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At The Memorial Evening


Let us rise in order to honor the sacred people of our beloved town, our fathers, sisters, and brothers who were killed by the beast of prey. Let us .join with our dear ones who were trampled and defiled by the Nazi boots.

Let us remember the Kobrin community which was uprooted in this stormy and bloody occurrence. Let us listen quiveringly to their cries while they walked to their final destination, hovering between life and death. Let us preserve their sanctified lives deep in our hearts.

We will absorb their wailing and we will set aside a place in our hearts to the memory of the last looks of the children of Kobrin who were forced to yield their throats to the knives of the butchers.

They walked in the path of great suffering while bearing the burden. The word “Israel” was heard in whispered tones. They remembered us in the last moments and they knew that we, the sons and daughters, would live in the homeland and that their memory would be cherished and remembered in our hearts forever. Here tonight we will feel their presence. They are among us, the holy and the pure, people who maintained our Jewish traditions and followed our religion, people who throughout their lives worked hard while walking through the darkness of their lives' voyage, who enhanced their lives with holiness and the sublime.

They are here with us this evening, thousands of Kobrin families, men, women, and children.

Their lives were cut short. They stare at us with trusting eyes. We embrace them with the sacred memories that will remain with us forever. Memories of those beloved people are firmly etched in our hearts and souls. We listen to their silent voices, see their Jewish eyes, and hear the pounding of their hearts.

Let us pray and quietly recite the Kaddish.




Memorial Tribute

by Betzalel Shwartz


It seems that we have yet to absorb the full significance of the calamity. The horrendous disaster has yet to be fully understood. Were we not supposed to tear our clothes, to sit on the floor silently since our words could not describe the enormous pain? Indeed, we are required to lament our fathers. We are mourning our dead parents, brothers, sisters, families and friends.

One wonders about the conduct of mankind. I remember when I was a young lad how I used to quiver and tremble when another year passed and I dreaded the thought of my parents getting old and passing away.


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Now that they have been taken away from me in such a cruel way I go on with my life as before and celebrate every happy event. Nevertheless, my heart remembers again and again the horror in the descent into the abyss when I lost my dear ones. The heart refuses to reconcile with the atrocious reality. It is yet better that for so many years we were not aware of – the fate of our loved ones and due to that we were able to deceive ourselves into believing that maybe they had been saved. Perhaps these words would be fitting though in themselves cruel. A problem shared by many is a problem reduced in size.

It has been four years since our loved ones were buried in their graves, which actually are not their graves, and we did not know. We were hoping and had illusions in vain comfort and we lied to ourselves, thinking that our loved ones were safe. The pain intensifies when one knows that some of them were executed without knowing whether somebody dear to them would be left to mourn them and remember them after they were long gone. They will continue living in our hearts. They were lonely and forgotten by the Creator and by mankind. That way they went to the bitter end.

Do not be shocked if I tell you that the time prior to their death was the most difficult time for them. Can we fathom and understand what it is to be waiting for your death day by day, hour by hour? What is the meaning of life during the day and the night during those cursed years of 1942? Can we imagine how the inhabitants of the B. Ghetto felt when they witnessed the gradual evacuation of the small ghetto knowing that soon it would be their turn to walk to the bitter end? What a fear, what a despair and reconciliation with one's faith. And what about those who did not reconcile with their faith? Can we imagine what kind of Sukkot and Simchat Torah our dear ones had? Maybe they deceived themselves, thinking God would feel pity for them. This struggle between the cruel reality and the spark of hope that maybe still burned in their hearts.

Who will express the hope that Kobrin Jews had in those times? Kobrin Jews, why did you deserve this bitter fate? The Kobrin Jews were killed together with all the rest of the Jews of Europe. We mourn all of them, but naturally it is only human that we outline the loss of our relatives and our friends. With great longing and pity for them the name of our town, Kobrin, brought longing to our home, to our origin. We, the Jews from Kobrin, were always known as super patriotic for Kobrin. I myself have praised Kobrin as a righteous town. Now more than ever I realize that I was right to be loyal to my brave town.

Kobrin was a great town filled with Jewish warmth. Zionists who contributed to the Aliyah to Israel.


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We will write the story of the Kobrin Jews and make sure to utilize the writings of our friend, Isaac Pinchok, which were printed in the Kobrin Wachtemberg paper. When the story of Kobrin is told, we will find out that Kobrin is an old community, one of the oldest in Lithuania. Our certificates from and since the 15th century prove that. The old man, Zigmont, verified in 1514 that the Jews of Kobrin belonged to his brother Alexander the Yagloni. It's known that in 1563 there were 22 Jews that owned their houses in Kobrin. They lived on Pinsker Street, which was surrounded by parks and greens. They made their living primarily by producing beer.

In 1589 the Jews of Kobrin were given full rights, as the rest of the citizens. In 1589 there were 924 tax-paying citizens in Kobrin. Horoditz was part of Kobrin then, until the time when the Swedes destroyed it. Many famous rabbis used to reside in Kobrin, among them, Rabbi Betzalel Ben Shlomo, the Darshan, meaning the “preacher rabbi”. Rabbi Shlomo the Darshan was the author of Amudei Shiva (“The Seven Pillars”). He passed away in 1678. Another known rabbi who lived in Kobrin in the year of 1670 was the Rabbi Ben David Shapiro, who wrote the book, “The Love of Jacob”. Rabbi Shapiro also founded the Yeshiva, which more than 400 students attended. Exactly 100 years ago, in 1847, there was a census, the results of which were:


  Kobrin 4,814 citizens
  Antopol 1,108 citizens
  Horodetz 422 citizens
  Drobitzen 877 citizens
  Deven 556 citizens
  Motol 222 citizens
  Homsks 877 citizens
  Yanov 628 citizens
  Altogether 8,840 citizens


In this Kobrin book we will document hundreds of years of Torah and Avodah, Torah and work, which describes the work of many famous rabbis. One of them, Rabbi Moshele Kobriner, has been quoted lately a great deal on the subject of the righteous Rabbi Finelshik. The book will document the awakening of the Haskalah movement, the enlightenment movement. Also, we will tell about the Shivat Zion movement, the returning to Zion movement. The book will describe and tell us about the first Zionists who labored very hard to instill love for Israel, in spite of the dangers they faced.

This book will also elaborate on the uprising of the Socialist movement which occurred in the year of 1905. In actuality, Kobrin was a Mecca for helping the fugitives and the wounded during World War I, as told by Anski in his book, “The Destruction of Polin and Galitzia.” Also in this book we will underline the beginning of the Hechalutz and the Shomer Hatzair movements in Kobrin. Life was beautiful and vigorous in Kobrin, our city.


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Kobrin has gone through some bitter times as the rest of European Jewry in the 30's, the Jews being deprived of all their rights. Kobrin had a socio-economic war. Life was very difficult. The people went through a period of pre-destruction, feeling the approaching storm and feeling its consequences. But still our community led a normal life. Kobrin citizens behaved as if there would be a tomorrow and never ceased in their concern for their fellow citizens, a well known fact among Zionist leaders. Kobrin was not a metropolis in size, but it was not a small town either. It had all of the pluses of the big city and the warmth and coziness of a small town. The fact that it was located where the three borders intersected worked to its benefit. The spirited learning of Lithuania and closeness to Volin and Polin helped to develop a special kind of a Jewish person. The Jews of Kobrin looked upon Vilna and Warsaw as role models, and that added to their culture and character.

Assimilation was not as rampant in Kobrin as in other places, although it had already begun. All this remarkable and rich life is gone now. Kobrin was erased from the Jewish map but it has never been erased from our hearts.

It's a mitzvah, a good deed, to tell the stories of Kobrin. It is not a consolation to us since we can never be consoled, but we must reminisce about the greatest of Kobrin's citizens. It is our duty to tell the saga of Kobrin and to pass it to the next generation.

Y. Ch. Bilatzki

Anywhere I go or will go, the town of Kobrin goes with me. In the town of Kobrin we made our living and the material goods that we made were taken with us on our voyage of the damned. In our town we received our education from the beginning with the Alef Bet and were taught our basic Jewish ethics. In Kobrin, we smiled, at first, and there, in Kobrin, we first read about the proclamation of our people. My dear home town, Kobrin, was the place I sang my first childhood songs and it was there that I engraved in my heart “thou shall honor your father and mother.”

At dawn I recall we used to see the decent and hardworking people, always washing their hands before going to work. We all remember our mothers who were the epitome of good Jewish mothers. They taught us the secret of being winners in life. Also, it was there that I heard my father's music and how in every party the songs flowed from our hearts. On every festive occasion from now on I will reminisce about our home, our Shabbats, the way we celebrated them then.


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I prayed many times during my life, but the one prayer that guided me through my life is the prayer of my parents. I have listened to a lot of wailing and crying in my life but I was never moved and will never be moved by any as when listening to my mother's crying while holding and reading the Tzena Ureina, the prayer book of women.

Throughout my life I have heard a lot of chanting and playing of nigunim (chants), but my father's nigunim are the ones which remain with me all the time. I have seen a lot of simchot, happy moments, and participated in many of them, but they were never as happy and heartwarming as in my beloved Kobrin. I have dreamed a lot of dreams throughout my life, but none as pure as the dreams I dreamed in Kobrin. Our Yiddish was rich and vibrant. That was the Yiddish of our people, the Yiddish of Bartzlaver and the Baal Hashem Tov. In Kobrin existed harmony between the Halakha and Hagada, the story and the legend. In other words, between the stern ways of the rabbis and the milder Hasidut movement. The debates between Rabbi Pesach and Rabbi Michael were debates for the sake of debates and not for any ulterior motives.

Above all, I recall outstanding youth in our town, Kobrin. So many young and decent and talented people were killed.

The image of Kobrin is in our hearts, Kobrin with its flat land and not necessarily high hills, a land which produced fine vegetables and fruits. That good earth gave us “hamotzi lechem min ha'retz” (brought forth bread from the earth). Any person who was eager to work could make an honorable living from that earth. Although it was hard work, in their hearts there was much love and wisdom which dictated goodness to our fellow man, “gmilut hassadim” (performing a good deed).

The flat land on the outskirts of Kobrin dictated a way of life as if it were saying, “Thou shall not think yourself higher than your fellow man.” The flat land represented, metaphorically, unity and equality with one's fellow man, without pretensions toward each other regarding wealth or intelligence.

I remember my home town, Kobrin, as a town of poverty but also as the town of happy holidays. As the poet put it so beautifully, “Kobrin, with your special aroma of the streets, of the fresh bread, herring, prayer, Jewish chants, and the confident feeling of being a Jew.”

I recall seeing a sign a while ago in a classroom in Warsaw which said “Beware Jews. Don't be without hope.” This quote was heard often in Kobrin. It derived from the Sholem Asch teachings and gave us confidence as Jews. But all in vain.


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That feeling of self confidence did not sustain them during the Holocaust. My dear home town Kobrin and all the working people, the shoemakers, the tailors and all, whether belonging to the Bund or to the Communist party, regardless of whether you used to sing the Shvuah, the Internationale or the Techezakna, the violent and the stormy fate uprooted all of you.

My home town. Here I am coming back to your destruction with a broken jug. I am coming back to the well with a bucket which is hanging from a pole. There, in that well, I can see as if in a mirror your distant faces and trusting eyes. I can also visualize your beards and the famous sabbaths. A tear is rolling down my cheeks. The tear freezes suddenly because of the memory and the events of the fourth of the month of Cheshvan. One lacks the strength to describe our sorrow. It is not the eye that is crying. It is the heart that weeps.

On behalf of the lives that were cruelly shattered.
On behalf of the lives that did not have a chance to stand erect.
On behalf of life that was quenched.
On behalf of the Jewish towns and habitations which were destroyed.
On behalf on the darkness that came down on our life, which dictates to us to remember and not to forget anything.
On behalf of the love for life which was killed.
On behalf of a terrible and unique fate that waited for them.
Being a Jew could be compared to tall and proud trees and to the eternal glowing fire, but being a Jew also meant to be like a lamb who was led to the slaughter.
To the end of times, millions of years from now, we will be able to see on the faces of our kids what transpired. Our sorrow is very heavy and we will conceal it in our hearts in their memory.

M. Kotkes

Is it ever possible to mourn a whole community and to include its ways of life and also its property? Is it conceivable for humanity to comprehend what has transpired? The power of the imagination does not rise to that level. Reality hit us in the face, through destruction, atrocities and pain. Men, women and children were murdered in the most cruel ways. As the prophet predicted and said, “They lay on earth, young and old. Dear God you killed them without mercy.”


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You ceased to exist, my home town, Kobrin. Blood stained hands have wiped you out. And how shall we console ourselves? How shall we preserve the memory of our sacred people? How shall we preserve our resources from which we drew the ethics of our culture? I can see my home town in front of my eyes, the happy days as well as the sad ones, the ebb and the flow, and like a long movie, it goes on and on right in front of my eyes without end. The rapid tempo of life, the market, the students, and the yeshivot, so alive and bubbly. The calmness of Shabbat, the walk to the congregations and back, the youth meetings and their songs.

How deeply engraved in one's mind is the memory of the days of awe. The enlisting of our people from national chores at times when an emissary visited from Israel. The Jewish Community Center “Beit Hayotzer” on Taragota Street is buzzing with the best of our youth. I can see them all there, the leaders of our people, the speakers, and the noble faces of our parents and brothers and sisters. All this was then but, alas, is no more. The schools, the tzedakah associations, the banks, the hospitals, all this symbolized the cultural and the Zionist way of life in our home town. The list goes on and on.

The Hechalutz Movement, for instance, was the first to be established among the national chapters. The first members of the third Aliya were the founders of the picturesque village, Kfar Yehoshua (in Israel), which was established by Kobrin members. The elite of the Shomer Hatzair youth who helped prevent assimilation were Kobrin youth. The Poalei Zion, the Zionist Workers Party, the Youth Federation, absorbed the intelligentsia and the working people and maintained a base of a group of people for our settlement project in Israel. Betar and other youth organizations guided and inspired our youth for Israel.

We who had the privilege of carrying out a sacred mission to build our country, all of us who came to Israel are the product of the youth movement. I would also like to pay homage to those who gave their time and their energy for advancing our purposes and cultivated cultural support for our work to a higher level in our town.

The lists are endless. I am not going to mention those who preceded me and those who have come after us in the last 20 years. I will mention those who worked hard in my generation. My apologies if I forget some who deserve to be mentioned.

Thinking of those most notable, I see the likeness of Mr. Alkon, blessed be his memory. Thousands of his students who are now living in Israel are evidence of the results of the hard work that he did with us.


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The love of Zionism, the love of Israel and the Hebrew language. Already, from the beginning of his teaching of the Bible and the Hebrew literature, he instilled in us love and prepared us for life in Israel, our homeland. Due to his influence, we became pioneers and settled in Israel.

On his 25th anniversary we wished him to achieve, to live, and celebrate the 50th year anniversary of his teaching among his many students in Israel. But, unfortunately, we were not lucky and were denied this privilege. He passed away before that date.

Paltiel Polonski was an old communal worker who was a pioneer of the Zionist Movement in Kobrin when only a few believed in the ideology of this movement. Paltiel Polonski never tired of supporting and working for The Movement.

Moshe Zaritzki was a decent communal worker and a noble man who, being such an honest person, made his opponents admire and like him as he did everybody else.

Dr. Privolski. The Nazis's did not succeed in torturing his body because he died before the Holocaust. A man of many accomplishments, he was a pillar for the needy and the sick. He became an enthusiastic Zionist after visiting Israel and witnessing the great undertaking that was taking place there.

Shy Broikonkin, a man with incredible energy, a dedicated Zionist, gave his life for everything regarding Israel.

S. I. Koloditzki, the newcomer among the old-timers, he was an effervescent and untiring communal worker. He was part of every undertaking or endeavor and was liked by everyone, young and old.

Noach Markoza was the center of the communal life and activity in the city of Kobrin.

Both Ben Zion Pintul and Yitzchak Pinchuk enriched the community with their work in their movement for Eretz Israel Haovedet, the laboring Israel, in our town. They also organized the Poalei Zion and the Hechalutz Movement and were active in the schools and the libraries. Their, dedication and loyalty to the Hechalutz was known to all. They took care of each member who made Aliya with a great devotion. However, they themselves did not succeed in making Aliya. They were succeeded by the younger generation, my contemporaries, my friends from school.

Chaim Goldberg supervised and guided the Hashomer Hatzair when it was in its first stages. He also defended his Jewish heritage in public schools and at the universities. He also worked and persuaded those among the Jewish students who were about to be assimilated to resist assimilation.


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Abrasha Armon dedicated his time to the Hechalutz Movement. He was impulsive and brave and his views on Israel held both to be sacred. He knew how to stand up for our rights in an antagonistic environment.

The list of those I could mention is far from being completed and I could go on and on. Everyone contributed to our community according to his talent and his merit. It is not a coincidence that our youth fought back and did not go to the slaughter as lambs. The result of a fine education and training for the love of the Zionist Movement and Israel gave them strength and courage and was with them on their last voyage to their death.

Let's not forget them. The memory will remain in our hearts and in the hearts of all the generations to follow.




Polsia

by Betzalel Shwartz


Kobrin was located in the Polsia region. I say “was” because even though there still exists a town called Kobrin, it is not the town we love and mourn, to which we are erecting a monument, but a new and a different one.

The reason for emphasizing the past is that many changes have taken place there. But the main element of change is the fact that there are no Jews there any more. Kobrin without Jews is not the Kobrin we knew and loved. For us, Kobrin and the entire surrounding area has died and ceased to exist. Physically the area of Polsia still exists, but the Jewish factor, with its special beauty which added to that tragic region, disappeared long ago. Where is that sadness, with a taste of happiness in it, that decency of the Jewish character? The beauty of its citizens interacted with the beauty of the countryside. With the disappearance of the Jews, the beauty of the country disappeared as well and the loss is mutual.

Polsia is a large area and has the biggest share of marshy land in Europe. Political destiny divided Polsia into two main parts. The West Polsia area, 56,000 square kilometers, was annexed by Poland. The other part was East Polsia, which was annexed by Russia.

Western Polsia was made up of the districts of Brisk, Kobrin, Pinsk, Drohitzin, Loninitz, Stolin, Kamen Kashirsk, Sarni and partly the districts of Projenev and Kosov. All this was within the boundaries of the Polsian Vivodjktava, with its capital in Brisk.


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The soil in Polsia was a mixture of sand and tar. There were no natural resources. Polsia had enormous dry land. The climate was pleasant and comfortable but not healthy. The cold froze the rivers during the winter time. There was plenty of rain and swampy country. The area was blessed with forests, rivers, streams, and countless lakes. The main trees in the forest were the pine trees. Polsia had various bushes. The forests were like the Garden of Eden with old and unique trees. The lakes were filled with fish, the rivers flowed to the Baltic and the Black Seas. The Bug, the Mochevitz and the Shashra River flowed to the Baltic Sea. The Pripit River, with all its rivulets, streamed to the Black Sea and was not an important river in the Polsia country.

Swamps covered a good half of this area in the Kobrin district. More than 65% was taken by swamp land. This swamp land is the weakness as well as the strength of this land. Throughout history invading armies have gotten stuck in it. That's what happened to Carl the Twelfth from Sweden and his army at the beginning of the 18th century. Napoleon's army had to make a detour to avoid the swamps. During the First World War the border between Germany and Russia was right between those swamps. There are over 300 lakes around that swampland.

Some important canals are situated in that region. The most important ones are the King Canal and Oginski Canal. Between those two the most important one is the King's Canal. The King's Canal connects the Dnepr with the Vistula. This canal was first dug in 1780 and the Russians completed its diggings.

Most of the population was Byelorussians (White Russians), Ukrainians, and Polsians. This was a special breed of people who were influenced by the landscape. Among this population were Poles, Russians, Germans, Czechs, Dutch, Gypsies and Jews.

Mainly there were the Poles, who were the owners of the big estates and the majority of the dwellers among the city folk. The Polish government tried desperately to increase the Polish ethnic group in Polsia and therefore settled the soldiers who were discharged from the army in the Polsia region. In many ways they succeeded in increasing the percentage of Poles there, especially in the last few years of the Polish governance of that area, and especially in the cities.

The Russians were a minority, left over from the old governing body of the Czar. The place also had some political immigrants, owners of estates. They tried to keep their identity, but assimilation was inevitable and sooner or later they blended with the Poles.


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The most important minority were the Jews. They came to the region long before the Poles. Already in the 14th century there were Jewish communities there and before the Holocaust they counted as 9-10% of the whole population in Polsia. The Jews were the prime element among the urban population. There was a time when their numbers were even greater than the rest of the population, comparatively speaking. The census in the Govarnia Hagrundai from the year 1897, which concurs very much with the Polcian Vivdjtav census, concludes that in the provinces 17.3% of the population were Jews. And among the urban population 58.3% were Jews. The situation remained like this as late as the eve of the Second World War. The Jewish population looked like this in 1931: In Brisk 50%, in Pinsk 74%, and in Kobrin 80%. These were the numbers of the Jews until the murders cut their numbers to zero.




The Story of Kobrin and the Jewish Population

by Yitzchak Pinchuk


Yitzchak Pinchuk was one of the outstanding communal workers in Kobrin. He also was zealous about writing the history of Kobrin, our town. He published his articles about Kobrin in the “Kobriner Vochenblatt.” We are presenting his articles here as a memorial to his soul and as a; memorial to our Jewish communities. He documented the history of each town, its development, its status, its historical significance, the mythology of the town, the memories of its great personalities and leaders. They were born and lived in those towns. They made a great impact on them. All of this stimulates our feelings and arouses the interest of the native sons in our home towns. This was especially so when the town was predominantly Jewish and started as a small community and grew and developed into a large Jewish town. In spite of being confronted by disturbances, pressures and distress, the community had an outstanding creativity, strength and stamina which helped them to overcome tragedy and elevated the community to great prosperity.

It is very difficult to restore historical events, to research what occurred and to try to refresh the memory of the past. Unfortunately, the memory wanders and occasionally becomes short. Consequently many events are forgotten and the resources are few. There are not any museums or archives to research the past of our city, Kobrin. Therefore, one has to regard Pinchuk's work as an attempt to gather notes and dates of Kobrin's historical events, especially in reference to the Jewish community. Pinchuk's work was a very important historical and cultural document.


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We do not have the exact resources and facts about the beginnings of Kobrin. We only know that Kobrin was built in the 11th century by the successors of the great Russian prince Izaslav (1054-1078). After his death the Russian kingdom disintegrated and after internal wars between the princes, the kingdom was divided into various principalities. Kobrin was an old Russian locality. In Polish its name was Grud, located by the rivers Mochevitz and Kobrinka. There used to be a castle dating from the middle ages, which was built on the shore of the two rivers and was used for military defense. At the end of the 12th century Kobrin was passed over to the principality of Vladimir Valinsk. We do not know to whom exactly among his two sons, Raman Mastislavich (1172-1205) or Daniel Vasilka.

In 1286 the Prince Vladimir Vasilkevich bequeathed Kobrin to his wife, Elga Rommanova. He bequeathed the town, its people, its taxes, the monastery (Hashaliach Hakadosh, the “Holy Messenger”), Haaradetz, and a number of villages. He ordered the people to abide by his rule. The inhabitants of the estates were divided into free people and slaves. Among the free were those serving in the army and the estate owners. The city dwellers as well as the villagers rented the land from the prince and in return paid exorbitant taxes, payable in money and hard work. The villagers were totally enslaved by the prince and he did whatever he wanted with them.

In the beginning of the 14th century, in approximately 1321, when the Lithuanian emperor Gadimin (1315-1341) conquered Polsia, Kobrin passed over to the Lithuanian rulers and it was later given to the successor of Olgirad. In the Polish Lithuanian Confederation in 1385, Kobrin belonged to Polin but Kobrin was still dependent on the large Lithuanian principality. In 1392 the great Lithuanian priest Vitoled (1340-1392) handed over Kobrin to Andrei Vladimirovitz, the successor of Vladimir Vasilokev who ruled Kobrin until the death of Vitolid (1340). Thereafter Kobrin belonged to the Pinsk princes. At the end of the 15th century Kobrin was passed over to Ivan Samiyanitch Kobrinski who was descended from Daniel Romanitch and Gadimin. So a special Kobrin principality was formed dependent on the great Lithuanian principality. The Kobrin municipality included (Davotshin) Prozshani and Haaradetz (according to other sources also named Pinsk). They did not survive for very long.

In the Russian/Hebrew Encyclopedia by Brokhoiz Efron there is the explanation that Haaradetz was part of Kobrin. We have to note that Haaradetz is situated about 20 kilometers from Kobrin and had a special task during the turmoil between the various princes in the 12th century. The assumption that the old Haaradetz was situated next to Kobrin is not true. In 1497 the Kobrinian prince Ivan Samianich erected a monastery by the Kobrinka River.


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It's name was The Holy Sapes. Around the monasteries were many parcels of land and a flour mill. That monastery later became the Unitarian church on Kalashtarna Street, the small Zamochvitz, the courthouse building. The Kobrinka River which originated from the swampy dunes had previously been a wider river with a different direction, through the Mastva and Kalshtarna Streets up to the Mochevitz. The last Kobrin prince was Tadar Ivanovitch who is buried in that monastery. With the death of this prince at the beginning of the 16th century, the Kobrin principality ceased to exist and the region turned to the rule of the king of Poland, at that time the Old Zigmont (1506-1548).

The history of the Jews in the Polish Lithuanian provinces during the Middle Ages and also much later is filled with turmoil and laws directed against the Jews by both the church and the municipalities. To curb their sources of livelihood they were forced to live only on special streets. Their lives were constantly at stake, whether they were lynched, killed or burned.

The Jews settled on special streets like the Armenians and the Germans and each group had their streets named accordingly, the German street, the Armenian street, all according to their professions. The Jews, who tended to settle on Jewish ethnic streets for psychological reasons, resisted the attempts to liquidate them and to reduce their numbers. There was a street in Kobrin as well on which lived only Jews. It is difficult to note precisely when this ghetto existed. With reference to the Jewish population in Kobrin in the year 1563, here is an illustration: On Pinsker Street to the right, the owners of homes were Yaska Yakobovitz, Moshe Yatzkevitz, Abraham Shmulvitz, the Synagogue Shmuel Abramvich, Yitzchak Kmilitshitesh, David Shlomitz, Shabtai Yaskovitz, Yaakov Yaskovitz. On Pinsker Street to the left, Shlomo Davidovitz, Lazar Ilulovitz, Chalbana Levkovitz, Payim Yaskovitz, Yaska Yazkevitz (2 houses), Pesach Shlomitz, Fibish Kalvanovitz and Misan Yatzkevitz.

On Astrawatzka Street (Bovroiska): Fibish Yaskovitz.

On Brisker Street, Chalvana Levkovitz, Shmuel Abromovitz (3 houses). Altogether there were 25 houses of Jews and 233 Christian houses. (It is very difficult to document the exact number of the Jews. According to Barshadski there were 17. According to the Russian/Hebrew Encyclopedia there were 22. Generally it mentions owners of Jewish houses. The number of Jewish families was probably larger.)

This version confronts us with the fact that there were other Jews on different streets, indicating there was not a special Jewish street. It is also possible that the Jews mentioned on Brisker and Astromatzka Streets were tax collectors.


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In particular, an individual by the name of Fibish Yaskovitz, from Astromatzka Street, is mentioned as being a tax collector, which means he had many more rights than other Jews had. As far as the rest of the Jews, it is possible that they were also tax collectors or lived all by themselves in their own homes on Pinsker Street. It is also conceivable that because they had special tasks they were permitted to live outside of the Jewish streets.

As evidence supporting this version, we read a story about one Michael Itzkovitz who enjoyed special privileges and was allowed to live in the market with additional legal rights which allowed him to be a merchant and sell wine. This occurrence is dated from the beginning of the 18th century and proves that there was a Jewish street. The fact that on Pinsker Street there were Christian homes, as well as the testimony that the Polish church was located there, does not change the fact that in many cities the Jews and the Christians resided on the same streets, despite the fact that, according to the laws from the year 1564, it was forbidden to do so. It is possible that at that time there was a Jewish street called Pinsker Street (which was called “The Jewish Street”) and that on it were all the Jewish establishments such as the synagogue, the bath house, the cemetery, etc.

Quite a few restrictions were imposed on the Jews in that era, including that the men were forbidden to wear gold belts and the women were forbidden to wear gold and silver jewelry. They also were not permitted to wear yellow turbans or hats. They were required to wear yellow dresses, to be noticeable in contrast to Christian women folk. Also, it was forbidden to employ Christians as servants in their homes.

However, all these laws (from the 1566 Lithuanian Statutes) were not abided by the Jews in everyday life.

At the end of the Zigmont August rule, the Polish and Lithuanian Kingdoms were unified. The Lithuanian one was reduced and many privileges were eliminated. Kobrin was included in the Lithuanian principality. The King of Poland and Lithuania was dependent on the nobility and this worsened the situation of the Jews.

After the death of Zigmont August (1572), he was succeeded by Prince Volo. Prince Volo treated the Jews badly. He was also in close contact with the priesthood.

Prince Volo's days were short. His successor was Prince Stefan Batari (1576). During his reign the Jews saw better times. He recognized the rights of the Jews and fought vigorously against the false accusations of blood libel and the many abuses against them. After his death (1586), according to the ruling of the Seim, the Polish parliament, Kobrin was granted to the widow of Stefan Batari, Anna Yaglanka.




[Page 15]


Documentation

from the Registrar in Petersburg, 1899


21st of March, 1511:
The Jews of Trok, Grodna, Brisk, Lutzek, Vladimir, Pinsk, Kobrin, etc. who lived in the large Lithuanian principalities presented a request to the King Zigmont to.confirm his brother King Alexander's edict. Alexander demanded from the Jews that they give to the Zamstava Service one thousand horses. However the Jews, relying on the fact that they had not till then participated in a war, asked to let the situation be as in the past without any changes.

Alexander granted their request and decided that the Jews were not to participate in the war and, with reference to the taxation, their portion was to be the same as all the rest of the population. Zigmont confirmed the privileges his brother had granted to the Jews.

21st of January, 1529:
All the Jews who lived in the large principality of the kingdom (among them the Kobrin Jews) had to pay the amount of 60,000 coins, each according to their possessions on the eve of the Easter holiday.

The Year of 1563:
From “The Revision of Kobrinian Economics” in 1563 of King Dimitri, arranged by his comptroller, the information tells us about the individuals who lived in Kobrin at that time. On Pinsker Street on one side:

Yasko Yakobovitz, owner of   3 houses and 3 gardens.
Moshke Yatzkevitz, owner of   3 houses and 3 gardens.
Abraham Shmulovitz, owner of   3 ½ houses and 3 gardens.
Shmoile Abramovitz, owner of   3 ½ houses and 3 ½ gardens.
Yitzchak Kehilitz, owner of   2 ½ houses, and 3 ½ gardens.
David Shlomitz, owner of   2 ½ houses, and 3 gardens.
Shabtai Yaskovitz, owner of   4 houses and 2 gardens.
Yakov Itzkovitz, owner of   4 houses and 2 gardens.

On the second side of Pinsker Street:

Shlomo Davidovitz, owner of   3 ½ houses.
Lazer Ilolovitz, owner of   4 houses.
Chalvanah Levkovitz, owner of   3 houses.
Fish Askovitz, owner of   2 houses.
Yasko Yitzkovitz, owner of   3 houses.
Oto Yasko, owner of   3 houses.


[Page 16]


Yakush Yaskovitz, owner of   of 3 houses.
Zachar Yakovovitz, owner of   2 ½ houses.
Chalvanah Levkovitz, owner of   3 houses.
Yasko Paskovitz, owner of   2 ½ houses.
Pesach Shlomitz, owner of   3 ½ houses.
Faish Chalbanovitz, owner of   3 houses.
Nisan Yatzkevitz, owner of   4 ½ houses.
Zalko Yaskovitz, owner of   2 ½ houses.
Lazer Mashevitz, owner of   2 ½ houses.

On one side of the street Balatzkaya:

Yitzko Yatzkevitz, owner of   2 houses and 2 gardens.
The same person again, owner of   3 houses and 2 gardens.

List of the Jewish individuals who possessed gardens:

Yitzko Yatzkevitz     2 sledges,
Shmuel Abramovitz     2 sledges,
Chalvana Levkovitz     2 sledges,
Pesach Shlomitz     1 sledge,
Yitzko Yakobovitz     2 sledges,
Shlomo Davidovitz     1 sledge,
Faish Iskovitz     1 sledge.

These gardens which the Jewish people possessed were located on Pinsker Street and continued all the way to Balatzkaya Street. From the gardens that were located behind Balatzkaya street on the right side:

Shmuel Abramovitz     2 sledges,
Shlomel Davidovitz     1 sledge.

Behind those gardens:

Shmoile Abramovitz     8 sledges,
The same person     7 sledges.

These sledges of the Kobrinian bishop next to Kobrinka and Mochavitz, behind the right side of the street Hetashvetatzitzi, were under the ownership of the individual Jew by the name of Isko Yastzkevitz. On Ostromski Street, behind the Mochavitz on the right side, the individual Askovitz – three estates and 2 ½ gardens. On the second side of Brisk Street:

Chalvana Abramovitz     5 ½ estates, 17 gardens.
Shmoile Abramovitz     5 ½ estates, 17 gardens.
The same individual     5 ½ estates and 17 gardens.
The same individual again     5 ½ estates and 17 gardens.
The same individual at the
corner of Brisk Street
    2 sledges.


[Page 17]


February 8, 1578:
The order of the king to the Lithuanian Jews in reference to taxation with golden coins. King Stefan announced to all the Jews who lived in Pinsk, as well as in all the cities and villages (including the inns) in the region of Pinsk, that since they did not fulfill their quota in gold coins and were still in debt from the previous year they still owed to the treasury 77 golden coins. Therefore, King Stefan sent the noble Nikolai Kirdia to the Jews with a mission of collecting the above sum. In the Lithuanian documentation from which this order was quoted, it is recorded in this manner: “This is a typical letter that was sent to the Pinsk Jews in reference to the golden coins, with the following comment at the bottom. This kind of letter was sent to the regions Novogrodok, Minsk, Grodna, Kobrin, Vilna, Truk, Brisk, Mastivogovsek, and Kovna.”

The Year 1583:
The numbers of the taxes that were levied from merchandise that passed through Brisk in 1583. One typical individual was Yakov Ben Faibish Askevitz, a Jew traveling from Kobrin to Lublin.

15th of November in the Year 1642:
The Commissar's letter was sent about the complaint of the Kobriner priest from the church by the name of “the Holy Delegates, Peter and Favel” with reference to the usage of the church land. The priest, Vasili Faiveski, complained to the Czar's Commissar about the Kobrin Jews. Michna Dudatzino and Yitzchak Solomonovitz had occupied a large piece of land belonging to the church and were producing beer on it. The Commissar investigated the complaint about the church land before witnesses and ordered the Kobrin surveyor to measure the land with reference to the complaint that the Jews were contaminating the water from the wells which flowed to the dam leading to the church. The Commissar ordered the Jews and the priest to remedy the situation.

4th of April, 1667:
The King gave to Feodor Savitzki the right to collect a fee for closing the bridge that was built on his estate connecting Brisk to Kobrin. The fee was to be collected from Jews, merchants, and coach drivers. The priest and the nobility were exempt.

Because the Jewish merchants were trying to avoid the bridge toll and were using boats for their merchandise and crossing the Mochevitz River, they were ordered to pay two groshim, two Polish coins, for each boat that passed.


[Page 18]


10th of May, 1670:
An order was given to the Kobrin Jews to pay to the Pinsk Vorvorinovsky Monastery debts and interest in the amount of 1,546 guilder and 15 groschen, 15 coins.

The superiors of the Pinsk Monastery submitted the claim for payments of debt in the amount of 1,246 guilder and 15 groschen, 15 polish coins, from the Jewish individuals who belonged to the Kobrina Jewish community, from Laib Itzkovitz, Lazer Shmuelevitz, Chaim and Israel Moshkovitz, Joseph Alenbitz, Joseph Chaimovitz, David Itzkovitz, Abraham Fivishvitz, Joseph Zeblevitz, Yehuda Mishkovitz, Snmuel Michelevitz, Hagatz Halenbitz, Zelig Abramovitz, and Shlomo Osherovitz. The defendants did not appear in court and no mention was made of their non-appearance.

The prosecution's representative proved with a copy from Brisk's book of documentation that was given on the 10th of March, 1670, that the order to appear in court was delivered to the Kobrin Jews. Also, it was proved by the prosecutor that according to the agreement that existed between the monastery and the Jews from Kobrin from the 6th of February, 1657, the Jews were obligated to pay 1,246 guilder and 15 groschen, 15 polish coins in yearly payments of 96 guilder. Missing one payment obligated them to pay the whole amount which was owed.

The following year the Jews did not pay the amount mentioned. Consequently the monastery demanded from the Jews the full amount owed, and additional expenses in the amount of 300 guilder as a compensation for damages.

1676:
King Jan the 3rd ordered all of the commanding officers of the Polish and foreign army, and the Kossacks from Zaporozasha as well, to pass through the region of Kobrin and the town of Brisk without harming the people of the town. They were also ordered not to act with brutality toward the Jews of Brisk and the surrounding area.

The Year 1714:
The elders of Kobrin, Snmuel Ben Yoseph and Yoseph Ben Meir, displayed on March 7th, 1714 a letter of guarantee on behalf of themselves and the Jewish community of Kobrin, to be given to the Kobrin Jews by the names of Michael Ben Yitzchak and his wife, Sara Bat Asher, and to their children and their heirs.

The Year 1744:
A suit was initiated by Count Palming against the Rodnitzkis, whose property was stolen by the gypsies.


[Page 19]


On behalf of Palming a complaint was registered in the municipality against Rodnitzki, his estate manager, Rodzanski, the individuals Kontzevitz, Artzishevski, the brothers Ktzikov and eight gypsies who were accused of thievery from the Kobrin Jews, Meir Kodoshevitz, Shmuel Notovitz and from the Rabbi Meir Nachomovitz. The gypsies, according to the complaint, broke into the warehouse with special tools, opened it and stole from it the money deposits of the three above-named Jewish victims, taking expensive objects and monies in the amount of 500 guilder. They were accused of stealing and bringing the stolen items to the others named in the suit brought by Count Palming.

27th of March, 1748:
Pavel and Adam Buchavetzki presented a document to be entered in the Megdaborgim books of Kobrin, stating that they would make a donation to the Holy Sapes Monastery for the amount of the three debts owed by the community and the Kobrin Jews, the first debt, from the 23rd of July, 1702, in
the amount of 2558 tinfim Polish coins, the second in the amount of 550 tinfim Polish coins, the third in the amount of 600 Polish guilder coins.

In 1514 Pinsk and Kobrin were annexed to the community of Lithuania:
In the beginning of the 16th century, Kobrin belonged to the estate of Prince Ivan Ben Simon, who, together with his wife Fiodora, built a Pravoslavian convent in Kobrin (according to “The Jews of Lithuania” (in Russian) by S. Barshadsky, Petersburg, 1883).

Kobrin during the decrease of the years 1648 and 1649:
[The following is a poem describing these tragic events. – N. A.]

And from there the killers went to the sacred town of Slonim where they murdered almost all of the 200 Jewish homeowners.
And from there the killers went to the town of Minsk, the center of Jewish life, where they murdered almost all of the 500 Jewish homeowners.
And from there the killers went to the sacred town of Pinsk where they murdered almost all of the 300 Jewish homeowners.
And from there the killers went to the city of Slotsek where they murdered almost all of the 300 Jewish homeowners.
And from there the killers went to the town of Kobrin where they murdered almost all of the 200 Jewish homeowners.
And from there the killers went to the big city of Harodno, the center of Jewish life, where they murdered almost all of the 1,000 Jewish homeowners.


[Page 20]


(From the book “Tet Haiuni” (9th of June) by Rabbi Shmuel Faibish, related to Rabbi Natan Faitil from Vin, published and written in the “Book of Tears” by Shimon Brainfeld, Eshcol Publishers, Berlin 1926, Volume 3.)

From the Revisions of 1683 Committee:
The town of Brisk is bordered by the following surrounding towns Kobrin, Hardal, and Proshna.

Kobrin
A Jewish community was in existence in Kobrin at the beginning of the 16th century. The name Kobrin was mentioned among the Lithuanian communities that received in 1514 the Bill of the Five Rights that was granted to them by Alexander.

Kobrin, the town and its surroundings within which the Jews were allowed the right to reside, was situated on a vast piece of land in the 15th and 16th centuries. The small and distant town of Horodetz, which was located five miles from Kobrin, was one part of Kobrin. However, it was almost entirely destroyed in 1653 when the Swedish army placed the town under siege. The Jews suffered the most at the hands of the Polish army who vented their anger about not having been paid by the army by tormenting and stealing from the Jews.

In 1766 Kobrin was demoted to a village, but in 1795 Kobrin was elevated back to the status of a region town. In 1812 Kobrin was shelled by the French army and the suffering was immense.

Particularly the Jews behaved bravely during that ordeal.

In the cemetery of Kobrin, some tombstones date back to the 15th century. The first known Rabbi of Kobrin was Rabbi Betzalel Ben Shlomo Darshan who died in 1678. His successors were: Yakov Ben David Shapira (Spira) who was the author of “Ohel Yakov”. Also he was the founder of the religious seminary where more than 400 students studied. He died in 1718. The other Rabbis to succeed Rabbi Betzalel were Rabbi Mintz, who died in 1819, Rabbi Shmaria, who was also the Rabbi of the Riovshov Hasidim (died in 1835), Rabbi Moshe, the Rabbi of the Kobrin Hassidim (died in 1858), Rabbi Meir Shafit (died in 1873), who was the author of Nir Yerushalmi (“Soil of Jerusalem”), Rabbi Eliyahu, who was widely known, Rabbi Elinka Leeder (died in 1876), Rabbi Shaul Epshtein (died in 1891) and a contemporary one, Rabbi Atlas.

Kobrin had many charitable institutions. It had some splendid congregations, religious schools used as religious classrooms for the Hassidim.


[Page 21]


The Jews worked primarily on the land and also as wage earners. However, in the year 1882, by order of Alexander the 3rd, the Jews were forbidden the tenancy of the farms. Also they were forbidden to reside outside of the city borders.

In 1897 the government monopolized the wage earning profession. Consequently, the situation of the Jews worsened and great numbers of them emigrated to other countries. (According to the Jewish Encyclopedia in English, Volume 7.)

*

In the beginning of the 18th century the number of the Jews decreased in Kobrin due to the plague, which spread and took its toll. In 1766 Kobrin changed its status and became a village. At the time of the third division of Poland, Kobrin was given as a present to Soboro, who ordered all its fortresses destroyed. In 1795 Kobrin again became an original city. (Russian Encyclopedia, Petersburg, 1895.)




The History of the Rabbinate Leadership
During the Preceding Centuries

by M. Tzinovitz


In the history of the Rabbinate, we recognize two parts: the beginning of the Rabbinate up to the days of Rabbi Meir Mirim, the author of “Nir Yerushalmi,” and from Rabbi Mirim up to the tragic end of the Kobrin community at the hands of the Nazis, may they be cursed forever.

While we have plenty of knowledge about the second part, we know very little about the first. The sources are very meager. It is not only that we do not have documentation and local records about the first chapter concerning the history of the Rabbinate of Kobrin. Because of the destruction of the community we also do not have sources of the rabbinical literature. After a great deal of research, we did rescue data from the gulf of oblivion via collections of some Rabbis of Kobrin and of some scholars who were born there. Although the list of the Kobrin Rabbis in the first era is far from precise or complete, it does shed some light on the spiritual life of Kobrin in the preceding centuries.

After the decree of 1648, we find the Rabbi Yakov Kapil as the head of the Beit Din (the Jewish Court of Judgement) and also the director of the yeshiva in Kobrin. We are told about the existence of that Rabbi in Kobrin by the Rabbi Yakov Kahana Shapira in his introduction to the book “The Tent of Jacob” (Frankfurt on the Oder [Odra], 1719).


[Page 22]


In his introduction the writer states that he remembers the 1648 decrees from when he was six or seven years old. “And there was killing in the great city of Nemirov and the students ran away and the school was closed for a while.” When the turmoil ceased, David Kahana (the grandson of Rabbi Yitzchak Kahana, the head of the Rabbinical Court of Krakow, the father in law of our great teacher and Rabbi from Lublin) came to his Uncle Yakov Kahana, whose wisdom lit the town of Brisk in Lithuania. At the end of his life he was the head of the Rabbinical court and a mohel (circumciser) in the state of Rissin in Russia (White Russia).

At that time the Moscow Russian War took place in Poland and he wanted to travel to his uncle, Rabbi Lazer, who in his late years resided in the sacred town of Altona. As he states, it was fate, and by the hand of God, that I came to the sacred city of Kobrin and found there the one I love and my kin, the luminary, Rabbi Kapil, the head of the Rabbinical Court in Kobrin. I studied in the yeshiva “Harama,” the great Yeshiva, for about a year. Rabbi Kapil was the head of the Kobrin Yeshiva.

This yeshiva was famous because the author and the Rabbi Kahana Shapira, who studied in this yeshiva, was a very learned Rabbi and the head of the Rabbinical Court in a few other known communities in Poland. The committees representing four counties in the “sacred conference” in the year 1668 called him “the senior, nice, knowledgeable luminary.” Rabbi Joseph Shmuel from Krakow wrote about him, “I knew him because he was an expert on the Torah and knowledgeable about Hassidism. Everything he did he always did for the love of doing, without a thought of a reward.” The head of the rabbinical court of Dafta, Rabbi Meir Ben Binyanmin Wolf from Lublin, who also knew that author, writes about Rabbi Kapil, “And his mouth spoke greatness.” Some other known Rabbis also spoke very highly about him. According to Rabbi Jacob, who was related to Rabbi Kapil, we learn about the great ancestry of that Kobrin Rabbi, and we learn that he belonged to the family of the learned Rabbi Yitzchak Kahana Shapira. The father-in-law of the above mentioned, the head of the rabbinical court of Krakow, the great teacher and rabbi from Lublin, at times brought him to his friends and praised him immensely.

The son of Rabbi Yitzchak, Rabbi David, was the father of Rabbi Yakov, mentioned above, a student in the Kobrin Yeshiva who wrote a book titled, “A Living Water Well” (Krakow, 1616). The book includes new information about the Torah by Avineri Yitzchak Kahana Shapira. The family of Kahana Shapira gave quite a few Torah personalities to the Jewish world. Among them were the genius Rabbi Zalman Sender, a man from Kobrin and the head of the Rabbinical court, renowned in Maltesh and Krinek.


[Page 23]


From the book, “The Writings of the Learned,” by Zvi Horvitz, a Rabbi in Dresden, we know about the Rabbi who was the head of the Rabbinical court, the one Kobrin Rabbi by the name of Rabbi Shlomo. Although we do not have details about his life and his activities in Kobrin, judging from his family ties we learned that he was an important man. This Rabbi Shlomo was the son of Rabbi Abraham Mari, the head of the Rabbinical court of Novhardok and the great child of Rabbi Yakov Mann, the head of the Rabbinical court in Vienna who died there in the year 1648. Rabbi Abraham Aba Mari was descendent from the first union of the father in law of Rabbi Shlomo the head of the Rabbinical court of Zamoshetz and from a second union Rabbi Israel Eser, the head of the Rabbinical court of Lublin the son of Rabbi Moshe the author of “Mahadur Batra.”

The son-in-law of the great Rabbi Abraham Aba Mari of Novordaki had three sons. Two sons were from the first union. One was the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin, Rabbi Shlomo. The other was the head of the Rabbinical court of Deplotchek and the leader of L'vov and a resident of Zalkov – the Rabbi Shimshon. (In Zalkov lived the brother of Rabbi Abraham Aba, Rabbi Yitzchak Yitzik, among the great and most important Rabbis who wrote the book “Glorious City.”) The third son from the second union, Rabbi Israel Easer, was the head of the Rabbinical court of Brisk, Lithuania and Pinsk.

The Rabbi Shlomo, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin, was the father-in-law of Rabbi Chaim Hacohen Rappaport from Zalkov, the son of Rabbi Nachman Rappaport, the head of the Rabbinical court of the Lithuanian Visaki, located near Brisk. That Rabbi Nachman was the son of Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Rappaport, the head of the Rabbinical court of Horadna and the father in law of the officer David described from Zalkov.

It appears that Rabbi Shlomo, the head of the Rabbinical court of Kobrin, lived after Rabbi Kapil mentioned above in that era, approximately 300 years ago. Jewish Kobrin was already famous because of its native son, the famous preacher Rabbi Betzalel Bar Shlomo from Kobrin who became a great preacher for his flock in the Lithuanian Slotzek and in the Polish region. His name was known among all the Jewish communities in Poland as the great preacher, “the one known at every gate.” And he was known in the Jewish communities and the head Rabbis praised him. His books were very famous among the Lithuanian and Polish Jews in those days.


[Page 24]


His first book, “Pelach Harimon” (“The Slice of the Granite”), which contains the nine Darshot, was printed in 1659 in Amsterdam since he was out of the country due to the state of emergency the white Russians and Lithuanian Jews experienced in the years 1656 through 1657. As he described it, “With great effort I used to wander through the Ashkenaz (European) countries.”

After a while we see him return to his homeland, Lithuania, and here he became a preacher in the great and the splendid Jewish community in the sacred city of Slotzek, in the state of Lithuania. Some of the Lithuanian Jews happily contributed money to fund his book, “The Seven Pillars,” and especially the heads and the leaders of the sacred city of Slotzek and the people of that important community. His second book includes great sermons and interpretations originating from the Torah, the Prophets and the Hagiographa, which are based on “The Seven Pillars of the World”: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc.

His books and articles were edited and updated as early as 1664. Although he was young in age it was sensed that he had the wisdom of a much older person. Some even said that he possessed the wisdom of a great Rabbi or a Prophet. Rabbi Betzalel during that same year, 1664, appeared before Rabbi Shlomo from Kobrin, before the Lithuanian committee which was assembled then in Zablodavi. The committee aided the author greatly in helping him publish his book. “I was liked by the committee and the leaders of the state of Lithuania and they contributed a great deal toward the publishing of the book.” He also had the support of the state's Rabbis who were in attendance in the meeting and everyone praised him immensely.

But he was not satisfied with that. He also appeared before the committee of the four countries in that year, in the Gromitz market of Lublin, and that committee also assisted him with the publishing of his book. As he stated, “I think that the officers, the leaders, and the heads of the states of Poland liked me and I feel that is why they helped me.” Among the six rabbis who were on that committee were the very famous Rabbi David Halevi, the author of “The Owner of Seventeen,” from L'vov and Rabbi Moshe, the author of “Mahadura Betera” from Lublin. They wrote that they agreed unanimously that his book was a great one, dealing with elements of the Torah. The sources and the interpretations were written by a learned Rabbi who practiced what he preached.

In his book which he published in 1666 in Lublin, some other corroborations are brought. Among them from the Rabbi Gabriel, the head of the Rabbinical court of Alkosh, “The head of the Ashkalash family,” and Rabbi Chaim Yuda Ben Nisan, who he called “my kin.”


[Page 25]


His third book, “The Sacrifice of Shabbat,” deals with the laws of Shabbat and was printed in the year 1691. in Duharnport. Rabbi Kapil, the author, did not live to see it published. The book is a collection of verses of the Torah and the Kabalah and it includes praises and corroborations from the generation's greatest Rabbis. Among them was Rabbi Naftali Hacohen, the head of the Rabbinical court of Poznan. This famous Rabbi Naftali Hacohen praised the author with the following quotation: “One of the most important people is the preacher Rabbi, who illuminated the path of wisdom.”

Rabbi Naftali was very knowledgeable and he knew how to preach with a contented face while he was praised by everyone. He pleased people and blessed everyone. He fed the hungry on Shabbat and whenever needed. In Rabbi Kapil's book are to be found some verses which throw light on himself and his surroundings. From this book we learn that he was the student of the head of the Rabbinical court of Nemerov. (It is possible that the reference was to the popular Rabbi Michael, who was killed during the era of the 1648 decrees.) As he states, “From what I heard here, the individual was a learned person and a Chassid.” He also adds, “In the splendid and sacred community of Slotzok, the Rabbi and his students used to go from house to house from store to store two hours before Shabbat began to help conclude all work before the arrival of the Shabbat. Let them be blessed for that.”

In the book, “The Sacrifice of the Shabbat,” by the Kobrin Rabbi Betzalel, we find a realistic description of the powerful destruction that resulted from the 1648 and 1649 decrees and the 1657 and 1659 decrees. The writer himself was a witness to the destruction during his youth. He tells us about these horrendous decrees and about the atrocities that were perpetrated on the Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Russian Jews. In the book titled, “And The Hands Are The Hands Of Esau,” he states in painful and sad words, “And for so many years the voice of Jacob cries about the fate that befell our people in our state. They shed our blood like water, the blood of our father's sons, of the righteous men and women, the blood of our innocent children who were strangled, thousands and more of them run over by horses, and the blood of the rabbis and their students who were killed and slaughtered by the cruel and brutal populace. Heads of Jewish courts were killed and schools and congregations desecrated, Torah's scrolls were burned and those who survived were left as orphans. To this day those martyrs lack peace and serenity.”

The catastrophe started a year of mourning and crying on the 20th of the month of Sivan. That day was designated for prayer and fast observed yearly on account of the killing and destruction that happened to us.


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