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[Page XXXIII English]

Institutions and Organizations

 

The Korelitz Bank and Free Loan Fund

by Fruma Gulkowich-Berger

Korelitz's Jews were never affluent, but they were known for their taking care on one another, sharing joy and sorrow alike and ever ready to lend a helping hand.

It was this sense of mutual responsibility which led to the founding of a people's bank and a free loan fund - two of the community's foremost institutions. The bank was established thanks to subsidies received from the “Yekope” Society of Wilna and its doors were open to everyone in need of financial assistance.

The manager and bookkeeper of the bank was Yitzhok-Meir Klatzkis, a former teacher and a devoted worker, and the Board of Directors consisted of three or four individuals (I recall the names of G. Namiot, the druggist; Getzl Relien, a merchant, and T. Klecicki, also a merchant). Borrowers had to have two guarantors and to pay interest. However, this arrangement was beyond the means of some of the people, and a Free Loan Fund was founded, operated mainly by the Artisans Guild, which made short-term, interest-free loans, mostly to artisans and the poorer members of the community. The Fund received gifts from America and from special events arranged in the town itself, among them theatre performances put on by the Drama Circle.

Among the Fund's administrators were Berl Bussel, Jacob Gershenovsky, Israel Rudi, Efroymsky and Berl Polizhesky, but others were co-opted to help in this important work. Many a Korelitzer had the bank and the Fund to thank for tiding him over some difficult situation.


[Page XXXIV English]

The Drama Circle

by Fruma Gulkowich-Berger

Among the outstanding characteristics of Korelitz was its Jewish youth - talented, intelligent, resourceful. Youth groups flourished, particularly those engaged in the arts. Among these, the Drama Circle was the most distinguished, since professional theatre troupes rarely visited the town, the Circle was a major source of entertainment, and its income went to support worthy causes in the community.

Several of the Circle members possessed genuine dramatic talent: Bert Polizhesky, excellent in the role of the witch (“Koldunie”); Sheppe Klatchka, the stage director and outstanding actor who maintained a high group morale; Hayim Bussel, a teacher in the Jewish school still remembered for his role of Batyushka Prokop in “Hassia the Orphan”; Berl Obrinski, who turned in a passionate performance in “Yoshe Kalb”; the Gershinovsky brothers - Yankl, Moishe'le, Yashe and Ruchke, and the musicians Berl and David Lifshitz.

The women were no less talented: Rivka Yellin, the excellent comedienne; a bevy of beauties - Menuha Abramanowich, Levitt, Chaya-Leike Sherehevsky; Menuha and Mania Kaganowich usually played the lead roles.

Several of the Circle members went abroad in quest of a better life, amongst them Chaike Dushkin and Ben-Zion Gulkowich.

The Circle put on a new performance for each holiday, and this was the social event of the season, not only in Korelitz but also in surrounding communities which the Circle visited.

The last play put on by the Circle was “God, Man and the Devil”. The Devil - Hitler - put an end to the Circle, as he did to so many Korelitzes throughout Europe.


[Page XXXV English]

Korelitz's Fire-Fighting Brigade

by Yaacov Abramowich

The Brigade was the pride of Korelitz - deservedly. Its structure, I recall, was highly formal; I also remember the names of the officers in my day:

       President: the druggist Eliasberg:
       Commander: David Slutsky:
       Deputy-Commander: Savelle Klatzko:
       Adjutant: Mordechai Bezin:
       Manager: Gertz Namiat:
       First Unit Commander: Reuben Perevelutsky:
       Second Unit Commander: Israel Israelit:
       Third Unit Commander: Hayim Abramovich:
       Water Director: Boruch Zalkowich:
       Orchestra Conductor: Shimon Miller

I used to attend the band's rehearsals, but I wasn't accepted to the Brigade because I was too young. I also watched their drills - up the rope, high on the ladder, pumping the water. Later, as the years went by and I joined the Brigade, Commander David Slutzky appointed me House Commander, in charge of the firehouse and its contents. I had to see to it that the hoses didn't leak and the carriages were in good shape. I painted the wheels, greased the axles, saw that the barrels on the two-wheelers were always filled with water. If the job was beyond my capacity, I called in a professional. However, Commander Slutzky's first order was for me to go to the market place, buy material for my uniform and cap and take it to Shloimke Kabak the tailor. My joy was indescribable.

I spent more time in the firehouse than at home, under the tutelage of Noah Gershenovsky, who lived across the street and kept the keys to the place.

The drill schedule, on Sundays, was announced by Yasha Gershenovsky to all the members; later the job was taken over by his brother Yodke, David Lifshitz and Leibe Ozochovsky. The Brigade gathered in the firehouse yard, where Adjutant Bezin would already be waiting. The drill began with a parade, led by the band: Moishe Gershenovsky and Moishe Lifshitz -clarinet; Noah Gershenovsky - trombone; Yasha Gershenovsky and Berl Lifshitz - trumpet; David Lifshitz - tenor sax; Isaiah Gershenovsky, Markel Gershenovsky, Avreml Lipchon - drums; Azerovsky and Idl Savitzky - cymbals.

A few paces behind the orchestra marched the officers, the hook-and-ladder unit and the firefighters - brawny lads in copper helmets and uniforms, small axes thrust into the broad leather bands around their waists. Last came the water suppliers. The good people of Korelitz lined the streets and applauded mightily.

Back at the firehouse, the Brigade went into its drill, using all its equipment and apparatus. It then moved to the river for further manouevers.

The firehouse was maintained chiefly by the townspeople through a monthly tax. If a citizen showed signs of not wanting to pay (such as being in arrears), the Brigade would send a hose down his chimney and give him a choice: pay up or suffer the consequences of a flood. He would inevitably choose the obvious.

The firehouse also served as the town's theatre. Traveling troupes would pay for the use of the premises, which would be cleared of all the apparatus and have a stage set up. A local theatre group, directed first by Alter Boyarsky and later by Savelie Klatzko also gave performances in the firehouse, which benefited from the income. The cashier was the beloved Yudel Efroimsky, president of the Labor Association.

The firefighters also helped maintain law and order, particularly on market days, when the peasants, bolstered by liquor, would create disturbances and let their horses run wild. The Brigade was authorized to catch the horses and hose down their owners.

In time the Brigade received mechanized fire equipment from the authorities and was on call for fires in neighboring settlements as well.


[Page XXXVII English]

Korelitz's Sports Organizations

by Yaacov Abramowitz

Korelita had a Jewish soccer team, “Maccabi”, and the team had a field of sorts; it also practiced in the market place (Yeshayahu Bolotnitzky, who lived in the area, was custodian of the sports gear). The uniform consisted of khaki shorts and a white top embroidered with a blue Magen David and the words “Maccabi-Korelitz”. The team played in Novohorodek, Turetz and other teams in Korelitz itself, among them a Christian group headed by Tadek Yuzkewich, a son of the town's patron.

I recall a game with this team on a bright Sunday morning. One of our players was Mordechai Krulevitzky (now named Malkhieli), on a visit from Eretz-Israel. The game was tough and bitter. Our team emerged victorious, and the Yuzkewich group tried to make up for its defeat by attacking our players. Mordechai displayed the same prowess with his fists that he did with his feet.

I was instrumental in organizing a volleyball team. We (my brother Gabriel and Saul Zalmansky) fashioned a net, Berl Lubczansky forged two iron stakes, and we set out for the cattle market on Zafale Hill, cleaned the grounds a bit, put up the long stakes and stretched the net across the marked-out court. In time we became proficient and sent our team to neighboring communities. Once we came to Turetz on a Saturday and were nearly stoned…

The Polish high school in town also had a team of Christian students. We had a junior team of boys who also attended the same high school and often beat the “regulars”. On several occasions, as visiting teams from other towns came to play, the Principal (Dolemba) would draw on our Jewish team (Gitl Kavalewich, Motke Polaszki and me) to reinforce the regular team.

Our women's team became so expert and popular that the wife of the Police Chief joined it. In fact, the good players were held in such esteem that when the town authorities were asked by the Germans to furnish them with the names of the Jewish players - the first to be deported - their names were not included in the list…


[Page XXXVIII English]

The Chalutz youth in Korelitz
(The History of the “Chalutz” and “Hashomer Hatzair”)

by Kalman Osherowich

Korelitz is a genuine example of the pioneering Jewish youth in Europe which, about half a century ago, laid the groundwork for the Zionist program which found its expression in settlement and, later, in statehood.

When the First World War ended, Korelitz was mostly in ruins. The Jews slowly came back from their places of refuge - Grodno, Novohorodek - and began the painful work of reconstruction: first the synagogue and the school, later the houses and the shops. But no sooner was the beginning made than the town fell prey to the struggle between the Bolsheviks and the Poles. The latter finally gained control, and the community returned to a degree of normalcy.

Those were the days when Jewish communities in eastern Europe were influenced by two major movements: the “Bund”, which sought economic and occupational equality for the Jewish proletariat, and the Zionist Movement. Korelitz tended towards the latter. Mordechai Krulevitzky was the 'live wire' Zionist. He organized the “Hechalutz Hatzair (Young Pioneer) ”, assisted by Hassia Oberzhansky; an older group, “Hechalutz”, was organized by Moshe-Eli Shuster, Nissan Zalmanowsky and Yossef Portnoy.

Zionist lecturers were brought in - Yosef Bankover and Byalopolsky - and a complete cultural program was instituted: Braina, the rabbi's daughter, taught Hebrew; Shuster taught geography; literary circles and a ‘living newspaper’ were established, the latter edited by Alter Rozovsky.

Zionist activity in Korelitz suffered a setback because of a rather curious happening: the “Hechalutz” central office, pleased with our work, assigned an immigration “certificate” to one of our members. Unfortunately the assignee was engaged in business and couldn't ‘get away’. The disillusionment occasioned as a result caused many members to drop out, but the movement was too strong to die. Gradually we rebuilt it. We set about preparing ourselves for vocations. On winter nights we did charwomen's work in the school and set the money we earned aside for the Jewish National Fund and the worker's fund in Eretz-Israel. We took over the matzah baking for Passover and made money, for the same purpose.

In1925-6 we received several certificates for aliya. The first to leave was Leima Polechuk (now in Ramat Hasharon), Yossef Portnoy (now in Kfar Sava), Bracha Kaplan (in Kibbutz Hakovesh*), Gitl Lundin (Kibbutz Hakovesh*), Sheindl Perevolutzky (now Kuznitz, in Tel Aviv), Pessia Afroymsky (now Gurfinkel in Mishmar Hashelosha), Mordechai Krulevitzky (Malkhieli, in Hod Hasharon), Stollar (returned to Europe and died in the Holocaust). All of these first joined Kibbutz Hakovesh* but later dispersed throughout the land. There was a great deal of excitement in the town.

The Movement suffered another reverse in 1927, when the economic situation in Eretz-Israel was so bad that two of our people came back to Korelitz. We, the veterans, were so put out that we padded the membership reports which we sent to the Central Office, paying membership dues out of our own pockets for the dropouts. The idea was Leah Kaplan's (now in Kibbutz Givat Haim); she just couldn't stand the disgrace…

At this point an energetic young man came to Korelitz - Hayim Bussel, a graduate of the “Hashomer Hatzair” - and proposed to set up a branch. The “Chalutz” members objected, but the new group flourished, attracting the youngsters and the adolescents. The groupings were given names of the Tribes of Israel; I found myself in charge of “Judah”. We maintained a full program of culture, sports and entertainment. On Lag Ba'omer we set up a camp in a nearby forest and tearfully sang “Hatikva”. By 1928 we were strong enough to hold a regional convention in Korelitz.

“Hashomer Hatzair” was not spared misfortune of its own. In 1929 the town was burned down, and the riots of 1929 brought the movement to an end.

But again history had its say. Jewish life in Poland grew more precarious. The young people strove to reach the Jewish homeland, and since certificates were not available they went there “illegally”. Unfortunately, many remained behind and were annihilated, but those of Korelitz who found their way to their destination have added to the story of heroism known as the State of Israel.

* Transcriber's note: The correct name is “Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh”.


[Page XL English]

Betar

by Gutka Nachumovsky-Ganczewicz

The Betar Club in Korelitz came into being as a result of the enthusiasm engendered by Zeev Jabotinsky's visit in Poland. Its founding was opposed by the already existing “Hashomer Hatzair” and “Hechalutz”, but with the help of veteran adult members of the Revisionist movement, the Club proceeded with its work. As the opposing groups increased their activities, the town was overcome by an avalanche of debates and disputations.

Eventually Betar members received their uniforms, and the first Betar commander of Korelitz made his aliya. Many others followed, for it was the Betar, in line with Jabotinsky's belief, which preached evacuation of Europe. Unfortunately, not enough heed was paid to the call, and Polish Jewry paid for it with its life.


[Page XLI English]

 

Directors of the Yiddish Library
(sitting, left to right) Kalman Mordechowitz, Moishele Shuster, Rivka Shuster, Shimon Muller; (in front) Israel Tzelkowitz, Nissan Zalmanski

 

The Yiddish Drama Circle of Korelitz, 1925

[Page XLII English]

 

Hechalutz Hatzair of Korelitz
From right to left: Yaacov Mazuretzky, Berl Gurevich, Fanya Lifshitz, Haya lea Kaplan Shereshevsky, Hayim Bolotnitzky, Yosef Portnoy

 

The “Judith” Club, 1928

[Page XLIII English]

 

The “Hechalutz” Club, 1929

 

Pioneer Korelitz youth in training
(from right) Hayim Bolotnitzky, Moishe Stolliar, Haya Leah Kaplan, Mordechai Krulevetzky (Malkieli), Fania Lifshitz, Hayim Kaplan, David Portnoy, Yitzhak Stollar

 

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