time. The fact that my aliya to the Land of Israel was not through the official, acceptable channels at that time demonstrates my ability to stand up for myself, to not depend on institutions, and to forge my path through my own powers. It is a fact that I did not follow the well–trodden path at that time, and apparently this trait has remained with me during my time in the Land of Israel.

I arrived in the Land of Israel in the month of Adar 5693 (1933) with the address of one of the first residents of Herzliya in my suitcase, whose relatives in the Diaspora asked me to send him a greeting.

On my third day in the Land, I decided to travel to Herzliya to deliver the greeting. I thought to myself: on this journey, I will pay attention to the landscapes of the Land and perhaps find some ideas for work through conversations with people that I meet.

The journey from Tel Aviv to Herzliya took about two hours. It first went through the narrow road leaving to Petach Tikva, and then through a dirt road with the orchards of the Sharon and the towns of Ramatayim, Magdiel, Kfar–Saba, and Raanana on both sides. Herzliya appeared before me unlike I imagined it. The houses were very low and far from each other. The roads were unpaved. Everything was still under construction. One cannot forget that Herzliya was only ten years old at that time.

When I got off the bus of the Hasharon cooperative, I found myself opposite a house upon which a sign was fluttering: The Workers Loan and Savings Fund. A short man came out of the building at that moment. When I asked about where the person I was supposed to greet lives, he told me that he would bring me to his door. This was Ben–Zion Michaeli, the director of

[Page 288]

the loan fund and a member of the local workers' council, who took interest in the “Chalutz” (as the green immigrants were called at that time…) He recommended that I remain in Herzliya and he even rented me a room in one of the orchards of Herzliya that was built on a hill. There was a small room appropriate as a dwelling place for one person on its slope beneath the supports of the house. I purchased a sofa from one of the neighbors for 50 grush (1/2 an Israeli Lira). Thus, I became a resident of Herzliya without any plans and without any institution concerning itself with my absorption.

I entered the local Workers Council building that evening. I was received there with great warmth, as if I was one of the locals. I later found out that my “patron” of my first day, Michaeli, had already told his friends in the council about the new immigrant who had come to the settlement, who spoke fluent Hebrew, was expert in what was taking place in the workers movement and the Histadrut, and who would attempt to settle in Herzliya.

At that moment, on the spot, I registered in the Histadrut and Kupat Cholim [Sick Fund], and was told that I should arrive the next morning at 6:00 a.m. and wait for two members with whom and under whose direction I would work in the orchard.

Armed with a borrowed hoe, I stood at the designated spot and met my guides. These were Pesach Krasnogorsky (Yifher) who later became mayor of Herzliya, and Pinchas Zucker (Eylon) who currently serves as the mayor of Holon. Both were active in the community of workers during those days in a fully voluntary fashion as was the norm then. They too worked in the orchard to earn their livelihood. Thus I began my first job in the Land – hoeing and fixed the “plates” around the tree roots to provide irrigation.

Within a brief time, I obtained work in digging wells. I seized this opportunity, for it would be slightly easier on my back, which was suffering due to the hoeing. It would also be better for my wallet, for the salary was almost double. I would travel by van along with the staff of day workers to the place of the boring. I would spend the entire workday hermetically closed below the well under construction. At the end of the work, I would climb up the steps of a ladder, and exit into the air of the world. I would again breathe clear air, and absorb the intoxicating aromas of the blossoming citrus fruits again, and “be guilty with my soul” as it says in Pirke Avot[1], for I said to myself “How beautiful is this tree, how beautiful is this field.”…

When the disturbances of 5696 (1936) broke out, I moved to District 3 that was atop the hills, along with my wife and my newborn son Yigal, who was six weeks old at the time. My neighbors and friends at that time were the Mabovitch family – the father of Golda Myerson[2] of blessed memory, and the Lipschitz family. These two families arrived from the United States during the 1930s, and it goes without saying that the Land was good to them in those days. I worked as a regular employee in the orchard of the Lipschitz family for some time.

The backbreaking work during the day and guard duty at night in order to prevent attacks from the Arabs in the neighboring villages did not deter me. I set myself up in the Third District because I felt the duty to participate in the burdens, efforts,

[Page 289]

and struggles of the local residents. Mendel Lipschitz, a childhood friend of my father of blessed memory, was a bosom buddy of mine. I worked as a regular employee in his orchard.

One summer's day in the year 5697 (1937), the village of Shmaryahu was set up near our settlement. The news that the road that connected the two settlements was to be paved shortly gave us faith and great encouragement. The community of local workers, who earned their livelihoods primarily from work in the orchards, awaited other sources of livelihood, for there was a serious recession at that time in the plantations. Most of the orchards were young and had not yet produced fruit. A great deal of patience and a pioneering spirit was required in order to establish oneself in this settlement despite the difficult economic conditions. The district in which I lived was a separate municipal entity from the settlement of Herzliya. When the bulldozers came to mark out the path of the road that was to be paved, the workers of the area insisted on their rights to fulltime work. The council of workers of Herzliya ignored this demand and wanted to insist on its own supervision of this work despite the fact that this settlement was outside its jurisdictional area. Discord was created between the workers of the two districts. I was divided in this dispute. On the one hand, I was among the spokesmen for the workers of the district, and on the other hand, I had a certain nostalgia for the settlement of Herzliya – my first stop in the Land. I expressed my opinion that a compromise might be found between the two fighting sides, and my opinion gained significant support. However, my “agricultural” era ended with the beginning of the paving of the road to the village of Shmaryahu. My employers, the aforementioned Lipschitz family, were unable to continue with the expenditures needed to develop their orchard, so they returned to the United States, from where they had come. Within a brief time, the uprooting of trees from the orchard began.

From that time, I made a “professional circuit” with some frequency. I worked in paving, moving the paving machines, building, quarrying in “Even VaSid”, marketing, and manufacturing. I always aspired to be independent. Now, after a period of 50 years in the Land, I can sum up and say that I have realized this aspiration. There is one thing that I must point out: I was never satisfied with work for the sake of a livelihood. I was active in the Haganah, in the Israel Defense Forces, and in various other areas of service. I am proud of my work, my modest contribution to the building up of the Land, my family that I have established, and all of my deeds for the sake of my fellowman.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Pirke Avot 3:9. Return
  2. Golda Meir. Return

[Page 287–alt]

Childhood Landscapes

by Simcha Lavie

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Shallow water, marshes and reeds
Gatherings of winged birds
The Pripyat is caressing
With its jubilees of years
My native town
With its greenish water.
On its mildewy ground
Dark and cleft
In the shade of the bog, it groans, equalizes,
Among the briars, thistles, and thorns,
It is almost always mired in mud
This is how I recall you
From the days of my childhood and youth.
White pages as well as turbid.

[Page 288–alt]


Splendid white shows
Strong rays of the sun
As sheets yellowed from age and moths:
Cracking icicles,
Collide and drip
Noisily shattering on the bridge.

Melting snow, diluted and flowing
With ice
The gutters are obscured
By the harnessed horses.
With the Pripyat River
And its entire backlog of the month of Nissan
Drifting with the mysterious secrets of winter.

The blanket of mud in the streets,
Like expanding, sticky dough, malignant,
The sun and the winds do not succeed
In drying it – it remains.
It is a landmark of our town
During the season of spring – this is its crown.


The horizon outside through the length of the settlement
Its waters are deep, flowing, and clear.
Its banks are frequented
By the washerwomen and those that beat the laundry.

Not far from the long
And narrow little bridge –
An isolated mound as if it rises up from the river.
It is called “meltzes”, a place of bathing
Shallow, half–deep water.

And across the “Roskes” meadow
With its chewed up grass
Where the farm cattle are raised,
And lone trees, sending out their branches
To enjoy, to indulge in love.

Between “Holianka” and “Yentel”
There was a path for swimming and sailing
And in the summer evenings
Along the banks, waiting for customers
Were charming, healthy young girls
Braiding their hair like flax.

[Page 289–alt]


At the end of the summer, in the month of Elul
The bog turns yellow as an autumn leaf.
Preparing with the clear, fresh air,
For the purifying Days of Awe.

Between “Drolinka” and “Yentel”
The second bridges,
The route upon which
For half a year
They too dangle
In the streams of water –
The movement weakens
Due to the force of the season.
In the town itself
The sun hides
Between the cloud cover
The autumn rains, the change of foliage
In the clear light, as in the Cheshvan moon.


Ratno, the town upon its place:
Is lacking its routes, and oxygen for breathing.
Snow, ice, and all the winds
Do not prevent the farmers from coming
From all directions.

The galloping of the horses,
Form a procession
To the fair, to the market, for business.
And we, the lads,
Skate on the frozen river –
This is the entertainment, and this is the challenge.

The old people warm up
Next to the ovens,
And we, the youth
Warm ourselves up with songs,
That burst forth in the evenings
From the chapters and the “dens”
Where we guarded, and molded our youthfulness.

[Page 290]

The Story of Eliahu Feintuch

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I lost my father when I was still a child, and the Hechalutz chapter in Ratno served as a second home to me. I went to hachshara in Baranovich, in a unit of Kibbutz Shacharia. Later, I was in Kobrin, from where I made aliya to the Land. My first stop was Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh. I remained on that kibbutz for seven or eight months. After I left it, I worked for some time in various agricultural roles in Kfar Saba, and then I moved to Herzliya. I began to work in digging wells. I continued in that work from that time until my retirement several years ago. I dug wells in all areas of the country, from Dan to Beer Sheva, and I am able to tell of the history of the wells throughout the entire country.

Digging wells in those days is not at all similar to the digging of wells in our times. At that time, all the work was done literally by hand, without machines. I would descend to a depth of 50 meters below ground. To this day, scars of various wounds can be found on my body. However, it seems to me that at that time I had a greater feeling of satisfaction than I do now, even though, just like now, I was not lacking anything material. At times, we were attacked by Arabs as we were trudging to the places of the drilling. At times, I would return home from work with serious wounds. None of these, however, dampened my spirit, and I was always content with my lot. It is possible to state that the words of “Work is our life,” a song that was song in the Land at that time, was for me more than just words, but rather the content of my life.

{Photo page 290: Eliahu Feintuch (first from the left on the bottom) with soldiers of the brigade in Italy.}

[Page 291]

{Photo page 291: E. Feintuch as a soldier in the British Army.}

I was a member of the Haganah from 1938, and I was one of the first to be drafted to the brigade. I went through training in the Land. Then we continued our training in Italy. At the end of our training, I was sent to the front. I was wounded, and spent two weeks in an Italian hospital. I served in the brigade for six full years, and then returned to my wells of water…

I was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces at the beginning of the War of Independence. I served in the artillery brigade for a year and a half, and fought in various places in the Land. I perhaps could have chosen an army career, but I preferred to work in my field. The drilling devices were a part of my essence and reality. The feeling that we were providing fresh water for new, desolate villages increased my love for our Land. Even now, when my hearing has weakened, I hear the sound of gurgling water when I am awake and when I am dreaming. There is no more pleasant thought than that!

I spent almost all of my years in the Land in the settlement of Herzliya. (For me, Herzliya will always remain a settlement – even when its legal status changed to a city…) I regard it as a merit that my first daughter was born in Herzliya, and her name is also Herzliya. It is like my wife. I am betrothed to Herzliya, I am betrothed to it forever.

[Page 292]

The Story of Charna Givoni (Geenstein)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 292: Uncaptioned. Charna Givoni}

My lot during the time of my youth in Ratno was not good to me. I started work at a young age. The livelihood was meager. My mother ran our store and I ran the household, which consisted of five children. This was not one of the easy things. I could not attend school like the other children of my age. However, I was fortunate in that the teacher Kotzker gave me private lessons at home – this was a great privilege. I will not speak greatly of his praise, for certainly many others have certainly done so. However, may I say that Kotzker had many talents even as a private teacher. To him, teaching was not simply to earn a living. He saw himself as responsible for the knowledge and education of his students, and his dedication knew no bounds.

At night, I was free from the burdens of the household, and I found diversion in the Hechalutz Hatzair [Young Pioneer] chapter. I was one of its founders. Apparently, there was something special about our chapter, and it was no coincidence that any representative from the Land of Israel who came to Ratno wanted to return to visit our chapter. Avraham Grabov of blessed memory, Avrech, and others left their special stamp on this chapter, which continued to have an effect even after they made aliya. I had good fortune, and after five months of hachshara on the Tel Chai Kibbutz in Bialystok in 1932, I received a permit for aliya. I did not have to wait years for the certificate, for I already had made aliya in April 1933.

I recall the day of my departure from Ratno very well. All of my friends, male and female, who came to bid me farewell, and certainly my family members, wept. To this day I do not know if this was a weeping of bitterness, or perhaps tears of joy for the fact that I succeeded in making aliya. There was no opposition to my aliya even though it left a noticeable hole in the house. Even my father, who was a faithful Karliner Hassid, did not express any opposition to my step in that direction.

I arrived at the port of Haifa on May 1, 1933. That day we were sent to Kibbutz Naan, which had only been settled recently and required reinforcement from the Diaspora. There I met the people educated in the Land of Israel youth labor movement, who formed the first kernel of this Kibbutz, and I appreciated the unique traits of this group. I remained in Naan for about two years. I was forced to leave, for the news of the dire straits of my family in Ratno gave me no rest. I had to help them. I worked for some time in the workers' kitchen. Then, I moved to Holon where I worked in the Lodzia factory[1]. I sent two Sterling Pounds per month to my family in Ratno. This was a respectable sum in those days, which in any case brought great relief to my family in the Diaspora. As well, I felt contentment in that I was able to help my family.

I worked in Lodzia for nine years, and then I continued in a smaller weaving factory.

There were about sixty people in all branches of my family – and I am the sole survivor.

Translator's Footnote

  1. This was a textile factory. Return

[Page 293]

The Organization of Ratno Natives in Israel

by Simcha Lavie

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Organization of Ratno Natives in Israel was registered as an autonomous organization in 1960. However, the activities of the natives of Ratno in Israel actually began many years earlier. It can be said that this activity began already with the aliya of the first three youths from Ratno. Mordechai Gefen, Moshe Stern, and Shmuel Marder formed the first kernel, and the first address for Ratno natives who arrived in the Land of Israel after them. They were the first sources of information on the Land for those who made aliya from Ratno. They greeted the new arrivals from their town and offered assistance and good advice to anyone in need of such. Indeed, no small number were in need. The brotherhood and friendship that typified the Jews of Ratno also typified our people in the Land. Every person from Ratno who made Aliya agrees that they had someone with whom to consult, and that the perpetuity of Jewish Ratno would not let them down…

When the Second World War broke out, and we heard the first news of what was taking place in the areas under Nazi occupation, the natives of Ratno in the Land felt great stress. We did not have the resources and we could not offer assistance, but we waited for any sign of life from there, and any information on survivors. Eliezer Heller, Simcha Lavie, Sara Schwartz–Ginzburg, Chaya Yanosovich (of Tel Aviv), Sara and Shmuel Goldman (Rishon Letzion), Mordechai Gefen, Moshe Stern and Moshe Gutman (Kfar Sirkin), Moshe Droog (Netanya) and others remained in touch to get information and make plans for action between themselves and also among the other natives of the town who had made aliya or lived in the Diaspora: America, Canada, and Argentina. The activities were fruitful. Aid committees were set up wherever Ratno natives were found to raise money from the natives of our town. The collected money was transferred to the Land by Mordechai Gefen, Shmuel Goldman and Simcha Lavie.

In 1944–1945, reliable information came to us about the fate of the natives of our city, especially after our fellow townspeople Yaakov Bender, Aryeh Wolk, and Daniel Marin arrived in the Land under the auspices of the brigade of the Independent Polish Army that was set up on Russian soil, and transferred to the Near East by the Allies. Their stories confirmed the extent of the terrible disaster, and the tribulations of the survivors. At the end of the war, contact was made with several survivors, including Shlomo Perlmutter and the Steingarten family. The picture was very clear.

The first survivors began to arrive from the vale of tears at the beginning of 1946. These included partisans and fighters who had to forge their way to the Land after great difficulties, via France, Italy, and other countries. From there, they made Aliya on the Haapala[1] ships. Every person brought their individual story, some of which are included in this book. We sat around nervous, depressed, and sorrowful.

[Page 294]

All we could do was weep over our dear ones and attempt to help all of those who came for any help.

It seems to me that it would be no exaggeration to state that we withstood the test by providing all urgent provisions. The Holocaust survivors felt that they had an address, and found appropriate solutions to the problems of absorption as Ratno natives, appropriate to their professions and inclinations. Every one of us attempted to do our best, some a great deal and some little, to find these solutions.

The next phase in the activities of this organization was the memorialization of the martyrs of Ratno who fell. The first memorial ceremony took place with the initiative of the Ministry of Religion. The name of our town is etched on a marble tablet for eternal memory in the Holocaust Cellar on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Then, we joined the memorialization activities of the Jewish National Fund, and planted a grove of 1,000 trees in memory of the martyrs of Ratno. For several years, this grove served as a gathering point for the natives of Ratno in Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Three additional members joined this circle of activity: Shlomo Perlmutter and Yisrael Chayat who were both Holocaust survivors, as well as Zeev Grabov who had made aliya from Argentina. It is especially worthwhile to make note of our role in the establishment of “Heichal Volhyn.” Mordechai Gefen, Zeev Grabov, and Simcha Lavie represented our organization in the committee of the Heichal. We rented a room in this Heichal together with the Organization of Natives of Kamin–Kashirsk. This symbolized the strong connection that existed in the Diaspora between these two neighboring towns, and the many family connections that existed between the Jews of Ratno and Kamin–Kashirsk. This room served as a place for meetings and memorials for the natives of these two towns, and a place to unite ourselves with the memory of family members who perished.

In Elul 5711 (1951) the organization published the “Yetomot” booklet – pages of memory for the community of Ratno. When a Yiddish language memorial book was published in Argentina, we joined together with the editors and powers behind that book, and worked to the best of our ability to ensure that this book would reach all the natives of Ratno in Israel.

The board of the organization was diligent in organizing annual memorial ceremonies. The 13th of Elul was the day established for these memorials. We found an additional means of memorial in 1980 when we erected a monument in memory of the martyrs of Ratno in the cemetery on the border between Bat Yam and Holon.

We did not neglect or abandon the mitzvah of mutual assistance – in the literal meaning of the term. We established a loan fund affiliated with the organization, which offered assistance in the form of loans to natives of Ratno who were suffering from economic distress, for the needs of living expenses, household expenses, and the like. The activities of this fund were conducted with great dedication by Mordechai Gefen, who was the prime mover. His followers were the members Moshe Gutman of blessed memory and, may he live long, Zeev Grabov. For a period of thirty years, this fund responded to all requests by granting loans of reasonable sums without any need for security, without the standard interest rate, and collecting only a minimal payment from its members in order to cover the bank service charges. Requests for loans dwindled during the later period

[Page 295]

(a fact that testifies to the fact that the members had become well–grounded from an economic perspective), and almost all the members reached the conclusion that the time had come to utilize the principle sum of the fund to publish a book of testimony and memory for our town in Hebrew, so that our children and grandchildren, who are not fluent in Yiddish and therefore cannot read the book published in Argentina, will know what Jewish Ratno was. In the words of the poet, they would be able to draw from the wellspring from which our murdered brethren drew. The initiative to publish this book was accepted with appreciation and esteem, and the committee worked to the best of its ability to include anybody who had something to contribute to the book. We regard this as the crowning achievement of our activities, and hope that we have acted to the best of our ability to perpetuate and survey the heritage and past of the Jewish community of Ratno.

The current members of the committee of the organization include: Moshe Droog (chairman), Mordechai Gefen (treasurer), Chaya Grabov, Shmuel Goldman, Zeev Grabov, Simcha Lavie, and Shlomo Perlmutter.

{Photo page 295: One of the walls in Heichal Volhyn. The caption in the photo itself reads: In memory of the martyrs of the community of Ratno.}

Translator's Footnote

  1. The pre–State illegal immigration. Return

[Page 293–alt]

I Thank You, Father and Mother!

By Aviva

Translated by Jerrold Landau

To my parents Mordechai and Zelda Gefen

(Written on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of my father's aliya.)

Fifty years have already passed since you made aliya to the Land, and whenever I see you – the Ratners[1] – gathering together, I never fail to ask myself: What binds you together so much for so many years?

You were only 20 years old when you left behind your remote shtetl, Ratno – and you have already spent 50 years of your life here in Israel. What is the power that brings you so close to each other after so many years – more than the number of years that you lived there together? Is this a nostalgia for the lovely years of your youth? Why is such great and sincere joy awakened when a native of Ratno arrives for a visit as a tourist from America after

[Page 294–alt]

decades, or when a new immigrant arrives from behind the Iron Curtain after a period where nobody had heard of him or knew of his existence? I too lived in Kfar Sirkin until my adulthood. I had friends and acquaintances there during the years of my childhood and youth, but from the time that I left home, with each of us establishing our families wherever we did, we only see each other at infrequent times and in an incidental fashion, or at organized gatherings once a decade – and even these are not through our initiative.

I wonder to myself: why with respect to my father and mother, as well as with another small group of 50–60 Ratners, is it different? Why do they get together and meet at every opportunity, whether they live in Jerusalem, Afula, Haifa, or even Metulla? On every holiday or joyous occasion, or, to differentiate, at every time of sorrow or disaster, they get together with such great heartiness. Every one catches up with what has taken place with each other throughout the year, about their children and grandchildren, about concerns regarding livelihood, illnesses, and other problems. This is not just about passive news, but also support in the time of need –– whether it is financial or moral support, whether it is physical assistance or encouragement in a time of difficulty. When I repeatedly ask myself, I get the impression that there are two answers:

The first one – Apparently, this was a different quality of life. There were values that we – the second and third generation – today refer to as “Diaspora ideas,” such as mutual assistance, an open house, a closeness based on language and culture, of common experience of education in the cheders, schools, and youth movement; and memories of common events, a different landscape, and a different climate. In order to guard all of these things, one must return and meet again and again, to spend time together with friends, to reminisce, to tell stories and jokes –– so that they will be repeated and relived, and so that they will not be forgotten.

The second reason that brings you together, in my opinion, is the loss. In accordance with the stories from the mouths of Father and Mother with which I was raised, and prior to that from the mouth of Grandmother Yente of blessed memory, I know clearly that from a physical perspective there is not much to be nostalgic about. They did not leave behind great splendor or glory.

[Page 295–alt]

The poverty was very often quite severe, but this too was lost in the Holocaust. The pain over the loss of these things, even though they might have been meager, cannot be cured. In essence, the fact that the shtetl was wiped off the face of the earth, along with the relatives and dear ones who went to their deaths – all this unites and brings together the Ratners in Israel, as if to protect the final ember so that it will not extinguish.

In the midst of all the upheaval that we are living through in the present, this closeness of you – the Ratners – is like a brand saved from the fire[2], which will continue on and shine light as long as you stand on your feet and continue to breathe and live. Therefore I wish to thank you, my father and mother, as well as all the Ratners.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. A term for Ratno natives. Return
  2. See Zechariah 3:2. Return

[Page 296]

A meeting of the Ratno natives in Kfar Sirkin

By Shmuel Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photocopy 296: A page of the minutes of a meeting of the committee in 1945 dealing with assistance to the survivors of Ratno. Note: full translation follows}


November 3, 1945

A meeting of the Ratno natives in Kfar Sirkin. The following people participated:

Yente Weinstock, Mottle Weinstock, Moshe Stern, Moshe Gutman, Zelda Feintuch, Sara Papir, Shmuel Goldman, Charna Greenstein, Moshe Droog, Simcha Leker, Eliezer Held, Sara Ginzburg.



A collection of names of survivors.

Means of assistance.

Sara – Eliezer informs us that a sum of 5,000 dollars for assistance has been collected. Two opinions were expressed at the meeting: a) to build the headstones in the shtetl; b) to do something here.

Moshe Droog – The dead will not come back to life. However, the goal of the survivors is to make it to the Land. Therefore, we must collect money there as well as here for the purpose of helping those who will come, as well as to assist those who may be delayed on their journey.

Moshe Gutman – We must propose to our friends in America the establishment of a foundation or an enterprise dedicated to the martyrs of Ratno. We must establish contact with all those who are thinking of coming here.

Moshe Droog – Opposes sending someone there.

Mottle – We should obtain land for housing of those who will be arriving

Moshe – Feels that the assistance must be concrete – first level aid to help the arrivals set themselves up.

Eliezer – The sole source of financing is America. Differences of opinion exist there. We must get in contact with America and clarify the financial means available. We must also hear their opinion. We must get in touch with our people in Argentina and other countries.

[Page 297]

{Photo page 297 top: Ratno natives at a memorial in the Ratno Grove in the Forest of the Martyrs in the mountains of Jerusalem.}

{Photo page 297 bottom: A meeting of the first olim from Ratno in Petach Tikva: Sara and Shmuel Goldman, Moshe Gutman, Simcha Lavie, Mordechai Gefen, Shmuel Marder, Moshe Stern.}

[Page 298]

{Photo page 298 top: A group of Holocaust survivors at a memorial to the martyrs in Germany (1946). Among the participants are: Kamintzky and Liberman who made aliya to the Land of Israel, Avraham Berg (died in the United States), Yosef Steinberg, and Malka Yunevitz (Canada).}

{Photo page 298 bottom: A meeting of Ratno natives in Israel with Dova and Shlomo Cohen from abroad.}

[Page 299]

{Photo page 299 top: The monument in memory of the martyrs of Ratno in the Holon Cemetery.}

{Photo page 299 bottom: Ratno natives at Heichal Volhyn, where a room is dedicated to Ratno –– Kamin Kashirsk.}


« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Ratno, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max G. Heffler

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 15 Jun 2015 by JH