Table of Contents

[Pages 5-7]

Introduction

Translated by Selwyn Rose

With much trembling of the soul, we stand here today ready to perpetuate the name and memory of the community of Sokyryany – a community that once was, and no longer is. Yet it remains today, in our minds' eyes as it was 14 years ago, when it was unsullied and pulsing with life, flowering and prosperous, clinging to its institutions, culture, public education with love, and programming still further projects for the future, without the slightest idea that the firestorm of the Holocaust was closing in upon her with giant steps and that her fate was already sealed by cruel History.

Indeed, those days, the last days of Romania's control of Bessarabia, were a mixture of cruel regimes: the anti-Semitic regime of Goga-Cuza in 1938, the dictatorship regime of Cãlinescu in 1938-9 and the murderous Nazi regime of Codreanu and his cohorts The Iron Rule – from 1939-1940, all gave signs of the coming storm, murmurings and undertones and echoes could be heard foretelling the changes and State sponsored incitement. But who seriously considered then that such a shock would even arrive and reach the fateful proportions so that 90% of the established community would be destroyed by those corrupt hands in such a bestial and wild fashion that had never before been seen in all the long and barbaric history of mankind. As an eyewitness I personally can testify that not one member of our community had ever considered in his wildest imagination such an end. I recall that before I immigrated to Palestine in the spring of 1940 – six weeks before the Soviet conquest – I argued endlessly with my friends and acquaintances on the future and how surprised I was at their excessive optimism. Their eyes completely blind and plastered over to the already present scene of what awaited them, and from within a mirror of wishful thinking they hoped for a change of policy and regime, thinking that such a change would bring on its wings a cure to all their pains. The hoped-for change indeed came but the expected salvation to follow it failed to arrive. What came was tragedy; what came was a jouncing from regime to regime; what came was prolonged starvation, preceded by humiliation and degradation of human beings to the level of dirt by depersonalization and finally – agonizing death through starvation and cruel torture. The results were dreadful and appalling!

The community was destroyed in its entirety. Thousands fell victim like wheat in the field under the scythe; hundreds of my friends in the “Working Scout” movement, which was the backbone of all the operations and projects of the General Zionist Cultural movement lost their lives; the Cultural and Educational Council was no more, the leaders and membership of the General Zionists, who laid the foundations of Zionist labor in town were gone, some lost in the wild frozen snowy wastes of Siberia and some in the hell of transportation. The women's organization “Wizo” were not deterred by anything, but they, too, tasted of the bitter cup. The children of our careful and dedicated upbringing and development – the Jewish youth – Gordonia and Dror, the Young Zionists and Maccabi, the school children from the “Tarbut” schools, “…they were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided”, for their eyes were raised towards Zion, their hearts sang like harps with Jewish culture and their throats were full of the songs of Israel – their bones lie strewn over the Siberian waste-lands, and last of all: thousands of ordinary, hard working, honest Jews, Jews learned in the Torah and cultured behavior, good, straightforward, honest Jews, toiling Jews, Jews modest in their ways and their behavior, Zionists in spirit and deed. Donating generously to the needs of the people and the Land of Israel, their souls breathed their last in the dark, shadowed valley, in a land of blood. And to the memory of all of them the mourner laments over them: “…the precious sons of Sokyryany, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter?”

It seems as if the martyrs of Sokyryany who sacrificed their lives like the rest of the communities of Bessarabia in sanctifying the God of our fathers, atoned with their blood for all our sins and transgressions. With their death they redeemed us from complete and utter destruction and brought us redemption. “Our” sacrifice – their sacrifice – was a public sacrifice, albeit not by their own desire and neither by our wish.

Thirteen years have passed since then, bitter and hurrying, the time of our brothers' expulsion from their homes, naked and completely without possessions, pursued and persecuted without let-up and with merciless cruelty and torture both of body and spirit, herded like cattle or common criminals along featureless tracks without end, mountains and valleys, marshes and rocks and to no clear goal. Like wanderers lost in the desert for weeks and months on end they wandered hither and thither until their pure souls expired upon the defiled land. And we sat here, far away from them, all of us watching with anxiety the outcome of their fate. Our helpless arms were unable to reach out and save them but our hearts contracted with worry and pain. We felt in our hearts with an intense gloominess of foreboding that awful events were to take place; the heart was not mistaken. And now as their redeemers, the redeemers of their blood – we feel the need to grieve and to be the redeemers of their memory. We will raise up their memorial from the depths of oblivion and the world of darkness; but with what – and how?

In truth, our rabbis have said: The Righteous are not given souls, for their words are their memorials” and also “…because their deeds are their memorial”. The good deeds of the Jews of Sokyryany include the hospitality afforded to Ukrainian refugees during the days of wandering in the years 1919-1921, their generous and willing donations to national funds and other public needs throughout the years, the creation of public institutions and of education and their upkeep – these actions are their memorials and we, the survivors of the sword now in Palestine – behold we, too are their memorial – their souls, because here in Palestine are a great number of immigrants from Sokyryany – more than from any other town or village in Bessarabia; the spirit and atmosphere of Sokyryany caused it and gave rise, understandably, to the pride of our community.

Nevertheless the abuse demands a reply. Wordlessly the situation and the chronicles of the times, demand they be included and remembered, like the demand of Queen Esther to be included in the Bible: “I am a permanent fixture among the generations”. It is our obligation to remember them and to remind history itself. We have therefore chosen this method of memorializing them in this most fitting way: to write this book, as it is written in the Psalms: “…All the days ordained for me were written in Your book”. A simple gravestone of wood or stone, as is usual among our fathers and ourselves, even in the lands of our dispersion, was good enough for their time where people could come to the cemeteries and prostrate themselves in sorrow on the graves of the departed and to know from the inscription, who lies buried below. This is not possible in our days; frontiers are changed and blurred, and times become confused, where the graves of our martyrs are far away and hidden from our eyes or even unknown – exactly like the grave of our Teacher Moses concerning whom it was said: “…and no man knoweth of his sepulcher until today.” Therefore we have erected the sort of memorial that is unconnected to any particular piece of ground but a roaming memorial, with the ability to move from place to place easily and as far away as America, Argentina, South Africa, and Australia. This Memorial can come and tell the story of our community in every place on earth and the man from Sokyryany will read it and be re-united with his past, with its revered personalities and distinguished people – and awaken in him feelings of love and value towards his origins and his unfortunate brothers – survivor of the sword and the destruction his heart will be at one with them.

Not only to our generation is this memorial scroll important but to all the coming generations. It will play the part of an historic document for researchers and science who will delve deeply into it depth and recognize the nature, quality and character of a town in Bessarabia. It will also serve as a genealogical source for the generations to come – a source of information for ever, until the final generation – bone of our bone; flesh of our flesh; the source of our origins; they will take pride in the deeds of their fathers and “their souls will be bound up in the bond of eternal life”

Z. Igeret

 


[Pages 8-22]

Milestones in the History of Sokyryany

  1. History of Sokyryany,
  2. Literature,
  3. Theater and amusements,
  4. Medical assistance,
  5. Births and dental care.

Dr. Yona Bieder

Translated by Selwyn Rose

It would seem that our town of Sokyryany failed to make a notable impression on the history of the Russian empire in general and on the millions of its population, its eighty departments with its thousands of counties, in particular.

I suppose that according to the administrative ideas of the period, Sokyryany was not even a town: it was merely a village. One only had to see the use of expressions like the “Village Pharmacy”, the “Village Council”, and the “Village Beth-Din”, the “Village Elder”, the “Village Secretary”, the “Village Lord” and many other similar appellations. From the historical point of view, it seems Sokyryany was only a part of the larger, actual town Sokyryany with its Christian cemetery and its old church, which was on the other side of the hill, with a small rushing tributary stream cutting between them.

You can believe me: all my intensive efforts to find Sokyryany on old maps of the Russian empire, or in the pages of different well-known encyclopedias ended in failure – it doesn't appear!

Not only that. At the time of my last visit to the town, a few years before its destruction, I tried to find material containing reliable evidence of its history such as community records, records of the burial society, of study centers and gravestones, etc. Nothing succeeded! So what can we do? We will have to make do with the stories and memories I heard from my mother Sarah'le, Leib, the-doctor's wife (Z”L), who was born and bred in the town of Sokyryany, that eventually became a town in the Almighty's own Domain. As a secondary additional source of details for the needs of my “historical” records, I used documents that were in the hands of Sokyryany survivors and exiles such as retailers and wholesalers - tax-receipts and municipal taxes of various categories and also marriage licenses and documentation, birth and death certificates, military service registration documents, and the like.

Sokyryany, like many Bessarabian towns, sat right on the border with Podolia, just over the river Dniester, only 4 km from the infamous crematoria in the vicinity of the local forest, at a place where the fast flowing waters of a stream emptied into the Dniester. According to my mother the source of the name “Sokyryany” derives from the Ukrainian word for axe – Cekupa, the shape of which is similar to the outline of the town. There are those who dispute this explanation.

Once upon a time Sokyryany was surrounded by a tributary which we called locally the “Yaar”. Its waters originated from the “old river” near the Schuka Wells and cut for itself a course along the line of the Briceni and Mahilov bridges parallel to Katzafi Street, towards the slaughter-house, where they merged and were swallowed up by the Dniester. The topographical outline of all this resembles an axe.

Sokyryany was situated in a valley in such a way that in the rainy season and the spring thaw, the rising waters of the area flooded the streets of the town and produced the notorious Sokyryany marshes – known throughout the entire county. In the depths of these marshes the wagons and carriages of the farmers, together with their horses – and casual visitors - would sink without trace…

The boundaries of Sokyryany were wide and closed in by thick forests towards Kolbiltchin on one side, by Ocaniþa on the second side and by the road up to Lityns'ki on the third.

When was the beginning of Jewish settlement in Sokyryany?

We have no accurate answer to that important question. If they, the first settlers, didn't bother to record the fact – not one single clue – then what chance do we, the later dwellers, have of knowing? I passed the question to my mother (Z”L) whose hobby from birth was to create for herself an “archive”: a special drawer for herself in a sideboard in our house, and in it were kept some religious tracts, her silk head-scarves, various study books belonging to the children and also documents – receipts, marriage documents, land-registry documents in Sokyryany – and a birth certificate from before such documents became official policy and also a property certificate of sorts in the name of Israel Schneider, willing his house for the founding of a prayer house (the Schneider Synagogue) and on the basis of that material it is possible to suppose that Jews settled in Sokyryany sometime between 1814-1826.

The entire property was acquired by the well-known Russian military family, Lischin. The Polkovnik, Nikolay Nikolayevich Lischin, received the settlement from the Russian Tsar in recognition of his outstanding performance in the war of 1812. Indeed in 1913 Bessarabia celebrated the Centenary of her union with Russia.

Already in the first years of Lischin's settling here he was forced to import various professionals – artisans, entrepreneurs, tradesmen, tenants, etc. He was also obliged to create a Polish “court” as befits the landowner – a large manor house which was still being used in our day as a post-office, then a police station, a church, a mill and the notorious crematorium. For that purpose Lischin brought my grandfather David Krasilshtchik, the patriarch of a large family in the county, who was himself the contractor for the church and also the painter of icons, from Kischinev; he also brought a professional welder – Hirsch Copperman (Hirsch Kotler), and the trader Israel Rimonkovoczer, my father, Yitzhak Weinbaum and with them specialists in other known and respected professions.

Two families of settlers, Manasseh Kishkatnik and Raizel Weinbaum immediately received building materials and together built a duplex house in what was in our day “Trader Street Square”. In the center of the square a well was dug and before long, in a row facing that house two additional homes, also a duplex, were erected and this small group of houses formed the first nucleus of what became eventually a congested community.

Indeed, not long after the tents of Jewish settlers from the surrounding villages and from over the Dniester began to appear in Sokyryany. This was the source of the typical nicknames given to them by the already established Sokyryany residents: the “Kolbilchiner”, the “Ozhiboyer”, the “Ocaniþis”, the “Vasliver”, the “Dinzhiner”, the “Korzhitzer” the “Yelishaner”, the “Poduloyer”, the “Kaliser”, the “Yarshover”, the “Oshitzer”, the “Krylivetzer”...an almost endless list. They were extensive and many-branched families: the Shimsons (they were, in fact, the Sussmans), the Krasiltshikers, the Shmerls, Shmelkes, Kalmans, Vasiluvs, Valishnas, Senders, Welvels, and Rachmileks…Where are they today?

For many years Jews never used family names; they were called by their patronymic or by the name of their profession or trade (and mostly as nicknames, of course): Hirsch Liba-Ranes, Yossel-Avraham-Lubes, Motis-Yankel-Kalman's, Gedaliah-Chaim-David's, Chaim-Hirsch-Kotlyer's, Gini-Henia-Leib-Rofes and so on and also according to their professions: Leib the Bilirer, Meyer-Leib Goldschmidt, Munis the Planter, Welvel Krupnick, Manasseh Kishkatnik, Shmuel (the) Scribe, Leib (the) Doctor, Welvel (the) Singer, Bertzi the Pillow-maker, Shammai Grolnik. Many of the Sokyryany Jews who took their names from their respective trades were traders, small wholesalers, storekeepers and peddlers, tobacconists, growers of beets, tenant foresters or millers, traders in fruit and vegetables, horse- and sheep-traders and marriage-brokers, etc. Artisans: carpenters, shoe-makers, furriers, iron-workers and blacksmiths, water-carriers, ritual slaughterers and circumcisers, rabbis, synagogue officials and teachers.

Like most of the isolated villages in the area, Sokyryany, too, was detached from everything in the surrounding area as a result of there being no adequate transport system and no roads connecting the other settlements. “Roads” that were not roads stood strewn with rubble most of the year as if created only to add difficulties to the lives of travelers. Thus the only users were the well-known wagon-masters, who were also the “concessionaires”, holding in their hands all the threads of communication with the surrounding area. You want to go to Lityns'ki? Go to Hirsch-Leib and he will undertake to get you there – no guarantees; and when it comes to one's time to leave this earthly coil he would go to Yermiyahu who accepted the “prestige of office”! To Briceni? Feitel is the one to transport you there and afterwards – Yekil. Friedl-Aharon? - He transports to Mohiliv and to Kalis – Zachariah. Oh, Mohiliv, Mohiliv! It was from there that the route to the wide-open world came into being: the railroad to Odessa, Kiev and so on.

Sokyryany received her produce from the surrounding farms and villages. “Fairs” were held regularly twice a week on Sundays and Thursdays and also on special occasions – they were the source of sustenance and livelihood from generation to generation, while during the rest of the week Sokyryany stood silent. The storekeepers and bars neither saw nor found clients “even for medicinal needs” and they would sit on benches outside their stores, dozing or splitting sun-flower seeds and day-dreaming. With twilight they would all hurry along the road to the post-office to greet the postman: perhaps he had brought “that letter” with a check in it from the relative across the sea in America or Brazil. About 50% of the population sustained themselves with the help they received from New York or Rio de Janeiro. Banks and stock exchanges did not yet exist in Sokyryany and possessors of checks required the assistance of Mr. Avraham Familiant – the money changer.

In our time we would draw water from the well. I remember especially the Schuka's well: the drawers would bring the containers full of water and distribute it to the houses throughout the week although that arrangement was only for those with money; the simple poor people had to go to the well themselves daily. There were two types of water: “tea-water” clear water whose taste was of good clear water and could be used for simple drinking water and also with jelly and was excellent well-water: the water came from fine wells. Hirsch-Leib's well, Sussmans, Lisker's well – and others – a taste of “paradise” – simply water, that is to say, for laundry and washing etc. The water-drawers also acted as the firemen. Nevertheless an “official” fire-brigade existed – their equipment consisted of two leaky barrels and they would always arrive at the fire nearly empty – that was in the summer. In the winter they would arrive full of ice…there was also a pump which was faulty; the engine wouldn't start and the rubber hose-pipe wasn't tear-proof. And at the head of all that equipment – was Valerik with his blind horse. If not for our glorious water-drawers – Bertzi, Pinchas and Moshe Littman, who knows to what end Sokyryany, with her thatched-roofed wooden houses, would come? But thankfully they didn't remain the only ones in the struggle: the professionals - praiseworthy and well-known throughout the region and especially in Sokyryany for their daring - would appear on the scene quite quickly. Who doesn't know them? Eliezer Feldman and his father – Lazer-Moshe the carpenter, his brother Zindle Feldman, Sha'ul the wagon-master, Ya'acov Kitzis, Isaac Kronis, Shlomo Nachmias (Grossman), Yossel Friedels, Avraham Porek, Yankel Tzikernik, Leibe'leh the Schwartzer, Avish Tchiglik, Moshe Shmerls and others – all good men – “Khaliastòre”. In times of danger to the general community the Khaliastòre would act as its “self-defense”. The uncircumcised who had drunk too much and felt like causing trouble just for the sake of it would create a sort on “mini-pogrom” in the center of town – immediately our “self-defense” team would rush to the scene and put down the rioters with clubs, iron bars, axe handles – whatever came to hand – so that even the men of the local authorities preferred not to meet them…

For decades (until 1890) Sokyryany didn't have an officially appointed rabbi of its own and the registry of births and deaths was recorded by the secretariat of the rabbi of the Holy Community of Briceni, Mr. Bushewsky. Then, one day, Mr. Yehiel Moses was named official rabbi on the recommendation of the governor himself – General Lischin. But it must not be forgotten that a bitter battle was fought for many years between the various contenders and their respective supporters: Dr. Bronstein and at his side Dr. Kauffman and his supporter Dr. Sussman. But nothing helped – Yehiel Moses remained the officially appointed and securely “enthroned” rabbi until his death.

And the burial Society as an independent foundation – how did it function in Sokyryany? There were only volunteers – gravediggers. In the 1890's they were: Hirsch-Leib the wagon-master, Levi Stolyar, Yitzhak-Meyer Krasilestchik, Ya'acov Shmerl's, Mascha Stolyar, Lazer Moshe Stolyar and others – all of them were also the firemen and the self-defense corps mentioned above! An organized community in Sokyryany didn't exist, in fact, until the Revolution of 1918 and public affairs executed by a group of community “notables” from among those who frequented the governor's “court”. At their head were Yehiel Moses, Ya'acov Shlomo Shaykes, Shmuel Zalman's, Haim Hirsch Kotlyers, Yossel Sussman, Avraham Franck, Manasseh Karnos, Shabtai Senders, Zalmina Wexler, Yankel Kalmans, Froike Tchiglik, Mordecai Alkanowitz, and others. Their field of operations was representation before the governor, road repairs, cemetery management, cleaning of, and general care for, the wells, confirmation of candidates for the village council and its offices, the preparation of tax lists and rentals. It was from this that the salaries of the religious officials were paid: Rabbis, ritual slaughterers, cantors, etc. The group, however, never succeeded in electing a Jewish community-head (Starosta) who, in Tsarist Russia, is ipso facto the official representative of the community before the authorities. Only after many years, with the appointment of Yehiel Moses as the government-appointed Rabbi did matters at last become organized with the election of Shlomo Grossman (Shlomo Starosta) as head of the community.

Already in much earlier periods the residents would organize professional groupings within the framework of separate study houses: “The Schneider Study Hall”, “The Schuster Study Hall”, “The Kischner's Study Hall”, “The Levirontan Study Hall” – each one of them creating autonomy of its own.

Basically from its beginnings until the eighties of the nineteenth century, the children of Sokyryany would receive their educational grades from the “Heder”. The poorer children would complete their education with the infants' teacher where they learned prayers – Kaddish and the blessings. Missing were writing and arithmetic. The upper-class among the population sent their children to learn Gemara where they also learned the rules of mathematics and grammar. The girls would “take lessons” at the “Balfour” and acquire knowledge of writing with the “Writer”. Sokyryany itself spared no effort in discovering teachers of its own and would find them on the other side of the Dniester, in essence – Podolia. We call to mind some of our first teachers: Mordecai Alkanowitz, Avraham Matiss, Yankel “The Good”, Yankel Moshe Laches, Bonim Melamud, Yoel Melamud, Simcha Brauer, Heinich Melamud, Yossel Karnossi, the Yarshiver and Yossel Kitarider…

National schools did not exist until 1898. Nevertheless by chance, a Yeshiva graduate H. Ratner, from Lithuania arrived in Sokyryany and with the assistance of Alex Feldberg and a group of educated leaders from the community, like Gidel Orchov, Pinny Freiman, Yehiel Moses, Leib Rofeh, Haim Sussman, Yehiel Brauer, Sh. Kimmelfeld, Ya'acov Dinnenburg, managed to obtain a license from the authorities to open a national Jewish school. The school did not continue for long: the manager was newly-married and became a trader in produce while his friend Alex Feldberg moved to America. When he returned from there he joined the teacher Shapira and together they reopened a national school in Moshe Kabaks house (next door to the pharmacy of Schuka). That school, too, closed after about two years as a result of the local teachers reporting the school to the authorities because it deprived them of their livelihood. But again stubbornly, Shapira this time opened a “Heder M'tukan”. In 1905 a “Heder” was opened by the respected Berman and Zeidler and in 1908 a school was opened by Goldstein.

The first teacher in Sokyryany was Dr. Meiter (the grandfather of Ben-Zion Rotenberg). My father Leib-Rofeh learned writing from him, in beautiful script as was common in those days. The second teacher was Moshe Palatnik, Malka Spector's grandfather. Mostly women and girls learned with Yankel Schreiber Meirschov: the copying of various letters, some religious tracts, the Russian and Latin alphabets and the 4 basic operations in mathematics.

 

Literature

For many long years there was no library in Sokyryany. It was also impossible to obtain holy books within the town and without them Jewish life was no life at all. Under these conditions reliance was placed upon itinerant book-sellers to supply the “spiritual nourishment”. The book-sellers would have their own horse and cart and would arrive in Sokyryany before the Holy Days of Awe. They used the slaughterers' houses as their hostel, warehouse and store and there they sold their books. When it was known they were coming the residents would hurry to the place in order to obtain the writings of the rabbis and scholars and religious accoutrements such as the Five Books of Moses, the Six Orders of the Mishna, festival prayer-books, the Passover Haggada, prayer-shawls – large and small, and also “Tzena Urena” and “The Afternoon Sacrifice” for the women.

During the 1880's a resident of Sokyryany called Herschly appeared on the scene as a replacement for the book-sellers to sell “spiritual nourishment” to the Jewish population. He was a short man with a straggly red beard with perpetually red, tear-filled eyes. He would rush from house to house all week long loaded down with two or three baskets full of his “goods”. But success didn't always shine upon him. On Friday and festival evenings he would exhibit his wares at the entrance to the Walwel Synagogue. Here, he would also sell literature and books of practical use like the romances and novels of Ozer Blubstein, the books of Mordecai Spector and also books like “A Thousand and One Nights”, “The Golden Prince”, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, “The Sorceress” and others. He charged every reader a fee of one kopek for every book. Most of his clients were the women and girls, who, on Friday evenings after shampooing their hair and anointing their tresses with almond-oil and were ready to welcome Queen Shabbat – would equip themselves with books of this type. The young boys were not drawn to this kind of “women's' reading” except that sometimes they would steal a glance at a sister's or mother's book or would even eavesdrop on a reading of one of the “terrible books” or miracles and wonders.

Writing paper was sold in the shops as large blank, pages. From them we would fashion exercise books by taking a ruler and drawing the lines on the page and then cutting them to size. The ink we prepared from red or blue dyes we bought from the painter and decorator and the pens we fashioned from goose-feathers.

About fifty years ago a Jewish man arrived in Sokyryany, married a local woman and settled in town. His name was David the Bookmaker (Singer), the father of Yeruham Singer who is now in Palestine. He worked as a bookbinder in a library in the station at Ocaniþa. He would keep books at his home for a long time so that he had time to loan them out to the youth and to academicians in our town. In this fashion we began to read the classical Russian literature and also newspapers and magazines. In time the demands of readers increased and David the Bookbinder answered their appeals and would subscribe on their behalf to Yiddish and Hebrew papers. The Jews of Sokyryany were delighted at this as if they had found a rich source of plunder as if a window on to the wide world had been opened for them.

During the period before the revolution of 1905 and after, the youth of Sokyryany with aspirations became active and even enrolled in parties and sects: Bunds, socialists, revolutionaries, social-democrats and also Zionists. A cause of this development came from the near-by town of Briceni where these parties had already existed for some time and Sokyryany learned from them. Influencing them were preachers from Briceni, who would assemble audiences and deliver lectures on their topics. A few of the lecturers became leaders in the Russian revolutionary movements. Among them were Manasseh's brother, Feral, Borschowsky, Rodenski, Rabinowitz, Rosenstark (a Zionist), Moshe Morgenstern. They would come to Sokyryany frequently and arrange meetings and deliver forceful Marxist lectures explaining the mysteries of the state economy.

But at the same time the Zionist movement was also active in town, recruited mainly from ex-students of the “Heder”. The Zionists busied themselves mainly with the distribution of Zionist stamps at weddings and other festive events. Among the activities of the Zionist cause we should remember the project “Collection Plates” which were presented every Kol Nidrei in the synagogues. Especially notable were the activities and influence of the well-known lecturer and excellent Zionist businessman Yavzarov (Z”L)

 

sok016.jpg
A group of Zionists from Sokyryany in 1920, together with students from evening classes

 

He would spend weeks at a time in Sokyryany and deliver his lectures in the “Old Synagogue” that would be filled men, women and youth together with the learned people of Sokyryany like: Godil Orchov, Shmuel and Zippora Karvsarsky (who emigrated to Palestine in 1913), the son-in-law of Zalman Kratzman – Moshe Glazer – Ben-Zion Wasserstein, Tsvi Walman, Eliezer Kalichman, Ben-Zion Hochman, Alkanowitz, Barisch Shreibman, Moshe Zaldin, Moshe Leib Deblierer, Hanna Tchiglik, Zeider Baron and others. These people were the first among Hovevei Zion in Sokyryany.

The younger ones – those of my age, “tasted” Zionism and Marxist theory and created for themselves a blend of the two doctrines. They organized first the Socialist-Zionist Association which existed, of course, illegally. They were considerably assisted in the enterprise by a young man who worked for Koppel Gandlemann, the carpenter. His name was Zalonka, an educated man who knew Marxist theory well and bundled it together with his love of Zionism. He was an excellent speaker, fervent in his idea of the synthesis. Hirsch Sussman's son - Shimshon – supported him materially and loved him with the love of a soul-mate. Because of that, Sussman's garden became a meeting place for lectures for members of the above association. I will mention a few of the supporters of the “synthesis” idea: Yosef Aklander, Hanina, Shaman Goldberg, Yitzhak Krimnus, Moshe Parsil, Tsvi Parsil, Rosenblatt (now in Palestine), a chap dressed like a yeshiva senior – a long caftan, the curled peyot of the Hassid, Aidal Simhass, a trader in produce who would buy beans and other vegetables from the Gentiles, Leib'leh Orchov, Kananowitz, Kimmelfeld, Herschel Karfils, Morgenstern, the writer of these lines, and other workers: Shlom'oleh Rosenzweig, Meyer Ausshauer, Schwartz, Avraham Tsenker (now an active Zionist worker in America).

The first step of these youngsters was to open a school for the Sokyryany “Proletariat” in order to provide them with reading, writing and mathematical skills. Our “Proletariat” was composed mainly of apprentices to cobblers, tailors, hatters, carpenters and the rest of the artisans and shop-assistants. For that aim we founded a legal library containing “accepted” books and newspapers and also an underground library containing illegal books and pamphlets, forbidden by law.

The exercise captured their hearts. Among other achievements we created a source of demonstrators, willing to strike for the benefit of the Proletariat in Sokyryany, which would demand a reduction in the working-day to eight hours. When we returned from a meeting in the Kalkoshna forest, we were approached by the employers and at their head Natan, a lame person, who welcomed us with a club and curses and “honored” us with serious blows of his club.

As a result of all these activities a number of small libraries were opened separately both by the Zionists and non-Zionists. Later on a private library was opened by Familiant and Zeidler. Thus Sokyryany progressed from strength to strength. During my last visit to the town in 1939 I found a large library, founded by the branch of Young Zionists containing thousands of books, a reading-room and attracting many readers. The library was housed in a custom-built structure for that purpose. Incidentally, in that building were all the learning institutions founded by “Tarbut”.

 

Theater, Amusements and Music

As in other towns across Bessarabia the musicians, Klezmer and orchestra players came from a gypsy background, the “entertainer” would accompany them to weddings, festivals and other festivities of the Jewish community. I recall the entertainers Kalman, Lazer and Borishka the drummer and the orchestra of Nicolai the Gypsy, Sigornitky, Diyordy. At the weddings of the rich, virtuosi from afar would be invited: Kocik and Shmitsik or Poliakov from Soroka.

Sokyryany was particularly blessed in the theatrical sector: groups of players both our own and from afar and were received well. It happened that the one and only - the famous Goldfaden himself stayed with us – he and his group. The performances were held in the storehouses of Moshe Kabak. The necessary benches were supplied by the study houses. Boards were needed for the stage and these were rented from Hanna Vasliver, the grandfather of Karoasarsky and the musicians were brought from Mohiliv. The plays themselves were almost entirely from the operettas of Goldfaden: “The Sacrifice of Isaac”, “The Sorceress” and “Bar Kochva”. Equipment and scenery were supplied by the bigger employers in return for free tickets. From all this sprang the result that the hall was full to overflowing, while the box-office took not one single cent. The actors suffered of course and were driven to eat their meals for days on end only through the graciousness of their hosts among the townspeople. In fact Goldfaden himself was obliged to spend much time in Sokyryany because of the complete lack of funds that would enable him to travel onwards, until the day that lovers of the theater started a special fund-raiser. With the money raised, Goldfaden was able to move on to Brichany.

Already during my childhood several theatrical groups were widely active – Jewish, Ukrainian, Romanian and Russian and at a later period – Zeigler's group Tcherbakow, Fischson, and Nudinsky and also Circassians on their way back from the fair in Yarmolintsy.

The performances would always generate the need for some kind of hostel accommodation in town for the players, perhaps even just a stable – after it had been thoroughly and appropriately prepared. The stage was erected from simple planks that were lashed together with ropes at the request of the performers who were concerned lest they were injured by nails. The various prayer-halls provided the benches for the audience. In time, when Sokyryany had its own resources like a gymnasium and so on, we created our own real group. Meyer Kananowitz, Leib Orchov, Karlat, Kimmelfeld, Noni Karavsarsky, Yona Beider, Alexis Sussman, Bosey Bronstein, Hillel Moses, Benny Yehiel Baratz, Yehezkiel Freimann, Ginia Dinburg, Sarah Kalichman, and Sonia Rosenthal – these were the initiators. In addition we created our own orchestra: Drums, violin, and harp, etc,

 

sok019.jpg
The first academics: S. Karlat, L. Orchow, Y. Beider, S. Ordowsky, M. Kahanonwsky

 

Medical Services in Sokyryany

In the 1880's, when throughout the length and breadth of the Russian empire, medical institutions maintained by the municipal authorities existed in cities and towns Sokyryany, as a village, was completely devoid of an established medical facility. Medical assistance was provided mainly by charlatans of one sort or another, soothsayers, magicians and latterly “dressers” who were ex-barbers. The first “expert” of that type was Mr. Shmuel Bronstein (Moshe's father and nicknamed “Pippik”). He was brought to the settlement by the Governor Lischin and his job at first was haircutting and shaving the local residents and also to treat the sick. The same barber-doctor used the same curative methods to treat people that he used to treat animals – and they were: blood-letting, leeches, cupping-glasses of all sorts, bandaging the injured area and fresh blows with rags, fleecing injuries with a tarred rag, or zinc ointment, enemas and castor oil for all ailments. Burns he would treat with vegetables or with vapors. Eye problems were treated with alum. These medicaments were prepared by Bronstein himself in his laboratory, that is to say his kitchen, in the same cupboard where he kept his entire domestic food supplies. The replacement of Shmuel Bronstein was Leib the doctor, a dresser with a diploma and some training as a surgeon.

In the 1870's Sokyryany's first doctor arrived. He was the son of one of the near-by estate owners – Pan Gilinsky. He built a big spacious house for himself at the edge of town (the house was later bought by Avraham Lisker) and because he was wealthy and the owner of property and assets, he had no desire to use his profession. Only on very rare occasions and in serious cases he was likely to visit the sick. Mostly he sent them to the dresser Leib.

When the first hospital opened in Sokyryany under the “auspices” of Semston whose first head doctor was the county-wide famous Tunik from Hutin, Sokyryany residents at last began to enjoy medical assistance on an acceptable level.

During the 50's of the previous century the community invited Dr. Frankel from Riga, a good and popular Jew. They ensconced him in a pleasant apartment on Turgovi Street where Godil Orchov later lived. They also promised him annual support and additional benefits but the community was unable to fulfill its promises and after a short while only, he left the town.

During the Russo-Japanese war the community managed to invite a second Jewish doctor – Bronstein from Bar, Podolia who was not only a good doctor but also an excellent and faithful public businessman. All community issues were close to his heart and consequently he was also elected by the authorities as the official Rabbi. In 1905 during the period of the first Russian revolution, when the threat of disturbances loomed over the town, Dr Bronstein organized a self-defense system which saved the town from disaster but the good doctor himself fell in a tragic accident. A stray bullet from the rifle of one of the group's members killed him outright.

His place was filled by Dr. Goldenberg, a highly educated man who became extremely well-liked by the youth of Sokyryany and thus influenced them to continue and complete their education. In a short time the town could boast an educated intelligentsia of its own among whom were the future engineer, Karlat, Kahanowitz, Ordovsky, Leib Orchov, the writer of these lines and others; and also its own doctors – Dr Nahum Sussman and M. Gerber who, from 1914-1941 faithfully served the community. Both were lost during the time of Romanian collaboration with the Germans.

 

Births and Dental Treatment, etc.

Until the 1880's all human births took place without the direct help of doctors. That work was carried out at the hands of a few midwives – both of the doctors and our own. Like today, the women would be under the eye of the aged Gentile woman from Jacushka who lived in the same street of the butchers in a dilapidated house under an enormous thatched roof, and also Rivka the midwife, the lame Mr. Israel's wife.

In 1888 – the year of my birth - my father (Z”L), Leib the doctor, invited a qualified midwife to Sokyryany, Sarah Davidovna Kaminets–Podolsk; I was her very first birth! However not long after she died from an outbreak of cholera and the town's births were deprived of trained midwives until the arrival of new faces: Slova, Polya and Ethel Wasserman; the last two continued to function until the Holocaust. Until 1905 the dental problems of Sokyryany's population were attended to by my father. After some years I came into possession of a large collection of instruments that he had used for dental work – various pincers of different shapes, whose purpose would have been better served extracting nails rather than teeth and many sorts of hooks, grinders and crushers. Not for nothing did I save and preserve them until many years later, during a stay in America, I was able to donate them to one of the known national historical museums in New York. But my father also had competitors offering dental assistance to those with teeth problems: Fruma, the wife of Ankauffer, Hirsch Liviver and Zelda Rashnitzka. These doctors would use creosote and all sorts of acids which left their signs and affected even healthy teeth. In those days our town would occasionally be visited by the dentist Pinkanson from Novosalitsa, who would stay with us for a month; he would stretch mouths wide and yank teeth right and left and a year later would return to fix the false teeth. In 1907 Malamud the dentist came to stay. In 1913 Sokyryany had her own dentists – real children of the town – the writer of these few lines, Sarah Kalychman, Rosa Scheichman and Anyota Baratz who in later years moved away into the wider world.

Now is the place to recall the names of the various pharmacists of Sokyryany: Zion Shalom Zion, Schuka, Schorr, Leib Moses, Oksana, Levant, Greenman, Bronstein, Sarah and Barak.

These, in brief are the chronicles of Sokyryany from the day of its founding until the days of the First World War. I have tried to the limit of the sources available to me to place them on record, retrieved from the obscurity of generations from books, stories, assumptions and memories. Certainly a treasure house of material is stored in the memories of the generations and when an additional opportunity presents itself to save it from oblivion we will do it gladly.

 

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