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[Page 199]

Duvid Goldenberg

(1880–1934)

Manus Goldenberg

English Translation by David Dubin

kre058.jpg
Figure 58. Duvid Goldenberg

The house of my grandfather, R' Nachman Margolis, the watchmaker, was not a place for young people. There, his friends, Chabad Hasidim, the elite of the yeshiva, ruled in an ambiance of the Jerusalem Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud, and books on Hasidism. On matters of Torah, there were learned discussions, sharp wit, and more. We, the young grandchildren, their playthings, did not even know another way, and we felt the influence of our own parents only when they moved to their own apartment in Alterman's Courtyard. These steps resonated “with noises and thunder,” for they immediately traveled a radically different path when they removed us from a religious teacher and placed us in the Hebrew school that had just been established. This move was an open rebuff of tradition, and they never reconciled with their elders.

My first memories here are connected with the magical world of the Hasidic legends, Andersen and Grimm, which our father read to us from the pamphlets Nitsanim and Prachim, published by the Tushia House in Warsaw. After them came the booklets Hashiloah and the volumes of Hatsefira. Eventually his whole world view became clear:

[Translator's Note: Nitsanim means shoots, and Prachim means flowers.]

Two of our children had already been born before he left his studies in the religious study hall with his young friend, Getsi Klorfayn. Under the latter's influence, he became caught up in Enlightenment literature. With him, he read Mapu and Smolenskin, and joined the Love of Zion movement and Lovers of the Hebrew Language. However, his whole life he knew how to synthesize his traditional leanings with the idea of a return to Zion.

While he was busy with his livelihood and his affairs and involved with his large family, he found time to study a page of Gemara and read books and newspapers.

He served for years as treasurer of the Benevolent Fund and as an active member of the Burial Society. After the Sabbath, our home would become a national bank, to which Jews would come for loans in the presence of the committee. For several years, the Burial Society's traditional meals were held in our house.

My father spent many nights next to the beds of the ill as a member of the Righteous Slumber society, and more than once he returned late at night from the distant cemetery, escorting an old man or woman to his or her final resting place.

[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, Righteous Slumber is Linat HaTsedek.]

Shortly after the establishment of the workers' union in Kremenets, he was chosen as president, and he kept this position to his final day. He took on a heavy burden with his appointment by the authorities as a member of the tax assessors' committee. He had to fight hard to limit the taxes on every Jew. These meetings lasted months, and the merchants and laborers exerted considerable pressure. He suffered greatly, defending against a reduction of the Jews' standing. But there was one bright spot in his life: the Land of Israel, where he longed to follow his children.

The deep darkness of Jewish poverty was also clearly revealed to him in his visits to shelters for the poor, both Jew and Christian, when he was appointed guardian by the Social Service Office. His peace was disturbed at his desk, as he was surrounded by people asking for help and telling him their troubles.

Approximately two years before he died, he was elected to the City Council, and he involved himself in the fight for Jewish rights, joining the Jewish faction led by Binyamin Landsberg.

His simple manner, his modesty, and his gentle ways endeared him to all ranks of society. He was a man of the people who lived among the people and for them. Our mother also stood with him during his short life by being his partner in managing his affairs.

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He was 54 years old when he passed away in the winter of 1934 because of incorrect removal of the cast from a broken leg. The news about his unexpected end shocked the town's Jews. Businesses and workshops closed, and many people came to his funeral. The love of the people accompanied him on his final way.

On the day he died, only few of his family members were present, as three of his sons were in Israel, and one was in America.

He never fulfilled his dream of immigrating to the land of his dreams.

 

R' Ben-Tsion Hofman

Ayzik Hofman

English Translation by Thia Persoff

kre059.jpg
Figure 59. R' Ben-Tsion Hofman

One of Kremenets' personalities – a nonpolitical one, but one of Torah and good deeds – was R' Ben-Tsion Hofman. His “base” was the Hasidic kloyz, where the regulars were Hasidim from all social levels who were steeped in Jewish warmth and religious devotion and in giving material aid to the needy. In spite of his zealous Orthodoxy, he would quote the words of I. L. Gordon: “If you do not seek God in your heart, you will not find Him anywhere else in the world.” He would invite the poor, laborers, craftsmen, small merchants, and peddlers to his Gemara lessons, which were open to congregants.

His best pupil was the young prodigy Leybchik Feldman, who regularly mentioned his teacher's high morals and influence on him. It was in his nature to befriend people, so he was said to be one of the disciples of Bet-Hillel.

[Translator's Note: Bet-Hillel refers to the school of Rabbi Hillel, a Jewish religious leader of the first century CE, who was famous for his good nature, patience, friendliness, and scholarship.]

When he was wealthy and owned much property, he used to keep precise accounts so that he could figure out the correct amount equaling 10 percent of his income – his share to donate, according to the law in the Torah – and he collected material donations for people, such as a horse for a peddler, a cow for a milkman who made his living from supplying “Jewish milk,” or a sewing machine for a tailor. He constantly repeated the saying, “It is deeds that count, not words.”

After World War I, when he lost his property and wealth, he did not abandon his traditional activities and continued his good deeds in the framework of the American Committee, serving as its head treasurer throughout the Joint's existence in Kremenets, 1920–1923. He was also active in ransoming captives, and thanks to his handsome appearance and pleasant personality, he was the savior of dozens of Russian Jewish families who crossed the border near Kremenets in the hope of reaching their relatives across the ocean.

In this way he continued his life, studying the Torah and fulfilling the commandments, until World War II broke out. In the Holocaust year of 1942, at the age of 76, he perished with his entire family and our town's martyred people.

May his memory be blessed.

 

R' Meshulam Katz

(1850–1908)

Moshe Katz (Haifa)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

His literary nickname was Maze ben Maze, taken from his name and his father's name: Meshulam Zev HaKohen, son of Mordekhay Zalman HaKohen. The founder of the famous Katz dynasty, he was born in the small township of Bilozorki, near Kremenets, in 1850. His father had three sons and three daughters, of which Meshulam was the firstborn. R' Mordekhay Katz amassed great riches during his life from forest merchandising and leasing of estates and hard liquor factories from the local squires.

[Page 201]

Although he was a miser, he did not stint on expenses for the arranging of marriage matches with aristocratic families of teachers and rabbis. He was a God-fearing Jew, the wealthiest and most powerful in his township and in the area.

R' Meshulam Katz paved his own road in life. Although he grew up in the path of Hasidism, he had been attracted to philosophy books since his youth. He was proficient in the writings of the Rambam, Eben Ezra, and others. He knew Russian, Polish, and German very well and read books, mainly on philosophy, in those languages, too. He was one of the intellectuals of his generation and studied Enlightenment literature. He was proficient in Hebrew, and his style was clear and brilliant.

In 1899 he moved to Kremenets, where his home served as a meeting place for intellectuals and writers. From his youth he favored Zion and, during the period of Herzl, he joined the Zionist movement and advocated for it in speeches and writing. He was elected as a representative to the Sixth and Seventh Zionist Congresses.

His writings were published in the press of his day, Hamelits and Hatsefira, under his penname, Maze ben Maze. Like the rest of his family members, he dealt in forest merchandising. He was in partnership with his brother (my father, of blessed memory), Mikhel Katz, and in business, too, he was considered sharp. He served as an expert arbitrator of complicated business deals, and people would come to him from far away for this.

He was smart, with clear logic, and was noted for speaking to the point, sometimes caustically. While living in Kremenets he had great influence on the townspeople, in particular on the Zionist and intellectual circles. Many members were frequent visitors, enjoying his wisdom and guidance. One of them was a distinguished chess player.

He saw that his sons were educated in Jewish wisdom and European teachings. He sent his eldest son, Ben-Tsion Katz, to study in Switzerland and Germany, where he graduated from university physics and mathematics departments. In those days, this was a very daring achievement.

R' Meshulam suffered from heart disease all his life; he died of this in 1908 at the age of 58. He left four sons and daughters. His son-in-law, Zeydi Perlmuter, of blessed memory, was a well-known Zionist who stood at the head of the Kremenets community for many years. His grandson, Meir Katz (Ben-Tsion's son), is a mathematics professor in a university in the United States. It seems that R' Meshulam endowed his descendants with his brain power.

Quite a few of his grandchildren live in Israel.

Most people of our generation did not know him and may never even have heard his name, but he was one of the original members in the Zionist group, the “heralding” generation of enlightenment and Zionism.

 

Boris Liakh

Manus Goldenberg

English Translation by Thia Persoff

Some of the pages from the Kremenitser Shtime newspaper that were left to us include tender stories about Jewish life. The writer shows compassion and sympathy for his heroes, the wretched townspeople. Those stories are by Boris Liakh, son of Russian aristocrats.

I first met him when he returned from the front, wearing a captain's uniform. In his uniform, he came to our school, to which he had returned after the disintegration of the Czarist army. He stood out because of his acrobatic maneuvers and his wasteful ways, which were those of the wealthy landed gentry. His noble and very rich family lived on one of its properties, a township in our district, which was founded, apparently, by one of their ancestors, and was named after them: Liekhaviets. His brothers and sisters, some of them writers and artists, lived in the capital but returned home after the October Revolution. The family members belonged to the Russian liberal intelligentsia and became friendly with members of the Jewish intelligentsia, particularly the Kremenetski family.

When rebelling farmers captured our town from the Bolsheviks, and the residents were in danger of destruction, he was one of the “White” officers and estate owners who took it upon themselves to untangle the mess they had caused. He was a member of the delegation that went to the old Austrian border to ask the Polish army to save them. He was sorry for this move for the rest of his life, and his hatred of the Poles grew stronger.

[Page 202]

When we began to develop a Jewish sports team, Liakh established a Russian sports team, with most of its members being Jews from assimilated families. At first there was tension between the two groups, but when the Poles came with their team, which was supported by the authorities, Liakh began to support our organization.

By then his family had lost its wealth as a result of land reform and squandering, and Boris was in financial straits. One day he invited my friend, Azriel Gorinshteyn, and me over, and to our astonishment he presented us with a packet containing 50 gold rubles to purchase athletic equipment for our Maccabee group. Knowing his financial situation, we hesitated to accept the money, but he became very offended, so we asked his forgiveness for our behavior…. Later we discovered that he had sold a plot of land out of the small amount that had been left to him, and that is where the gold came from. He derived great pleasure from seeing our soccer team in their new uniforms and the athletes using the equipment – things we never had before.

But one unforgettable incident in our town shows Liakh in his essence. It was on a summer Sabbath, at a soccer tournament between the Maccabee and Polish teams, with Maccabee as the winners. I was a soldier in the Polish army at that time and on my annual leave. Together with the Jewish spectators, I rejoiced for the victors. Then we saw a group of young Poles shouting, “Beat the Jews and save Russia!” These were some of the Poles who had escaped from Russia and inherited this call from the “White” Russians, Denikin's men.

The Revolution was still fresh in our minds. Only two years of Polish occupation separated us from it. We had not forgotten how it felt; the sense of human dignity and of being free Jews was powerful in us. I could not contain myself, and when the large gathering of people streamed into the narrow alley that led to the center of the Vidomka through the orchards and gardens, I approached the group and punched the most vocal of them. A big fistfight erupted, and some of the young Jewish men joined in to help me. In the excitement that reigned for about a kilometer, this fight was like a spark in a barrel of gunpowder.

Jews and Poles lit into each other with a great fury; screams and curses filled the air, and posts were uprooted from fences and waved in the air. Throughout all this wrestling, the multitudes streamed forward, while each of the opposing sides struggled to be the first to extract themselves from the alley.

I was at the head of the stream, surrounded by that group of vile Poles. My army uniform caught their attention. We burst out or, more correctly, we were pushed out, first to the square in front of the Jew-hater Bikovski's farm. I was in great danger, surrounded by enemies. At that moment I heard a shout: “Hey, you, rotten Poles!” It was Boris Liakh with his group of Russian friends, who had preceded us, and instantly I found myself behind a safe wall of Russians. By making themselves a partition between the Poles and me, they took the worst of the beatings. In the meantime, the rest of the people flooded the square. Liakh ordered me to clear out before the military police showed up, and he and his group covered my retreat. The fight in the square continued until dark. From the town came reinforcements of butchers and porters, headed by Miron Gindes, and for the Poles from the Lyceum. Liakh and Gindes led the fight, which ended in victory for the Jews. Many wounded Poles filled the hospital. The police came much later, and the inquiries into the event continued for many months. Liakh, thanks to his connections, was cleared, while I suffered a pack of trouble from the army command.

In the 1930s, Liakh suffered great losses. The degenerate atmosphere brought about by the society of immigrants depressed him, and he frequented the billiard halls. At that time he wrote his stories and was a regular contributor to the Kremenitser Shtime. His Jewish friends did not abandon him in his hard times, and as always he was a welcome guest in their homes.

What was his stand during the Holocaust – did he keep his noble spirit, and was he one of the few Christians in our town who, even then, did not lose their humanity?

[Page 203]

Yisrael Margalit

(1865–1942)

Zev Shumski (Tel Aviv)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

Yisrael son of Lipa Margalit (Izrail Filipovich) was my father's close friend for many years. Active together in many fields of public interest, the townspeople would say – in one breath – “Shumski and Margalit.” They had similar educations and opinions about life around them, and they worked together with compatibility and understanding.

Yisrael was a wealthy trader in forests. Not finding satisfaction in business, he invested most of his energies in public affairs. He was a member of the intelligentsia and was well versed in the Russian language. He was not religious in his private life, remaining distant from Zionism and the national movements, but he was dedicated to Jewish causes with all his heart and served as their representative to the government.

He saw the future of the Jews in the places where they lived and did much to promote general education and crafts among Jewish youth. He was one of the founders of the High School of Commerce and a member of its governing board for many years. When the ORT school for professional crafts was opened, he immediately joined the group of activists who took responsibility for it and did much to strengthen and enlarge it. An admirer of Yitschak Ber Levinzon, he saw himself as his student and worked to fulfill his ideas by spreading education and crafts. The house where Levinzon used to live was then a tavern, and Margalit saw this as an insult to the great teacher's memory. He convened a community committee and succeeded in rescuing the house for public use by establishing a library and reading room there. (See the article on this subject in the Yiddish section of the book.) He was the son-in-law of government-appointed rabbi Kunin. After some time, he was elected head treasurer of the synagogue and did much to upgrade it and take care of its maintenance. He invited well-known cantors there and made it into a community meeting place, deserving of its name. Even before World War I, he founded the Bank of Mutual Credit with his friend Ruven Goldenberg; later, during Polish rule, the name was changed to the Bank of Commerce.

[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, synagogue is bet kneset, or house of assembly.]

He had a special affinity for helping organizations and not only collected from others but also donated his own money generously. He was a good-hearted, generous person, and so was his wife.

He adjusted to the new conditions on the Jewish street after 1917 without difficulty; he drew closer to the common people, began to speak their language, and continued to work for the community. Later he was elected head of the Jewish community – the fourth and last in Kremenets – and perished with the rest of the Jewish people.

 

Shlome Fingerut

(1888–1942)

Yisrael Otiker (Na'an)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

kre060.jpg
Figure 60. Shlome Fingerut

One of the city's prominent community activists, he was born in Kremenets in 1888. At home he absorbed the atmosphere of devotion to all things that had to do with the Jewish people, and he was brought up to be aware of and true to the needs of his community. His father, R' Mordekhay Leyb Fingerut, who was highly ethical and learned as well as modest and humble, tried to instill those qualities in his children.

On the eve of the 1905 revolution, when new trends and political parties formed in Jewish communities and stormy discussions filled the air, the Fingerut family, too, was split; the older children leaned toward Zionism and Israel, while Shlome, the youngest, joined the Bund. He went to the workers, taught himself carpentry, and was an active worker and laborer in town for many years. Later, he opened a workshop and was an independent craftsman. From that time until his death, he organized the town's craftsmen and artists, took care of their professional needs, helped establish mutual aid institutions, and was active in many other areas of public interest, such as leading the community and its institutions, and so on.

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When a self-governing city council was elected (including a Polish mayor, a Russian vice mayor, and two Jews), he was elected as one of the two Jewish members and successfully represented Jewish interests.

During the Holocaust, he was murdered by the Nazis under very tragic circumstances. Two of his sons have survived – one in Poland and one who immigrated to Israel, fought in the War for Independence, and established a cavalry force.

When the Kremenitser Shtime paper was founded, Shlome – as was his way – lent a helping hand to establish it. On different occasions he published articles concerning public affairs, memoirs from the days of his youth and the stormy period of 1905, and some poems. We show some of those poems here (in the Yiddish section of the book); they describe the life of workers and are typical of the style of that time.

 

Arye Feldman

(1900–1942)

Yisrael Otiker (Na'an)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

Arye Feldman, called Libchik by his friends, was one of the more interesting people of the younger Jewish generation in Kremenets. Humble and shy by nature, he disliked publicity. At the same time, he was one of the people who greatly influenced the youth group, which was a core of awareness and activity in the town's pioneer organizations and community.

He is especially remembered for the role he played as leader of the Hebrew Corner – a youth group that existed from 1924 to 1929. His trainees and pupils later joined different organizations, such as Pioneer, Young Pioneer, the Youth Guard, and so on, most of which were in the Labor movement, but some had no political affiliation and were nonpartisan. There was even a group that eventually distanced itself from the Zionist movement altogether. All of those recall the man Libchik with appreciation and admiration – as a person who knew how to teach them knowledge and information and instill Jewish and personal values in them, in spite of the occasional differences and distances that stretched between their varied outlooks and opinions.

****

He was born in 1900 and received a traditional religious education. His father, a secretary of the Jewish community, saw to the education of his son, who exhibited wondrous talents from early childhood. After a short time, he left his teachers and started to study by himself, amassing knowledge in many areas, particularly Jewish ones. He was proficient in the Bible, the Mishna, the Talmud, rabbinical and Hasidic literature, Sephardic poetry, the Rambam, Kabbalah and the Zohar, and so on. He was well versed in the commentaries, delved deeply into the study of Jewish history, and followed new Hebrew literature, world literature, and modern European ideas.

Those who were close to him knew that this shy, retiring young man was a treasury brimming with knowledge and serious thought.

When some of us young people wanted to organize an advanced Hebrew study group, Libchik was at the top of their list of people with the expertise and capability to promote their learning and advanced study. For half a year he tutored the Cornerstone group, and when invited, he led the educational program for the Hebrew Corner. (On the Hebrew Corner and A. Feldman, see the article in the Education and Culture section.) He accepted this gladly, with his typical dedication, and devoted most evenings and all his free time to the group members. He infused meaning and a certain spirit into the sessions and continued to do so for years, even as many changes took place in the group itself.

*

In the 1930s, he went to Vilna to take supplementary courses in teaching. He graduated from the Teachers' Seminary and also gave lectures in the Mizrachi movement's courses. He absorbed the atmosphere of the Jerusalem of Lithuania, met with circles of writers and Yiddish activists, and spent much time in the Strashun and Institute for Jewish Research libraries.

[Translation Editor's Note: Vilna, a center of Jewish culture and learning, was known as “Jerusalem of Lithuania.”]

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When he lived in Warsaw, he was a frequent visitor of Hilel Tsitlin, to whom he was very close and with whom he later corresponded and exchanged ideas with for years.

On returning to Kremenets, he began to work as a schoolteacher. In the spring of 1933, he married a student, an active member of the Hebrew Corner – Rachel Otiker. Their ties of love and deep friendship lasted for many years.

Absorbed in the daily routine of life as a Hebrew teacher, he taught in the Tarbut and Yavne schools in the districts of Lublin, Vohlin, and Congress Poland. He dreamed of immigrating to Israel, but with the difficulties of immigrating in those days, it was a farfetched dream.

In 1939, the onset of World War II found him with his wife Rachel and young daughter in Makuv-Mazovitski near Warsaw, where he worked as a teacher in the Hebrew school. Miraculously, they managed to escape and reach Kremenets, which at that time was under Soviet control. There they stayed until they were caught by the Nazi invasion in 1941. On that bitter, infamous day of the annihilation of Kremenets' Jews, they perished with the rest of their families.

****

Libchik was a man who imparted a sense of proportion and inner culture, one of the best. He carried within him and practiced the high standards of the Jew. He sampled those of many others, but neither his spiritual perfection nor his constant reaching for the good and lofty was ever blemished. He was a man of faith, believing in the future and the goodness hidden in the depth of men's souls. He believed that the time would come when humanity would experience spiritual greatness.

In a postcard sent on one of those faraway Rosh Hashanah eves, he wrote, “There is a glorious and radiant world, and its spark is the soul; the spark is longing for its world, longing and sparkling – ”

In his final days, L. Feldman saw the darkest, most sinister side of humanity. The man fell; his inner spark went out. But the remnants of light and the things he believed in and spread around him were certainly carried on in those who knew him.

 

Avigdor (Zeydi) Perlmuter

(1876–1942)

Ayzik Hofman (Tel Aviv)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

Avigdor was born in the small township of Vishgorodok in Kremenets district. Family relations linked him to our town (he was the son-in-law of R' Meshulam Katz, one of the original members of Lovers of Zion in our town), and in 1922 he moved to Kremenets. An energetic man with a well-developed sense of community, he soon occupied an honored place in Kremenets' community activities. He made a living from his large textile store. Being childless, he devoted his interest to community work.

Though a religious man, he did not belong to any of the religious factions, only to the general Zionist Organization. Learned, pleasant, fair, and honest, he had a wise and sharp mind and was admired by many. Because of his deep patriotic feelings, he made a dignified and proud impression when representing the community in front of the authorities.

There was hardly a project or public institution in which Zeydi Perlmuter did not take an active part. He was a dedicated worker for the Zionist Organization, and he was in charge of the Palestine Bureau as well as active in the Merchants' Association, the Bank of Commerce, Tarbut, and assorted charities. Still, he did not hold himself apart when it came to publicly fighting all the circles that ingratiated themselves to the authorities and acted against the interests of the Jewish community. Within this stormy war, in 1931 he was elected head of the Jewish community (after the death of A. Vaynberg, the first to hold that post) and conducted its business with talent and dedication for years. He was staunch and daring in his stand when it came to the public interest, and he did not get involved in personal intrigues. He was a community activist of high standing.

He perished with his community.

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Moshe (Mishe) Frenkel

(1902–1944)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

kre061.jpg
Figure 61. Moshe (Mishe) Frenkel

Born in Kremenets, Moshe was the son of R' Shlome Frenkel, a scholar and an enlightened man who owned a grocery store. From his childhood he grew up in an atmosphere of study and learning and developed into a significant mathematician. He graduated from high school in Kremenets and taught there and in other places. He was not content with this and wanted to study engineering. In 1924, he went to Belgium and entered the Technical Institute in Ghent. During the week he studied, and on the weekends he worked in a factory to earn a living. There was no Jewish community in Ghent, but the Jewish students made an effort not to lose touch with Judaism. Sometimes Moshe Frenkel would lead the prayers when the students held a minyan on the Jewish holidays.

After graduating with two degrees, he got a job as the lead engineer for the central electric laboratory of Belgium and settled in Ghent with his family (his wife, Vitye, was the daughter of Moshe Karshun of Rovne, one of the early Zionists and Tarbut proponents in that city). This assignment was much to his liking, as it afforded him the opportunity to do research and development. Nevertheless, he searched for ways to immigrate to Israel. In 1935 he met with Pinchas Rotenberg in Paris, in reference to a job offer in the electric company in Israel. The negotiations did not work out, so Frenkel continued his work in Ghent.

When the Nazis conquered Belgium in 1940, he escaped with his family to France and lived the life of a wanderer, hiding in villages. Each of his children found shelter in a different home while he roamed the forests to avoid the enemy. In 1944 he volunteered for the underground. A few days later he was killed, and he was buried in the village of Menville, near Toulouse. After France was liberated from the Nazis, his widow and their three children immigrated to Israel and settled in Tel Aviv.

One of our city's outstanding and talented natives, he wanted to go to Israel but did not have the opportunity.

 

R' Getsi Klorfayn

(1872–1942)

Leye Limonchik-Klorfayn (Tel-Aviv)

English Translation by Thia Persoff

kre062.jpg
Figure 62. R' Getsi Klorfayn

If there were outstanding Zionist homes in our city, where Zionism, the Land of Israel, and Hebrew were like air in their lives – then the Klorfayn home was one of them. What names did Getsi Klorfayn give his children? Aminadav, Duvid, Leye, and Shulamit. He made sure his children had biblical and modern Hebrew names to emphasize connection to the homeland and the breaking off of connections to the Diaspora.

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Although burdened with the need to earn a living – he had a haberdashery – his interests were centered on community work and mainly on the Zionist Organization and institutions that cultivated Hebrew education. From his youth he was a member of Lovers of Zion, and as soon as the Zionist movement was established, he joined its ranks and was a devotee and activist. He knew Hebrew very well, but throughout his life he continued to study in order to become more proficient. He excelled in rhetorical style and was knowledgeable in the treasures of the Talmud.

He was a cheerful man with a pleasant personality, and he practiced what he preached. He was the first to donate, and generously, although he was not wealthy but was burdened all his life by the need to make a living. He also collected donations for Zionist funds. He helped the needy through the Benevolent Fund, too. Deeply rooted in community life, he was trusted and respected by the townspeople, who often came to him for arbitration in cases of quarrels and conflicts. He would mediate and make peace.

Getsi Klorfayn saw the source of the nation's resurrection in the pioneer movement and preached for its accomplishment by individuals. He waited for an opportune time to immigrate to Israel but was not privileged to do so. Of his children, whom he had directed toward Israel since childhood, his daughter, Leye, immigrated to Israel in 1925 and is settled there with her family. His son Aminadav immigrated in 1926 and stayed for two years, working as a laborer in Nes-Tsiyona and other settlements. He returned to Kremenets for a short time but was conscripted into the Polish army and was not able to return. His son Duvid joined the Army of Budyoni to retaliate against Petliura's rioters. He hoped to cross the border during his wanderings and reach Israel, but he was captured and imprisoned by the Poles and died or was killed there. He, too, was not privileged.

May their memories be blessed.

 

Hadasah Rubin

Yisrael Otiker

English Translation by Thia Persoff

Hadasah was born in 1912. After World War I, her parents came to Kremenets as refugees from one of the small towns in the area and settled there. Her father, R' Duvid Rubin, was a man of ideas and aspirations. He was diligent about his daughters' education and made sure they received an extensive general and a full Hebrew education. While studying in the well-known Polish Lyceum, Hadasah also studied (from her childhood) Hebrew language and literature with private teachers. She read a great deal and was influenced strongly by the poetry of Bialik, Tchernichowsky, and Schnaiur. She was partial to the poetry of Rachel and liked the style of modern Russian and Polish poets – Mayakovsky, Yesenin, and Julian Tuwim.

From her childhood she exhibited a talent for writing and excelled in poetry, which was read mainly in the circle of her close friends. Only years later was she “discovered”; in spite of her strong objections, her friends took some of her poems and had them published in the Kremenitser Shtime. Her poems were very popular and were reprinted in the literary papers in Vilna and Warsaw. She was touted as an up-and-coming force among young Yiddish poets.

In her youth, during the events of 1929/1930, she was a member of Pioneer and Young Pioneer, but later, during the crisis, she left the movement with a group of friends and joined the Communist Party. She was arrested by the Polish authorities and sentenced to many years in prison, and, while serving her time, became gravely ill.

For some years she lived in Vilna, where she was in contact with and influenced by literary circles. There she joined a group of young writers called Young Vilna and took part in their activities. The proponents of Yiddish literature had many hopes for her, and today she lives in Poland.

After World War II she published poems in the Yiddish papers in Poland and in America. In 1953 a book of her poems was published in Warsaw. The poems in the Yiddish section of this book, which are reprinted from the Kremenitser Shtime, are among the first that she published.

 

[Page 208]

R' Tsvi Menachem Rokhel

(1835–1922)

K. L.

English Translation by Thia Persoff

kre063.jpg
Figure 63. R' Tsvi Menachem Rokhel

R' Tsvi Menachem son of Avraham was the name by which he was called to read from the Torah, but in town he was known as Hirsh Mendil.

In the memories of those alive today, life in town is remembered the way it was between the two world wars or, at the latest, in the early 20th century. But once there was a different Kremenets – patriarchal, without political parties, without democratic elections, and without desecration of the Sabbath. One of that town's staunch leaders and followers of its tradition was R' Hirsh Mendil Rokhel, descendant of an ancient, venerable merchant family and the patriarch of a widespread dynasty with branches all over the world.

During Polish rule, the street he lived on was named after Slovatski, but in Hirsh Mendil's day it was called Kaznatsheyskaya, after the government treasury house that stood at the top of the street. That street stretched from Sheroka at the bottom all the way up to Mount Vidomka. On the right was the wall of the seminary for priests, and on the left were the large courtyards of the town's wealthy people – Jews, Russians, and Poles. There was a saying: “If you want to breathe fresh air, go up Kaznatsheyskaya Street.” This was the street that R' Hirsh Mendil chose to settle on, and it was there that his descendants and some of his relatives settled. This is the order of the properties, starting at the bottom of the street and going up: in the “red stores” at the corner of Sheroka Street was the haberdashery of Shimon Biberman, Hirsh Mendil's young son-in-law; on the left side of the street was the large Passage Hotel, which belonged to his grandson, Shmuel Kahaner; after that, on the left side, was the courtyard of Moshe Lis, his older son-in-law, and the residence of the family of Moshe Royt, Rokhel's relative. Next, also on the left, was the large courtyard of his son Moshe Rokhel, in which there were a few houses and a large textile store. Next on the left was the house of Berish Brik, a close relative. Next to his place was the house of another relative, named Meir Yampol. All those homes made for a continuous block of courtyards and houses. Across from them, in a two-story house on the right side, lived His Honor R' Hirsh Mendil himself; this place also housed a wholesale sugar and candle warehouse and his “private” synagogue. His son, Yehoshue Rokhel, lived in a house in the same courtyard. All these people, who were like a tribe unto themselves, were sheltered by Hirsh Mendil's patronage. Each of the grandsons (there were about 40) felt good in the “bosom” of the large family, and this feeling led to a kind of arrogance.

R' Hirsh Mendil was a man of erect bearing and elegant features, his white beard very long, his eyes sharp and penetrating, and his expression precise, sometimes biting. He was smart, vigorous, and influential among his people. It was usual to see him sitting surrounded by friends and acquaintances by the entrance to his courtyard, discussing business and community affairs. Generally, he did not tend to favor exceptions or concessions. In fact, he was not inclined to accept the opinions of others, but would force his on them. He was not dependent on others; he had his own street, his own synagogue, and his own bathhouse – even his own rabbi.

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In his youth he worked in the sugar business. Even before there was a railroad, he would travel great distances for long months and return with a long caravan of wagons, loaded with blue-topped sacks of sugar. In the “new time,” sugar started to arrive in railroad cars. After a time, he added candles and packing paper to the business. He made contact with the Lavre monastery in Potshayev and supplied its printing house with paper and other products. At that time, he contacted the German Heinrich Fokner, and from him leased a paper factory in Rudnya, about 20 kilometers from town. Now he was a manufacturer, one of the first among the town's Jews. His son Yehoshue was his partner in the factory, and together they would leave on Sunday for the village, stay in the factory throughout the week, and return home for the Sabbath. In those days 20 kilometers was considered a long distance, and although a two-horse carriage was always at their disposal, it made no sense to waste horsepower and long hours traveling. It is true that even though they were “bourgeois” in their business and outlook on life, the 200 factory workers liked and respected their Jewish employers, who paid them decent wages on time. The attitude was one of mutual respect, and an injured worker and his family were cared for, which was completely the opposite of the way Polish landowners treated the workers who labored in their estates and distilleries.

Not far from there, in Verba, they built a factory to crush wood to make the raw material for paper manufacturing. The area was rich with primeval forests, which were bought, section by section, to produce paper. Then it was discovered that the land in Verba contained a great treasury of peat, which was a good source of fuel for the factory. They purchased a large plot of land and developed a large-scale peat business. Hundreds of workers were employed in the plants, and hundreds of local farmers were kept busy transporting the goods. As a result of all this, the Jewish owners of the paper factory, Hirsh Mendil and his son Yehoshue, became the veritable rulers of the entire area. This was resented greatly by the owner of the estates in the area, the licentious Prince Tarnevski, who saw his losses and their gains, as he was forced to sell off his properties to pay his gambling debts from card-playing while they got richer and stronger from year to year. The farmers hated him and liked the Jews. Angry, he started to find excuses to provoke them and instituted lawsuits against them. They defended themselves with pride and firmness, and even harmed him. There was an open, fierce war between the house of Tarnevski, father and son, and the house of Rokhel, father and son.

The different branches of Hirsh Mendil's business grew, but he never involved himself completely and exclusively in them; he was always involved in the community's needs, too. Parties did not exist yet, but there were factions: Hasidim and Mitnagdim, Orthodox and Enlightened. Hirsh Mendil was one of the extreme Orthodox all his life, without backing off or compromising. He was studious and very learned, with designated hours for study in the early morning, before dawn. His primary efforts went to strengthening religious institutions: synagogues, Torah schools, rabbis, and ritual slaughterers. Next came charity institutions and help for the poor. He demanded from others, firmly insisting on donations from those who could afford it, but first he fulfilled those demands himself. He donated to various projects willingly and with an open hand. When the old bathhouse burned down, he took steps to have a new one built; he was the first to donate a large sum and collected donations from others. In a short time it was built. He did the same for other public institutions. He gave charity in private, too, directly to the needy, most of the time anonymously. On Passover eve he opened his potato-filled cellar and, according to his judgment, distributed portions to the poor of the town who came to him: “Go down to the cellar and fill up two sacks with potatoes.” On the other hand, when asked to donate to the building of the High School of Commerce (in which the studies involved desecrating the Sabbath and distancing the pupils from Jewish studies), he replied to the activists who came to him: I will donate double the sum you request just for not building the school.

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Despite his poor command of Russian, for a long period he was the liaison and representative to the government from the Jewish community, a citizen of the city from the prior era. Because of his clear, sharp intellect and his proud manner and bearing, he was respected by the government, and his words were heard.

After R' Velvele's death, he became enmeshed in a bitter controversy when he refused to recognize the rabbi from Petrikov as the city rabbi. Although most of the city followed the rabbi from Petrikov, he brought Rabbi Yitschak Heler from Kurilovits and influenced a substantial number of the city's Jews to follow him. Thus the city split over a rabbi. No doubt, in his public activities he was quite forceful and possibly even arrogant, and on the heels of this battle, he and his entire family left the Hasidic synagogue, whose congregation generally leaned toward the rabbi from Petrikov, and founded his own synagogue in his home, which lasted for several decades.

Then came a new age with new songs: love of Zion, Zionism, Hebrew literature, the Bund, and the like. Hirsh Mendil strongly resisted all these new trends and did not change his stand for the rest of his life. In his eyes, they were traitors to Israel. And Hebrew literature? Nonsense. He fought these vigorously and tirelessly, but without success. Even worse, a schism opened in his own home. He discovered that his daughter-in-law, Shprintse, Yehoshue's wife, leaned toward Zionism and read Enlightenment literature. His grandchildren were growing, and one by one they were being drawn to Zionism, Yiddishism and the Bund, Russian literature, and the Enlightenment in general. Moreover, his oldest grandson, Duvid Rokhel, began to shave his beard … a family convocation was called, and R' Shimon Handelrafel, Hirsh Mendil's nephew, the family advisor on important matters, was summoned from Kiev. The young rebel was called before him, and R' Shimon heard his regretful words. He mended his ways for some time, but afterwards returned to his errant ways. Eventually he joined the Bund and got involved in mayse bikhelakh in Yiddish and the like.

[Translator's Note: Mayse bikhelakh means secular literature.]

The siege was being broken from one direction or the other. Two families (Yehoshue Rokhel's and Biberman's) had gone completely over to Zionism and were some of the first in town to speak of the movement and leave for the Land of Israel. The remaining two branches (the Lis family and that of Moshe Rokhel) took different paths, but they, too, left the traditional ways.

Hirsh Mendil's final days were not pleasant. His descendants did not follow in his footsteps. In 5782 (1922), R' Tsvi Menachem Rokhel passed away, aged and old in days. With him, a proud, beautiful remnant of the old generation went to its grave.

 

Mikhael Shumski

(1857–1928)

Yitschak Rokhel

English Translation by David Dubin

kre064.jpg
Figure 64. Mikhael Shumski

Five sons and daughters were born to Duvid and Fride Shumski. Three lived in Kiev (Yitschak, Dvore Patin, and Rivke Greben), and only two remained in Kremenets: Leyb Shumski, the eldest, and Mikhael, the youngest. Strong ties grew between the Kremenets branch of the family and the great and enlightened city of Kiev, whether business connections or community and public connections.

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The children received a mixed education, both traditionally Jewish and general, and the languages spoken at home were Yiddish and Russian. The mother, a woman of intellect and fashion, was known by her acquaintances as both Freyde Shumski and Madame Borisovna. After her husband's death, she carried on the family's affairs in partnership with her two remaining sons in Kremenets, Leyb and Mikhael. They were careful to respect their mother. Weekly, the sons and their wives, as well as the grandchildren, would come to her home to light Sabbath candles and eat the Friday night meal at her table.

As a youngster, Mikhael Shumski was taught in a cheder. Afterward, he completed his education at the Rabbinical Seminary in Zhitomir – an institution that in those days served as a center for spreading general enlightenment among Jews and that trained a generation of rabbis for communities across Russia.

However, Mikhael did not enter the rabbinate but rather public business in a general sense. In 1888 he married Nadia, daughter of Avraham Levit Midenski from Zaslav, and they had two children, Zev (Willie), now in Tel Aviv, and a daughter.

The Shumski family, which was quite wealthy, owned the city's southwest rail line station until 1914. The family also owned a private commercial bank and a sugar dealership, as well as tar pits near the railroad station. Most of their businesses were run in partnership.

At a young age, Mikhael, or as he was called by the townsfolk, Mikhail Duvidovich Shumski, entered public service and performed his duties faithfully for decades, as was his way, literally until his final day. He served every stratum of the Jewish public, but especially homeowners and the enlightened, and in those days was also in contact with the Russian and Polish communities. He established good relations with the government authorities.

His public service had many facets. There was no important community cause that did not enjoy his guidance and input. For decades, whether under the Czar, after the revolution, or under the Poles, he was one of the town's notables.

He generally served as the Jewish community's designated representative to the government, in all its upheavals and reincarnations. Under Polish rule, he represented the city in the regional Sejm (Seymik). It goes without saying that he was a firm believer in democracy. After the revolution, when young activists rose to public prominence, bringing a new public style, including assemblies, elections, votes, and other innovations, there was some friction between the new, democratic style and him, who represented the old-style merchant activists who led with their activities and personalities. But after a short time he adopted the new style and seized a central role in public life under the various governments. His reliability in the eyes of the public, his self-sacrifice, and even his longstanding leadership methods concealed his faults and raised him to public prominence as a central figure.

In 1904, with his friend Yisrael Margalit, he conceived of and founded a vocational high school in town in order to raise the cultural level of Jewish young people. The language of instruction was, of course, Russian, and most of the students were even Russians, as was the law in those days. He spent a great deal of energy and zeal on founding the institution, and even afterward he gave the school a great deal of time and assisted in its administration.

As a token of thanks for his efforts, Minister of Trade Timiryaziv called him “a beloved citizen of his generation.”

At that time, he worked hard to build a home for the Talmud Torah and was a sexton of the Great Synagogue as well as a founder of the Burial Society and funeral bier carriers. He took those positions in order to standardize procedures and to stop the shameful spectacle of extortion and deception when a death occurred.

With Ruven Goldenberg, he established the Society of Mutual Credit, the first attempt at a cooperative bank in Kremenets, which aided and supported young merchants and laborers. In partnership with the former judge Pokrovski and with Muzye Barats, Shumski developed a peat mine in near the city.

Tall, handsome, and well dressed with staff in hand was how the townspeople were accustomed to seeing him during the decades when he would travel on the public's behalf between institutions and offices, performing the noble and proud task of one who faithfully serves the public as the past generation's enlightened ones did.

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Shumski was not at all affiliated, but he would visit the synagogue and faithfully deal with the community's religious needs. He was careful not to travel inside the city on the Sabbath, and if he happened to arrive by train on the Sabbath, he would travel from the station to the city on foot. He was also careful to say Kaddish when his mother died (1912).

On the eve of October 11, 1928, a great celebration was arranged to celebrate ten years of Polish independence. Obviously, Mikhail Duvidovich was one of the celebrants and even danced with the most beautiful woman there (an apostate Jewess, wife of a Polish police officer) when he was 71 years old. He still retained his power to lead the Jewish community, serve the public, and also be a man of the people. When he returned home at 3:00 a.m., he suffered a heart seizure and died soon thereafter.

The townspeople and governmental representatives arranged a grand funeral for him. All the organizations, businesses, and factories closed out of mourning, and thousands followed his funeral bier.

It is fair to say that he was an assimilated Jew, but in truth, he was more Jew than assimilated, in his final years drawing closer to the masses. He was connected to the Jews of Kremenets with every fiber of his being and led the community with his intellect and dedication for decades.

Nevertheless, he was not a Zionist, and he trained his children in the Russian language and culture, although they also had a “Jewish spark.” His son Willie immigrated to the Land of Israel after many stops elsewhere and settled in Tel Aviv as an engineer; he is active in the Organization of Kremenets Emigrants.

Shumski was fortunate: he died at the right time, and his eyes did not see the destruction of the Kremenets community, for which he had labored his whole life.

 

Dr. Zalman Sheynberg

Sonye Radzinovits-Aksel (Mahane Yisrael)

English Translation by David Dubin

kre065.jpg
Figure 65. Dr. Zalman Sheynberg

Who among us, the remnant of the Kremenets community, does not remember this dear Jew, who for many years – especially the ten years before the Holocaust – held a central position in Kremenets Jewry? There was probably no field of public service in which Dr. Z. Sheynberg did not participate with all his heart. He was a creator of our city's social structure.

I was fortunate to work in his presence for several years and got to know him up close. These few sentences should be a memorial lamp for his innocent soul. Dr. Z. Sheynberg completed his medical training in Vienna as a stomatologist and was known as an expert in his field. Many physicians from towns and villages in the area would come to consult him on cases that were difficult to manage, and he was always ready to give advice and guidance. His reputation preceded him, and he was accepted by both the Jewish and the Christian communities. Many government authorities, as well as regional notables and influential people from other cities, came to him for treatment, even though there was no shortage of local Christian physicians.

Of medium height, with bright, smiling eyes and a thick, blond mustache, he was brimming with life and enthusiasm and would dispense his goodwill to everyone who came to him. He set an example with his pleasant demeanor and good nature. Success in public activity was certain if Dr. Sheynberg was involved. Moreover, much of his time was devoted to communal affairs. As a long-standing Zionist, he devoted himself completely to practical and organizational work with the Zionist Organization.

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He established a nonpartisan city advisory council for joint activities on behalf of the Jewish National Fund and the United Israel Appeal, the Tarbut School, the library, the establishment of trusts, etc. For a few years, he was chairman of this group. When he was a member of the City Council, his presence signaled Jewish pride and wealth. As a faithful public servant, he fought with all his power against any restriction on the rights of the Jewish population. He also worked hard for the TOZ organization and published many articles on hygiene and health issues. He often appeared before the public at symposia on various diseases and how to avoid them.

Dr. Zalman Sheynberg's work on behalf of the Jewish public in Kremenets was multifaceted and voluminous, and he will be remembered in the hearts of all who revered his reputation.

 

Meir Samsons

Yisrael Otiker

English Translation by David Dubin

This was the nickname of R' Meir Bernshteyn, a relative and student of RYB”L. As the story goes, he was anti-intellectual and a mocker and humorist by nature, and he wrote many satires of Jewish life and customs. In the city, he was the subject of many anecdotes and stories. He was known as a heretic who mocked the restrictions of the Orthodox. Clean-shaven, with a hoary, curly, uncovered head, he would enter and leave RYB”L's home. Tension and anger characterized the relations between him and the community. He earned his living in a liquor store.

His writings were saved by Mrs. Rivke Otiker, may her memory be blessed, and she passed on to her sons four compositions in verse written in his own hand, namely, (1) “A Command to the Empire and an Answer to the Four Questions,” (2) “On the New Moon of Elul, a Fair in Heaven …,” (3) “The Jew with the Illustrious Family,” and (4) “An Evil Woman Is More Bitter Than Death.”

The late Aleksander Rozental copied the manuscripts and published them in the Kremenitser Shtime.

His previous writings were never published and would, it seems, travel from hand to hand. These copies are the only ones we have. His descriptions in these writings are most vivid on the Jewish way of life in contemporary Kremenets.


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