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[Page 140]

Return to Korelitz

Leah Kornfeld-Lubshansky -- Herzlia

A.

Korelitz was situated in a valley. On the one side, it was closed off by Mount Zapoli, while on the other side, the Rutka River flowed. The other two sides were open to a way called “Napoleon's Tract”. In the middle of the town was a market and shops. On the north side stood two Synagogues; the Old House of Learning and the New House of Learning. Behind the Old House of Learning was the “Chassidim Shtibel” and the well, which provided ample quantities of water. Not far from there was the Bath-house as well as the Cemetery. To the east of the Old House of Learning stood the Elementary School. This whole section was called “Schulhoif”, i.e. the Synagogue Square. On the north side stood the Rabbi's house and Kalman Marshinsky's house. To the west were the house of my parents, Chaim and Chaya-Etta Lubshansky, My Uncle Eliyahu Chaim Osherowitz, my Aunt Shprinza and her husband Alter Friedman and my Aunt Benda and her husband Tzvi Kiblevitz.

On an artificial hill in a central place in the town, there arose in great splendor and luxury the Pravoslavic House of Worship. Surrounding the church was a beautiful ornamental garden with shade-giving trees. The House of Worship's garden was a sort of extension of the Prince's wonderfully beautiful garden. At the other end of this garden, stood his Palace. The road from the town to the Palace was planted with an avenue of Lilac Bushes whose strong and plfragrance filled the space of the town,

The land of Korelitz was fertile and was blessed with plenty of dew and rains.

B.

“How did the Jews of Korelitz earn a living?” my cousin asked me. He was born in Korelitz, left there at an early age and today lives in one of the richer countries. He remembered nothing of the way of life in the town. However, within the perspective of the Atomic Era, it is difficult to understand the concept of living in a small town at that time.

I asked myself the same question: How and from what did our ancestors in Korelitz live in those days, without the transportation networks, without raw materials; without planning and budgets; how did they nevertheless live without newspapers, without review or elections, without factories; how did they keep their food without food-colorings… and without cold-storage?

But they lived nevertheless…

Korelitz did not have any well-known industry -- it did not have any industry at all. There were, however, some things in Korelitz which had a far-and-wide reputation: the Yellow Cheese industry which caused the cheese to be called “Korelitzer Kezelach” (“Korelitz Cheese”). The youth considered this name as an insult.

The Korelitzian Cucumber was also highly regarded in the region. Since our town earned its living in part from agriculture, and since many of the town's inhabitants specialized in growing vegetables, they managed to develop a good variety of cucumber, which became popular in the whole region. The cucumber was the popular Jewish foodstuff at almost all levels of society, almost like the herring. The reason was simple: The cucumber was a cheap and easily available commodity. For the poor man, the cucumber with bread was a meal in itself. The cucumber was eaten fresh in summer and pickled in winter. It was pickled in large wooden barrels and remained faithful to its owner. It did not become spoiled or moldy, and was a tasty foodstuff during the entire winter until the new cucumbers arrived on the market in the new season.

From our distant perspective, the life in the town in those days seems like “living on air”, as if they survived on miracles. However, as we try to approach the reality of life in the town, things become fleshed out. Everything lives before our eyes and we see and understand how each being in the town lived at that time, in the same way as we approach a multi-coloured picture and begin to understand the play of colors in all their hues.

The life of the town followed the conventional rules of a circuit -- the Rabbis, the ritual slaughterers, the teachers, the pharmacist, the doctor and all the services earned their living from the public. They did not, however, have a fixed salary as we understand it today, nor did they have social benefits or vacations. Of course, the did not have strikes either, but they did make a living somehow from the public as is customary in Jewish communities. We loved all our public officials, each for his own peculiar characteristics. There were two Rabbis in Korelitz. One was Rabbi Vernick, who had come from Slonim, and the other was Rabbi Moshe Oberzhansky, a local lad, and a lover of all creatures. We loved the ritual slaughterer, Moshe Avraham Wolpin because of his Zionism and his holy love of all that was connected to the Land of Israel. The ritual slaughterer Alter Mordechovitz was loved because of his love of all his fellow creatures.

We had cattle dealers and grain dealers because our agricultural environment was rich in both products. These dealers used to buy their produce in the region and dispatched it to far-away Germany. Of course, the produce passed through the hands of many intermediaries and large traders before reaching their destinations. A large part of the townspeople were involved in trade and were the owners of small and tiny shops which depended mainly on the Gentile buyers from the nearby villages. These buyers came to town mainly on “Market Days”. They used to bring with them the produce of their fields or farms for sale. In return, they bought in the shops and brought these products home. If “Market Day” was good and successful, then the whole week was successful. However, if there was no turnover on Market Day, there would be no income for the whole week.

Not only the shopkeepers were involved in the “Market Day”. The artisans were also involved in one way or another. It was then that the villagers used to order suits at the tailors or shoes at the shoemakers. We had some excellent tailors who used to make clothes for the gentry, and there were those who used to make the well-known “Peltselen”, which all the villagers used to wear.

This group of artisans and traders used to work busily day and night, in order to produce for the whole region and thus to make a living.

C.

I was born not long before WW1, and while I was still a kid, the war broke out. During the war years, when the town's inhabitants were exiled, we lived in a village near Darchin. In addition to worries about income, housing and health, my parents also had the burden of educating their brood of young children. My eldest brother Shaul, who today lives in South Africa, was sent far away from home to my Aunt Zelda. We, the little ones, were exempt from the burdens of Torah. There was a teacher of Russian in this village, and I was sent to him to learn a bit of knowledge. However, instead of learning, he taught me to cross myself in front of the Icon hanging in the left corner of the room. When I refused to cross myself, he threw me out.

My parents were among the first to return to Korelitz after the war. For the adults it was a return, but not so for us children. Everything was strange to us. We did not know one another. There was neither a school nor any other educational framework.

The returnees started to collect the remnants that remained. They started cleaning up the courtyards, which had been covered in thorns and thistles. They started rebuilding their houses, and we, the children, once more heard the moans of our parents regarding the problem of the children's education. Salvation came from Aaron Yaakov Aaronovitz, who opened the first “Cheider” after the war in his spacious house. This was one of the few houses which remained standing relatively undamaged after the war. The Rebbe, an aging man with a heavy body and a long gray beard, gathered together almost all the children of the town. At first, he taught each child separately, in order to establish each one's quality. He later organized us into groups of three students. My group partners were Shaul Zalmansky and Yisrael Shatskes. There were no books, and when our turn to study came, the Rebbe used to transfer to us the only page on which the Hebrew Alphabet was printed -- to us from a previous group and so on.

When we reached the level of being able to read, things were easier for us, because there was a Siddur (Jewish prayer book) in every Jewish home. After two study “periods” with the “Rebbe”, a school was opened, in which the languages of instruction were Yiddish and Hebrew. My group and I entered the school at the level of grade 3. These are the names of my teachers, the founders of the school and the promoters of education: The principal was Shalom Cohen, the son of the Rabbi. Moshe Eliyahu Shuster was the Nature Studies teacher. Yitschak Meyer Klutsky was the Bible teacher -- he later became a bank manager in the town. “Itske der Melamed” [“Itske the teacher”] (I have forgotten his surname) - his given name was well known. The education of every person in the town measured according to the number of years that he studied under “Itske der Melamed”. Another teacher at the school was Dudy Tsvi Kiblevitz, who taught Torah on a full-time basis until the day he died.

D.

As previously mentioned, our house was near the House of Study. It was a spacious and organized house, and was always filled with gaiety and life. I almost did not know what it was to return to a locked house. The rare occasions on which I found a locked house, I remember to this day. These occasions leave a memory of sadness. I was always happy to return home, because I knew that my moth's kindly eyes would greet me, as well as the gaiety and laughs of my brothers and sisters. I also remember the serious face of my father who worked hard to sustain his family with honour.

Since my parents were busy and occupied during all six weekdays in making a living, the day of rest was very strongly felt. On the Sabbath, the house was especially clean. A white tablecloth was spread over the table on which the candles burned. We wore our Sabbath clothes. Our joyous parents were released from the worries of earning a living on the Sabbath. All these factors inspired in us a festive state of mind. Until this day, I remember the Sabbath in our house as a wonderful revelation of splendor and majesty. The intimacy and “the sitting of brothers together” were the source of the Sabbath happiness. This family discipline was especially kept at the Sabbath meal.

My mother, like all the other Jewish mothers in the town, used to work during the whole week in house matters. However, she always found time to help others. She did this not only in faithfulness, but also with a care and a holy awe which were special. I remember an example: In the house of our neighbors, Malka Riva and Kalman Marashiner, there lived an old woman, by the name of Chana. She was ill with tuberculosis. Her only son had died, and she became bed-ridden from her heavy grief. Malka Riva and my mother turned to an old-aged home in Novogrodok and organized a place for her there. However, until she was transferred there, many days passed,. In the meantime, she had to be cared for and her needs handled. Of course, most of the burden fell on Malka Riva, but my mother was also harnessed for the burden. She used to send food for the ill woman by my hands. Until this day, the words of my mother still ring in my ears when she directed me regarding my behavior with the old woman. “Enter quietly”, she told me, “Don't close the door loudly. Gather the utensils from the previous meal, and take care that you don't drop the plates, which would disturb our neighbour Malka-Riva”. Finally, when I was finally outside, my mother used to run after me and, almost in shame, added: “And try not to come too close to her bed…”


[Page 144]

Portrait of a Town

Raya Schneur Kaplan

Korelitz was one of those towns in Northern Poland which were not indicated on the map. It was a “Shtetl”, but a breathing volcanic Shtetl in its own way; the way of the little places in Poland of that period, with large Jewish populations.

Its wooden houses and its unplanned streets seemed as if they came down from heaven at the Time of Creation. Even the daily routines of life appeared to be forever unchanged. The water drawer used to carry his pails of water from the well on his poles. The laundry was washed by hand and hung on the rooftops for a few days until it dried.

My town, however, did have its requirements, which it needed for its existence in its own way. There were two elementary schools, two synagogues, a Rabbi, two ritual slaughterers, a cemetery, a kindergarten, a high school, a culture house, and a cinema. The were also one doctor, a pharmacy, a dental clinic and one factory. The parents were immersed in their work from morning to evening and, because there was generally little income, the people used to work harder. The artisans were also immersed in their work the whole day. Among these were tailors, shoemakers and blacksmiths. A professional man's workshop was very small, but this was the little world in which all of them lived. The shopkeepers (most of them female) kept their shifts. The women were not content with standing in their shops and waiting for customers. They stood at the entrance of their shops, advertising their wares to the passers- by, so that they should enter and purchase the “inexpensive and high quality” merchandise. At home, the housewives did crushing work. These women stood excitedly by the oven and the stove, raising fire from the damp wood-chips, baking, cooking and frying, and trying to gladden the hearts of their house-holds with special foods, especially made by mother.

The youth of the town wandered around aimlessly. They were the ones who felt the futility and the lack of purpose of the shriveled and meager town. Many of them did their utmost to help their parents. Many assisted in the workshops and followed their parents' trade Most, however, used to wander astray in their lifestyles, unemployed and immersed in their thoughts and their daydreams.

Nevertheless, when we look back, there always arise strong yearnings for the town. Are these just yearnings for the days of our youth? Or are these yearnings for those who lived there and are no more?

Undoubtedly, the main reason for the yearning was in the life of purity and belief which surrounded the town. The Jews of all types, artisans and shopkeepers, were traditional Jews, most of whom dreamed of Zion and Jerusalem. These were innocent, but wise Jews, who were content with what they had, and did not aspire to riches and ease. Our mothers did not dream of or need the luxurious kitchen accessories to which we have become accustomed in modern times. They did not aspire to baking ovens and washing machines. Their thoughts were about raising their children to be healthy and to get satisfaction from them. Our parents were full of love, love for others, love for the source of their origins, and a love for their national values. These Jews always had a place for a wandering Jew to stay, they gave of their food to a poor man, and never complained. It is difficult not to remember and not to love this town, with all its Jews, its houses and its way of life. Because of this, there is a strong feeling of affinity for all those who came from this town and for all memories of those days.

 

On Market Day

On one day of the week, on “Market Day” on Wednesdays in Korelitz, the town woke up from its depression and turned in to a noisy, stormy and colorful town.

Who among us does not remember Wednesdays, which were wholly dedicated to the market? The shopkeepers would get up early, open their shops and prepare their merchandise for sale.

They stood waiting for the farmers who came from the whole region, from the nearby towns and villages, to buy goods for the whole week. They bought cloths, clothes, work- implements and household goods. But they came mainly to sell their own merchandise: the produce of their farms, their fields and their gardens.

The market was flooded with men and women of all types and of all ages, dressed in a variegated manner. Carts loaded with merchandise and harnessed to horses, streamed from dawn onwards to the Town Square. Each shopkeeper occupied his market stall on which he would display his wares.

Horses neigh, cows moo and farmers loudly proclaim and praise their wares. Others go immediately to the bars “to dampen their throats”, while still others turn to the shops and don't miss the opportunity to take whatever is available surreptitiously, under cover of the crowds and the noise.

The excited and perspiring shopkeepers happily and vigorously sell their merchandise, while counting the coins with satisfaction.

The little children come to help their parents. If they cannot sell, they are able to watch over the Gentiles so that they won't steal, G-d Forbid!

We tried as much as we could to help our parents, but we did not always manage to do so. The temptation of the road was very big. How is it possible to stand in one place and look at the gentile while everything around you calls you: Come and see! Feel the merchandise, buy it, meet young people! Look what your friends and acquaintances are doing! Who are they meeting and what are they talking about?? Leave the shop! Nonsense, there is no reason to supervise, no one will take anything!

And why not pass between the stalls, which are loaded with good things: pullets, fowls, ducks, geese, turkeys, calves, cows, foals, horses, and even pigs. Look there at the choice fruit of all types! Their smell is aromatic, and their taste is the taste of heaven!

Well, “Men lozt zich in weg arein” [translator's note - Yiddish phrase of which I don't know the meaning].

Well, you are not alone: herare all the young girls who have already stopped dressing up and preening, and they are all touring among the carts and hunting their quarry.

There were those that succeeded immediately at their first try, and they were already with a boy or a group of boys. Others were pressed, their eyes wide open, casting their bright eyes around them, searching and searching…”

The young boys who were busy at work, stopped working for a moment and went out to the market. They are only flesh-and-blood and their souls are not raisins (“zayer iz niet kein rozinke”). They tour around in groups, with their eyes turning in all directions to look for the fair sex.

Towards evening, the noise calms down. The market starts emptying. The farmers return to their homes. The shops start emptying of people, the youths return to their homes, and the shopkeepers sigh with relief. Today was a successful market day. While the head is heavy and hurts from all the tension, work and noise, the pocket is full, and that is the main thing…

Here and there, a few salt herrings and white bread are bought and sold, and are eaten with great appetite and enjoyment.

After the shops are closed, each shopkeeper goes home with his cash-box, tired and weary, and in his heart one thought only -- to rest after a day of hard work and to gather strength for the next market day on Wednesday.


[Page 147]

When a Visitor Came to Korelitz

Esther Shkolnik-Horowitz - Jerusalem

Korelitz was known as a very hospitable town, A visitor who came to our town was not left alone and lonely. He was taken care of and his needs were met.

Like all the towns in Poland and Lithuania, the town was pleasant and popular among those poor Jews who wandered around from town to town. The first destination of these Jews was, as usual, the synagogue. These people used to come there and, as usual, salvation was not late in coming. When a stranger was seen in the House of Learning, a local resident immediately approached him and, after a few standard questions such as: “Shalom Aleichem, where are you from? How long have you been on your way?”, he used to invite him to his home to eat his fill, so that a Jew shouldn't go hungry, G-d forbid! The housewives were used to these occurrences and didn't ask questions. It had been the custom for many generations that a Jew would come home from the synagogue, accompanied by a “guest”. There were “Weekday guests” and “Sabbath guests”. The housewife who prepared the meals for the family did not scrimp in her preparations. There was always place for another person at the table.

Another sort of “guest” were the Yeshiva Bochers. These were youths who came from far away to study to study Torah , either with a famous “Melamed” (teacher), or merely to devote himself to the study of Torah at the town's the House of Learning. These youths arrived without concern for sustenance, since it was customary to eat at the homes of local residents This type of arrangement was called, in Yiddish, “Essen Tog”, i.e., on each day the young man would eat at a different home. These days were arranged on a permanent basis. A householder who took upon himself to feed a “Yeshiva Bocher” on a certain day had to feed him during the whole year on the same day every week. The well known song by Avraham Reizen was based on this concept of “Yeshiva Bocher days” from that period: “Essen tog shlingen trerren” [** translator's note - I don't understand the Yiddish **]. These young men came from good Jewish homes, and they were not accustomed to eating in the homes of strangers, even though they were well fed and their hosts tried to ease their longings for their mothers' homes. These hosts tried to turn them into independent adults who knew how to look after themselves.

Apart from the things which were customary in all Jewish towns and cities, Korelitz was known for its more modern hospitality. This was hospitality for educated young men who came to the town for varying periods of time. In Korelitz, various societies were formed, bearing the names of those who organized them; for example, the “society” for meetings and recreation which are common in Israel today. Thus, there were the groups of Zlatke Beigin, Leah Kaplan, Menucha Abramovitz, Riva Trivetsky, Liba Nisselevitz and others.

People coming to the town could easily find place at one of these societies, each to his taste end level of education. It was also an experience for the local society to receive a new guest from the outside, who used to add his characteristics to the ongoing lifestyle of the town. People used to take interest in such a young man who was received into the society, and who was in town for some purpose or other. He was never left alone. They organized a home for him in which to eat and drink and even organized some suitable company for him. In the nearby towns, you could hear all sorts of stories about the good food that was eaten at the Sabbath meal in Korelitz -- Gefilte Fish, the traditional Cholent, the Oil with Bulbetchkes, the Bebelach, the Kneidlach, the stuffed Kishke, the aromatic Tsimmes, the sweet Pie and, of course, the tasty Compote.

Even this was not enough. The guest who came to our town, used to leave not only with good impressions, a full stomach, and pleasant experiences, but also with an additional name, i.e. a nickname.

The nickname was generally given to the guest immediately on his appearance in the town. For this purpose, there was a “Bunch of Clowns”, as it was generally called. They used to meditate about the characteristics of a new guest immediately on his arrival, in an almost official style… A messenger of the society came to the place where the visitor was staying and tried to judge his qualities. Was he tall or short, fat or thin, intelligent or stupid? Finally, after consultations with the society, a temporary nickname was found. However, during the man's sojourn, his permanent nickname was invented, based on his “Topography”.

Thus, every guest used to go out happy and joyful with a nickname which stayed with him for life…

[**Translator's note: pages 149-160 are in Yiddish**]


[Page 149]

Occupations of the Korelitz Jews

by Yaakov Avromovitch - Navah Oz

Translated by Harvey Spitzer

Korelitz was a small town of many Hassidim and craftsmen. All the residents had a source of income. Some made a living by growing vegetables in small gardens. During the season, Jewish children would also work in the gardens. Cucumbers from Korelitz were sent to Vilna, Warsaw and other places.

The peasants from the surrounding villages used to bring wool on market days. Jewish tradesmen would buy it and the wool would be processed by machine in the small town.

The orchard keepers would lease orchards from Gentile men of leisure. Jewish boys would also work picking fruit which would be sent to the big cities.

Jews also had dairy concessions. They processed Dutch-type cheese in cellars especially made for that purpose where the cheese was regularly checked and assorted. Cheese of the best quality was transported to the big cities. Dutch-type cheese from Korelitz was renowned and had a good name in the area.

There was a row of all kinds of stores in the center of the town. Wares of all kinds were displayed in big markets on Mondays and Wednesdays. Christians from the surrounding villages would travel to Korelitz to sell a variety of products. They would then spend their money in the Jewish stores.

The grain merchants did their business for the most part before the Christians came into town. The merchants would buy up their grain before the Christians arrived in town.

Butchers, besides having meat markets and living off the patronage of the town residents, also made a living by buying live cattle. The animals were displayed in the large markets in Korelitz, and many merchants would travel to Korelitz from distant places.

There were also carpenters' workshops. Some carpenters would go out to the nearest villages for an entire week. They returned home on Friday in order to be together with their family on the Sabbath. They would bring home the best of everything: butter, chickens, eggs, bread, potatoes, etc. They also brought peddlers.

Blacksmiths worked there too. Hammers and anvils rang out mainly at the time of the grain harvest. Many Christians would go to Korelitz to sharpen their sickles and scythes. Lines of farmers stood at the blacksmiths' at that season.

Tailors, shoemakers and cap makers worked feverishly mostly before the holidays when the residents of the town were expected to dress up in new suits of clothes, new shoes and new hats… Whenever people met in the street, they would ask one another: “Who sewed for you? ” and they would wish each other a “Wear it well! ”

Michael Shuster's lumber yard permeated the town with the fragrance of pine boards. Those living at the other end of the town enjoyed the healthy scent of pinewood coming from the lumber yard which Eliahu Seilovitzki made beyond the town limits. However, he wasn't successful and went into the grain business instead.

The residents of the town lived like one family. People would help each other. A saying went around, “One pair of shoes for the entire Zalamanke Street.”

Steam mills - On one side, Yitzchak Stoler and his partners; on the other side, Alex Srebrenik and Yossel Bernstein. The mills were steam operated. The water mill, which belonged to Yisrael-Michel Slotzki and his partner Ezra Pamertzik, worked on less power. Many peasants with fully packed bags of grain would stand around the mills, waiting in turn to have their cereals ground. How we miss our beloved little town of Korelitz with its dear fellow Jews!

A Section of Mill Street


[Page 151]

The Fire Brigade - Volunteer Firemen in Korelitz

by Yaakov Avromovitch - Navah Oz

Translated by Harvey Spitzer

My father, Layzer, of blessed memory, was a house economy officer in the fire brigade. When the officers grew old and died, there were new officers.

I remember the new officers: chairman - Eliasberg, druggist; chief -Dovid Slutzki; deputy chief -Savelia Klatzka; adjutant - Mordechai Benin; managers - Gertz Namiat, Reuven Perevelutzki; commander of first unit - Yisrael Izrealit; commander of second group - Chaim Avramovitch; commander of third unit - water manager, Baruch Tsalkovitch; band leader (formerly Shimon Miller).

Fire Brigade Members
From right: Leibel Perevelutzki, Avraham Kaplan, Eliezer Avramovtich, Ozer Kaplan, Getzel Yelin, Eliahu Meites

 

Whenever there was a rehearsal, I would come to listen. They wouldn't accept me in the fire brigade because I was still too young. I was envious of the other firemen when I saw them in their uniforms with their shiny buttons and red-rimmed navy blue cuffs. I would always stand and watch their drills as they pulled themselves up the ropes, climbed up the ladders and worked with the water pumps.

And so time went by. People got older. The chief, Dovid Slutzki, called me over and said, “Yankel, you will take over the position of house economy commander and be responsible for the brigade's inventory”.

My work consisted of the following tasks: to see to it that the hose didn't leak, the wagons were in good condition, the wheels were painted, the axels were greased, the barrels on both wheels were always filled with water and that the water pumps were always in good condition. What I could fix myself - fine! What I couldn't, I should get a worker to make the repairs. In case of a real fire, all the tools should be ready for the work of extinguishing the blaze.

“This is an inheritance from your father,” he added.

I told him that everything would be carried out properly. Thereupon, he gave me my first order: to go into a store and get cloth for a uniform and a cap. I immediately got material and shiny buttons which I brought to Shlomke Kabat, the tailor. As for the cap, I brought the cloth to Moshe-Hillel Kirzshner for him to make. My joy was indescribable.

I was in the fire brigade more than I was at home. I painted the wagons and wheels, greased the axels, saw to it that the barrels were always filled with water, kept the hoses in good repair so they wouldn't leak, saw to it that the ladders were always in good condition, that the axels weren't broken and would hold firmly to their wooden shaft and that the water pumps were working properly.

I had a good teacher. He was Noach Gershnovski. His house was opposite the fire brigade and he had the key. He would always come and look around. He taught me what I had to do and also lent a hand.

Fire drills and rehearsals were always held on Sundays. Sunday morning, Yoshe Gershnovski would give a signal on his instrument. He would go from street to street, reminding people to attend the drills. When he got older, his job was taken over by his brother Yudke, Dovid Lifschitz and also Leibe Izachovski. All the fire brigade members would gather together with the officers in the fire brigade yard which was on Toibe Street.

 

The Parade Through the Streets

Reuven Benin, the adjutant, was first to stand in full fire brigade uniform. He would sometimes ride on his bicycle. The band director, Baruch Tzalkovitch, walked about two meters away, followed by the fire brigade band which had a very good name.

Moshe Gershnovski - clarinet; Noach Gershnovski- trombone; Yoshe -cornet; Gedaliahu the Shoemaker's four sons also belonged to the band. The fifth son, Yankel, was in the Ladasvinkas company. Their father, Gedaliahu, was devoted heart and soul to the fire brigade.

The other members of the band were Aharon Lifschitz's four sons: Yitzchak -; Berl - clarinet; Dovid - tenor sax; Dan-Yeshayahu Gershnovski, Markel Gershnovski, Avrahomel Lifchon - drums; Ozerovski and Idl Savitzki - cymbals.

The officers walked behind the band. Behind the officers was the commander of the Ladasvinkas group, R. Perevelutzki, followed by his group who were the first workers at a fire. All of them were robust fire brigade members with their brass helmets and axes hanging from the leather bands around their waist on the left side.

The second group “botchnikes” - i.e. those who worked with the water pumps. The first - Yisrael Izraelit, and behind him was his group wearing uniforms.

The third group - water suppliers, commander - Ch. Avramovitch followed by his group.

The band would play and then march through the streets keeping in time to the beat. Our dear residents of Korelitz would welcome us with applause.

 

Drills

After marching through the streets of the small town, they came back to the fire brigade. They would connect the four-wheeled wagon [to the ____ ] behind the groups. On the wagon were loaded big ladders, hooks, hoses and then fire brigade tools: water pumps, several iron barrels, several wooden barrels painted red and decorated with white on two wheels. They would go to the river and conduct drills so that they would know how to manage when there was a fire. Each division with its leaders would perform the drills diligently.

The fire brigade was maintained for the most part by the residents of Korelitz, who paid monthly taxes. The Korelitz administration also helped. The town judge, Suchozsheivski, belonged to the authorities as well. There were cases involving residents who were unwilling to pay their taxes.

When there was a practice, they would place a big ladder against the house of a resident who refused to pay his taxes. They would drag out the hoses with the ________ on the roof and put them directly down the chimney. The water pump was ready to deliver water. The “patient” would see that he had no choice: there would soon be water in his house. He had to pay for all the time he was in arrears.

The Fire-Brigade and the Band

In front from right, sitting - first row: Moshe Lifschitz, Moshe Gershnovski, Berl Lifschitz, Baruch Tzalkovitz, Yoshe Gershnovski, Henech Yoselovtich, …. , Noach Gershnovski.
Second row: Avraham Lifchin, Markel Gershnovski, Yona Yelin, ……, Avromovitch, Moshe Stoler, Motel Levin, Chaim Dushkin, Alter Greenfeld.
Third row: Yisrael Izraelit, Mordechai, Reuven Begin, Chaya-Leah Kaplan ( Shereshevski), Leah Trayevitzski, Reuven Perevelutzki, Savelia Klatzka. br> Fourth row: Gershovitz, Mordechai Mordchovitch, Shmuel Yankelevitch, Yitzchak Stoler, Anshel Arvromovitch, Shlomo Gertzovski, Moshe Lifchin, Avraham Berman, ……. , Shaul Lovchanski, Yehuda, Motel Mordchovitch, Choneh (?), Lifchin, Avromovitch, Yaakov Gershnovski, ……., Yosef Lifchin, Bragel (Christian).
Fifth row: Chaim Berkovitch, Yeshayahu Gershnovski, Yitzchak Stoler, Benzion Golkovitch, Yoel Meyerovitch, Motel Izechovski, Alter Avromovitch.


[Page 155]

Theatres

by Yaakov Avromovitch - Navah Oz

Translated by Harvey Spitzer

Artists passing through Korelitz would perform with the fire brigade. All the musical instruments would be taken out. There was a stage especially made for theatrical productions. The fire brigade would receive payment for their services.

There was a dramatics club in Korelitz which would put on shows. The money taken in would go to the fire brigade. Alter Boyarsky was the first manager. When he left for Argentina, Sovelia Klatzka became the manager.

There were markets twice a week in Korelitz. Christians would sometimes get drunk and start behaving wildly. A tumult would ensue. Some of the Jews would close their shops and run off. An alarm would suddenly be sounded and all the firemen would be on the scene at once. When there was an alarm, the firemen had the right to seize horses belonging to the peasants in the market wherever they could, and they immediately went into the market with water pumps and barrels of water. When the order was given, they would begin pouring water until the Christians left the market and things calmed down.

Our fire brigade also received a mechanical pump from the security department and was then on equal footing with the larger fire departments. Our fire brigade would go out on calls to fight fires in other small towns. Our firemen would push their way into the burning house with axes, iron bars and hooks. They would tear apart the house and pour water on the flames until the fire was quenched.

Our beloved Yisrael-Yudel Efroimski, chairman of the workers' union, would sit in the ticket office at the fire brigade house whenever there was a show. He would sell the tickets with great devotion. When there were a lot of people in attendance, he would say, “The audience was quite large and so was the cashier's box.”


[Page 156]

Sports Groups in Korelitz

by Yaakov Avromovitch - Navah Oz

Translated by Harvey Spitzer

There was a soccer team in Korelitz called “Maccabi”. The playing area was at the Poplava fields. People played even when there was only a little time. They also kicked the ball around in the market place. One group of players stood on one side of the shops, and another group stood on the other side. This is how they practiced kicking the ball to one another.

The team's inventory of items was kept at Yeshayahu Bolotnitzki's shop in the center of the market place. The uniform consisted of a small _______ shirt and short pants. Inscribed on the shirt was a Star of David and “Maccabi”- Korelitz. The Jewish flag was blue and white.

They used to go to Novogrudek and Turetz to play. There was also a Christian soccer team in Korelitz under the direction of Tadek Yozkevitch, the nobleman's son. The Jewish team would compete with them, too.

I recall and incident: It was a Sunday. Mordechai Krolevitzki (today Malchieli) came to Korelitz as a guest from Israel. As it happened, there was a game with the local Christians. Mordechai also took part in the game. Both teams met on the field. The Jewish team in blue and white outfits; those on the other team wore red and white clothing.

They began playing. It was a relentless struggle. Both teams wanted to beat the other. Our team won after a hard game. The Christians didn't like losing, and a fight broke out. Mordechai Malchieli (Krolevitzki) broke the bones of a player on the other team. But the winners were the Jews!!

A volley ball team was formed at my initiative. We collected money and purchased a ball. My brother Gavriel, Shaul Zalmanski and I knitted a net. Other players were also eager to help.

We made two light posts having iron tips at the bottom and two hooks on the top. One of the team members, Berl Lubchanski, did the iron work free of charge. The volley ball team's inventory of items was kept in my house. The players gathered together near my house.

The male team members would take the nets; the female members would carry the lighter things. We would all go together to the playing site on Zafol Hill where there were markets for cattle, sheep, horses, etc. Naturally, the place wasn't clean. We cleaned it up right away and made marks, boundaries and a place for the center. We stuck the poles into the ground with the iron tips, spread out the net and everyone took their place. The game started when the whistle was blown.

There were six players on each team. Everyone played enthusiastically. Many spectators would come to the game. Later, a team of younger players was formed. We played whenever we had free time.

Each of the team members had a job to do. Whoever came first saw to it that the place was clean and that it was even marked out with chalk.

We used to go out to contests in the near-by towns, such as Turetz, Neishtat and Lubtch. I remember that one Sabbath day, a team from Korelitz including myself went to Turetz to play. When the Jews in Turetz saw us, they began shouting, “Gentiles! Will you play on the Sabbath?!!”

They started throwing stones at us. We had to leave Turetz, but I never lost the spirit to play.

There was also a team of Christian players in the Polish public school. Mr. Delenbe was the school principal. We, the Jewish older team, often competed against them in the public school yard where there was a place to play. We would beat them quite often. There were good players on our team. Players from the high school in Novogrudek came to the Polish public school. The principal of the public school, Mr. Delenbe, would send for a few of the better players on our team such as myself, Gitel Kivelevitch, Motke Poluzshki, Gavriel Avramovitch and would ask us to play with their players. The more we took part, the more they would come out the winners. They were so happy, they didn't know what they could do for us.

The number of members of that section of players grew from day to day. The police chief's wife began to play ball with us and became a steady player. Thanks to that, we were able to take advantage of the influence of having the police chief's wife on our team. And that was very useful to us on more than one occasion.

The games were mainly played on the Sabbath. This, of course, came to the rabbi's attention. The town rabbi, Rabbi Vernik, of blessed memory, called in a few of the team members and said that while sport was actually very good for one's health, we should nevertheless avoid playing on the Sabbath. We followed his advice somewhat, but it was hard for us to carry out his request. On the Sabbath, we would play behind the town on the Poplav fields.

It is worth noting that the Christian players liked me because I played well. When the Germans occupied our section, the Christian players were asked to draw up a list of the Jewish players. This was done so the Germans could take them out of Korelitz first to be murdered. The Christian players did not include me and my brother in the list. And thanks to that, I had the opportunity to run away and remain alive.

Winter Sport


[Page 159] [Page259]

A Drill in Town

by Michael Begin - Jerusalem

Translated by Harvey Spitzer

It's a hot, summer, Sunday market day in town. The few Gentiles who came to the market are going home. The woman shopkeepers are seated next to their closed stores, counting their day's earnings. They exchange a little gossip. Everyone in town is busy at work. The youngsters, however, go to the little river behind the _______ for a little swim and to cool off after the hot summer day. In the distance, one can see Kalman the ______ swimming on his back, his white beard sliding over the shallow water no longer visible. A few boys are playing “______________”, chasing one another and trying to catch up with one another. .

The atmosphere on the shore is joyful and boisterous. The women's section is a little further off. Among the girls bathing there are Chaya-Leahke with her blond hair, Lola and others. Some of the boys like Kalman, Yona and others are rascals and are bold enough to cover their faces with mud and start swimming over to the women, thinking that no one will recognize them. But, all of a sudden, there's a scream and a shriek. The boys turn around from fright and swim back to the shore, terrified.

Suddenly, a signal is heard. Yoshinke, Gedalia's son, holding his clarinet (cornet) goes by, dressed up in a pair of lovely, shiny boots. His blond hair is combed very smoothly and he calls the members of the fire brigade for a rehearsal. He gives the first signal near his home on Toib Street. Everyone has already heard him. He goes on further towards the right to the market place and gives his familiar signal. From the market place he goes to Zalamanke Street. Children run after him from all sides and Yoshinke is beaming with joy. Who is equal to him? He raises his cornet and doesn't stop blowing until he turns subtly around with his trumpet and skillfully plays a melody which he composed himself. He finally gives another loud signal and when he is already convinced that everyone has heard him, goes on his way.

All of the firemen are now gathering for the drill. Decked out in shiny, brass helmets, they take out the barrels of water and the fire extinguishers from the station, and are ready for further orders from the authorities.

Itche the Mute comes running up out of breath like a chief officer. He begins to busy himself with the long, canvas hose which he lays out on the street and checks to see that everything is all right. Then he rolls the hose up so that it is ready for use. The “general staff” arrives - Shefke Klatchke, accompanied by Mordechai Raube. The firemen stand in two rows like soldiers. They show proper respect for the commanders especially for the top general, H. Eliasberg.

The drill begins under the direction of Baruch Pines. The parade starts out, led by the band, followed by the “generals”. A little further away march the firemen, keeping in step with the music like soldiers. Children run after them from all sides and women holding children are among the large crowd which accompanies the fire brigade. All are thrilled to be at the festive parade on a weekday in the small town.

They soon put up the big ladders against one of the town roofs and deliver water. Quick as a cat, one of the firemen climbs up the ladder and, in a hoarse voice, keeps on giving an order - “vada” (water)! He sprinkles water in every direction and also sprinkles the crowd with cold water “by mistake”. Again a shout with a hubbub.

When it already grew dark quite late at night, when the fire was already put out and the drill came to an end, an order is given to bring the apparatus back in proper condition. The firemen line up in rows and the band plays one of its familiar marches. The fire brigade then marches back to the station, keeping to the beat of the music, and the rehearsal is over.

Dear town of Korelitz, you were once alive but no more. Your people, institutions, characters and personalities are no more. Your “common people” and sacred objects are no more, but you will always remain in our memory.


[Page 161]

On the Main Road

Arye Shalit-Karolevsky - Raanana

Korelitz is situated on the main road from Novogrodok to Minsk. As a result, the town was an important way station for all the “Magidim”, the “Emissaries” and all the paupers of the whole region. In Korelitz, there was a scholar by the name of Reb Aaron Yaakov Davidovitz, who used to take care that all those passing through the town would find board and lodgings. On Sabbath eves, he used to ensure at the synagogue that each guest would find a householder who would take him home for the Sabbath meal. When there were many guests, and if he did not find enough householders for them all, he used to take those remaining to his own home. His wife and children were already used to this situation and did not complain. They shared their food with them and accepted matters with joy.

 

Mutual Aid

The characteristic lines of Korelitz are Mutual Aid. Mutual Aid was expressed in the life of the town in many areas, and this was what gave the color of “All Israel are guarantors for one another” in tangible manner. One man's devotion to his friend was expressed in mutual aid. This impressed itself also on the younger generation in the future. The Pioneer Youth, which arose in Korelitz, were devoted heart and soul to the Zionist Ideal. They were among the first to emigrate to Palestine.

Korelitz was not a rich town, but the Jews lived in dignity, and those who were poverty-stricken were honorably assisted. There were those who took care that no Jewish house would lack the essentials for the Sabbath and that the children would not lack clothes, food or education. They were also supplied with Matzos and wine for the Passover, and potatoes and firewood in winter.

 

The Law and Zionism

At that time, the authorities did not approve of Zionist activities in our region. Their anger, however, was most aroused against Moshe Avraham the ritual slaughterer. He was a Zionist zealot, a sermonizer and an unlimited activist. The Regional Governor came especially to the town and stayed at our place. He invited the only policeman in the place and gave him the job of investigating who was this Jew who was openly propagandizing. When the Governor left, the policeman asked my father what Zionism was. And what was this Jew doing, the one who was preaching so hard for Zionism? My father told him that this was a poor Jew who was collecting money for himself so that he could go and see the holy places in the Holy Land. “If so”, said the policeman, “I am also a Zionist, because I also wish to visit the Holy Places”. He abandoned the whole matter of investigating Moshe Avraham the Zionist.


[Page 162]

Cucumbers

Gutke Nochumovsky-Gantzvitz

People in Korelitz were also active in agriculture. I remember that my father had a few hectares of land. He used to cultivate it devotedly and faithfully. I especially remember the enthusiasm for growing cucumbers, so much so that our town was famous for its pleasant cucumbers. Not only did they find their way onto the tables of the local Jews, but were also exported overseas and to many places in Poland. The reputation of Korelitz cucumbers rose so high that many Jews who grew cucumbers set up marketing “partnerships”. I remember an incident which aroused the innocent Jews. In the common warehouse where the good small cucumbers were kept, large yellow cucumbers were found. Apparently, one of the partners had smuggled them in, hoping to get rid of them in this way. The Jewish “farmers” could not forgive the one who had threatened to the high reputation of our cucumbers.

We, the children, were faithful partners in the cucumber operations. Firstly, the work in the fields captivated us, mainly during the harvest. The days of harvest were truly like a holiday to us. On those beautiful summer days, the cucumbers ripened, and we put our hands between the large leaves to check whether the fruit was ripe and ready to pick. Of course, we were not connoisseurs, and many young cucumbers found themselves directly in our mouths… without washing or blessing…

[Translator's note: All Yiddish from last paragraph page 162 to first two paragraphs page 172]


[Page 162]

My Visit to Korelitz in 1937

Vital Arieli - Netanya

Translated by Harvey Spitzer

Five years have already gone by since I left my small town of Korelitz. It wasn't easy for me to part with my family, all my friends and beloved and dear people. It was even harder, however, to adjust to the new country, to our living conditions, to foreign people, to another language and other customs. The whole time I lived and breathed with the past, with the small town of Korelitz. Standing before my eyes was the small town, its majestic landscape, the people, houses and lanes.

In 1937 I had the opportunity to travel to Poland on a small ship, the “Har Zion”. I took my small son, packed the necessary things and gifts and started out on my way. The trip lasted 8 days. The closer I got to Korelitz, the more impatient I grew to see those near to me.

And there I was in Warsaw - another kind of air, other people, another language. My brother-in-law and my sister Merke were waiting for me in Novoyelnia. Our meeting was heartfelt and touching. We spent the night at our Aunt Shayna's with her son and daughter. Although I was very tired from the long trip, we stayed up all night, talking non-stop until the morning, when we left for Novogrudek. It just happened that it was a Thursday market day. Devorah Falozsheski knew of my coming. She left her business and was waiting for me at the bus stop. We went to her house, waiting for the bus from Korelitz. We met acquaintances from Korelitz on the bus: Feivel Nisselevitch and other good friends. We chatted so much that we didn't realize that the trip was over so quickly. From time to time, my child asked me in Hebrew: “What are they talking about? Where are we? What is this place? ” As we were entering Korelitz, he noticed pigs in the yards of the Gentiles. He was very surprised and said, “How many dogs are here?” When I translated what he said to the passengers on the bus, they all laughed a lot. And there we were in Korelitz. I felt like a guest the first few days, but little by little, I got into the normal routine of small town life. I only spoke Hebrew with my son and with my cousin, Moshe Perevelotzki.

I told everyone about our small and lovely country- about its mountains and valleys, kibbutzim and moshavim (collective settlements), about Jordan and Jerusalem, about the new towns and settlements which were being built up everywhere. Everyone listened attentively to what I had to say about the Land of Israel, which was both near and far away.

They prepared the best food the first Sabbath I was there. All my relatives and acquaintances gathered in the house, and anyone who had relatives in the Land of Israel came to get or send a greeting. I remember that among the guests were my Uncle Leibe with Elka and their children. Reuven Perevelotzki with his family, Gershon Falozsheski and Esther, the Levit family, Dovid Nisselevitch and Saraka, Kaltzitzki and family, Lifke Beigin and Zlatka, Rabbi Alter Mordichovitch, the ritual slaughterer, with his wife, Rabbi Moshe Avraham Valfin, the ritual slaughterer. I treated the men to cigarettes from the Land of Israel and they were very happy with them.

I would sit and chat a lot with Dushke Avramovitch every day. I also used to chat a lot with Mushke Shuster, Shlomke Averzshanski, the Efraimski family and others. I think there wasn't a single acquaintance in the town with whom I didn't chat then. My former friends - boys and girls - would come over and we would go out for a walk together. Many of my acquaintances made special receptions for me. Among these were Gittel Kaplan and Feigel Kaganovitch. Lola Trayevetzki came especially from Baronovitch to see me. Merka Izraelit came especially from Mir.

I told them about the new Jewish cities and towns which were being built and especially about Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Each one imagined that the Jewish country was nothing less than a paradise, and many of them dreamed of moving to Israel and envied me because I already lived there.

My family was overly happy with my coming to visit. They looked at my child as if he were an angel speaking Hebrew. My little boy quickly made friends with the Korelitz children and had even begun speaking Yiddish.

The time went by quickly and, unfortunately, we had to get ready to go back. I naturally promised everyone that I would come again as a guest. I couldn't imagine that that would be my last visit to Korelitz and that I would never again see my dear people, my family, and that I was parting with them forever.

The Holocaust came and destroyed our small town together with its dear Jews. Only my father and a few acquaintances managed to escape and come to our country. My father lived in Israel for 18 years, but his thoughts were always there in Korelitz. Even before his death, he still spoke about Korelitz.

Everything went up in flames. Only their memory has remained for us to cherish.

 

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