Leah Kornfeld -Lubchanski - Herzliya
Translated by Harvey Spitzer
Not far from the open road to the small town of Mir, several tens of meters from Perevelutzki's house, stand three trees, two of which reach up to the sky, with many branches and fresh, green leaves aglow from the golden rays of the sun. Many such trees grow there in that section. There were times when I even bore a hatred to them.
The first in a row of standing, hunchbacked trees is mine. It belongs to my feelings. I took care of it with my own hands.
I remember one day when we assembled in the large hall of the Povshechne synagogue, each class in its place standing in rows. The school principal, Mr. Zolmbe, comes out of the office and says, "Children, tomorrow you have a day off from school. Tomorrow we're going to plant trees on the border of the streets in Korelitz. Those of you who want to take part in planting trees should come tomorrow afternoon with planting tools. And so we set out, loaded down with spades and axes via Ogrodnik to the Pritzonevitch small woods. And on the way, I was chatting with Nechama Meyerovitch, and when we got to the little woods, we saw the last of our group vanish, just as if the woods had swallowed them up. We were afraid to go any deeper into the woods and went back. We returned over the road which connected Ogrodnik with Korelitz, passing by Yisrael Slotzki's mill and through the miller's inclined street. The frolicking sounds of children playing have remained in my memory to this very day as they slid down the hill on their little sleds on frosty, wintery evenings.
But this time, going through Vilner Street, there was no joy in my heart. Due to my own carelessness, I missed the opportunity to decorate the naked streets of Korelitz with trees. There was no reason to be sorry, however, because the pupils from the lower grades went out to plant trees the next day, and my friend Chayke Dushkin and I joined them in planting trees.
The sapling we planted didn't live very long. A cruel hand tore it out of the ground. We planted another sapling, carefully tying the branches around with little ropes and securing it to the ground with stones. We carried water for it from the river more than once to quench its thirst so that it would not dry out. We hoped that when the tree grew and put on fresh, green leaves, we would come and sit under the tree to protect ourselves from the burning sun.
Once, when we passed by, we noticed our little tree standing bare. There were no more ropes by which it was tied to the ground. But, as if on spite, it grew high, with great audacity, to heaven. Is our tree still standing there? Don't say it's not there.
Sitting from right - first row: Chaim Bolotnitzki, Malka Rabinovitch, ……., Elka Mordchovitch, Shifra Rakovitzki, Gutel Mordchovitch, Yitzchak-Berl Gantzbitch;
Second row: Moshe Koznitch, Yarka Yelin, Elka Koznitch, Solomon ( teacher), Raisel Niselbitch, Berl Lubchanski, ……
Third row: Yosef Portnoi (teacher), Grisha, Yaakov Avramovitch, Rivka Yelin, Menucha Avramovitch, Shlomo Davidovski (teacher), Yehudit Karlitzki (Golkovitch), Chaya Nignivitzki, Goldberg (teacher)
Fruma Gulkovitch-Berger, New York
Translated by Harvey Spitzer
Despite the many years that have gone by since the Holocaust, time has not erased our love for the way of life that once characterized our small town. We were all one big family.
Korelitz Jews were not especially wealthy, but they had a good reputation as people who were always concerned about one another. They empathized with someone's sorrow or trouble, and they rejoiced together on happy occasions. The quality of helping someone in need was always developed among the Jews in Korelitz.
In order to ease the difficult material situation of the needy, a people's bank and benevolent fund were created in the small town. Both of these charity institutions were very important for many Jews of Korelitz. The bank was created from subsidies received from the Yakopa organization, whose main committee was in Vilna. Thanks to the energetic efforts of certain activists who were concerned about the welfare of the needy, the doors of the bank were always open for those in need of loans.
Here we should mention the manager and bookkeeper of the bank, Yitzchak- Meyer Klatzkis, a former Jewish teacher, an intelligent, conscientious person who performed his work with love and devotion. The management of the bank was responsible for supervising the bank's work which involved many technical things. For the most part, the bank's administration was made up of three or four officers. I don't remember exactly who they were, but I think the following people belonged to the directorate: G. Namiot (druggist), Gezl Relien (merchant) and T. Kletzitzki (merchant).
Whoever needed a bank loan had to have two guarantors considered trustworthy. The guarantors naturally had to sign. Interest was charged for the borrowed money, but if the borrower was, God forbid, unable to pay back the loan, the co-signers were responsible for covering the debt.
The bank's conditions were often too strict for many poor people, and so a benevolent fund was set up in the town. The fund actually belonged to the handworkers' union. One could take out a short-term, interest free loan, and craftsmen and those belonging to the poorer layer of the population especially enjoyed the benefits of the charity fund.
The benevolent fund was created thanks to money sent from America and from money raised in the town itself for that purpose through various funds and enterprises. Our dramatics club, for example, put on plays, and the proceeds were entirely reserved for the benevolent fund.
The following persons belonged to the management of the fund: Berl Busel, Yaakov Gershinovski, Yisrael Rudel, Efroimski and Berl Falushski. The above-mentioned people accomplished very much and were very active in the area of creating money funds for the benevolent fund charity and managed its operation.
The directorate would often change, of course, and therefore, anyone who was interested and capable of working in the fund would be able to do so. Both institutions - the people's bank and the charity fund - were very important for the Jewish population of Korelitz, both for the businessman and craftsman who often needed loans. The Korelitz Jews knew that there was a place to turn in time of trouble.
This is now all destroyed. No more Jews on the streets of the town - no more Jewish institutions.
Fruma Gulkovitch-Berger, New York
Translated by Harvey Spitzer
With these lines, I will eternalize the amateur theatrical performers from Korelitz and, at the same time, show the creative powers and the contributions of the Korelitz dramatics club for the development of Jewish culture in our small town.
Our small town was on a high cultural level. We had talented and intelligent young people who strove to create something. There were youth organizations bustling with activity in their meeting places. One of the most important and respectable youth groups was the dramatics club, which brought together amateur theatrical performers of the Yiddish stage.
I was the youngest of the third generation of performers in that ensemble. We used to put on Yiddish plays, which brought joy and festivity to young and old alike in our small town. This was the only entertainment of its kind because a troupe of professional actors seldom came to us. There were no movies either. The intake of our ensemble was used for important aims.
Our dramatics club would perform plays and dramas by classical Yiddish playwrights and dramatists.
Many very talented performers who could be compared to professional actors grew up in our dramatics club. Among these were the following:
Berl Falushski, who starred in Koldunia in the role of the witch. Although I was still too young at the time, the picture of the witch as performed by Berl still moves before my eyes today. And together with him, the whole ensemble held the audience spellbound.
Shefe Klatchka, a precious personality in the art of theatre. He was the director and, at the same time, played some of the most difficult roles. He influenced and held the whole ensemble together. We all listened to his remarks and directions with the utmost respect.
Chaim Bosel, a teacher at the Jewish school who would also find time to act in the Yiddish theatre. Many of us remember him in the role of Batiushka Prokop in the play Chasia the Orphan.
Berl Avrinski - one of the rare artists on the stage. I can still see him in the role of Nevalah. With what passion he played in Yosha Kalb! - an unforgettable talent.
The Gershinovski brothers, from the oldest to the youngest, all performed in the theatre - Yankel, Moishel, Yashe and Rutshke. My friend Yashe always acted well and was well suited to his role. Yankel and Moishel especially excelled in various roles. I performed with Moishel in Jewish King Lear, playing the part of his daughter, Teibele. I also performed together with Rutshke in Groisen Gevins. These were talents in whom one could take pride.
The Lifschitz brothers Berl and Dovid played various instruments, sang and danced. They were capable of doing everything.
The Women in the Ensemble:
The comédienne, Rivke Yelin - we called her Esther-Rachel Kaminski - was blessed with a great talent for acting. As soon as she appeared on the stage, she captivated the audience. She brought a lot of joy and laughter to the spectators, who thanked her with long, sustained applause.
Our dramatics club possessed very beautiful women including Menucha Avramovitch (she lives in Israel), Shefia Levit, Chaya-Leahke Shereshevski and others. If we needed someone for a smaller part, there was no problem. One became an artist overnight.
The leading roles - prima donna - were, for the most part, played by Menucha Avramovitch. Mania Kaganovitch (also living in Israel) was also one of the most important actresses.
Several of the former members of the Korelitz Dramatics Club live in America. Two of them are Chayke Dushkin and Bentshe Gulkovitch, my brother. I remember that when I would come to rehearsals, they would also talk about Sheindel, Peshe and Roza as big stars. Unfortunately, I didn't know them personally. They emigrated abroad, but no one in the town wanted to forget them. (Sheindel Koznietz lives in Israel).
We would prepare a presentation for every holiday, and every show would turn into a great cultural event in our small town. The dramatics club would also go out into the provinces to perform in the surrounding small towns and would also bring the local Jews much joy.
Our theatre was located in the firemen's station house or, as we used to joke, our actors were performing on the pumps in the fire brigade. We performed a repertoire of plays from the Yiddish theatre, which gave us spiritual pleasure. Each new production would bring much life to the town. Wherever the townspeople would go, they would talk about the play, the actors and imitate their movements and sing the new little songs.
The last play our ensemble performed was Gott, Mentsh un Teivel (God, Man and the Devil). The Devil - Hitler - destroyed everything. No more Korelitz, no more dramatics club. No one would believe that all of this was once. And today? Nothing remains but desolation and the longing for such a beloved and unforgettable past.
In front from right - first row: Chaya Stoler, Noach Gershinovski, Avraham Niselvitz, Yosef Gershnovski, Yehuda Gershnovski, Berl Lifschitz, Motel Levin, Grinfeld.
Second row: Avraham Lifchin, Moshe Gershnovski, Yitzchak Lifschitz, Bracha Kaplan, Namiot, Eliasberg, Baruch Zelkovitz, Berl Falushski, …., Moshe Shuster, Gitel Londin
Third row: Yitzchak Gershnovitz, Chaim Dushkin, Dovid Lifschitz, Chaim Avramovitz, Teibel Dvortzki (Trotzki), Mania Kaganovitch, Alter Boyarski, Savelia Klatzki, Pesiah Efroimski, Kalman Mordchovitz, …., Zalman Niselvitz, Yaakov Gershnovski, Sheindel Perevelutzki Koznitz
In front: Yehuda Gershnovski
Second row: Chaim Bosel, Chaya Leah Kaplan, Alter Grinfeld, Shifra Levit, Berl Falushski, Fania Lifschitz, Menucha Avramovitch, Rivke Yelin.
Third row: Berl Lifschitz, Mania Kaganovtich, Yaakov Gershnovski, Zalman Niselbitch, Ben-Zion Gulkovitch, Savelia Klatzki, Avraham Gorodiski, Yaakov Avrazshenski, Moshe Gershnovski.
What didn't we have in Korelitz? We even had an amateur theater which enthusiastically presented dramas, tragedies and comedies. The preparations for a performance used to take a long time, but we never presented more than one performance of any play. This was not, G-d forbid, because the play was not good. It was simply because there was no one to perform to, since all the potential theatrical audience had been present at the first performance. On the other hand, the idea of performing outside of Korelitz - in another town - did not arise, nor was it possible.
Our dramatic society was called Dramper for short. This was a form of comparison to the name of the orchestra and the firefighters, who were called Pozharne-Kommande. The dramatic society started off a few decades ago. The initiator, founder, and director was Shefe Klutsky, who was gifted as an actor. The actors were of various ages and at different levels of talent, but all of them were amateurs. The performances were held at the school until the great fire of 1929. At this school, a wall was removed between two classrooms, thus creating a fairly large hall. Rehearsals were held in various private homes. The audience was a good audience. It was not a passive audience who sat listening to what was being said on the stage, but rather an audience who responded and encouraged the actors. The audience tried to show the actors that their efforts in the performance were worthwhile. The actors performed mainly plays by Gordon: Chasia the Orphan, God, Man and Satan, Broken Hearts, as well as The Family and Shulamit by Goldfaden and The Jewish King Lear. The scenery was not of the highest quality and the audience often knew the dresses and props of the actors from before the performance. The tickets were sold at prices which were not high, but the takings were generally enough to cover the expenses, and sometimes a little money was left for philanthropic purposes.
Among the more prominent actors, we can note Sheindel Kuznitz who lives with us in Israel. She was blessed with a fine Soprano voice and a fine acting ability. She was the Prima Donna. Pessia excelled in to-the-point acting. In the male roles, Klutsky excelled. He always played the main role. Berl Polozasky the comedian also stood out. Who among us does not remember him in the role of Bobbe Yachne in The Witch? There was always a shortage of men, and I recall here a curiosity when, in the performance of Three Agents, three women appeared in the roles of the three men. When they appeared on the stage, the three of them broke out into gay women's laugh. Naturally, the audience recognized them immediately and laughed with them. In the course of time, new talents joined the team, among them Menucha Abramowitz and Fruma Golkovitz. The two of them excelled in their comely appearance and fine acting.
Parallel to the Dramper Dramatic Group, there was also an orchestra, which developed over the years and grew into an important part of the entertainment scene in the town. The orchestra appeared in solo appearances but, on the other hand, also participated in performances at various municipal events. Of the founders, I would mention here Mollier who played the violin and the promoter Wiener who played the flute. My father (long may he live!) also played an important part in the orchestra. As in a hazy dream, I remember the continuous evenings on which Moshe Gershunovsky and Baruch Zelkovitz (later to become an orchestral conductor) used to practice in our home, and my father used to help them. He used to devote himself to the clarinet, because this was the instrument that he had played as a youngster. The major part of the orchestra was held by two families. These were the Gershunovsky family (one of whom is with us here), and the Lipshitz family. Korelitzers are still proud of their orchestra until this very day.
Finally, when talking about artistic forces, let us remember the Pozharne Kommande Fire Brigade, which was a faithful accompanist to the artistic forces in the town. None of us have forgotten the drills of the Pozharne on Sundays, and mainly their Parades, accompanied by our orchestra. The whole town was on its feet when the Pozharne appeared on a Parade in the streets, with Klotzko, David Slutsky, and Reuven Begin at their head. The latter used to fly while marching in his beautiful uniform and his white gloves.
This was no theater or an orchestra in the modern sense, but in those days, these institutions used to bring warmth with them and infused rays of light into the gray life of our town.
2nd Row: (----): Ferevlotsky, ----, Luba Gentzwitz, Hava Vernik, Levitzky, Kalpetzky, ----, Sonia Pshenitzy (Gorodisky)
3rd Row: (----): Y. Yellin, Chana Lipshitz, Miriam Kliachko, Gutkeh Gentzwitz
4th Row: (----): Chava Leah Yankelevitz, ----, Breina Kagan, Rakovitzki, Gavriel Abramowitz, Aharon Kivilevitz, ----, Aharon Bernstein, ----
Sitting from right: Gittel Londine, Mordechai Malchieli (Krolavetsky), Shifra Levitt, Moshe Eliyahu Shuster, Chassia Oberzhansky (Turtel)
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