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[Page 88]

Memories

 

A Childhood in a Dream
From: Adamah u–Sheme–Shamayim, Pirke Mekhorah

by Shin Shalom

Translated by Sara Mages

Walking in the snow. Walking among a lot of people. At night. To the light of torches. Leading a Torah scroll that its writing has been completed. A new scroll. Someone is dancing with the scroll in his hand under a Chuppah. To the light of a large torch. Fire and snow and man and Torah are dancing. Walking in the snow. In the darkness. A large crowd.

In the winter we wrap ourselves in furs, board the train and travel from one grandfather, a rabbi in Galicia, to the second grandfather, my mother's father, the rabbi in Poland– Russia. Hassidim sit in the cars. They remove Tallith and Tefillin and drink L'Chaim. The women bring cakes for dessert.

From there, we travel to my mother's aunt. To the Stolin Rabbi. The Stolin Rabbi has twelve sons. Twelve violins in their hands. On Motzei Shabbat they play “HaMavdil Bein Kodesh L'Chol” in an orchestra. The rabbi–father plays double bass and conducts them all.

One hundred Jews eat Aruchat Tamid at the table of the Stolin Rabbi. Ten idlers are always available to serve them. The Stolin Rabbi teaches them a lesson from the Torah.

In the big yard of the Stolin Rabbi there's is a stable for horses. A large stall, clean and spacious, stall for each pair. In the morning, the rabbi will hitch these horses, four across, to his carriage and travel to the wilderness.

Before darkness, the Stolin Rabbi stands in the stable next to his black horse, his purest horse, together with little Zechariah. The thumb of his left hand is placed inside the sash of his kaftan, and the palm of his right hand is smoothing, with affection, the shiny mane of his horse. And he says nothing.

In the summer, we return to the old man in Galicia and spend the end of the summer with him in the mountains, the Carpathian Mountains… At night, the old man, the rabbi, ascends the mountain with everyone to watch the sunrise from the summit…


In My Grandfather's House

by Rivka Chitin–Farbodsky

Translated by Sara Mages

My grandfather, R' Moshe Farbodsky, who was known to all the residents of Stolin and the Hassidim of the “rabbi” of Stolin by his nickname “Moshe Ha'Zunder” – was a popular Jew who stood out in his simplicity and his good manners. He was a friend to every person, and even

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though he was faithful, in his heart and soul, to the house of his Admor, he was also a friend to those who shunned the Hassidut. Who wouldn't remember grandfather Moshe? His kind eyes sparkled in a special light when he walked briskly with his pipe in his mouth. As an enthusiastic Hassid he was cheerful and happy, and as a devout Jew he had faith in everything that God has done in his world. We, his family members, remember him the most. We knew our grandfather's habits very well and greatly enjoyed his enchanting tales about tzadikim and eternal life.

And if grandfather was great all the days of the year, his greatness rose in my eyes when the “High Holidays” arrived. He grew serious on Rosh Hashanah eve and a special splendor adorned his face. Early, before the prayer, he wore his “kittel” and wrapped in a tallit. Before he left the house he looked around at the many candles that my mother had lit, smiled, and blessed us with a happy new year.

The Hassidim, who live in grandfather's house, start to leave after him for the prayer. They came from out of town to pray with the “rabbi” and eat at his table on the “High Holidays.” Soon, the voices of the worshipers will reach from the Great Synagogue where the “rabbi” and his Hassidim pray during the days of this holiday. Slowly slowly, the silent prayer of “Yom Hadin” [Day of Judgment] turns into a tumult of voices and shouts, as customary by the Karlin–Stolin Hassidim. At the conclusion of the prayer, after they accompanied the “rabbi” to his rooms, grandfather appears with a group of guests. He blesses with the blessing of “L'shanah Tovah” and with the seriousness, which remained on his face, he knows to amuse us on “Yom Hadin,” Immediately after the holiday meal he hurries to the “rabbi” and no one saw him until he returned home. Early the next morning, although the prayer started late, he was already in the synagogue or with the “rabbi.” Father returned home before the blowing of the Shofar, but not grandfather, no one saw him until the rabbi's prayer ended. Suddenly, he appeared for a moment, got up and left, probably to the “rabbi's table,” and from there to the “Tashlich.”

A special feeling enveloped us, the little ones, on the “High Holidays.” Even before the holiday the selichot provoked reflections and thoughts about the coming days, and with their arrival, after the usual preparations, there was a marked change in the course of life at home, and if it was so in every home, it was all the more so in grandfather's home. The boys stayed with the adults in the synagogue during the prayers while the girls were forced to come for the blowing of the Shofar and in the evening they followed the masses to the river, at the edge of town, for the “Tashlich.” Every year, the two days of Rosh Hashanah passed with tension mixed with festivity at my grandfather's home in Stolin. Theoretically, the Ten Days of Repentance, which followed them, were weekdays, but a Jew like grandfather R' Moshe, dedicated them for repentance and good deeds. The anxiety of the Day of Judgment, which supposedly passed on Motzei Rosh Hashanah, ended when the Hassidim sat around the table and danced with grandfather. However, the seriousness didn't disappear from grandfather's face and even though he continued to be cheerful – he made preparations for the Great Day of Judgment.

And now came the eve of Yom Kippur which filled the heart with awe and self examination. It seems that every person in town is in a hurry to finish his work and his business in preparation for the Day of Judgment. Grandfather returns from the “rabbi's court” for the meal before the fast, and immediately dresses in white clothes which add splendor to his face which is adorned with a white beard. A tremor sounds in his voice when he blesses his grandchildren, and tears are visible in his eyes. I didn't know what grandfather felt at that time, but I remember that he aroused tears in me and a heavy stone weighed on my heart for a long time.

The last rays of sun disappear and the town's Jews are walking to the “Kol Nidrei” prayer.

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Mother blessed the candles, as if she hugged and cuddled them, her lips whispered and tears streamed from her eyes. The big candle, which is stuck in the flowerpot, will burn all night and the next day, and the whole family left for the prayer.

The synagogue is full. Big wax and stearin candles, memorial candles that were brought by all the worshipers, are stuck on each windowsill and sandbox. The lit candles spread light and stifling heat. The large candles of Beit HaMidrash appear through the windows and they hint and evoke emotions. The worshipers, among them many youngsters, came dressed in kitels [white robes] and tallitot. And here, the “rabbi” arrives and behind him his sons and close associates. I stood upstairs, in the women's gallery next to my mother. I looked at what was happing in the synagogue and listened to the melody of “Kol Nidrei.” The voices of the worshipers mixed with the voices that came from Beit HaMidrash. I knew that the town's Jews, and the Jews in the entire world, are now standing in prayer before God, and I had a strong desire to participate in prayer with all the Jewish people.

The next day passed with fasting and prayer and its holiness was felt in Stolin more than in any other town. And now came the time for the “Neilah,” prayer. The heart was relieved after “Tekiah Gedola,” not because the fast was over, but out of confidence that we, young and old, were signed for a good and blessed year.

Motzei Yom Kippur. The house is flowing with a festive light. The entire family is sitting at the table and grandfather sits at the head. We eat immediately after the Havdalah. Grandfather smokes his pipe, a holiday pipe – a gift from “rabbi” from many years ago. He tastes from the drink on the table and praises it with a joke, as customary by the Hassidim, and his face is jubilant. Dishes are brought from the kitchen and during breaks grandfather sings a song. The Hassidim and we, the little ones, join him and a mighty singing blares out: Shana Tova, Hoy Shana Tova, “Shevet Achim” and others. Big and beautiful was grandfather during this hours and the love for Israel was reflected in his eyes. And again, grandfather left for the “Steible” to the “rabbi.”

The arrangements for the sukkah, which was in one of the rooms in grandfather's house, began on the next day. Grandfather didn't trust others and personally took care of its cleaning and arranging.


Secret Revolutionaries

by R. Bramson–Rosenberg

Translated by Sara Mages

Most of the residents of Stolin surely remember the Russian Revolution of 1905 more than me. I was tender in years then, even though I already studied at the modern “Cheder” of the Kashtan teachers. Even so, I already felt the secrets of the revolution in our home because my mother, Chava (who was called Chava Di Tumnker), was probably the only woman in Stolin who collaborated with the revolutionaries, and it wasn't easy at all.

I clearly remember the winter of 1904–5 with its events. The tension in our home was great. Almost every night I heard a knock on the door which was accompanied by a weak whistle. When I opened my eyes my mother was already awake. She dressed quickly, hurried to the kitchen

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and quietly opened the back door to let the guests in. The young men who entered whispered to each other, and in the meantime, mother made fried eggs and served them food. The guests, who apparently were hungry, ate with a great appetite. Then, they lay down on the floor to take a nap while mother sat on the side, close to the door, on the lookout… She woke them before sunrise, spoke to them briefly, and the young men left the house one by one…

I knew that the matters were related to the secrecy of the revolution because my grandfather was angry after each sleepless night. He grumbled and begged my mother to stop her relationship with the “angels of destruction.”

Yes, grandfather was in great fear all that winter, especially after we received the news about the procession of the priest Gapon and the subsequent bloodbath. He had reason to doubt the results of the revolutionary activity. Yet, night after night the movement has grown in our house and with it – grandfather's fear.

At that time a Cossack officer came to live in the house next to our yard, in the yard of R' Moshe Shkilyar. He was sent with his company to “quiet” the villages around Stolin. The officer had two little children who liked me and wanted to be in my company. Every day the officer's staff sergeant came to take me, after I returned from the “Cheder,” to play with the children. The big garden next to the officer's apartment and his children's beautiful toys fascinated me – and I saw no contradiction between the two worlds – mine and theirs.

I remember one winter morning, shortly before Passover. Mother was busy cleaning the house for the holiday. She checked every closet and every drawer, and grandfather, who has finished his prayer and folded his tallit, walked behind her. He examined every piece of paper, took a package of leaflets and tossed it into the burning stove. A few days before “Shabbat HaGadol” [the Shabbat immediately before Passover], we woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of loud banging on the door at the main entrance. We all jumped out of our beds, mother wrapped herself in her coat and opened the door. About ten policemen, together with the police commander – grandfather's friend – announced that they came to conduct a search… The policemen, together with the police commander, raided our house. They checked every corner, searched the cupboards, the beds, and even lifted the floorboards…Mother accompanied them, grandfather walked behind her, and both joked and warned that bombs were hidden in the pillows and in the down comforters.

The search lasted for about two hours – but they didn't find anything suspicious. Mother turned to the commander with a complaint – how it occurred to an old friend of the family to come in the middle of the night and conduct a search in the house of a dignified woman, a mother of small children?

The commander asked for forgiveness: – an order is an order. He was given a list of suspects and her name was included in it… he's sorry about it, but he had to fulfill his mission and he was pleased with the results.

That night, searches were conducted in several homes in town and a number of young men were arrested. Among them were the brothers Yitzchak and Shimon Rosenberg, and the son of the widow who lived next door to us. They were sent to the provincial minister in Pinsk.

After Passover, before my father returned to his service in Pripyat River, he took my mother to Pinsk, to my uncle's family who lived there. Mother spent several weeks in Pinsk, and while she was there she took care of the prisoners from Stolin. Every day she brought food to the prison and managed to transfer the weak among them to a hospital for treatment and recovery.

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I also remember something about the connection of these revolutionaries with… the yard of the “rabbi” of Stolin. Quite often they hid, of course in secret, weapons in the yard between the trees despite the opposition of the “rabbi” who, of course, wasn't fond of the young “rebels.” The “rabbi” also rebuked my grandfather because of my mother. He was very angry that his “Hassidic woman,” daughter of Hassidim, was involved with the revolutionaries and helped them.

I, who was young at that time, loved to play with the rabbi's children, and I didn't feel any contradiction between the “rabbi's” home and our home. I knew very well that I shouldn't talk there, or in any other place, about what was carried out in my mother's house, and silence is beautiful…

Revolution and counter revolution, the wheels of the revolutions ground to dust the Jewish communities among the Gentiles.


A Visit to Stolin in 5674 [1914]

by Pinchas Katznelson

Translated by Sara Mages

I've heard a lot about Stolin, especially about the tzadik, R' Yisrael Perlov. I've seen him more than once during his visits to my town Ovruch and also in Sarny, and here I came to visit the town itself.

At dawn, I arrived from the Goryn train station in a big wagon full of passengers. Before I embarked on my journey I received information from my relatives, who used to visit the “rabbi” in Stolin, about their hostel and asked Hinech, the wagon owner, to bring me to R' Moshe H'aZunder (he's Moshe Farbodsky) who hosts the Hasidim who come to the “rabbi.”

Outside stood an autumn morning and the chill was well felt in the bones. Even though I was tired from the sleepless night in the train car and the movements of Hinech's wagon, I didn't think about a rest. My eyes clung to the yard and the rabbi's houses across from the hostel, on the other side of the street, and thoughts raced within me.

And here, several people woke up and two or three, who came from the outside, joined them. These were Hassidim who spent the days of Rosh Hashanah with the “rabbi.” The “Blessings before the prayer” sounded in the big room, and immediately after the worshipers hurried to the “shtiebel” for the Shaharit prayer. Among them was one from Blezow, a young man who belonged to my family, and also me.

The town hasn't yet awakened. We walk passed puddles of water which were formed after the rain that fell at night. The sky is overcast and a damp wind is blowing in our faces. The town's houses stand gray and their shutters are closed. We only meet several men with a tallith in their hand in front of the synagogues' courtyard. It seems that they already returned from the first “minyan.”

A Hassidic spirit is blowing in the “shtiebel.” My relative, the Blezowai, immediately felt himself as one of the family because he was considered to be among the “privileged.” After it was learned that I was the grandson of R' Yitzchak–Isaac and the son of R' Yehudah–Yosef Katznelson from Ovruch, they extended their hands from all sides for the greeting of Shalom Aleichem. There was also one among them who asked me: and where were you on Rosh Hashanah?

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because my grandfather, R' Yitzchak– Isaac, didn't come to the rabbi after Rosh Hashanah, but before the holiday, as was customary by the Hassidim. It was September 1941, about two months after the outbreak of the First World War. I was young then and my time has come to enlist to the Russian Army.

A long time has passed until the rabbi and his sons entered for the prayer. I have to admit, that I followed every movement he made and my heart wasn't in the prayer. I pondered how to approach him after the prayer and not to miss the opportunity to be the first to talk to him. The Blezowai walked with me to the rabbi and introduced me. He remembered me. He spoke to me briefly in a loud voice, in the way of a rabbi, and led me out into the yard. He showered me with questions about my grandfather and my father, and hinted that we were related. The Hassidim's glances, maybe out of jealousy or maybe out of respect, accompanied us during the time that I spent in the company of the tzadik. At the same time I told him about the forestry business where I worked as a clerk. I answered some of his questions and brought before him a question which bothered me at that time. He understood it correctly, and on his way to the inner rooms he told me: come in, talk to my sons, and come again. Indeed, I had a great interest to know the house and the yard, and I was impressed with everything that I've seen there.

In the afternoon, I left, full of experiences and impressions, to meet with people that I needed to see about the forests that I've dealt with. While doing so, I looked around the town, its market and stores. Peace, quiet and also emptiness prevailed in the town center, and when I turned to a store to buy something, the seller was happy to see me. Apparently, I was one of the few buyers on that day. The townspeople that I've met seemed honest and intelligent. I found in them the greatness of the “Litvaks” [Lithuanian Jews] and the kindness of the “Vilnaim” [residents of Vilna]. My relative, the Blezowai, who was also in the forestry business, agreed with me that the merchants of Stolin were much better than merchants of other towns.

That day was the “Fast of Gedalia” and for that reason the Mincha–Ma'ariv prayer was held earlier. I entered the “shtiebel” again. I chose a place near the “rabbi” and immediately after the prayer he hinted to me. I approached him trembling and submissively. He patted my shoulder and said: Pinchas, you obviously fasted, come to the table. There was no limit to my happiness. I left the “shtiebel” in the direction of my hostel. I spent a short time at the hostel. No one paid attention to me there because of the great noise, and I turned to go back to the rabbi's table. Also here was a great crowd and density. I can't remember how I managed to get to the table on the side close to the rabbi's seat. Many pushed in the direction of the tzadik's chair until managed to conquer a place. As was customary by the Karlin–Stolin Hassidim, the noise didn't stop after the tzadik entered. Later, when he saw me, the rabbi ordered to give me a seat next to the table and after he divided the “leftovers” he took me to his rooms. He returned to the morning's conversation about the forestry business and it seemed that he was satisfied with the things that I've told him. He even praised me and said: I see that you have a good understanding in matters of business and it's possible to trust you. I didn't dare to touch the personal question that I wanted to get his opinion on, but he took me out of my confusion and advised me to follow the line that I outlined before him during our conversation in the morning, and wished me success.

One of the gabbaim entered to inform the “rabbi” that the people of Blezow came to receive a farewell blessing from him. I remained on the side and went through a special experience that was etched in my memory.

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The Hassidim felt good after the fast and the Blezowaim, who received the blessing of the tzadik, were particularly pleased. They ordered a drink at the hostel and sat around the big table until the carter arrived to take us to the train station.

I left the town and never saw it again.


Birkat HaGomel [1]

by C. Shefi

Translated by Sara Mages

It happened in the summer of 1914, before the outbreak of the First World War. The rabbi, as was his custom for many years, left with his entourage for the healing springs in Marienbad, This time, several homeowners also traveled abroad, and among them was also R' Avrahamel V. Unfortunately for them, the World War broke out and the border between Austria and Russia was closed. There was no way in or out.

The rabbi and his escorts managed to return through neutral countries, but R' Avrahamel remained stuck in one of the places and was slow to return.

One day, the news passed in town that R' Avrahamel arrived safely to the delight of his wife and the joy of the whole town. The guest was allowed to rest from his anger and his wanderings, and on Friday, at twilight, the whole town came to Beit HaMidrash to welcome him.

Beit HaMidrash was illuminated like on a holiday eve. Six electric lamps glowed in a bright light in honor of the Sabbath and in honor of the guest. The congregation is streaming in droves and all eyes are seeking to see the guest, and the guest was late in coming. The town's rabbi slowly takes out his watch from his vest pocket, glances at it, and hints Meir'l the shamash that the time has come to welcome the Sabbath.

Meir'l knocks on the lectern and R' Zenvil, the cantor, opens with “L'chu n'ran'NA la–do–NAI na–RI–ah” [“O come, let us sing unto the LORD”]. The congregation repeats after him and turn to the sides to see the guest, and the guest had not yet arrived. But, when they came to “L'chah Dodi,” [“come my beloved”], R' Avrahamel appears with an expression of importance on his face. He walks in a slow pace toward the east, to his permanent seat between the rabbi and R' Yehusua Avraham. The prayer cams to an end, the worshipers surround R' Avrahamel and bless him with “Boachem l'shalom malachei ha shalom” [“Peace be unto you, ye ministering angels”].

– You should bless “Birkat HaGomel,” R' Avrahm, and conduct a kiddush fits for the wealthy – says one of the guys, half seriously, half joking. R' Avrahamel smiles and gently shakes his head in refusal

The mischievous children heard and plotted a conspiracy. Plotted and carried it out.

The next morning, when the worshipers came to Beit HaMidrash, they found a notice on the door in this language: – “Avraham V. invites the honorable congregation for a kiddush, God willing, tomorrow, the Holly Sabbath, after “Birkat HaGomel,” and there won't be a shortage of drinks.” R' Avrahamel was called to the Torah and blessed “Birkat HaGomel.” They prayed Musaf, said “Ein keloheinu” and “Shir Hakavod” in a haste, as if it was said in honor of the guest, quickly folded their tallitot and the procession started – every man by his own camp and every man by his own status. The rich on his right and on his left, the “common folks” and the “lickplatters” in the rear.

From Beit HaMidrash to Market square. R' Avraham accepted the procession as an act of politeness and courtesy towards him, and he was very proud of it.

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However, when he saw that the procession was following him to his street, he realized that there was something in it. He turned his head and said with strictness: “Gentlemen, what's the reason for all this?”

The experts understood the hint, turn around and left, but the “common folks” and the “riffraff” didn't hear, or pretended that they didn't hear, continued to follow the “celebrator.” At the front door the procession was met by the rich man's wife who stood with her mouth open as if she was in a shock. The “celebrator” entered his house and the congregation followed him. The doors were thrown open and the mob broke in. Against their will they took out the cholent and the kugel and the company ate everything and licked the plates clean.


Translator's Note

  1. Birkat HaGomel” – Traditional prayer of thanks to be recited by one who has survived a dangerous situation. Return


Refugees in Stolin

by Sara Ben–Zakkai–Tantzman

Translated by Sara Mages

Fear and horror fell on the Jews of Stolin when the First World War broke out. The Jews felt that the tragedy of the world might be the tragedy of the Jews because they were the “scapegoats” among the nations. The hearts feared and the concern was great.

The first to suffer were the homes in which the immediate mobilization order hit the head of the family and his sons. It was difficult for the recruits to leave their home because they were sent to military service and from there to the front. They knew that danger awaits them there, and didn't know what fate would bring them. Depression was felt in the town, there was no source of income, many lost their jobs and the pessimistic assumptions were verified.

A few months after the beginning of the war, several refugee families, who were expelled from their places close to the front (Lublin, Chelm Łódź and others), arrived to Stolin. The matter served as a bad omen. At the beginning of 1915, when the front got closer to Pinsk, the commander of the Russian Army, the well known anti–Semite Yanushkevich, issued an order requiring all the Jews, who live in the range of 50 kilometers from the front, to leave their places within twenty four hours. He suspected that they weren't loyal to the regime and might aid the enemy… The government officials immediately began to threaten the Jews to obey the order, and they were forced to abandon their homes, their property and all they had and wander wherever their legs will carry them. The situation of the victims was very difficult.

A group of several dozen families also arrived to Stolin. It was followed by a second group of broken and depressed refugees, who stood in the market square next to their meager belongings, and didn't know if they should pitch a tent in town or continue wandering. Even though the matter was a surprise for the residents of Stolin, they immediately woke up and left to welcome the expelled families. They served them food and transferred them to the synagogue and to private homes. The Jews of Stolin understood that this fate could also be their fate – and how could they stand aloof of their brothers' tragedy?

On the next day, the youth and the town's dignitaries gathered at the home of the town's rabbi and there they established a refugee aid committee.

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Each committee member took on the care of at least one family – its housing and all of its needs. A collection of clothing, dishes, pillows, food etc. was held in town. There were those who donated money in addition to the gifts and the committee divided it among the needy. It was also necessary to take care of the animals of the destitute families who brought a cow or a horse with them. Each place that was suitable to house a family – a shed or a cellar – was utilized. The refugee families were also able to live together. The merciful Jews of Stolin demonstrated the proper hospitality to their brothers in trouble, and the refugees appreciated the warm attitude that they met in the town. Some of them immediately settled in the place and waited until the danger will pass.

Several weeks have passed and it became difficult for the local committee to support the refugees with their own means. They turned to the All–Russian Jewish committee for the aid of war victims, and help started to arrive from there for the refugees who needed it the most. For that purpose the local committee sent Rabbi Asher Pialkov and Yitzchak Belahousky to the All–Russian committee, and they organized the joint operation.

The Jews of Stolin also took care of the Jewish soldiers who served in the vicinity of Stolin and invited them to eat and sleep at their homes. I especially remember the Seder for the Jewish soldiers. It was held on Passover 5675 with a lot of glory and splendor at the Turknitsh ballroom. At first, they thought of sending each soldier to a private home, but at the demand of the town's youth it was decided to hold a communal “Seder.” Women, who engaged in communal work, and all the young women volunteered for this important enterprise. They helped with the preparations for the “Seder,” which was held according to all the rules of the holiday and the satisfaction of the soldiers and hosts alike. The news of the townspeople help to the refugees and the soldiers reached far and wide and revealed the philanthropy of the Jews of Stolin.


Rescued from Death

by M. Erlich–Rabinowitz

Translated by Sara Mages

A typical case from the period of exchange of regime in Stolin and the surrounding area in 1918–19, is etched in the memory of our townspeople.

It happened in the summer of 1918, on 4 Tamuz 5678, when the German Army and the Ukrainians entered Stolin from Pinsk–Vidibor. At that time, as in many other locations in the Polesie Province, the local government was concentrated in the hands of a council of workers and soldiers. One of the activists in the council was Reuven Ovsiannikov, brother of Hodya the wife of the pharmacist Tzvi Chernick. Before joining the council Reuven gave private lessons to the town's children. This Reuven, who was a socialist–democrat by his views, was educated and honest. He was a popular person who captured many hearts in Stolin, and was nicknamed Reuva [beloved Reuven]

The news, that the occupying army was getting closer to the town, arrived several days beforehand and the residents of Stolin didn't know what it will bring and if it would stop there. Several armies passed through the town since the Russian revolution, and the townspeople waited to see what lies ahead. When the army entered early the next morning, the Jews of Stolin were shocked to see Reuva standing on the balcony of Yeshaya Krupnik's house, which was in the market square, and a machine gun was pointed at him.

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What is the meaning of this? They wondered and grieved, and the town was abuzz. The Jews of Stolin understood that Reuva was arrested because someone informed the conquerors about of his contacts with the Bolsheviks, or something in that order (a Russian, a member of the council was also arrested with him, but he was immediately released while Reuva remained imprisoned and chained).

No one was able to clarify what was Reuva's sin, why he wasn't released and why he was placed in front of a machine gun. The conquerors' headquarters stood in Vidibor, the closest station to Gorin, and they were afraid to go there. The Chernick family never stopped running around to release Reuva and enlisted the help of the proprietors and the town's rabbi, R' Asher Pialkov. The rabbi got deeply into the matter and worked all day to save a Jewish soul from mortal danger. When they weren't able to obtain a promise in Stolin for the release of the prisoner, they decided to send a delegation to Vidibor and a cart, which was harnessed to a pair of horses, stood ready next to the rabbi's house. Luckily for Reuva, the rabbi managed to convince the German and the Ukrainian officers that Reuva was a well–liked person, was pleasant to the entire population and had no contact with the enemy. Thanks to this, Reuva was released and in the evening was taken to the house of his Chernick brother–in–law.

When Reuva learned that Rabbi Pialkov was the one who handled his release and saved his life, he went to the rabbi's house to thank him for his efforts. At that time the rabbi was already in Beit HaMidrash. Reuva followed him there and found him in the prayer of “Kabbalat Shabbat.” Reuva waited until the end of the prayer, shook the rabbi's hand and expressed his gratitude with emotional words. However, the rabbi didn't listen to the words of thanks and didn't have a conversation with the survivor. For him it was nothing extraordinary, he only fulfilled the mitzvah of “Pidyon Shvuyim” [redemption of captives] and filled a mission to rescue a Jewish soul.


A Dancing Party at the Rebbe's House

by Sara Ben–Zakai–Tanzman

Translated by Sara Mages

The days of the Bałachowiczim's[1] stay in Stolin were deeply etched in the memory of the townspeople. After the first night of nightmare, after several days of torture, anguish and fear, the emotions almost quieted and life began to return to normal. The beautiful houses were occupied by the officers and the headquarters was placed at the “Rebbe's” house. It was clear to the local Jews that they must adapt to the situation and surrender to the new conditions.

And here, a letter arrived from the Bałachowiczim's headquarters to Rabbi Asher Fialkov with a message that a dance will be held at the “Rebbe's” house on Saturday night and seven local Jewish girls, whose names are listed, are required to come to this dance. And they are: Ester Frankel, Dunia Dubitzky, Ester Pliasniuk (who were murdered by the Nazis) and May they live – Malka Glouberman, Fanya Shakliar, Chaska Aisenberg and Sara –Tanzman.

It's impossible to describe the fear and terror that fell on the townspeople in general and those that the matter touched them in particular. It was clear that they plotted a difficult plot. The weeping of the mothers tore everyone's heart. They started to weigh the matter and ran to the Admor to ask for his advice: What to do? After all, it's a threat to the safety of the town's girls. Should we refuse? Who knows what kind of a punishment the wicked might impose on the entire town?

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There was scampering, flurry of emotions, and the town was abuzz. My mother, who was a wise woman and believed with all her heart in the “Rebbe,” decided to consult with him – and we will comply with his decision.

The “Rebbe” was shocked by the insolence of the Gentiles, that after all the disasters they inflicted on the Jews of Stolin they demand that our daughters will dance with them – and in his home… With that, he calmed my mother and told her that he will look into the matter. All those days the “Rebbe” was in great sorrow, and on the last evening, before the party, he told the girls to go to the party. Of course, no one thought to defy the decision of the “Rebbe.” The preparations began immediately. I remember that they dressed us in tattered dresses and sent us with a broken heart to the party.

Before we entered the large hall we turned to the “Rebbe's” room as he instructed us to do. He waited for us. He was focused and serious and talked to each of us individually. He asked for our names and our parents' names. He encouraged us and blessed us. The “Rebbe's” words of encouragement strengthened us and we entered the dance hall. It was flooded with electric lights, the tables were set with all the best and each of us had an assigned place next to one of the offices… The environment overwhelmed us, but we tried to hold on.

The party started with a dinner and the drinking of alcoholic beverages. I have to mention that the officers were polite and spoke and treated to us with outstanding courtesy. Then the dancing began. We danced with breaks until midnight and when the party ended the officers accompanied each of us to her home to protect her from the soldiers who roamed the streets.

On the next day, when it became known that we were safe and nothing bad had happened to us, there was a tremendous noise and great awakening in the town. Many felt that the “Rebbe” performed a miracle and believed that he had the power to turn bad hearts into good hearts and instill confidence in the hearts of those that a sword was hanging over their heads.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Bałachowiczim – The army of General Stanisław Bułak–Bałachowicz. Return


Deeds of Charity and Kindness
(In memory of my father R' Yissachar Tanzman z”l)

by Sara Ben–Zakai–Tanzman

Translated by Sara Mages

I don't remember my grandfather Asher Tanzman, but I've heard a lot about him and his good deeds. During his life in Stolin he was considered to be a philanthropist and was respected by the community. In his will he bequeathed one thousand Rubles (a large sum of money in those days) to the poor and the money, one hundred Rubles plus the annual interest, will be divided among the needy in a period of ten years. My father, R' Yissachar, was appointed to distribute the money. The rumor spread quickly all over Polesie and on the day of distribution, which was the date of my grandfather's passing, the needy streamed to my father's house in Stolin to benefit from the distribution. The number of those who knocked on our door grew from year to year, but there was kind of needy who didn't turn to my father for help. Those were the “impoverished” and my father also made sure to give them from the distribution.

While in contact with the great poverty the idea that the community should

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provide assistance to the town's needy grew stronger in my father's heart. With the help of several dignitaries he re–established “Bikur Chulim” [visiting the sick]. In the past the institution was under the supervision of the slaughterer R' Menashe and R' Moshe Shkliar, and over time it has been neglected until it was closed. As the leader of this institution my father made sure to prepare ice in the winter. The ice was brought from the frozen river to special cellars where it was kept all the days of the year (in those days they didn't know in Stolin how to produce artificial ice). In the hot summer months my father gave the ice to the sick, to women who gave birth and others free of charge. In the summer, my father took care of the preparation of jam from various fruits. The jam was kept for distribution among those who were in need of healing.

Bikur Chulim” provided help to those in need also in other ways and its usefulness was great. The townspeople paid a monthly fee for the upkeep of the institution. The payment was collected by several teenage boys who volunteered for this holy mission. Among them were my two brothers Yakov and Yosef, Mordechai Aisenberg and others.

A few years later, my father started another enterprise for help, charity and kindness – the distribution of firewood to the needy. There were a lot of people in town who weren't able to heat their ovens in their apartness and suffered from the cold in the winter. Indeed, there were forests in the vicinity of Stolin and there wasn't a shortage of wood, but, when there wasn't money to buy it, the cheap price didn't help. My father saw the need to collect funds for the purchase of wood and its delivery, or to collect donations of wood for this purpose. He invested a lot of efforts in this enterprise and even found ways to convince the forestry merchants (from the Brodsky office and others who engaged in this industry) to contribute a large quantity of wood. This enterprise was a blessing to many in town. My father also made sure to help the “impoverished,” who were embarrassed to ask for help, and delivered wood to their houses in secret.

The Jews of Stolin excelled in their philanthropy even though they weren't rich, and they responded when they were asked to help others.


An Act of True Kindness

by P. Globerman–Shklyar

Translated by Sara Mages

It happened at the beginning of 1921. The hand of fate, which hit several families during and after the war, didn't skip our home. When my father fell ill and took to his bed all the efforts were made to heal and strengthen him. Despite the difficult situation he was taken to Warsaw for treatment and under the advice of his doctors he was transferred to a sanatorium in nearby Otwock. His doctors treated him for six weeks but he didn't recover from his illness and died in Otwock on 2 Second Adar 5681 (1921). I was the only family member to be by his bed in his last moments.

My father didn't give me any instruction in regards to his burial, but I strongly felt that he wanted to be buried in Stolin among the graves of his relatives and close to his family. Although I was s broken I decided to do everything to fulfill this holy duty and my father's wishes. Without a lot of consideration I left a few hours later in the first morning train to Warsaw to find a way and get money. I knew that R' Yisrael Farlove was receiving medical treatment in Warsaw and went straight to him. Indeed, I remember that the rabbi was weak and blind, but for the lack of any other choice I approached him with my personal trouble.

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It wasn't easy to get to the rabbi's house and I found his son, R' Moshe'le, with him. I poured my heart before them, told them about my great misfortune and my difficult situation, and asked for help – true kindness for my father and money for my urgent expenses.

The rabbi listened to my words, sighed and turned to me with words of information: It's almost impossible to obtain a license to transfer a body in a train, there are special arrangements for our occupied region, but the will of the deceased is his honor. If your father didn't ask for it, it's not your duty to work so hard in this matter even though it's very notable and important in your eyes. In regards to the money, this is not a great worry and it will be easy to find a solution for it. In spite of it, we'll try to do what we can, wait a little while.

The rabbi worried, I wasn't sure if the matter will work out and didn't know to whom I can turn in my time of trouble. All my hopes were tied with the rabbi's activities. And he indeed didn't rest, he called his people, ran them around, and they were able to arrange it. I sat for two hours and waited until they came to tell me that the matter was settled. They received the license, a coffin was prepared and they even brought me money. I was called again to the rabbi. He informed me about the situation and ordered me to loan me the money. He sent me and my companions to Otwock, and when we got there they immediately arranged for the transport of my father's body. On the next day we arrived to Pinks and from there I transferred his body in a cart to Stolin. My father was buried in the cemetery of Stolin, his birth place.


Thoughts and Memories

by Tova Klein–Rabinowitz

Translated by Sara Mages

There are names and magic words that have the power to transfer a person immediately to the region of his childhood, and then, the memories come naturally without having to dive into them. A multitude of characters, that we think that we've forgotten them, rise from the past and here they are, with us, around us. They live as before and we can feel them close up.

Stolin. The name itself has the power to awaken the past and the forgotten childhood.

A different world. A world which nurtured within us the good and the precious, the longing for a homeland, the love of national culture, appreciation of the language, the great passion for liberation and national pride.

I remember how the sound of the Hebrew language rang with pride in the foreign world. “Bnei Yehudah” and later, as they were called, “Bnei Hamidbar,” put before them the goal to revive the language, not only during the school hours, but throughout the day and even in the offices of the Polish government.

I remember our beloved teachers. Each of them played an important and honorable role in creating a new way of life. The pioneering training instilled in us, with great devotion and stubbornness, the news of the development of the Land of Israel, literature, history and the knowledge of nature. We learned how the first settlements were established in Israel! We learned to hate anti–Semitism and anti–Semites, and love those who respect our quests for freedom!

I have to mention for the better the teachers who taught us: The teacher Shpetrick –

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when I mention his name I immediately remember his good fatherly smile. The teacher Czudner, whose meticulousness was foreign to us in those days, nurtured in us the love of art, cleanliness, order, discipline, hiking, love of people and love of nature. The teacher Mutchnick – was already old in my days but he was full of energy, zealousness and knew his vocation as a teacher. The teacher Schneider – I must thank him for teaching me Hebrew literature in his pleasant lessons. The teacher Shapira – knew how to bring us closer to the world of music and guided us in our first steps into the world of rich sounds. And others, that I will not mention their names, knew how to enrich us in their special way.

I remember the school celebrations. They weren't celebrations of the Diaspora. Cheerfulness, the spirit of freedom and joy of life were saturated in them, and all who took part in them will never forget them. The symbolic masks on Purim which were of a high artistic level, the Chanukah parties, the holiday of Shavuot, Tu Bishvat and Lag BaOmer – knew how to cast a new content. The joy of freedom and the joy of life, the happiness of nature and the wide open space!

I remember the forest which was near the city. How we were happy to live there when summer came. How beautiful were the days of Lag BaOmer when we set out “armed” with bows and arrows to enjoy the forest air.

 

sto101.jpg
Lag BaOmer parade in the streets of Stolin – 5687 – 1927

 

Indeed – we were lucky. Stolin was a beautiful city and its scenery was rich and beautiful. Rivers, forests, trees and fields surrounded it. A city that was vibrant with a proud Jewish life. Jews walked and lived there with their head high despite the spirit of hatred which intensified during the days of my childhood and the years of my study.

To know that they are gone and their children are gone, to know that they could have lived and be with us, that they could have created, build and reap the fruit of their loyalty and stubbornness to their homeland and their fight for freedom. To know this, to remember this, means that death is in a war and life is in peace.

 

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