|Monument in the Killing Ravine||3|
|Fence Surrounding the Grave of 14,000 Martyrs in Kremenets||4|
|Arik [Sharon] and Meir [Har-Tsion] discuss the choice of representatives for a meeting||11|
|Section of Sheroka Street in Kremenets (charcoal drawing by A. Argaman)||23|
|Argaman, Avraham||i, 9|
|Barshap, Binyamin||3, 13|
|Bernblum* (wife of Dr. Bernblum)||8|
|Burshteyn (daughter of Yosef)||19|
|Dantsig (husband of Nina Velcher)||7, 8, 9|
|Direktor , Mr.||18|
|Fridman , Hadasa||19|
|Goldenberg, Manus||i, 16|
|Har-Tsion, Meir||10-12, 11 (photo)|
|Horovits, Eliyahu (Elyusha)||10|
|Horovits*, Rachel (née Fridman)||19|
|Horovits*, Sosya (née Katz)||10|
|Katz, Hershel||10, 12|
|Katz, Meshulam||10, 12|
|Levinzon, Yitschak Ber, R' (RYBL)||14, 49|
|Mandel, Yisrael||3, 4|
|Mozes, Mendel||1, 2|
|Nafcha, Yitschak, Rabbi||16|
|Otiker, Mordekhay (see also Ot-Yakar, Mordekhay)||i, 5|
|Ot-Yakar Mordekhay (see also Otiker, Mordekhay)||i, 5|
|Rivke the announcer||46|
|Rokhel, Hirsh Mendil, R'||13, 14|
|Rokhel, Yitschak||i, 3, 9, 13, 14|
|Sharon, Arik||11 (photo), 11|
|Sheynkman, Liza||16, 17|
|Shternberg, Yosef (cantor)||45|
|Vakman, Yitschak||3, 45|
|Vatsman, Dani (see also Vaytsman, David)||16 (photo), 16-17|
|Vatsman, Sara||17 (photo), 17|
|Vaytsman, David (see also Vatsman, Dani)||16 (photo), 16-17|
Encouraged by the warm reactions that have reached us from all over from Kremenetsers abroad and in the Land we present here another booklet the fourth for Chanukah 5729. We note that this time, reactions from the other countries are not just emotional ones but also suggestions for future booklets, such as what types of sections to add, what material is desirable, and so on. The writers seem to see themselves as partners in this project and want to influence and raise its standards. In fact, this was the original intention of this booklet: to be the outlet for the voice of Kremenets emigrants in the Land and abroad. We hope that in time some Kremenetsers from abroad will join the active editorial board.
Here are few sections of some letters from readers:
David Rapoport of New York, a writer, newspaper reporter, publisher of a Yiddish quarterly, and current secretary of the Organization of Kremenets Emigrants in New York, who visited the Land a few months ago, writes:
My thanks for booklet 3 and its outstandingly rich material. I enjoyed reading the heartwarming article by Mendel Mozes, of blessed memory, the former chief editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, about Kremenets and its Jews. So it appears that not only do we, Kremenets emigrants, feel strongly about her, but a reporter as rich in experience as Mendel Mozes, who saw many cities and towns, also produced such high praise for Kremenets and its Jews in a literary pearl of an ode. The article by Pak brings back memories of the gifted and idealistic educator Goldfarb. The entire contents of the booklet evoke an ocean of memories and emotions in me
Voice of Kremenets Emigrants should become a regular publication, based on regular subscriptions in the Land and other countries, published four times a year, on each holiday. Each edition should contain a poem by one of our fellow townspeople (to mention only a few: Yemima Avidar, Hadasa Rubin, Helena Vaynberg, and even the writer of these lines). And if you aim for a thousand regular subscribers who pay a year in advance, you will be able to publish it in a format that will be more pleasant to read. It should have a special book review section for books in the RYBL Library, and each booklet should contain short reviews of 10 books. This will attract readers to that library. Also, each article, even the shortest one, should include the name of its author so as not to be shy or hide the author's name.
Consider adding a supplement in English and Spanish for the younger generation that does not understand Hebrew or Yiddish, as it is important for them to feel close to memories of Kremenets.
Here are parts of a letter from a friend who is well known to our readers, Mordekhay Katz of Buenos Aires:
Booklet 3, too, is full of brotherly affections and heartfelt words. Voice of Kremenets Emigrants must be heard everyplace where even one Kremenetser dwells. The articles about Dr. Zev Chasid in California and Dr. Mark Katz in New York fill our hearts with pride. With sadness but also with satisfaction, we read the articles by Mendel Mozes and by Yosef Bergman from Soviet Homeland about our town and our brothers there. And more: we remember and mention our collective past in the town of Kremenets, but we look forward to the future. Now your children and grandchildren are among those standing guard at the borders of the state of Israel, and it is very important to us for you to include in the booklet from time to time an article about a descendant who is serving on a job assignment in the Israel Defense Forces. Kremenetsers in the Diaspora will read about someone's child or grandchild who is an officer in the IDF, a pilot, or a paratrooper, and for them, it will be as if these were their own children.
As readers will see, we took those suggestions to heart. In this booklet, you will find a few articles resulting from the recommendations above.
We call your attention to the suggestion of holding an international convention of Kremenets emigrants. We hope that this idea will be well received and that we will be privileged to make it a reality soon.
In his last letter, on September 10, 1968, Yisrael Mandel, the devoted guardian of the graves, wrote to Mr. Vakman in the United States about what is being done in the killing fields and the old cemetery.
I repaired the memorial statue, built a fence around it, and planted trees. I'll do my best to take care of it so that all will continue to be fine. I'm enclosing photos of the memorial statue and the fence, and request that you give some to Mr. Barshap and Rachel Senderovits (I met her in Lvov about two years ago). I have prayed for all our annihilated brethren and visited the old cemetery, where I prayed at the graves of Rabbi Senderovits and your mother. In the old cemetery, the gravestones are in good repair. May God let peace reign in the whole world. Regards from all the Kremenetsers, and we thank you for your help in building the memorial statue and the fence.
Monument in the Killing Ravine
Our friend Vakman forwarded the photos to us, and we have printed them in this booklet. Mr. Vakman adds in his letter:
It is our duty to pass on the memories of the annihilated to future generations.
All Kremenetsers should keep those photos in their homes, show them to their children from generation to generation, and tell them this: See, my children, our brothers and sisters 14,000! are buried here. They were victims of the Nazis, may their names be erased old people and children, in pits dug by their own hands for themselves and their young children. See and remember, remember and don't forget! Do you see the memorial? It says that thousands of innocent people are buried there just people, with no mention of the word Jews, God forbid, even though all who are buried there are Jews. This is our fate among the gentiles. Remember and don't forget!
At this time, we send our blessings (and will they reach him?) to the precious Jew Yisrael Mandel in Kremenets, who took it upon himself as a holy duty to guard the honor of the annihilated so that it would not be desecrated. We wish him a long life and the strength to carry on with his holy task. He is a representative of the community, a representative of the people of Kremenets wherever they are, and it is written, Those on an errand of good deeds will not come to harm. May he continue to stand on guard, and may our blessings follow him.
Fence Surrounding the Grave of 14,000 Martyrs in Kremenets
To the organizations of Kremenets emigrants in Argentina, the United States, and Canada greetings!
In the annual memorial to the martyrs of Kremenets that took place in Tel Aviv on August 14, 1968, our member Mordekhay Ot-Yakar (Otiker) proposed holding an international convention of former Kremenetsers in August 1969. The proposal was discussed at the September 29, 1968, board meeting. It was accepted in principle, and the decision was made to talk about it immediately with the three Diaspora organizations of Kremenets emigrants (Argentina, United States, and Canada). If they are inclined to accept it and think that a good number of Kremenetsers will participate, we'll start to plan it seriously and prepare a proper convention.
The goal of the convention is to hold a meeting among Kremenetsers from all the countries in which they are dispersed and to strengthen the ties among them. We think that the convention should last a few days and have several components: a memorial to the martyrs of Kremenets in Tel Aviv, a visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, a meeting with fellow townspeople in Haifa, an exhibition of photos and drawings, a celebratory meeting of the boards from all four countries, an evening of memories with songs and music, Kremenets style, an exhibition of Kremenets newspapers, and so on.
We mention only highlights here, or, more correctly, ideas. A detailed program has not yet been prepared. We'll take care of that when the results from the Diaspora organizations arrive. Now, if you find this proposal acceptable, you, too, will have to take part in the planning and preparation for the convention that is, collect photos, documents of all kinds, and any other pertinent material; enlist any artistic talent that can contribute to this goal; and help with the administrative preparation. The aim is for the convention to be a joint social and cultural event for Kremenetsers from all countries. We envision that an international board of five members will be formed immediately, one from each country and the fifth the chairman (logically from Israel, as the largest concentration and the convention are located here), who will plan the convention and coordinate activities among the four organizations. It stands to reason that all this involves a financial budget, and this will be discussed at the appropriate time.
We request that as soon as you receive this letter, you call a meeting of your organization's board and (a) decide whether to accept this proposal in principle, and if the answer is affirmative, (b) choose a representative to the international planning board, and (c) within a few weeks, determine the number of people who will come to the convention.
Dear members, we will not add propaganda to the words above; the idea is clear, and you are to weigh it and make up your minds. Many Kremenetsers in the Diaspora want to visit Israel; many are longing to see their relatives and friends in the Land, and this would be a fitting opportunity to do that, too. We should mention that, so far, no project undertaken by Kremenets emigrants has disappointed: Pinkas Kremenets, the memorial project, and the Kremenets yizkor book. Because of that, we believe that the convention will also be successful, if willing and capable members apply themselves to the preparations and do the job with enthusiasm and energy.
We look forward to your reply as soon as possible.
With friendly blessings,
For Kremenets emigrants in Israel,
P.S. At press time, no reply had been received from the three organizations.
(Mrs. Nina Velcher-Dantsig's Story)
She is sitting across from us, the members of the board, bent over the table, her eyes sunk into the dark abyss of those past years, and horrific memories surface.
Tensely drawn, we listen to her, feeling guilty that she is reliving this tragic affair because of us one of those terrible affairs that makes its listeners shudder and exposes again and again the enormity of the Nazi crimes against our nation.
We also hear revelations of the noble sensitivity of a few Polish and Ukrainian people who endangered their life to save Jews. True, these are only single cases, but enough to renew our belief in humanity.
Nina Velcher-Dantsig, her face retaining the loveliness and spark of youth and an expression that attests to great energy, is a graduate of Warsaw University. She grew up in a wealthy Jewish home where tradition and secular education lived in mutual harmony, one of those homes that were the foundation of the greatness of Polish Jewry.
With the German invasion of Poland, Nina and her husband parents escaped to Brest-Litovsk and from there to Tuchin in the Vohlin district. There they worked in a Soviet government-run Yiddish school, she as a teacher and her husband as the school's principal.
Then the Germans invaded Russia, too. They conquered Tuchin, and the bloodbath began; Jewish lives were in the hands of lawlessness, and they were slaughtered by Germans and Ukrainians.
At that time, Nina was in the hospital giving birth to her first child, but was hidden by her physician and the personnel, as having Jews in the hospital was forbidden. After leaving the hospital, she worked in a sock-knitting workshop with 30 Polish and Jewish women, which afforded her a bit of free life. But before long, preparations to establish a ghetto began, there was talk of annihilating the Jewish population, and a search began for a proper place for a mass grave. In the meantime, the killing of single and groups of Jews continued. Then Jews from Kremenets arrived in Tuchin, and they said that the Jews who survived in the ghetto bunkers after the mass annihilation behind the barracks had burned the ghetto and were consumed in the conflagration. This was done to keep them from sharing the fate of their brothers and sisters, who were shot into a mass grave.
A few Tuchin Jews decided to follow their path. On the eve of the final action, they gathered in the synagogue and wrapped themselves in their prayer shawls. They lit a fire and burned the synagogue and themselves Nina and her husband managed to evade the Germans. A Tartar woman took their one-year-old daughter and returned her to her mother two years later, whole and healthy (the daughter is now here with us in the Land).
A Pole by the name of Kamilevski, the owner of an estate in the Tuchin area, took them into his protection and hid them in the hayloft on his estate. Before long, the slaughterers came after the Tuchin Jews and killed them right near Kamilevski's house. The Dantsig couple was saved, but the hiding place was not safe anymore, not to mention that they were eaten constantly by vermin, so they had to leave. The compassionate Kamilevski moved them to a state-owned farm in Shupkov. Shupkov had close ties with the town of Kremenets. Veterans of our town still remember that the falik hu kotski stationed in Kremenets used to go for maneuvers in Shupkov and were followed by Jewish contractors and suppliers, who made their living from that battalion. They and their families would go and spend the summer close to nature there.
At that time, the students at the Seminary for Priests and the two high schools, as well as many families, left town for the mountains and nearby villages. The farmers were busy in their fields, and the town's streets were empty of people, but the storekeepers, artisans, and craftsmen who stayed in town had time to enjoy God's beautiful world and fill their lungs with the aroma of the blooming acacias.
In the exchange, the drivers sat on the steps across from their idle carriages. They had time to yawn largely and noisily and, between yawns, to reminisce about trips to Shupkov during maneuver exercises.
In prerailroad days in Kremenets, they drove the contractors on long dirt roads through fields and forests.
What a sharp contrast there was between those idyllic days and the years of the annihilation. Even then, some survivors from Kremenets escaped to Shupkov and worked in the state-owned farm.
The killing wave reached Shupkov, too. The Jews who had found shelter there were put to the sword. Nina and her husband escaped to the village of Korets. Being naturally blond and fluent in Polish, they passed as Polish natives. A Polish friend provided them with counterfeit documents and taught them Catholic prayers. On Sundays and holidays, they attended church services, with the hope that this would help save them. And they hoped that their baby daughter would also be saved and returned to them one day. One day, a guest, arrived in the house where they were staying: the Pole Shubyakovski, who used to be a notary in Kremenets. He told them that the Lyceum had been turned into a central hospital for the German army in Ukraine and that there was a chance that, with his help, Nina could get a job there. On Christmas Eve 1942 four months after the destruction of Kremenets Jewry Nina arrived in Kremenets and moved into the attic of Shubyakovski's home. With the help of his son-in-law, Chepilevski, Nina got a job as a cook's helper in the hospital. One day, she heard one of the Polish maids say that she enjoyed seeing the Germans cutting off a bearded Jew's head. Another Polish woman expressed her shock and said that those terrible things kept her anxious day and night. Among the maids was Danuta Opolska, the daughter of a Lyceum professor who was killed by a former Ukrainian student. In the winter of 1943, Nina's husband arrived in Kremenets, and with her help, he got a job as a laborer in the woodshop. In the Lyceum courtyard were sidewalks paved with headstones from the Jewish cemetery. When I avoided stepping on them, my husband warned me that such behavior might give away my Jewishness to the Germans, said Nina. For the same reason, when she heard rumors that some Jews remained hidden in Kremenets, she was careful not to show any interest. Any carelessness, even the smallest, could endanger their lives. Nina suspected that one of the women working in the hospital was Jewish, too, but she was afraid to get close to her. So as not arouse suspicion, she watched her and her husband from afar. As it turned out later, this was Dr. Bernblum's wife, who had been hiding in Dobrokhotova with her husband all that time. That winter, with a permit from the German authorities, Nina brought her daughter to Kremenets as if she had been adopted. The procedure entailed the involvement of Poles and Ukrainians, but they all kept her secret. With the Germans' defeat in Stalingrad, many injured were brought to the hospital, their morale very low. While she was employed at the hospital, Nina felt that something was going on among the Poles that apparently they had some ties with underground forces, and a few of them were caught and then shot. Among them was Zadishev Guretski, of the notary Guretski's family, who was shot by a German in the Lyceum courtyard.
In the meantime, the front was getting closer to Kremenets, and the Germans began to leave town. Nina and her husband hid in one of the deep cellars in Shubyakovski's house. The Germans left, then returned, but with the Russian pressure getting stronger, they were worried about being surrounded, so they left the town again and this time did not return. For six weeks, before the entrance of the Red Army, the town was without established rule.
The Ukrainians took advantage of this and used that time for murder and robbery. Having no Jews in town, they attacked the Poles, robbing and killing many of them and burning their churches in the area. Throughout those days, the town streets that escaped destruction were empty of people.
On March 19, 1944, at the break of dawn, like a giant herd of sheep gliding down the surrounding mountains, the Kalmykians of the Red Army arrived. When they reached the town streets, the people filled those streets with noise and joy.
The Russians rapidly organized civilian life in the town. Nina and her family, who made it known to the authorities that they were Jewish, moved to the town of Rovno. There they found a job in the same establishment and saw some of those who had helped save her.
Mrs. Nina Dantsig finished her tale and straightened up with a sigh. Now, in our eyes, she was not the same woman she had been at the beginning of her story, but someone who was close to us, very close to us. For many months, she had lived in the place where the souls of our martyrs hovered and demanded revenge. She was forced to live among those who stood in the blood of her brothers and sisters and serve them, concealing all sign of the pain gnawing inside her while her people's blood screamed from every stone and piece of dirt in Kremenets. She was the only Jew who walked among the ruins of the town, surrounded by murderers and terrible strangeness.
A. Argaman and Y. Rokhel
Is it only the children? Definitely not! Among the first generation of immigrants from Kremenets are outstanding personalities in the ranks of the Haganah and the Israel Defense Forces who had a hand in laying the groundwork for the country's security. But this section is intended to be mainly about fighters among the children, those born in the Land to parents from Kremenets. Mordekhay Katz of Argentina suggested that we include a section describing the activities of the outstanding among them in our booklet. We agreed, and here is the first in this series.
It's not as if he requires a pedigree, since he has become a legend who makes his own pedigree through his brave and heroic deeds. But so that Kremenetsers, the readers of this booklet, know whom we are talking about, we start with his pedigree: R' Mordekhay Katz, a well-known wealthy man from the village of Bielozerka, was the father of Hershel Katz, who moved to the town of Kremenets. He was the younger brother of Meshulam Katz, the very first of the Enlightened and Lovers of Zion in Kremenets and a representative to the First Zionist Congress. Hershel Katz was the father of Sosya, who married Zalman Horovits, a forest merchant and financial dealer. Like all the descendants of the Katz family and those who accompany them, he was a member of the Zionist contingency. Zalman's son, Eliyahu Horovits, known as Elyusha, immigrated with the pioneers in the third wave of immigration in the 1930s. At first he was a member of Rishpon, the workers settlement near Hertseliya, and from there he moved to Kibbutz Ein Harod, where he settled.
His son, Meir, was born in Rishpon in 1934 and celebrated his bar mitzvah in Ein Harod. This is Meir Har-Tsion, the hero of our story. The following tale is a collection from the book Fighting Unit 101 and other sources, with the addition of some connective material.
As a boy, Meir used to climb Mount Gilboa on stormy nights. He climbed and stumbled, climbed and slipped, but he arrived at his destination by himself and on his own against a storm, alone in the rain and mud until he made it to the summit, which stands across from Ein Harod, a proud and unyielding mountain, but with Meir on its peak.
From childhood, Meir liked to spend his vacations hiking. Once, when visiting Solomon's Pillars near Timnah, he heard that the most handsome pillars stood about 15 kilometers across the border in Petra. Meir wanted to see Petra with his own eyes, and with friends he planned the hike, which should have taken two days and one night. They started on their way with food, firearms, and miniature roadmaps from the National Fund in their backpacks. On the first night, they got lost. On the second night, they got lost again, but being stubborn, they would not give up on their goal. They reached Petra and wandered enchanted among the pillars of the ancient Nebatian city carved into the rock. Their return was exhausting: chamsin, being discovered by Bedouins, and slow progress. They arrived back after four days.
At times, he would try to express the deep, wonderful feeling of elation that engulfs one who has been in danger and conquered it. Imagine yourself standing across from a tall mountain, and you decide to climb it. You know that you may stumble, fail, or get lost, and that it will be very difficult. That's not pleasant. But you overcome all the hardships, fears, and pains, and if you succeed in reaching the summit then you've reached the top stage of victory, a wondrous feeling that has no equal.
The hike to Petra is one of the most difficult private hikes across the border taken by Meir Har-Tsion, but it is not the only one he took before he joined the 101. Later, during his service in the parachute battalion, he went alone to Jericho, and with a group of four, he penetrated into Geresh in the Gilead Mountains, 90 kilometers on each side.
In Ein Harod, Meir worked with sheep. Why sheep? He writes in his diary, It is possible that the romance of the shepherd's life was attractive to me: the peace and the distance from the mechanization that I hate, or maybe the blame belongs to the pull of nature I love to wander and roam in wide fields, to live in nature and feel it.
At that time, Meir was serving in a unit of the Fighting Pioneer Youth corps as part of his army service, but dissatisfied with his service in this branch, he requested a transfer to a different unit. At that time, Commando Unit 101 was being organized. Arik Sharon, its commander, who was looking for every choice and right guy to add to this special unit, noticed 19-year-old Meir, who was tall with a long stride and bright green eyes. His commanders noticed that this young soldier had a unique talent for field orientation, as if he had been born and grown up among boulders and crannies, dunes, and rocky mountains. By then the nickname Lone Wolf was already stuck to him. Willingly, he joined Unit 101, since it had what appealed to him: This is a unit that has true merits. That is how the second phase of his army career began. Within a short time, he stood out among them and was appointed a group commander and Arik's second in command. (The third phase was at the Paratroops Corps when Unit 101 was merged with it.)
Arik and Meir discuss the choice of representatives for a meeting
On a dark winter night, a fighting unit of four under Meir's command hiked slowly on the snowy incline of the Hebron mountains. Their objective was to penetrate sleepy Hebron, surround the house in which the murderers lived, burst into it, collect all important documents, and then destroy the house. This task was given to the four, with the knowledge that their daring, devotion to the cause, and resourcefulness during battle made each of them better than a whole regular battalion. This was a hike that would not be erased from the pages of the army's retaliation. (Meir used to call his incursions behind the lines into enemy territory hikes.)
Night training and reconnaissance scouting that began in the 101 and continued in the paratroopers would yield their fruit. Meir's excellent night orientation produced many results, of one which earned him a commendation from the chief of staff. That was when paratroopers attacked the Syrian emplacements at the length of the Sea of Galilee. Meir had an old account to settle with the Syrians that started in his youth, when he and his sister were accosted by them. And Meir collected on the bill in full.
Years later, at his home in Kokhav HaYarden, Meir said, The 101 was a sort of intermediate stage. I was a better soldier then than when I was in the Fighting Pioneer Youth. In the paratroopers, I was a better soldier than when I was in the 101. And when Meir Har-Tsion was asked if he hated the Arabs, he lifted his shoulder and answered, What for? When it is necessary I fight them. But why hate?
Meir is one of the very few fighters in the 101 who miraculously survived. The Angel of Death tried to ambush him many times, but retreated from the man who was a legend.
His turn arrived during an onslaught on the police building in Jordan's El Rahwa; a bullet penetrated his throat and became lodged in his body. No cases of survival from such mortal wounds on the battlefield, under enemy fire, were known in the annals of medicine. Here the young physician Dr. Ankilevits dashed to him. Cool and composed, he operated on him, exposed to enemy fire, and immediately moved him to a collection station for the wounded. Meir's battle to live lasted a whole year and ended in victory, but he was left 80 percent disabled. Am I only 20 percent human or 80 percent nothing? Meir wrote in his diary. I must continue my life in spite of being wounded and disabled.
The commanders of the IDF offered the hero a high rank in the paratrooper brigade and the role of instructor and adviser on planning dangerous maneuvers. His reply to them was, The army is my life, but as I'm unable to be a fighter ever again, I don't want to be a tourist visiting the unit on the strength of my past actions and awards.
Meir Har-Tsion, nicknamed Har by his friends, the man who fooled death and wrote a shining page in the annals of the IDF, resides today on the summit of Windy Mountain among the mountains of the Galilee in a secluded ranch named Ahuzat Shoshana after his sister, who was murdered by Arab rioters. In 1959, Ruti joined him. I always dreamed of a secluded ranch that floated among the clouds, she confessed to him. Meir was the knight of her dreams who came from afar and carried her away.
The magnificent view and feeling of standing strong against the forces of nature compensate the hero and his family. Just as he held on by his fingernails on the steep slopes on his way to the Syrian command post, so did he cling to the rocks of Windy Mountain and overcome his hardships.
If it were only possible, R' Meshulam Katz one of the first members of Lovers of Zion in the town of Kremenets for you to see the life of one of the brave conquerors of Canaan, he being the great-grandson of your brother Hershel, then surely your lips would pronounce this in the grave: Happy is the generation that was blessed with such sons.
Or: The Difference between a Polish Graf and a Jewish Gvir 
(Memories of Kremenets, My Hometown)
Binyamin Barshap, New York
Translated from Yiddish [to Hebrew] by Y. Rokhel
And now, please tell me, Mr. Yitschak Rokhel, if Mendil Rokhel was your father or your grandfather. I knew him well. I can see him standing across from me as if he were alive: tall, with an expressive face and long white beard. A true patriarch. I used to think that this was the way our forefather Abraham looked. I was anxious to talk with him, and in 1900, the opportunity presented itself.
My father was a carpenter, father of six children. During the winter, he built furniture and somehow made a living. In the summer, he worked in Graf Tarnevski's estate. On Friday, the Graf would send him home in a wagon loaded with potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, and beets, but never paid him money. This continued for few weeks, but my father didn't dare approach the Graf about the money. I couldn't stand to see my mother suffer over having to depend on charity and decided to call on R' Hirsh Mendil Rokhel. I used to see him when he was walking to the rabbi from Mezvihil's, may his memory be blessed, who lived in a house in Hirsh Mekhl's yard, near Aba Tsukerman's courtyard. One Tuesday, I stopped him and said I needed to talk to him. And who are you? he asked me. I told him that I was the son of Mordekhay the carpenter. He said, I know your father and even your grandfather. What do you want? I told him, My father works for Graf Tarnevski, but he doesn't pay him wages. He only gives him onions, beets, and cabbage, and my father is afraid to ask him for his pay in money. How can you dare ask a Graf about money? So I'd like to ask you to sell me a few empty crates. I'll take them apart and make boards for cutting noodles, salting meat, and preparing cholent and meatballs. Also chairs, baby carriages, wagons, toy guns, and swords. Bows for Lag Ba-Omer, noisemakers for Purim, and so on.
When I finished telling him about my plans for the crates, R' Hirsh Mendil said to me, Come with me, and we'll see how many empty crates I have now. We were on the main street, so he called a driver, and together we drove in the coach to his store. He checked and told me that six crates were available and that he was willing to sell them to me for one ruble. But I have no money, I said. No problem, he replied. You go and bring your tools and take the crates apart, and I'll send them to you with your Uncle Leyzer Barshap. My uncle was a wagon driver who delivered merchandise from the train station to town.
That was the beginning. I continued doing business with R' Hirsh Mendil for about two years, and I'd like to note that my father received potatoes and other vegetables from the grand Graf, while I saved 240 rubles from R' Hirsh Mendil's crates, and my mother received enough money to cover all the household needs.
With this, Mr. Rokhel, I finish my foolish stories, the memories of my youth. Thirty years ago, I probably could have told them to you much more nicely; the ability of a 50-year-old surpasses that of an 82-year-old, which is my current age.
In this booklet, we introduce a section containing reviews of books in the RYBL Library. The first to be reviewed is by R' Yitschak Ber Levinzon (RYBL).
Testimony in Israel*
*This review is based on Klauzner's in History of Modern Hebrew Literature, vol. 3, supplement 2, 5713.
In this book, his first (first printed in 1828), we find the RYBL's principal ideas. The great quality of his books lies in the fact that their entire contents are aimed toward his desired goal. If we consider the conditions of his life and the fact that he worked in a town as lacking in books as Kremenets was, we are amazed by his great knowledge and the new and correct ideas in his books.
The book Testimony in Israel made a strong impression on Enlightenment literature at the time. His ideas were completely new, daring, and revolutionary then. They angered the Hasidim in Podolia and Volin and led to the creation of a new word, teudka, in popular language, as a nickname for an infidel and atheist. At the same time, the book created unusual excitement among people whose ideas were quite dissimilar from each other: the Enlightened and those who were not Enlightened, and even Chabad Hasidim accepted the book willingly.
The book answered five questions that were practical and valid in the 19th-century Jewish ghettos of Russia and Poland: (a) Is studying Hebrew grammar and syntax permitted? (b) Is learning foreign languages permitted? (c) Is studying science permitted? (d) Is it useful to study foreign languages and science? (e) Is the loss from learning them greater than their usefulness to Jews ?
Based on a great deal of evidence in the Talmud and Hebrew literature of the Middle Ages, the RYBL proves that each Jew has a duty to be proficient in the holy tongue and that this is not possible without knowing its grammar and syntax. The RYBL also sees a national benefit from knowing Hebrew: The Hebrew language is the central axis that links friends and all our brethren spread into the four corners of the Diaspora as one. Only it (the Hebrew language) unites their hearts to serve God in unison, and who can tell if, at this time, the nation of Israel and our religion would have survived without it. Here we see the Jewish and national RYBL, to whom the historical link between the Jewish communities in all countries of the world is most important, and he sees a guarantee for the continuation and strengthening of this link in the Hebrew language.
As for foreign languages, the RYBL proves that the Jews have spoken languages of other nations without worrying about it since ancient times. During the days of the Second Temple, the Jews used three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Even saying the Shema prayer was allowed (shema listen in any language that you hear), and they not only conversed but even wrote in those languages. These were very daring words at the time, even if they were supported by the Rambam and other commentators.
Then the RYBL proves that by knowing foreign languages, we can learn the wisdoms (sciences) that a person needs for spiritual fulfillment. Moses knew the science of nature, and so did King David and especially his son Solomon, who wrote all sorts of wise books. The study of languages, science, and wisdom will not take away from religion or weaken the strength of faith. On the contrary, through them, faith in God blessed be He will be strengthened.
In the last chapters of his book, the RYBL admonishes us that it is the duty of every Israelite to learn a craft or profession to make a living. To support his words, he cites examples from the Talmud and the commentators and lists a long line of teachers and Talmudic sages who were laborers and craftsmen. He complains that there are no trade schools for Jewish children and resents the fact that, in our day, work is held in contempt, while in ancient days in Israel it was honored. And to finish, he complains that the Jews in our time lean toward commerce and not toward working the land, the way our ancestors did, and that it was very important in their eyes.
On Thursday, October 10, 1968, our dear fellow townsman Dani Vatsman (David Vaytsman) passed away at the age of 56. He had been hospitalized just two days before his death. The physicians discovered that he had a malignancy, and this is what did him in with such shocking speed.
I remember Dani when he was the beloved child of the Brik family in Kremenets. His grandfather was R' Beyrish Brik, a self-made, first-class metalsmith who was also a scholar and musician. When praying at the synagogue lectern, his voice was pleasing to the ears of the assembled and gladdened their hearts. I imagined R' Beyrish to resemble the likable image from the Talmud, that of Rabbi Yitschak Nafcha, one of the sages who combined scholarship with earning their living through physical labor and on whom Y. B. Levinzon relied when defending the honor of physical labor in his book Testimony in Israel.
Beyrish's sons followed in his path, and in his workshop, Dani absorbed love for work and his first knowledge of the metalsmith craft. In our town's ORT school, Dani increased his knowledge of his craft and graduated with high honors.
His good nature made him likable to his fellow students, and since he was involved in the daily life of all the youth movements in town, everyone liked him.
In 1935, Dani immigrated to Israel and stayed temporarily with his uncle Elazar Brik's family an endless source of strong love for the homeland, which stayed with him all his life. After he married Liza Sheynkman of our town, they established a family in Israel together.
In 1937, Dani began working on important undertakings in the underground Israel Military Industries workshop. This very dangerous work, which demanded great devotion, composure, and self-control, was well suited to Dani's character; he was easygoing, peaceful, and controlled, and weighed his words before speaking. Because of this, his superiors trusted him, knowing that he would never disappoint them; no power on earth would force him to reveal the secrets entrusted to him.
When the Haganah came out of the underground, Dani saw his job as finished and done with. A short time later, he took a job teaching precision mechanics in the technical school in Ashkelon and later at the Shevach Vocational School in Tel Aviv, where he worked until his last day. As he confessed to me once, teaching gave him great satisfaction.
Liza and Dani brought up two children: their firstborn, Eldad, and a daughter, Sara. Sara was very gifted. After graduating, she enlisted in the army and later was sent to officer training school.
A few days before graduation and her tour of duty, she went on the last field training with her unit. During practice with live grenades, a horrifying thing happened: a grenade with an open lever stayed in her hand and blew up, and Sara was killed.
Her family, which awaited her return and was already planning her future as a civilian, received the terrible announcement instead.
Five years have passed since then. Liza and Dani had two grandchildren from their beloved son, Eldad, but they still could not be consoled; their deep wound did not heal, and their great tragedy lay heavy on them, which must have undermined Dani's health until it brought him down.
In the military cemetery at Kiryat Shaul, among the last rows of our fighters, Sara's ashes are secreted, and her father Dani, of blessed memory, the veteran soldier-without-uniform, lies near his beloved daughter for eternity.
On the 30th day after Dani's death, the Shevach School and our organization held a most impressive memorial. In their eulogies, the principal of the school, Mr. Sabo, and his friend in his work in the underground Israel Military Industries noted Dani's unique character, which made him a good friend who was liked by everyone, and honored by his students and fellow teachers. Our member Yosef Avidar recounted memories of Dani's life in Kremenets and noted his importance to the military industry in the Haganah underground.
About a month ago, our fellow townsman Nachum Vishnier passed away at the age of 82.
Nachum Vishnier arrived in America 63 years ago. Throughout all those long years, he never stopped corresponding with family members in Kremenets. His letters were full of humor and encouragement. Vishnier, a fount of Kremenets folklore treasures, spread his pearls in all the letters he wrote to his relatives and friends.
He worked hard all his life but very generously helped anyone who approached him.
During the two world wars and afterward, he participated in all the relief functions in Chicago. He had been an active and devoted member of the Jewish Labor Party in America nearly since its establishment. He did much for his fellow townspeople in the Society of Kremenetsers and Berezetsers in Chicago, and through him we received generous donations for the RYBL Library from that society.
Twelve years ago, he and his wife visited Israel. At the same time, Mr. and Mrs. Direktor were visiting. They were among the founders of the society in Chicago, did a great deal for Kremenetsers in the camps in Germany, and continued to support some of them in the Land.
At the initiative of Riva Bernshteyn, of blessed memory, we organized a gathering in their honor in which the organization's active members participated. At the gathering, we expressed appreciation for all that the honored guests had done for their fellow townspeople all those years.
The guests then promised to continue their activities, and they fulfilled their promises.
Miryam and Nachman Desser's Granddaughter, New York
A few weeks ago, Miryam and Nachman Desser's family in New York experienced a tragic accident.
Nachman and his wife were driving from New York to the city where their son and his family lived to celebrate their daughter-in-law's birthday. On the way, a car coming from the opposite direction hit their car. Both cars were badly damaged, but all the passengers escaped unharmed.
The next day, the women stayed home to prepare for the party that evening. Nachman's son took his two daughters (one 9½, the other 11½) for a walk. Suddenly, a car drove onto the sidewalk and ran over the 11½-year-old girl.
The great disaster is tragic. With aching hearts, we heard the sad news; all of us share the sorrow and mourning of the Desser family in the United States and Canada.
Six years ago, Yosef Taft arrived in Israel from Canada. He introduced himself, telling us that he was the son of Kremenets Hebrew teacher Yosef Burshteyn's daughter, who passed away in Winnipeg.
Yosef had a great deal of knowledge about his grandfather and love for our town, which he absorbed growing up in the home of Mendil Burshteyn, the uncle who adopted him.
Yosef planned to continue his studies at the university, but the sudden death of his uncle forced his to return to Winnipeg. In the beginning he wrote to us and even sent us, via Max Desser, a donation for the RYBL Library.
Two weeks ago, Desser notified us that Yosef had died. In his letter, he enclosed a section from a Canadian newspaper stating that the 33-year-old radio correspondent, Yosef Taft, had been discovered dead in his bathroom and that the police were investigating the case.
We join Yosef Burshteyn's children in their sorrow.
The sad news about the death of 62-63-year-old Hadasa Fridman, Aharon Fridman's daughter, arrived from Warsaw (her husband's name is Fridman, too). She grew up in a very Zionist home, but later, with her sister Rachel, she joined the Leftist movement. With the retreat of the Soviet regime from Kremenets, the sisters moved to Russia with their boyfriends future husbands Yosef Fridman and Liora Horovits. After the war, they returned to Poland as did all the other refugees from that circle. Fridman, Hadasa's husband, got a very important job there as a judge. What has happened to him now is not difficult to guess.
And again: Was there an uprising in the Kremenets ghetto, and who set fire to it?
We dealt with this subject in booklet 3, where we printed the article by Yosef Bergman published in Soviet Homeland, which is not the same story told by Betsalel Shvarts or Tova Teper, who described the annihilation in the book Pinkas Kremenets. Now we have been informed that Knesset member Gidon Hausner (known for his prosecution of Eichmann) mentioned the destruction of Kremenets according to Yosef Bergman's version in a speech on Yom Hashoah. In his reply to our letter inquiring about the sources on which he based his words, Mr. Hausner wrote (in his letter of August 14, 1968):
I am acquainted with the article written in Soviet Homeland. I call your attention to what is written in Book of the Ghetto Wars, p. 486, by Frida Bornshteyn, in this way:
On August 9, 1942, at sunrise, policemen and gendarmes surrounded the Kremenets ghetto. Suddenly, an unplanned and disorganized battle ensued. On the first day, six Germans and guards fell, and the next day, 10 fell. On the third day of the battle, the young people set fire to the ghetto, and while it burned, they continued the battle and the destruction. The flames died when the last fighter took his last breath.
The annual memorial for the martyrs of Kremenets was held this year as usual on August 14, 1968, at Kibbutzim College Square in Tel Aviv, near the RYBL Library, with hundreds of Kremenetsers from all over the country in attendance. Mordekhay Ot-Yakar (Otiker) led the ceremony, Manus Goldenberg and Yitschak Portnoy gave speeches, and the famous cellist Yakov Menza performed. This year more than usual, the younger generation's participation was noticeable. Two subjects in particular came up in the speeches: a suggestion to hold an international convention of Kremenetsers in August 1969 and how to influence the next generation to participate in the organization's activities.
Bela Bernshteyn-Kudlash of Buenos Aires has been in the Land for few months because of family needs. At that opportunity, the unveiling of the gravestone of her sister Tsira, of blessed memory, was held, and some Kremenetsers attended it. Member Bela participated in some meetings of the board and the booklet's editorial board. She observed our work closely and reported to us on the work of the organization's Argentina branch.
Shonya Rish's Daughter in Good Hands in the USA
At one time, Shonya Rish's widow, who lived in Warsaw, requested the organization's help in immigrating to Israel with her daughter. From her letters, we learned that the girl is very gifted, particularly in music.
Our member Yitschak Vakman has stayed in touch with Shonya's widow since his death and helped her from time to time.
We started procedures, but the woman passed away from a malignancy during that time. The 12-year-old daughter was an orphan and alone. Before her death, Shonya's widow asked their friends in New York to adopt their daughter, and now we have been notified that the family has brought the girl to New York and adopted her.
We hope, as Vakman promised us, that the adopting family will come for a visit soon and we'll be able to meet the girl and her new parents.
The U.S. branch of the B'nai B'rith Committee for Adult Jewish Education has begun a great literary project: to publish (as photocopies) the best literature of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Enlightenment period. Jewish institutions of higher learning in the United States (Yeshiva University, Brandeis University, teachers' and rabbis' colleges, YIVO, and others) support this praiseworthy endeavor. They also foster the study of new Hebrew literature and are hampered by the lack of books from that period, books that are rare now. The first stage involves 118 books, including periodicals, of which 88 have been done; the rest will be out by mid-1969.
The RYBL Library, which has the goal of collecting books from the Enlightenment era, gives its blessings to this important initiative of B'nai Brith in the United States and hopes the project will succeed. It is clear, by the way, that about half the books included in the Literaria Judaica-Hebraica's first stage are available in our library. We will make an effort to purchase the rest from them.
AMS Press, Inc., publishers, 56 East 13th Street, New York, is carrying out this project.
Chanukah Party 1968. Our custom is to have a social gathering of Kremenetsers each year on Chanukah. This time, the people who take care of all the arrangements met with unusual difficulties (mainly getting a hall for a reasonable price as well as other difficulties). That forced us to give up on this Chanukah gathering. The Haifa group traditionally has such a gathering on Purim, and to make up for the canceled Chanukah party, we assume that many members will participate in that gathering this time. We therefore wish all the celebrants a happy Purim right now.
Correction: Voice of Kremenets Emigrants, booklet 2, page 13, included a list of monies received from abroad. We regret that the $50 donation by Yisrael Roykh of Buenos Aires was omitted the list by mistake. We are correcting the list and ask member Roykh's forgiveness .
Section of Sheroka Street in Kremenets (charcoal drawing by A. Argaman
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