by Avraham Bruk
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky
In the First World War, the Germans advanced at enormous speed; already in 1915 they arrived in the environs of Lubtch. In the bombarding, a number of people were killed or badly hurt and a large part of the town was destroyed and burnt. The Germany army ordered the inhabitants to retreat at least 14 kilometers from the town. A number of families, among them my family and the family of Leibovitch the photographer, survived in a village near Silov by the name of Gordovka. The inhabitants of Lubtch who had relatives in more distant places moved there; all the property remained ownerless, as there was no transport to move it and the horses were taken by the army (the army was still not mechanized as it is today). The men, even of very young age, were recruited for forced labor, for digging and for war-connected building in the area. Slowly there was a growing lack of basic necessities, starting with bread, salt, sugar and finally even clothing.
In 1917, with the ceasefire, there was a possibility of returning to the town; various missions, which went to see the place, found it destroyed to the foundation, and only a very few houses were worthwhile repairing. The inhabitants, who had a strong desire to return to their hometown, and to their poor possessions, mainly the plot where their house had stood, began to return and tried to begin their lives anew.
One of the buildings which remained in good condition was the Gemina building, into which moved the first 18 families that arrived. The other building which was not destroyed was our house, a building of 2 stories and a basement made of bricks. In this building the institutions such as a school, synagogue and the beginnings of public offices were concentrated. Help started to come from leading Jewish institutions in the United States.
The life of the returnees slowly entered a routine. Conditions were difficult, but the people who had spent several years wandering with no permanent house, in the war years, under terrible conditions, tried to come to terms with the situation and to overcome their distress by work and toil. Most of the inhabitants worked in their previous occupation, they opened shops, leased fruit gardens and dairies to make cheese, tradesmen opened up workshops. There were tailors, shoemakers, butchers, blacksmiths, seamstresses, tinsmiths and even a number of horse-traders. Many traveled to the villages in the area (the villages were less destroyed, even those which were closer to the front were less damaged than Lubtch). They sold the villagers various wares and bought their produce, especially rags and linen. A number of inhabitants made a livelihood by making ropes.
Trade in lumber had not yet developed, because the bridge on the Neiman had not yet been opened and the roads had been mined, all along the Front. Danger was lurking on every side in the area.
Help began to arrive to the inhabitants of Lubtch from Yakapa [Institution for Aiding Injured for the 1st World War] and the Joint. As well, help began to arrive from relatives in America. The Yakapa took upon itself to care for war orphans, and built orphanages in the cities, to which orphans from the surrounding towns were also sent. The Jewish communities including Lubtch began to reorganize. Institutions such as Gmilut Hassidim-Casa - a fund for mutual help, were established, which gave interest-free loans for building, reconstruction and demolishing, for building workshops etc. Most of the money in the bank came with the help of Yakapa.
The number of Jewish inhabitants increased, until in 1922 there were more than a thousand Jews in the town. During the building period, the people of the town were mainly concerned with their livelihood, which we called the psychology of bread and potatoes. But despite the difficulties of the period there were a group of young people, who began to be concerned with the cultural life of the place. The active people in this group were Shmuel Shapira and Chana-Chaya, who were gifted in dramatic talent. The activists in that period, in all areas of public life, were: my brother Chaim, Dov Kavak, Yitzchak Shlimovitch, Yitzchak Berkovitch, Chaim-Leib and Batya Levin, Avraham-Chaim Ostshinsky, Haya Naganivitsky, Yoel and Kusha Shlimovitch, Moshe Shlimovitch, Yitzhak Solodocha, Cyril Meyerson, Dov and Gittel Viner, and others.
Until the First World War, there were only a small number of immigrants to Eretz-Israel from Lubtch. Amongst them were the Zalovensky and Shaklot families; most of the immigration, however, was to America. The Balfour Declaration changed the relationship of the Lubtch Jews to immigration [aliyah] to Eretz-Israel. A wave of national awakening passed over all the Jewish communities in Europe, and didn't miss our town. News reached us of the HeChalutz (pioneering) movement, which was mainly established in the large cities of Russia; in Poland branches of HeChalutz were also established in small towns. In Vilna the regional council of HeChalutz was organized, a branch was established in Lubtch and connections were made with the center in Warsaw and the Regional Council in Vilna. As well, political parties such as Poeley-Tzion, Tz'irey-Tzion, and HaMizrachi were organized. The Jewish National Fund and Kapai started raising money. The young people, who during the Bolshevik period had been enchanted by the Communist party, began to distance themselves from it in order to reorganize in Zionist movements.
As well, the older citizens of the town were also sympathetic to the national revival movement; in the synagogues during the Holy Days, money was donated to the Jewish National Fund and to the Kapai. We too, who were younger than the youth in the above movements, were involved. Our group consisted of: Nachum Shlimovitch, Yaakov Chaimovitch, Moshkeh Solodocha, Chaim-Gimpel Faivoshevitch, Shmuel-Yaakov Faivoshevitch, Yehoshua Faivoshevitch, Avraham Faivoshevitch, Reuven Leibovitch, Chaim-Shmuel Kasemivitch, Hadassah, Bilha Shimshilevitch, Leibah Levine, Shmuel-Leibel Faivoshevitch, my sister Rachel, myself, and a few other youth.
The assemblies and meetings of HeChalutz took place in the women's area of the synagogue. We received organizational help from the branch of HeChalutz in Novogrudek, mainly from Kartzinski, one of its members. From the branch of HeChalutz in Karelitz, we received help from another member, Moshe-Eli Shuster, who was a university student, and the main activist in his branch. From the regional council of Vilna we had a visit from the member Yosef Bankover, who lectured about the movement and guided us in our activities. We began to think about going to training camps, as a first step for emigrating to Eretz-Israel. Instead of sending the members to faraway training camps, we decided to take on the challenge and organize local training groups. We found a suitable place close to Lubtch, on an estate called Potrei Brody, near Nikoleiva, and worked there in the industrial lumber division.
We didn't succeed in running the organization by ourselves, so we joined up with the branches of Iviya and Karelitz; each branch sent a number of members and the kibbutz was set up. From Lubtch the following members were sent: Yaakov Savernik, Hadassah, Zeltka Faivoshevitch, Dov Cohen and myself.
During this time, we started organizing our emigration to Eretz-Israel; the Merkaz [Center] allocated a number of Certificates to us and other branches in the area. The first to emigrate from Lubtch were: My sister Rachel, Bilha Shimshilevitch, Moshkeh Solodocha, and Hadassah. At the second stage, the following people emigrated: Yaakov Savernik, Yehoshua Faivoshevitch and myself. Until our emigration, we worked at various places and our income was put into the branch fund. The work was done skillfully, as if we had been workers all our lives.
In the meanwhile, life improved in the town. Commerce flourished, craftsmen saw reward in their hard work. From Eretz Israel, news about a crisis started to arrive; Moshkeh Solodocha and Hadassah returned to Lubtch, and with them, disappointment came to the town. The candidates who had registered for emigration, did not hurry to emigrate, and waited for quieter and better days. The branch in the town was weakened and its influence on the youth decreased, although not for long.
The income was put into the branch fund.
When I was in Eretz-Israel at Kibbutz Ein Harod, new immigrants again began to arrive after the temporary halt, including Tuvia Shimshoni, Rivka and Eliezer Aharonovsky, Rivkah Sonenzon and others.
It is sad that so few succeeded in emigrating from our town. In the meanwhile, the young people, who had been educated in the spirit of love of the People and of Eretz-Israel, grew up, but were prevented from making aliya to their Land, because of the restrictions on immigration imposed by the Mandate Government. They went to their deaths together with all of European Jewry, which was so rich in spirit and activity.
by T. Shimshoni
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky
Lubtch was a small town, totaling over 300 Jewish families. Although there were three synagogues, which were filled with worshipers on the Sabbaths and Holydays, and also during the week, there was always a minyan [quorum], but the inhabitants didn't manage to employ a permanent chazan [cantor]. So they made do with local prayer leaders from amongst the congregants, who would stand and pray before the ark, but not for a salary. These prayer leaders were gifted with a pleasing voice, and their prayer was pleasant. Prominent amongst these were: my uncle, R' Tuvia Shimshilevitch, R' Shmuel Leib, R' Leib Sokolovsky, R' Moshe Sonenzon and R' Yitzchak Baksht. Sometimes they would bring Meir Samocha, a prayer leader from a neighboring town, for a wage, only so that the prayers would be varied, and also to distinguish between weekdays and festivals.
From time to time, a wandering cantor would arrive at the town, generally a man who had to marry off his daughter and lacked money for her dowry. He would receive an unpaid holiday from his place of work and journey from town to town, stand and pray before the ark and organize concerts in the synagogues in order to save penny upon penny. A cantor like this would turn to the synagogue and speak to the gabbays [sextons], who would arrange a place for him to eat and sleep amongst the home owners.
For such a cantor there was no payment for praying; he would pray during the Kabbalat Shabbat [Welcoming the Sabbath] and Mussaf [additional Sabbath or festival prayer], and on Sundays he would go to each of the households, accompanied by one of the important members of the congregation. Each of the inhabitants would donate as he wished. The cantor knew he was dependent on the goodwill of the worshipers, so he would try to make a good impression and hope they liked him. And woe to the cantor whom they did not like! They would make his life miserable.
I remember a case that happened on Passover, when the visiting cantor prayed the Mussaf prayer, (for which there is a special tune for each Holy Day). For some reason, the worshipers didn't like his way of praying. A group of youths organized themselves and decided to drive him crazy. How did they do this? Very simply. When the congregation joins in the singing with the cantor, the cantor has time to relax his efforts, as the congregation continues the tune that he has begun. The group of young people then started singing the melody of the High Holy Days [Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur]. At first, the cantor didn't realize what was happening and continued praying, according to the tune that the youths had sung. When he realized what was going on, it was too late. In the back benches, they began to pound on the book stands. Tears started flowing from the eyes of the cantor, for as well as the shame they had caused, he was also probably going to lose any money he had hoped to earn. The group saw that they had gone too far and had crossed the line of bad taste, causing him shame and embarrassment. So the next day, in order to compensate him for the damage they had caused, two of the most important members of the congregation went with him from house to house. Everyone increased their donation and from his loss he made a profit.
by Shmuel -Yaakov Kivelevitch
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky
Memories of the parting from my town and its inhabitants live in my heart in bright, light and refreshing colors.
I remember a hot day, towards the end of summer 1939, where I worked near Kopetchik, measuring the wood rafts on the Neiman. I worked with a group of youth from the town, including Avrameleh Soltz - handsome and friendly, Mottel Kaplinsky, Yoskeh Shaklot and the brothers Yaakov and Yoskeh Yedidovitch.
My sister Sarah (who joined the partisans during the Holocaust, and now resides in the USA), arrived at the place with good tidings: my immigration to Eretz-Israel had been approved. Seized by the fever of travel and with much happiness, I returned to the town. Preparations began and the moment of leave-taking arrived.
Leave-taking is a word with a sad and sorrowful connotation, but I was young and the tragic significance of that very parting was hidden from me. I didn't know then that I would never again see my loved ones. For me, my life was decreed to be a builder of Eretz-Israel, while for those who remained the decree was destruction - by burning, shooting at the edge of the pits, hunger and sickness.
A gallery of images passes through my memory: my mother, concerned with preparations for the journey; my sister Rivka with her four children, my brother-in-law Alter Boldo. The carpenter Itchke (the midwife's son) and his children, amongst them my good friend Moshe, the sisters - Taubeh, Pashke and Gittel, the brothers Meir and Shlomo, Rachel (Notkes) with her husband, the butcher, and their children. My aunt Bashkeh with her husband Hashil, expert in the intricacies of the Torah, the pauper Perchik, the village gossip, whose son Asher, was my friend in the Yeshiva, our neighbor Yitzhak Kivelevitch with his wife Shayna and their children: Mina, Chana, Benyamin and Ben-Tzion (named after his grandfather R' Ben-Zion the Blacksmith) and many other of my acquaintances, friends, and neighbors stand before me in procession. I cannot understand or believe that they are no more. A terrible feeling accompanies me to this very day, for I didn't say goodbye to my father, who was absent from the town precisely on that day, because of business - and thus I left without his blessing.
The parting was difficult, also from the town itself. Views from my birthplace where I grew up and absorbed within me. Every corner, all of a sudden, seems to be so dear to me. Here, also, the Neiman is entwined with my youthful experiences - hours of swimming at dawn and sailing in the evenings and, in the winter when the countryside was clothed in white, the river served as a wonderful place for us to toboggan and sleigh ride.
Here - the Hebrew school Tarbut, the spiritual centre for the youth, which was full of schoolchildren reviewing passages in Hebrew. Between its walls the pupils were taught to love Eretz-Israel and to love the Hebrew culture. The yearning for Eretz-Israel and the Redemption of the People of Israel was the wish of the teachers, youth leaders and pupils as one.
I move in the lively streets and lanes of my town: boisterous children and mothers scolding them. Troubled men hurrying to their daily work, the sound of life is carried from every direction
I immigrated to Eretz-Israel to build my house there, but the memories of my town and its people accompany me all the years of my life.
by Moshe Tzinovitch
Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer
Yehoshua Levinson, son of Elchanan HaLevi Levinson, a resident of Lubtch, was a Bible scholar. He possessed a comprehensive knowledge of the Talmud and its commentators and was an expert in Jewish studies. He published Biblical and scientific articles in Hebrew journals in the 1860s when he was already living in Grodno.
In one of his articles which appeared in HaLevanon, vol. 12 (5627-8, 1867-8), he relates that he studied at the Volozhin Yeshiva in his youth. Next to this article devoted to certain new interpretations of the Torah, he also brings a report of the passing of Rabbi Aharon-David, head of the rabbinical court in Lubtch, in the winter of 5627 (1867). In volume 22 of the aforementioned journal of the same year, he laments the passing of the well-known researcher, Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Rappaport of Prague.
Several articles written by Yehoshua Levinson are also found in HaMelitz of the year 1867-8, in which he shows himself to be a great scholar familiar with the paths of Jewish studies and those of books of scholars of Jewish studies dealing with both Torah and science. He sometimes argues with Hebrew scholars and researchers, and one can see his supremacy and vast knowledge of Talmudic literature which he acquired in his youth in Volozhin and in the local study hall in Lubtch.
This great Torah scholar moved from Grodno to London, but nothing is known about the remainder of his life and his later writings.
by Moshe Tzinovitch
Translated from the Hebrew by Harvey Spitzer
Alter Yosselevtich was born in Lubtch. His brother was the Gaon Rabbi Yosef Yosselevtich, head of the rabbinical court in Silov, Terestina, Samiatitch and Sobalki. Both brothers studied together at the start of their careers at the Mir Yeshiva near Lubtch. His brother was destined to be a leading rabbi in well-known communities. Alter became a scholar and a Zionist and saw his future as a Hebrew teacher and as a Zionist educator.
He was active as a teacher and educator in the town of Stoibtch, where he raised two generations of fathers and sons. Alter arrived in Stoibtch at the beginning of the 20th century and founded the first modern Hebrew school. One of his innovations was that pupils of every origin and social class were accepted in his school, for Torah will come out from the children of the poor.
Several important chapters in the development of the Zionist movement and communal activity in Stoibtch are connected with the name of the teacher, Alter Yosselevitch. He established the first youth movement called Bnot Tsion [Daughters of Zion]. Thanks to his influence, the Pirchei Tsion and [socialist] Poalei Tsion organizations branched out, despite the fact that he himself was a general Zionist all his life. He was also the first communal worker of the Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] and saw to the distribution of the blue and white boxes in every home and to the collection of monies for the redemption of the land in Eretz Yisrael.
He was active in his educational work with other teachers in creating a suitable atmosphere for the acceptance of the idea of the revival of the Jewish nation and the implementation of this idea through the efforts of pioneers.
After the First World War, a Tarbut Hebrew school was founded in Stoibtch in the year 5681 (1921) and Alter, the senior teacher, again worked as an administrator in this school.
Alter was the living spirit in all the Zionist activity in his city including the Jewish National Fund, Keren HaYesod, Chanuka and Purim parties, memorial services for Dr. Theodore Herzl, special fund-raising drives for the benefit of Eretz Yisrael, cultural affairs and other activities. He had a great influence on all the youth movements in the city: Freiheit, HaShomer HaTsa'ir, Hitachdut, Gordonia, HeChalutz Wizo and, of course, HaNoar HaTsioni of his movement. Thanks to his influence and activity, Stoibtch became an outstanding Zionist town. In the elections of the Zionist congresses, this town surpassed all the cities of the region, relatively speaking, in the sale of shekels. The term Zionist, was for him Zionism with all one's soul and might. It was constructive Zionism, love of Israel going beyond and rising above political factionalism.
He did not succeed in going on aliya to Eretz Yisrael, his ideal and vision; he perished in the Holocaust together with all the Jews of Stoibtch. The immigrants from Stoibtch who live in Eretz Yisrael memorialized the name of Alter the Teacher by setting up a library in his name in Tel Aviv.
by Meyerim (Meir) Kalmanovitch
Translated from the Hebrew by Allen Katz
The village of Lubtch was small and far away from the larger towns. Between it and the other towns there was no easy access, because the Neiman River and a thick forest surrounded it. Despite this, there were strong connections with the Gentile villages, especially on market days that were held on Tuesdays and Sundays, at the hour when the villagers came to pray at the Russian Orthodox church in the town. The market days provided an income for many Jews.
Since access to the town was difficult, as said, no industry developed there. People earned a livelihood with difficulty, and for the youth there was no indication of a future with expectations of change and progress.
A major turning-point came about when youth movements were established: HeChalutz [The Pioneers], HaShomer HaTza'ir [The Young Guard], HeChalutz HaTza'ir [The Young Pioneers], and Beitar [The Revisionists]. The vision of the Revival of the People of Israel had been ignited in the hearts of the young and, with all their might and in the flame of youth, they endeavored to realize the ideals that they were taught. The youth movements were instrumental as a place for recreation and for meeting in leisure time.
Next to the Neiman stood a castle, surrounded by gardens. Its presence added beauty and grandeur to the area. The small houses of the town's population, the green forests, the river with its strongly flowing waters, and the majestically elevated castle gave the place a legendary mystery and beauty. A very beautiful panoramic gem, asleep within itself.
From the Encylopedia Judaica Volume 10, in German, (1934)
published by Eshkol and edited by Dr Yaacov Klatchkin and Dr Nahum Goldman.
blessing the initiative to publish the book on Lubtch and Delatitich
Lubtch: Novogrudek District (Veebodstabo during the days of Polish rule - 1921-1939). The first time names of Jews are mentioned is in the second quarter of the 17th century in the Committee of the State of Lithuania. This community was autonomic in matters of tax paying and not dependent on any of the cities in the aforementioned state.
In the year 1720 (5480) the tax per head amounted to 300 pieces of gold and in the year 1761 (5521), it amounted to 450 pieces of gold. In the year 1705 (5465) 369 Jews in Lubtch and the environs paid poll tax. In the year 1847, 973 Jews lived there. In 1897 - there were 2,463 Jews (73% of all the town's inhabitants). In 1921 - 496 Jews, 52% of all the town's inhabitants. The decrease in the number came about following the First World War, when Lubtch was a town on the war front from 1915-1918. Jews of the town fled and moved to other places, especially to nearby Novogrudek, and many of the refugees did not return to Lubtch.
by Chaim Yankelevitch
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky and Harvey Spitzer
|I will try and arouse forgotten memories
About my town
Where I spent my youth.
Lubtch - a small town
You had public institutions - for the enjoyment of all,
Theatre, bank and firemen
Disputes between Jews
And when the beloved chazan was boycotted - the Rabbi was angry,
In the theatre - Shmuel Shapira produces
In the Cheder we studied and gained knowledge
R' Avraham and Eliezer-Yankel - may their memory be blessed
In our town was established by order of the Saltis and the State
Three Synagogues towered proudly
There were many Youth Movements in our town,
|I will mention Yankel-Chaim the Blacksmith
In my heart I remember Shizgal the Tinsmith,
And Itzche the midwife's son, my craft teacher
And Itzchele Bakshet, My Gemorah teacher.
And Gershon - Sarah-Chana's son
And Mordechai Sheykas, member of Hashomer HaTza'ir,
R' Layzer the bootmaker,
It is hard to believe that our dear ones were murdered,
We will hold their memories in our hearts forever !!!
|* * *|
|In our little house in the town
Every Shabbat and Festival evening - there was much rejoicing,
Father would bless the Kiddush wine,
Mother would bless the candles.
There was much delight when a guest came
All present recited Grace after Meals
The women look at their special Yiddish prayer book in awe
by Ayala Amitai (Faivoshevitch)
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky
|Lubtch my small and beautiful town
I will remember you with sadness and gloom
Forever I will carry memories of you in my heart
I see my father and mother in front of my eyes;
Honest and innocent and God-fearing
I remember the Neiman - the river
Days passed and become years,
Amongst the rows of Hashomer Hatza'ir many united;
We fought for fair work conditions
In front of my eyes I see the last days
I remember the dear ones whose hearts never guessed,
I cry, for my unfortunate dear ones never had the privilege
|Lubtch my town - how you stood aside!
Why did you not defend your Jews?
You saw how old men and women were led,
For no guilt of their own, to the crematoria.
Even though my town was destroyed,
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