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[Pages 226-227]

In Eretz Israel

 

Former Years

by A. Kostrinsky

Translated by Hannah Kadmon

[Translator's notes in brackets]

 

Eretz Israel [land of Israel] was always the past and future of the Jews. The Jew always dreamed of Eretz Israel and aspired to see or hear about it. Whenever an emissary from Eretz Israel came to the shtetl the folks surrounded him wishing to hear more and more about that land of our fathers, prophets, kings, saintly men and cabalists. If a Jew did not have the privilege of dying there, he would at least obtain a small bag with the earth of the land of Israel to pour into his grave when he died.

If a Jew was privileged to travel to the land of Israel, it was not just his personal great experience but it was a general event for the whole town and the topic of conversations for a long time. That is how it was in the Jewish communities all over the world, and that is how it was also in Horodets.

One must not forget that 60 years ago [approximately 1889] there was no train connection in all places, people were only talking about airplanes and the ships of those times were far from being luxurious. When a Jew traveled to the land of Israel in those days, he suffered quite a bit before arriving in the land of his life-long dreams.

Horodets was not an exception. At that time there was no train. When a Jew wanted to travel to the land of Israel, he had to travel first with the “ax” (wagon) to Pinsk, from there continue tediously upon the “parakhad” (steam-ship) and then take a train until he made it to Odessa. Afterwards he had to travel for two weeks on the sea. When he finally arrived in the land of Israel, he had to be included in the “khaluka” [money donated by Jews in the Diaspora to support the new comers to the land of Israel]. The money was divided in the “kolel” [institute for full-time, advanced study of the Talmud and rabbinic literature also for married men]. Not every “kolel” was rich enough to offer its members a decent support.

* *
*

In those days there were two men with the same name – Yankel. They nicknamed one of them Eliya Yankel and the other – Yankel Hassid. Both were devoted Karliner Hassids and great scholars. Eliya Yankel was very proficient in Talmud and Yankel Hassid was an “uprooter of mountains” [erudite scholar] and very sharp minded. As a devout Hassid he used to go every day to the ritual bath and used to travel often to the Rabbi [of the Karlin Hassidim]

Eliya Yankel was the Hassidic shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] in the shtetl. When he was old, he and his wife Rukhama, decided to live the rest of their life in the land of Israel. They already had a son with wife and children in the land of Israel.

The lucky day arrived. Eliya Yankel with Rukhama were about to leave for the land of Israel. As luck would have it, the wedding of Gitl, Motye Hill's daughter was planned for the same day. The klezmers [musicians] came out to the street, playing and singing to see off the old couple. They walked from the bridge to the road to Antipolye. Men and women followed them, dancing. Each person dropped a coin into Rukhama's apron, thus appointing the couple to be “missionaries of good deeds” because, as such, they would be protected if they, God forbid, encountered any misfortune on their way.

The celebration was not private, it was everybody's celebration. Each of the folks felt as if he himself was also joining the old couple to the land of Israel for the rest of his life.

A short while later, Yankel Hassid also left for the land of Israel and again this event aroused a great interest in the shtetl. The folks in Horodets were envious of those fine house-owners who were lucky to travel to the land of Israel.

Settling in the land of Israel did not weaken the ties with the shtetl. They often wrote letters. This strengthened the love for the land of Israel that was kept alive in the heart of every Jew.

The letters varied: Yankel Hassid loved the land of Israel very much. It is a holy land and everything is very good. It is possible to study and observe Hassidism. However, for Eliya Yankel life in the land of Israel was not so much to his taste. Still, his letters did not scare the folks in Horodets who still yearned to spend the rest of their days in the land of Israel. Few others tried to fulfill their dream, such as R' Yitzkhak Aharon and others, but, regrettably they did not succeed.


[Pages 227-228]

Present Times

by Yossef Montag

Translated by Hannah Kadmon

[Translator's notes in brackets]

 

The “Hekhalutz” [the pioneer] movement in Horodets spurred on greatly the process of emigration to the land of Israel. Many members of the “Hekhalutz Haboger” [adult pioneer] and the “Hekhalutz Hatza'ir” [young pioneer] started immigrating to the Land of Israel in 1925. They participated in all sorts of work that the land needed such as agricultural work, building of houses, activities in the Hagana [underground Jewish militia during the British Mandate], etc., Part of these members were among the first to convert uncultivated land into prosperous kibbutzim [communal settlements sharing everything] or moshavim [agricultural settlements sharing tools and selling of products]. Among them: Khaya Kuperiansky, Shlomo Yarmetzky (Benhari), David Grimland, Fruma Kaminsky, Sheintshe (Yafa) Arlavsky, Beiltshe Kuperiansky, and others.

One of the first to settle in Kiryat Khayim, near Haifa, was Pelte daughter of Shimon Izik (Ben-Dov) whose husband was very active in the Histadrut [General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel] and headed the “shikun” section that dealt with building houses for the workers.

Among those who had an honorable part in the construction work in the Land of Israel is Binyamin Olchik (son of Issar), a talented contractor. He is credited with a great percentage of the construction done in Tel-Aviv.

In addition to the above mentioned, the emigrants from Horodets have played an active part in the defense and strengthening of the State of Israel. They are: Yossef Vinograd (Khayim Nissl's son), Yossef Montag – until 1947 very active in the labor organization, fulfilling many tasks and missions such as “conquest of labor” and “protection” [keeping these tasks in Jewish hands]. During WW2 he was appointed a policeman to prepare for a possible invasion of the Nazis.

There is in Israel also a different element of people from Horodets who came to the Land of Israel out of their own initiative, to have a hand in the rebuilding of the Land.

I must mention that one of the first establishers of the American colony, Ra'anana, was Rukhama, daughter of Izyikl (Rozenberg). After living for many years in America, she, her husband and daughters settled in Ra'anana, built there a house and planted orchards.

Yaakov Kostrinsky

 

One of the few, who help scientifically the economy of Israel, is Yaakov Kostrinsky (son of Motye, grandson of Izik.) He travels all over the land as an agronomist to instruct the work done in the fields. He is employed by the Experimental Service Station in Rekhovot. Many kibbutzim and moshavim improved their crops thanks to his great expertise in agriculture. Very often he writes scientific articles for the farmers in professional journals. In 1948 he published his book “Growing Wheat” that tackles various problems of growing wheat.

* *
*

Horodets was destroyed but its sons and daughters carry on the sacred tradition passed from generation to generation to settle in the Land of Israel. There, also, the ideals of those who were murdered are finally realized –freedom of the Jewish people in their own State of Israel.

 


[Pages 228-229]

R' Khayim Mendl Z”l

by A. Kast

Translated by Hannah Kadmon

[Translator's notes in brackets]

R' Khyaim-Mendl (Kostrometzky)

 

R' Khayim Mendl (son of Aharon Yossel) played a distinguished part in the old city of Jerusalem. He was killed by Arab shrapnel on the fifteenth of the month of Iyar, 1948, when he was 87 years old. He was a very rare type of person and deserves some further mention.

When he was only 6 years old he started studying Gomorrah and when he was 8 years old, Shmuel Kalike let him read from the commentary of Maharsha [acronym of Rabbi Shmuel Idelsh, Talmud commentator in 16-17th century]. This small statured boy found a mistake in the commentary. Shmuel Kalike could not believe it and went to the besmedresh [the study house, where people used to pray as well] to have a look in the book of Talmud that belonged to the old Rabbi, R' Moshe-Tzvi. And indeed, the old Rabbi had also noticed the same mistake in Maharsha and scribbled a note on the margins of the page about that same mistake.

When he was 9 years old, R' Khayim Mendl studied with the Kobryner religious judge, R' Zalman Tishes, and later on with R' Pinkhas Mikhael in Antipolye.

After his marriage he settled in Brest and was one of the closest to R' Khayim Brisker. When R' Khayim Brisker was asked to recommend someone to head the Yeshiva of Ludmir, only R' Khayim Mendl was his only choice.

R' Khyaim Mendl headed the Yeshiva of Ludmir until WW1 broke out. Afterwards he moved to Stolin to be R' Israel' right hand. After the Rabbi's death, when the Yeshiva “Or LeIsrael” [light to Israel], named after the deceased, was founded in Sarne (Vohlin), R' Khayim Mendl became the head of the new Yeshiva. Later on, when that Yeshiva was moved to Luninyetz, R' Khayim Mendl moved there as well.

R' Khayim Mendl did not favor hair-splitting argumentation. He preferred profundity and the logic of Maharsha and Maharam Shif [acronym for R' Meir son of Yaakov Shif, Gomorrah commentator in Germany, 17th century]. R' Khayim Mendl was famous for his commonsense and great scholarship not only among the Hassidim of Stolin who worshipped him but also among Talmudic Misnogdim [opponents to the Hasidic movement]. It is said that once, before WW1, there was in Vilna [Vilnius] a convention of Rabbis and heads of Yeshivas about education in Russia. The “Khafetz Khayim” [R' Israel Meir HaCohen known by the name of his first book “Khafetz Khayim”= love of life] was the chairman of that convention and the Talmudic scholars honored him greatly. The “Khafetz Khayim” pointed at R' Khayim Mendl and said: “If you want to honor the Torah – honor this Jew”.

Many towns wanted R' Khayim Mendl to be their Rabbi. However, because of his great Hassidism he abstained from accepting the offers. Only once, when the town of Sarne was in great need of a Rabbi, he agreed to accept the offer as the temporary local Rabbi of Sarne.

R' Khayim Mendl settled in the old city of Jerusalem and lived there for 15 years, near the Karliner Shtibl [a small Hassidic praying house] until his death. He refused to evacuate the old city even in the turbulent time of 1936-9. When the War of Independence broke out in 1947 he refused to leave the old city where he had an immense influence over the world of Hassidim in and outside Jerusalem.

R' Khayim Mendl left behind writings which contain innovations in commentary on the Talmud - its legislative part and its Aggadah [legend] part. The Stolin* Hassidim of Israel prepare to publish those documents.

R' Khayim Mendl's name is holy and dear to many people of Horodets and to people outside Horodets. May his memory be blessed.


*[Aharon Ben Ya'akov [Hagadol] (1736–1772), founded the Karlin-Stolin Hassidic dynasty in Karlin. His son settled in Stolin. Therefore the two names Karlin and Stolin are used for this dynasty of Hassidim]

 

Translator's additional comment:

R' Menakhem Mendl Kostrometzky was of the Kostrinsky family. At the Tzar's time, to avoid military conscription as “only sons”, members of the family changed their family name into Kast, and Kostrometzky.

R' Yokhanan, grandson of the Admor of Stolin-Karlin Hassidism has in his possession 2 letters that his Grandfather got, concerning the death of R' Khyaim-Mendl and kindly offered to show them to me.

The letters were written by R' Leibke Gloyberman of the Beit-Israel synagogue of Karlin-Stolin Hassidim, in the Beit-Israel quarter of Jerusalem.

In a letter from January 1948 he tells of the hardships in the Old City of Jerusalem. “There are news of Arab gangs rushing to the Old City and it grieves us that the Old City should be evacuated. There were very hot arguments in our Beit-Midrash about getting old Khyaim-Mendl by force out of the Old City and there were people for and against it. Moshe Hlatovski said that he did not want to help force R' Khyim Mendle evacuate the Old City. Zalman Grossman shouted at him “If he were somebody's father or mother, his children would have made vigorous efforts to get him out of the Old City… However, when it comes to Khyaim Mendl you think only of abandoning the Old City? Ask our Rabbi what he thinks about it!” Moshe Yosef Hlatovsky answered: “I am paying for the telephone call, and whatever our Rabbi decides – that is what we will do”. Yehoshua Shimon Samet said : “It is possible to get R' Khayim Mendl out by a British armored vehicle for 8 pounds”. Heshil responded scornfully: “I give you 10 pounds and you go ahead…”

In the second letter dated 30th of May 1948 Leibke Globerman writes: “For over two weeks we have been shelled ceaselessly by heavy mortars, causing many casualties, among them our dear Hassidim. In the Old City, last week on Sunday, old Khayim Mendl son of Shifra Kostrometzki was wounded in his leg by a shrapnel while staying in the shelter of R' Zeev Mintzberg's house [Rabbi and religious judge of the Old City]. He was carried to “Misgav Ladakh” hospital (his leg was amputated up to his knee) and he lived 24 more hours before he passed away on May 23rd 1948. He was buried together with 60 other people who were killed, inside the walls of the Old City.”

 

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