Pinny Krieger was a born leader. He was a skilled lecturer and could talk about any subject with authority. Above all he knew how to give young people a sense of purpose in life to replace the feelings of physical and mental sterility generated by life in a small town in the Diaspora. He gave them a belief in a better future in the Jewish State and showed them how to achieve this aim. Young people who not long before had slouched along the street, devoid of all self-confidence, suddenly became imbued with pride and walked with heads held high and shining faces, as if to say : "I am a Jew, I am a Zionist, I am a member of Beitar".
From the moment of its founding as a nationalist youth movement, Beitar had one clear goal : the establishment of a complete Hebrew State within the frontiers which had been promised us. One of the means, and I repeat, one of the means, of obtaining that goal was the setting up of a Hebrew Force which was a direct continuation of the Hebrew Battalions **). Members of Beitar began by learning drill, but the cultural side was not forgotten and it was in this sphere that Pinny Krieger proved his greatness. I shall never forget the Friday nights in the Beitar club-house, when Pinny used to read and explain Jabotinsky's articles which used to appear in "Heint" and "Moment", and articles by Uri Tsvi Greenberg and Abba Ahi-Meir in "Unserwelt", the Revisionist newspaper. The young people used to sit entranced, drinking in his every word, even though they did not always understand all they heard.
I recall one interesting and characteristic incident in connection with those wonderful youngsters, some of whom had not even completed elementary school, but who were inspired by the education they received in Beitar, and literally glowed with belief in, and devotion to, the Zionist ideal and the Hebrew State. After some of the boys had completed a period of preparation they were put forward as candidates for emigration to the Land of Israel. Before leaving they had to prove their suitability by passing an examination based mainly on Zionism, its aims and the ways of achieving them. One of the boys was asked a simple and elementary question and his fear and misery were reflected in his eyes. He seemed to be asking those present: "From whence cometh my help ?" Suddenly he pulled himself together, opened his shirt, struck his chest above the heart and shouted "I cannot explain, but it is all here. Cut me open and you will see that I know what I want !" The examiner, who had come from movement headquarters in Warsaw, was amazed at this reply but when he had recovered from his astonishment he said "You have passed the examination and have received the highest mark possible". This gives one an idea of what the boys educated in Beitar were like. One of them, Shlomo ben Yosef from the neighbouring town of Luck, was the first victim of the gallows in the time of the British Mandate in Eretz Yisrael***).
It is hard for me to remember the names of all the members of Beitar, but I can recall some of them. First and foremost there was Yaakov Schwarzberg, Pinny Krieger's assistant, then there were the Buber brothers, Tsvi Birman, Shabetai Roitenfodem and Mordechai Balbur, who died of a malignant illness in the prime of his life. I also remember the whole Schwarzberg family, whose house was a home for every member of Beitar the mother was known as the Mother of Beitar.
At the end of the nineteen twenties and the beginning of the thirties, members of Beitar left Horchiv to prepare themselves for settling in Eretz Yisrael. The first to go were : Channa Shechter, Chaike Maizlisch, Simcha Singer, Tsvi Chumash and Elhanan Kehos. All of them, except for Shechter were the first to emigrate, and I think, were the only members of Beitar to receive Immigration Certificates from the Mandatory Government.
There was also a group in Horchiv, which, because of the difficulty of obtaining agricultural work, was employed mainly in various menial tasks.
When the Irgun Tsvai Leumi was established in 1937 our secret military cells became an inseparable part of Beitar activities in Poland. Our main task was to prepare military cadres and to organise illegal immigration. Military courses, directed by instructors from Palestine and senior Polish Army officers took place in every part of Poland. Ben-Tsion Tehori attended one of these courses at Sofiovka in Volyn, he graduated with honours and became one of the leading instructors in the province. After the outbreak of war he went to Vilna, with many other young men who made their way there because it was under Lithuanian rule at that time and directed a boarding school run by the Irgun Tsvai Leumi. This school kept in touch with those parts of Poland under Soviet occupation. One of the most active couriers, whose life was endangered more than once, was Motti Galeider from Horchiv.
He was quiet and modest but he had a wide knowledge of many subjects, a fact which was not solely due to his being a High School student. He was a master of the spoken and written word and he had a tremendous power of expression. When I was in the Polish Army and he was at High School in Kamionka, we corresponded with each other and I shall never cease to regret that I did not keep his letters, each one of which was a real masterpiece. He had a very logical mind and nobody who took part in them will never forget his activities in Beitar.
Relations between Beitar and Ha-Tsohar and the other Zionist parties and organisations were usually good, but not during elections, when they fought each other mercilessly. Ha-Tsohar in Horchiv always managed to obtain a large number of votes in the elections for delegates to Zionist Congresses.
|Tel Aviv||David Tehori (Sobermann)|
* The word Beitar, the name of the last Jewish fortress to fall to the Romans during the Bar Cochba Revolt, is also a contraction of the words "Brit Yosef Trumpeldor" The Yosef Trumpeldor League. return
** Units of Jewish volunteers, raised in England, America and Palestine during the First World War. They participated in the campaign to free Palestine from Turkish rule. return
*** He was sentenced to death for his part in an attack on an Arab bus during the Arab riots (1936-39) and hanged on the 18th of June 1938. return
**** Formed by a group of officers who broke away from the Hagana in the early nineteen thirties. When most of its members returned to the Hagana in 1937, those who remained formed the Irgun Tsvai Leumi. return
***** Ha-Tsohar is a contraction of the Hebrew name of the Revisionist Zionist Organisation "Ha-Histadruth Ha-Tsionit Ha-Revizionistit. return
I often pass in my mind the Jewish population of our town, beginning from Shmuel Dikstein, to Benjamin Udlis. My heart aches and I am full of sorrow, when I think that they could all still be with us, here in Israel, or at least, be still alive. After all, they did no harm to anyone, and certainly, never spilled any blood. Why, then, did they deserve such a horrible end ? I often think of them as simple and innocent men and women, with the finest qualities. Even the quarrels between them about political views, or community affairs, make the impression of a debate in a large family.
But I do not want to be carried away with reminiscences. After all, I am writing about the financial institutions in our Shtetel.
My late father always strived to create modern institutions in every sphere of life, material and cultural. I shall restrict myself to describing an institution which was very dear to me, and for which I worked day and night. I refer to the Jewish People's Bank.
The bank was founded in 1927. At that time the idea of Jewish Cooperative People's Banks became wide-spread in Jewish communities. In each shtetel in Poland, Jewish banks were founded, whose task it was to help their members with low-interest loans, and to alleviate the heavy pressure of taxes and to help them overcome the serious economic crisis during the period known as the "times of Grabsky".
My late father, I remember, assembled a group of Jewish merchants and outlined to them the plan for the People's Bank. This was in June 1927. An executive was immediately elected, and membership declarations were signed. The membership fee was 25 Zloty and there were altogether 160 members. The founding capital was therefore 4,000 Zloty. Despite this small amount, loans were made during the first month of the bank's existence, totalling over 20,000 Zloty. My father impressed upon the city lawyers, that all Jewish transactions should pass through the Jewish People's Bank, rather than through the Polish banks. This proved very successful, and large amounts passed through our bank, increasing the degree of liquidity, so that we could always pay on demand.
In the course of time, Jewish brides gained confidence in our bank, and entrusted their dowries to us. I must point out that all deposits were returned in full, and at the time of liquidation in 1936, the bank did not owe a penny to anyone. All members who took loans repaid them promptly. As far as I can remember, there was only one single exception.
The management of the bank was a true cross-section of the social structure of the Jewish community. I remember the following persons serving on the management committee : Eliezer Krieger. H. L. Rappaport, Shmuel Blechman, J. H. Chazan, Sender Tauber, Abraham Adler, Pinchas Gleichman, and others. Once a week they would come to meetings, listen to reports, and adopt resolutions.
The Jewish People's Bank was a regulating force on the money market, curbing the appetites for high interest by the usurers.
The last two years of the bank's existence were very difficult. I was living in Israel already, but my father told me about the serious plight of the bank, and yet, the end was an honorable one, and nobody lost any money. On the contrary, at the time when other Jewish banks in larger communities went bankrupt, the Jewish People's Bank in Horchiv earned the recognition of the general public, for the responsible way in which it handled its affairs, till the last day of its existence.
I came to America with my mother and the rest of my family. For the first few days I cried at the bitterness of Fate which had chosen to make me leave Horchiv. Everything in America seemed strange. At first I caused my parents a great deal of sorrow, but finally I realised that I would have to get used to the new way of life and make the best of it. Everything depends on one's fate. If we had not gone to join my father in America we should probably have died with those of our fellow townspeople who were killed by the Nazis.
|New York||Esther Sobermann|
I remember Dad standing before a mirror, shaving, while I sat on the edge of the bathtub. "Leonora", he would say, "you think it is cold now ? I wish you could have been in Horchiv, where I would really get cold. We used to wear leather boots, and long coats, which would drag in the snow, and the bottoms would eventually freeze. Many a night I would be sure that someone was following me, since I would hear the thump, thump of my frozen coat against my boots. I would run, and the other sound would quicken. I wonder how many times I would run all the way home to my mother, sure that some horrible being was on my tail". Or would hear, "We had conscription in the old country, you know, and none of the boys wanted to go, so they would all starve themselves for weeks, and not sleep nights, in the hope that they would not pass the physical. Naturally, this was a time for much mischief how was one to stay awake otherwise. I remember once when all the benches were taken out of the shul, and piled one on top of the other, until the edifice was many stories high. Then a big tarpaulin was placed on the top of that, so that it looked an enormous ghost. swaying in the wind, and frightened the wits out of some old people that night". Or he would tell me about the time he had diphtheria, and almost died, and of how the only thing that he remembered, through the derilium, was his mother ministering to him tenderly. His mother came up often in the conversations. She always seemed to me to be the sweetest, most wonderful person I had ever heard of. He remembered her cooking, always more than what was necessary for the family, since so often there would be poor strangers at the table. He would remember her always with a smile and a soft word of encouragement. And his father he was wise as Solomon, making decisions that no one else could make a man steeped in religion but wise in the ways of the world. I cannot remember all the stories. It was not the words that mattered, but the feeling with which he told them. The little girl who listened only knew that her grandmother and grandfather whom she had never seen were the most loving and lovable people, and she wished that she could have known them, instead of just hearing about them. I recall the first time I ever saw my father cry. A letter had arrived in the morning, and as soon as Dad came home, my mother handed it to him. As he read it, his eyes filled with tears. Then the tears slowly rolled down his cheeks. His face was contorted with pain. My grandfather was dead.
There was never a time, that I can remember, that my father was not thoroughly engrossed in the Horchiver. Many a Saturday and Sunday was taken care of by going to collect clothing, or money, or just anything for the people of Horchiv. The snatches of stories I would hear from my mother and father, about people being smuggled out, always fascinated me. I understood very little, but I was very proud of my father. I knew my father to be a very shy and retiring man, but the few times I saw him at the Horchiver affairs, he seemed the biggest man in the room to me. He spoke and people listened. Everyone seemed to flock around him. He was a spellbinder. One night, at an anniversary affair, my father was called upon to speak, and he did so reluctantly. I knew he was not prepared, and I was embarrassed, as only a child can be for fear her loved one will fail. My father went up to the platform and began to speak, hesitantly. He spoke in Yiddish (which is a language I have never spoken and understood little). As he spoke, I looked around me. The crowd was transfixed. His voice gained power, and then it broke. The audience was crying. I began sobbing also. I did not understand the words, but my father was talking about sorrow. He was talking about OUR people, and they were my people too. He was begging, yet he was dignified. When he finished, there was silence. Then people began to get up and pledge their money and their time. My father had always been important to me before, but then I was proud to bursting, because others saw him as I did. My father was a leader, without a strong voice, without an overbearing maner, without a swagger. My father led with love and compassion, and he had shown it to the group, just as he always did to me and to my mother. It was a proud night for us both.
Learning was one of my father's passions. When he arrived in the United States, he learned English, and went through High School easily at night. Since he had gone to night school and since he made up high school in about two years, it was always a surprise to me that he would remember all the theorems in Geometry, the ideas In Algebra, grammar in English, laws of Physics etc., and he would often help me with these subjects. He went to college, and there was the typical poor student, hard-pressed for money, but always pressing for his studies. After college, he decided to become a doctor, and went to Ohio State University, in Columbus, since he had many relatives living in that city. During this time, he met and married my mother, and when she became pregnant, he decided to become a dentist, since that would take one year off his studies. And a dentist he became, right smack in the middle of the depression, so that in spite of all the studying, he worked in a laundry, and sold beer from door to door. Eventually, he began practicing his profession, in the Bronx. He left before I went to school in the mornings, and arrived home after I had been put to bed at night, Sundays, however, were "our days" and we would go for long walks together, talking about everything under the sun. It must have been difficult for my mother to give him up to me on the only day he had at home, but she realized that without that, I never would have gotten to know him. These were the days when we discussed what it meant to be a Jew, and when he would bring me books about Jewish history and literature. They were the days when I poured out my heartbreaks and my triumphs, and he would salve, or bolster. And he would ever tell me how important it was to learn everything. Eventually he got an office in Manhattan, and was doing very well, but that was not enough for him. His patients adored him, and spilled out their problems to him, as if he had been a psychiatrist, and he listened, and helped when he could. And still he went on learning. He took every course there was to take in dentistry, from surgery to orthodontia. And when that was over, he began taking courses in art and then in music. He felt that a man grew only so long as he learned, and so he learned and he studied, and became even more a man.
I went to college for four years, and I went to work, and my father was still bigger than life to me. Around this time, an old dream began haunting him. He loved the outdoors, and the idea of a farm, like the ones he remembered in Europe, and he began looking for a retreat, where life would be simple and uncomplicated. My mother and I needed a great deal of persuasion, but he eventually got his farm in Upper New York State. Dad commuted between his office in the city and his farm, and it was very hard on him, physically. By now I was married and had a child, Laurence and my father would sleep at our house at least once a week. As a result of this, and of our frequent visits up to the farm, Larry began to get the same loving attention from his grandpa as I had gotten from him as a father. Before Larry was two, I had twins, and there was enough love to go around for them too. My children spent almost as much time with their grandparents as they did with us, and I believe they loved my mother and father more than they did us.
In September, of 1959, my father died, and everyone who had ever known him mourned. His patients, Jews, Catholics and Protestants, mourned. His family and friends cried. But we all remember him well. My big boy, now almost seven, was three when my father died. When I told him, proudly, that a book was being writen and his grandpa would be in it, he sobbed as though his heart would break and said, "My grandpa was the most wonderful man and the nicest. I wish he didn't have to die, and I wish he could know about the book". I am sure that all of us who knew him feel the same way, and wish we could express it as simply and truthfully as his grandchild did.
Max (Motel) Averbuch
Max was a gentile, wonderful, considerate man. There was an aura of serenity, dignity, and gentility about him that radiated kindness and warmth. I learned to know him well and do not ever remember his speaking unkindly about his fellow-men. His displeasure would only be shown in the color or expression of his face, never by word of mouth. As a friend he was superb. Your problems and concerns were his and somehow the problems were not the same after you confided in him. He was the epitome of the finest teachings and traditions of our Jewish culture.
A wonderful modest man from a fine home was my friend Max.
|New York||Charles H. Wald|
My sister Gittle and I were among the first girl-students in the school of Joseph Buber and David Kessel. My father Levi Itzhak went to America a short while before the outbreak of the First World War, leaving my mother Hanna Ruchle and five children back home. One evening, as we were sitting around the table for supper, my mother said : "Children, you must take into consideration my present position and help me in the store. We are no longer like parent and children, but we are all children and must help each other".
All schooling was interrupted when war broke out, except for a few lessons a week which we took from a German soldier stationed in our street. My mother payed him out of her miserable income, as her only desire was that her children should study.
As soon as the war was over, we went back to our studies. A group of girls took instruction from Moshe Zobermann. We were active in the Zionist Movement, staged several shows, and collected money for the Keren Kayemet.
My first role was to play one of the five doughters of King Lear. The director of the play was Mully Bregman. My second role was in the play called "Be a Man". Somebody fired a shot behind the scenes, and I would fall on the stage. I would lie there and laugh secretly. When the curtain fell, I was praised by Idel Rappoport for having played my role well.
In April 1922 my father returned from America. You cannot imagine how great was our joy. Yet my father's economic position was not good. He suffered very much under the heavy taxes of the Polish Government, imposed upon the Jewish population. Every now and then there was a new tax. Eventually he decided to go back to America and asked his friend in the United States to send him the necessary affidavit to become a rabbi in New York. My grandfather Israel Rabbin reassured my mother that my father was doing the right thing, because there was no future for Jews in Poland.
A year has passed and she already accompanied the three younger children - - Miriam, Kreina and Leibish all below 16 years of age on their journey to America to join our father. My sister Gittle and myself remained in Horchiv for the time being to help keep the store. My father insisted that we should sell everything and get ready to go to America. However, preparations lasted for a number of years. It was only in 1927 that I left for America to join my parents, after my sister had married Israel Lerner, grandson of Tuvia Garber.
Although I have been living in America ever since, I have not forgotten my friends from Horchiv. I maintained a regular correspondence with them and received detailed reports about everything.
All my friends, male and female, were killed by the Nazis, except for Shprintza Schachter who has been living in America, and Rivka Zakai who went to Israel. The Nazi murderers had destroyed our dearest and unforgettable friends : Pearle Foygle, Raisle Weizman, Mindle Schwartsappel, Raisle Wasser, Moshe Rochel, Velvle Zinger, Mendle Birenfeld, Zvi Noyman, Israel Lerner, and together with them perished my sister Gittle and her entire family.
The school room was large and furnished with many tables and chairs. It had two decorations required by law - a framed licence with my father's picture pasted on it, and a photograph of Czar Nicholas. Classes went on all day long, seven days a week, including Saturday afternoon ; that is every day, except on holidays. Tuition fees were paid annually, instead of monthly. Some of the parents didn't have enough money to pay the small tuition fees so they did the best they could by paying in kind. The shoemaker would make my father a pair of shoes, the tailor a suit with cloth my father would supply himself.
My father was a very pious man ; he arose in the middle of the night to recite chatzos until daybreak, and then went to synagogue for schachris. When he returned, school would open. As for earning a living ; for those days it wasn't too bad. My father and his brother-in-law employed three or four assistants whose duty it was to visit the children at home and to say their morning prayers with them. One was assigned to carry the smallest ones to school on rainy days when the mud on the roads was deep. And when was there no mud !
For the High Holidays my father's assistants built benches in the large synagogue, brought the children there and led them in prayer. For Chanukah they made dreidels. On Simchas Torah they made colored flags. For Purim they carved and colored wooden gregors. A few days before Passover they carried the stupas, sort of churn barrels, in which they pounded matzos into matzo meal, to the homes of the children's parents. On Lag b'Omer they cut and carved swords and bows and arrows and took the children to the woods. On Chamisho Oser one particular woman brought figs, dates, raisins and buckser to the school. Each child received his share and the assistants said the blessing with them. The assistants also helped at weddings and even cooked the gefilte fish on such occasions. They accompanied the children at the appropriate times to the homes where there were new-born male children to receit the Krias Shema for which the children were rewarded with cookies. For all this, they were paid off in tips which went into a common pool which was divided among them at the end of the season.
My stepmother was named Beyla ; she was my mother's (Henya) sister, a very active woman who ran a general store, carrying everything except drygoods. She didn't have very many customers, and dealt with the local peasants to whom she sold on credit, never making any notations of their debts, but remembering everything. She remembered them by a code she created for herself identifying them: "This one has a black dog", "that one lives on the hill" etc. She made so little profit that my father had to bail her out periodically with his own notes so that she could keep the store going. I remember that on Mondays, the trucker Zecharia Avrom Shimon travelled to Lutsk to bring back merchandise the storekeepers had ordered. The shopkeepers would rush around trying to borrow a little money with which the trucker could pay for the ordered goods promising to return the loan after maket day in the hope that the market would produce enough profit for them to repay the debts so as to be able to borrow again the following week. And so it went on week after week.
All sorts of ruses were used to induce the peasants to come into one's store, even enticements to sell below cost.
My brother Don Zvi helped our stepmother in the store. I was coddled because several children between my older brother and myself had not survived. I was taken to every Chassidic rabbi in the area to be blessed with long-life. Around my neck I wore various amulets sewn into a little bag. I also had to wear white linen clothes as prescribed by one rabbi. My teachers predicted that I would learn well because, they said, I was bright.
One teacher, (melamed) Schmiel Hersch from Militon, was a fanatically pious man who after a day's teaching ran with his pupils to the synagogue so that they would benefit from additional prayer. The pupils were happy when he fought with his wife, Dobrish Neche, usually over money, because then he sent them home early. One of his problems was that he was unable to speak the language of the peasants. Dobrish translated for him and he would then argue that she was not accurately repeating what he had said. At such times, he would bemoan the fact that his tongue was in golus in exile.
One day my father took me with him to the police station where he had some business. Suddenly the police chief decided that my peyas were too long for a little boy and he was going to cut them. After much pleading, my father finally prevailed upon him not to.
On another day a market day rumor spread through the town that the peasants were planning a pogrom. The stores were closed down and everyone grabbed a stick or club and ran to the market place. Fortunately the same police chief was there and dispersed the peasants before any trouble could ensue.
Shortly after that, my brother Don Zvi emigrated to America. Soon he was able to send money to his family and every Horchiver was impressed. They figured out that he must be earning more that the police chief and even more that the justice of the peace. Many Horchiver then undertook to follow him to America.
I joined my brother Don Zvi in New York in 1910. three years after he had emigrated here. His family still remained in Horchiv and he boarded with a family on the East Side. I joined him there. My brother, being a religious man, insisted that I find work in a place where I could observe the Sabbath. He helped me find a job in a shirt factory where I earned $ 4.00 a week for a 56 hour week.
My boss at the shirt factory must have been a truckman in the old country. We knew that because he was constantly talking about horses or things connecting with driving horses. Once he came over to me at the table, at which I was working with two other people. The table was about 150 feet long. He asked me what my name was and I answered "Pinchas", He then asked me what my American name was and again I answered "Pinchas". He then said that it should be "Pincus". He also told me that I was to get a raise of 50 cents a week. This was his way of expressing satisfaction with my work. I didn't quite adopt the name "Pincus" and when I met my future wife, she suggested that I Americanize my name to "Paul". I did that and my American citizenship papers carry that name.
Every Friday night and Saturday we prayed in the Carliner shul, which was located on the second floor of a building. Don was the leader of nearly all the religiously minded Horchiver landsleit. They all took their Sabbath meals with a certain pious restaurant keeper. The meals were paid for in the middle of the week and my brother was the guarantor. Frequently, too, he was the source of gemilas chesodim for landsleit who needed help.
Don was the founder of the Horchiver landsmanschaft and every new arrival joined and was helped by it. Meetings were held every other Saturday night and were well attended. Several times in the course of the year lectures and entainment were arranged. The Society flourished and grew rapidly. But after a time, misunderstandings and conflict arose in the group and a substantial number left the Society to form a group of their own.
The original group was called the Horchiver Young Men's Benevolent Association. The new one was named the Horchiver Progressive Young Men's Benevolent Association. One of its functions was to buy a large cemetery plot to provide for members and their families who died. Widows were given cash and other benefits. Each member was required to pay annual fees, a constitution was written in Yiddish and English, and the Society was duly charted according to the laws of the State of New York. Some years later I became secretary of the Society's loan fund and in 1950 took over the position of financial secretary of the Society.
After a while, I went to work at the skirt store owned by Sholem and Aaron Friedman where my brother Don Zvi worked and earned well. They were expanding and opened more stores. At the same time, the Friedmans employed a girl by the name of Esther Schrager, who had just finished high school, to do the bookkeeping. Besides the bookkeeping she also undertook to talk Yiddish with the Friedmans.
I made Esther's acquaintance at this time, and after a while we married. We had three children, a son Stanley, who is now a Certified Public Accountant ; a daughter Jean and a daughter Florence. Florence, too, is a Certified Public Accountant, We have 9 grandchildren, the oldest of whom is now 19 years old and we have a great deal of joy from them.
One circumstance after another delayed me and kept me from carrying out the pledge that I gave him mostly private affairs and interests - family, my Mother Brucha, my sister and brother and their families, that are so precious to me ; and of course with appropriate emphasis, my own wife, Idalee, my two children, Rosanne and Don ; and now that Rosanne is herself married and a mother, my son-in-law Barry and my two darling grandsons, Henry and Jeffry.
Some public interests, too, kept pressing on me and prevented my turning with determination to recall childhood memories of the town of my forebears.
But I may as well be candid about it : the greatest factor in my continuing procrastination was the awareness, driven sharply in on me whenever I tried to assemble my thoughts, that I had little direct recollection. Through a fog of distant memories, I only see a small town, one main road leading to a rude bridge, and then up a hill. (Was there a church on top of that hill, or leading from it ? Did we pass the house in which the town's Rabbi lived as we walked that road?) How remote and dim these faint memories are !
And my grandparents they appear only as a blur of recollection. Or else, where they have some greater reality, they appear to me most clearly through two old photographs that I cherish : Reb Avram Yankev, my father's father and Reb Yosef, my mother's sire, a feeble man, as I remember.
Both were melamedim. Both, no doubt, led the hard lives of Jews in a small town of Russian-Poland ; and this in a town without wealth and even, as far as I can make out, a town remote from the deeper stream of communities that were more advanced, industrially and culturally.
The truth is that such recollections as I seem to have are derivative. They do not come out clear and forthright out of my own mind's eye. They bear, rather, the imprint of the intermediary. This is the fact : that what broad associations or even memories I have of the town of Horchiv are there because my father and mother impressed them upon me. I still make use of the anecdotes with which they embellished their recollections. I still respond to the richness of the Hassidic life lived by so many in the town. It is through their influence that Horchiv has a nostalgic place in the inner reaches of my own heart and personality. Certainly my parents tried to convey their own lively picture of the town in which they grew to full adulthood, with so much love that, by and large, I have absorbed the image they evoked.
What is most clear to me is the precious memory of my own father, Don Hersh, and the love of my mother who, blessedly, is still with us to bring us her maternal warmth and amazing vitality.
My father's memory is almost enshrined. I remember him, perhaps not as he was, but as he has emerged through the years. I remember his gentle face, his small flick of a beard at his chin's edge. I remember his kind and oh-so-understanding eyes, reflecting an inner beauty of heart and spirit. I remember his long pale hands, his lovely voice (he led all the chants in the synagogue), his irrepressible love for children, his quiet ways, his dependable gentility. Indeed, he died gently and at far too early an age -- he was not yet 59 ; and he passed on quietly, without lingering, never a burden to himself or to others a gentleman to the last.
So, if I am asked what I recollect of Horchiv, I can only answer in terms of people : some of the "landsleute" whom I saw in visits to our home in New York or in Shul, or at meetings of our Society, in which I retain membership out of respect for my father's memory ; members of my father's and mother's families, particularly my father's brothers and their broods ; and one great spirit, Sam Dobromil, a cousin of my mother's who greatly influenced my life. There was also Mordish a friend of my father's : a sharp, scholarly and severe man whom I came to admire enormously as I grew older.
Above all, Horchiv is dear to me not so much for the faint vision I have of it, but for what it has meant to my precious mother and to the father whose memory is healing warmth to my spirit.
As was customary in small towns, he received the traditional education until he was married and then began to build a family life. In those days, a young married man of his background usually started in business. However, not making the desired progress in business, he decided to emigrate to the United States.
He suffered extreme hardships in the United States until he finally reached the top of the ladder of success. In the beginning, he lived in a cellar with two others in a damp and dark room and he barely eked out a living. He endured a meager existence which would ordinarily crush the body and soul of the average person. With difficulty he earned the bare minimum for his own existence and he hardly managed to save a little in order to sustain his family who still lived in Horchiv.
Shortly after the First World War he became very successful and attained wealth and a respected position in society. Upon the promulgation of the Balfour Declaration, Shalom Friedman began to interest himself in the Zionist movement, a feeling which was close to his heart even in the town of his birth. He gave himself over full-heartedly and completely to Zionism. Without the slightest hesitation, he gave up a life of richness, with all the most modern conveniences in the United States, for an existence of austerity and hard work in Israel. Over the objections of his relatives and friends, he liquidated all his business interests in the United States and emigrated with his entire family to settle permanently in Israel.
In Israel, he elected to live in Herzlia and he was one of the first settlers of this town He built a small house for himself and family and started to plant a large orange grove. This grove is still, to-day, one of the best and most successful in the Sharon.
In Herzlia, he himself worked very hard and he also indoctrinated his children with the ideal of working to build up the country. His eldest son, Israel, who was already himself a married man, volunteered during the disturbances of 1936 to perform nightly watch duty in order to permit the settlers to continue with their daily tasks on the land. Apparently, his American upbringing only increased his sense of devotion and duty towards Israel.
For a long time Shalom Friedman was Treasurer without remuneration for the Savings and Loan Bank in Herzlia. Everyone who came into contact with him recognized and respected his wonderful personality, his wealth of common sense and his full measure of spiritualness. Humble, unassuming, inobtrusive in his generosity and nobility, he earned the full respect and love of all.
During the time of the planting of the orange grove, he purposely avoided coming face to face with the workers at the time of their labors in order not to make them feel that they had to exert themselves and work harder because of his presence.
He willingly, even lovingly, used to pay his workers every Thursday. Once, when it became known to him that his men were working on Purim, he issued the order that they should stop the work immediately and, with a full heart, he paid them in cash for an entire day's work in order that the workers could celebrate and enjoy the Purim holiday with their families. And so Shalom Friedman continued to develop the land and engage in Hebrew and civic activities until his last days. It was his wish that he be laid to rest in Herzlia near his grove. His family and the writer of these lines fulfilled this wish.
|Tel Aviv||Zvi Berger|
Zionism was then in its infancy, its main concern was collecting money for the Jewish National Fund by placing collecting boxes in the synagogues on the eve of the Day of Atonement, and holding meetings on the Rejoicing of the Law to obtain promises of money. On the 20th of Tammuz, the Zionists held memorial meetings for Herzl. They spent the rest of the year learning Hebrew and reading Mapu's Hebrew novel "Ahavat Tsion" in secret -- the rejoiced with Amnon and Tamar, the hero and heroine of the book, and were saddened by the obstacles they met on the path of their love.
The younger Zionists used to gather together in the forest near the town and pour out their longings by singing Zionist songs of the day. Between the trees of the forest could be heard the sad strains of the "Rejected Rose" pleading with the passers-by to pick her up lest she be trodden on (a comparison with the Jewish people in exile). We also used to sing a melancholy song called "There Where the Cedars Are" which told of a young man who yearned for Zion. The desire to work in the Promised Land was expressed in the song "My Plough" by Eliyakum Zunser. The young men's hearts were eager to perform great deeds but they did not dare to wander away from the homes of their parents which many of them had never left.
Then we heard that people had really gone to Palestine -- the children of Avraham Weitz, Yosef and Miriam from Boromel, the brothers Chaim and Shmuel Zimmermann from Lubaczevka and Yosef Klievner from Beresticzka. How we envied these towns and how ashamed we were that our town had contributed nobody to the great ideal of Aliyah. However, we did not have long to wait before our first pioneer set out he was Yaakov Wald. People used to say: "That boy has the soul of a gypsy". It was true that Yaakov had the wanderlust and was of a restless disposition. The first time he had run away, he had made for the "Yeshiva" in Lida, where he had heard they taught secular as well as religious subjects. However when he arrived there he was disappointed and came home, but not for long. He was always wandering off somewhere. In 1913 he suddenly disappeared from home and his parents received a message that he was on his way to Palestine.
Everybody was talking about Yaakov Wald. The older people criticised him but we were proud that somebody from our town had dared to take the decisive step. Others of us were influenced by his action and followed his example.
Yaakov Wald's letters from Palestine were passed around from hand to hand ; we read and re-read them. Everybody was impressed by the fact that he was working for the "Planter's Association". People in the town said that he had become a planter in Zion...
Communication with Palestine ceased when the First World War broke out. We heard that the Turks were expelling all Jews who were not Ottoman citizens. We were worried about what would happen to our first pioneer.
In 1918 we heard that Yaakov Wald had been deported from Palestine with the Hebrew Battalions.
However, Yaakov Wald's wandering days were not yet over. While in America he had married and had children and when the war was over he went back to his family in the United States. Nevertheless, he did not lose contact with Israel, he visited the country several times, and after the establishment of the State he came here every year to visit where he had worked, to look for people from Horchiv and to take part in the establishment of Beit Hagedudim (the museum of the Hebrew Battalions) in Avihail. He hovers between two worlds, Israel and America, and he will not be content until he, the first pioneer from Horchiv, returns to Israel as a permanent pioneer.
It was announced that registration for immigration had started. The response was overwhelming, so many people wanted to go and there were so few certificates. We argued as to who the immigrants would be. Some said the more active Zionists should stay behind and carry on their work in the town. However Yaakov Chumash's argument prevailed, he held that the really confirmed Zionists should go as the others might not be able to hold out. Names were submitted for the list of immigrants. Between the time the certificates were confirmed and the date set for departure, the people of the town, particularly the many Zionists, were in a buoyant state of mind. The young people were prepared, the school-children were excited and the leaders of the community were encouraged by the fact that their own town was sending its pioneers. There were a frantic preparations for the farewell party.
The whole town stayed up on the night before the pioneers left, the 4th of Shvat 5681, and in the morning nearly everybody accompanied them to the outskirts of the town and tried to shake the hands of the six lucky men**).
The pioneers were very moved and excited as they set out on their way to Vienna, where they had to wait for visas. Their departure had been so heart-stirring and their last moments so refreshing, that they had not had time to realise that they were saying goobye to their homes and families for ever. However the pioneers, on their way to the unknown, now felt terribly lonely and all their feelings came to the surface. The six boys realised the bitterness of their situation in a hotel room in the Prater Strasse in Vienna. One was depressed, another cried. They were feeling the first pangs of homesickness and loneliness. They became reconciled to the fact that they seen their families for the last time and they drew closer to each other. They established a communal fund with the rest of their money and decided to speak only Hebrew between themselves, even though two of them did not know the language, and were thus rendered dumb ; they accepted the decision and did their best to make themselves understood by means of sign language until they gradually learned enough Hebrew.
During the sea trip which lasted eighteen days, they drew even closer to each other and became one happy family. The other travellers laughingly referred to them as "the family of men of substance from Horchiv".
After debarking from the ship, they, the greenhorns, became enthusiastic about the idea of a Work Battalion. At a meeting of immigrants, called by Yisrael Shochat, they heard the principles of the Battalion ; equality, a common fund and mutual assistance ; all this appealed to them and they were the first to be directed to this work, and joined. The Labour Bureau ***) had just received a contract to build a railway line from Rosh Ha'Ayin to Petah Tikva and they set out in a joyous mood their first day's work in the Promised Land.
* Immigration (Aliyah) to Israel was marked by a succession of waves ; it is customary to designate the more important of these wave by numbers, e. g. The First Aliyah (in the 1880's). The Second Aliyah (prior to First World War). The Third Aliyah (in the early 1920's) etc. return
** The six pioneers were : Mordechai Abtsug, Avraham Hirshfeld, Noam Zakai, Avraham Haklai, Yeshayahu Fischmann and Yaakov Flomin. return
*** "The Bureau for Public Works Contracting" which later became "Solel Boneh". return
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