« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »



The Image of the Town

[Page 49]

My Home Town

by Bezalel Isaacson

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Looking uphill one would see my town, the main street bisecting it, with hills on one side and forests on the other. There on the outskirts is the old cemetery, the only proof of the town's age. All the other old buildings have been destroyed by fires. The main street is lined with brick buildings. Wooden sidewalks and electric poles give it an urban look. It is the only settlement around called a “city.” Two main streets cross it, one leading to Minsk (thirty-five kilometers away) is known as Minsk Street, the other, heading to Vilna (150 kilometers away) is Vilna Street.

Between the two world wars we kept very close ties with Minsk: business, children attended school there, and it was one's first stop on the way to the big world. That ended when the border between Russia and Poland separated us. From then on we looked to Vilna as our gate to the outside world.

Life was quiet before World War I. The police commissioner's main concern was taking care of the drunkards on Market Day. He was well respected, but when word of the 1917 revolutions reached us, he had to seek refuge in one of the Jewish homes.

Main Street was lined with shops. Their owners were busy on market days. Other times they spent their days watching passersby when the weather was fair or keeping warm inside their shops in winter.

The only change to the usual quiet of Main Street were Jewish weddings and funerals which came down Main Street. On the other hand, if it was a gentile funeral, the shopkeepers would close their stores while the procession went by.

Another excitement on Main Street was the fire department parade. It would draw onlookers, both Jewish and gentile. The fire house, itself, was a center of many social activities until it burned down, taking with it all its equipment. It took a while until it was replaced. Sometimes excitement was provided by visiting “magic men” who could lift tables and chairs with their feet and teeth. Sometimes on a weekday, a visiting cantor and singers would come. The shopkeepers would close early and hurry to the synagogue with their families to listen to these guests.

On Tisha B'Av it was customary to visit the graves of relatives. Most people went to

the new cemetery but some went to the old one, with its very old gravestones and trees. One of the graves was of the poet, M. Z. Mané, who was born and died in Radoskovich. Teachers and their students and members of the Zionist movement visited it every year.

The weekly market day would bring life and excitement to town. In addition to all the merchandise exchanging hands at the market, the bars and stores did brisk business, too, and the streets were full of people. At the end of the day the gentiles went home, and the Jews went back to their routine of preparing for Friday and then Shabbat.

The synagogue courtyard was the town's spine. Around a large square, surrounded by many houses, stood the four synagogues, the old Beit Midrash, the new Beit Midrash, the Lubavitch Shtibel, and the Kvidinov Shtibel.

The old Beit Midrash was the largest. It was made of bricks and seemed too large for the congregation. With the years it fell on hard times and was poorly heated. It was usual to see a few members praying around the two heaters by the entrance. After the October Revolution it also served as a meeting place for Jews and gentiles alike and as a dance hall, to the dissatisfaction of its Jewish members.

The new Beit Midrash was made of wood and replaced the previous one which was destroyed in the “big fire.” This one was very popular and filled with members. The spiritual leader was Reb Haim Moshe, the shamus, who served for many years and was liked by all. The members were progressive, and when the Zionist movement reached our town, this synagogue was at its center.

Across from these two stood the other shtiblach. From the outside it was hard to distinguish between them. In the “Kvidinov” the outstanding person was Moshe Aharon, the undertaker, who was jovial and devoted to his trade. He was helped by his love for drinking. Sometimes he would be found sound asleep in one of the graves he had dug.

In the other shtibel, a more “aristocratic” spirit prevailed. Its membership included the wealthier people, who allowed Zionists to join and supported their fund raising. The Rabbi was Zalman Hillel, whose pleasant ways made him very popular and admired as a teacher of the town's children.

People who lived around the synagogues were mostly artisans. The rest of the townspeople were shopkeepers. The two “classes” did not mix.

Along the river were the kosher slaughter houses, the house of the righteous woman, Ziré-Meré and her daughter, Sara Epstein, who owned the best bakery, and the tailor shop of Reb Alter Shulman, in which the Zionist minyan took place. To complete the picture, we must mention Haim Hershel, the tinsmith and his son, Fishel, as well as crooked-head Basha and her son, Avraham-Etzé and his two sisters. All three of her children were wonderful musicians and a source of pleasure to their listeners. There were also Grona, the wonderful baker, Vavka, the tailor, and Haya, whose fresh apples in summer and frozen apples in winter were well known.

In the poorest section of town stood some empty buildings. These served as housing for the town's poor and for many a travelling family who stopped on their way through.

Near the river stood the public bath house. It was very busy on Friday, when there was a steady stream of men, women and children. The heating of the stoves and the upkeep of the pumps was the job of Avraham Ben Haim Heshel.

People were busy scrubbing and washing, complaining about the water not being hot enough, or there not being enough of it. Those who could stand the heat would go into the “sweat room.”

On summer days people would bathe in the river. Even the rabbi would come, but he kept to himself, away from other people. The Catholic physician, Zalinski, a heavyset man, would also come, accompanied by his personal servant, who would get into the river with his master and wash him.

On both sides of the river were fields and meadows, then the small forest and then the big forest. These were places for picnics on Saturdays. But a Jew, alone, would not go to the big forest. These forests served as shelter during the time of the Holocaust.

This is the image of my childhood. Since, many changes have occurred. The town was destroyed and is no more. We keep its memory in our hearts.


[Page 60]



There in the Rubble is our Fathers' Station


A) The Beginning of a Spool

(A Collection of Memoirs from Life in Radoshkowitz)

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Contrary to the general assumption that we are all born with a desire to wander and explore (geographically), our own fathers and grandfathers had no such desire. They were well rooted in their town, and no wind could bend them.


[Page 61]

B) Rooted Jews

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Even though Radoshkowitz was a small town, for hundreds of years people were content to live there all their lives without leaving it.

Reb Leib Hertz was the liaison between the town's people and the big city. He would supply them with all their business needs. Spiritual needs were served by local resources. Klezmer, cantor, Purim players, etc. were all supplied by local talent.

With this attitude it is no wonder that the townspeople frowned on immigration to America. They would bid farewell to the immigrant, with sad expressions, as though they were paying a condolence call, and say, “May you come back to us soon.” In many cases, they did come back and from then on were called, “Americaner.”

Another event which caused much criticism was when Yeruham Freidé-Henia's opened a new type of store where he sold tickets to travel by ship. It caused a wave of discontent.

Finally, young people began leaving town, not to go abroad, but to the big cities – Minsk and Vilna – to study in high schools and universities. This was met with dissatisfaction and concern.


[Page 66]



C) The Synagogues and the Public “Clubs”

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Socially, Radoshkowitz was quite divided. There were the upper classes, who saw themselves much superior to the poor lower classes, and between the two, were the middle class, where most people belonged.

Each of the three classes kept to themselves and had a special meeting place. The first such “clubs” were the synagogues. People spent long hours there in addition to prayer, discussing business and social deals.

The big synagogue was the meeting place for the middle class, the Lubavicher Shtibel for the rich people, the new synagogue and the Kvidinovi Shtibel, for the poor and lower class. But as fate would have it, with time, the new synagogue became the meeting ground for the educated, the Zionists and the new socialists in town.

One meeting place where all the people were equal was the bathhouse. There, people went every Erev Shabbat and holiday, and would discuss all matters, public and private, without any inhibitions.

Another such “club” was in the open air, on the corner of Minsk and Vilna Streets, where people would meet (except on market days) and discuss ideas and events of the day, with no class distinction.

*

But in spite of the social division of the townspeople, in times of need, all got together and were a model of unity and self-support. Most of the inhabitants were related to each other, as for example, the many families named Isaacson or Rubin. In the case of a joyous or tragic occasion, all the Jews would come to share in the event. When monetary help was needed, people would form ad hoc committees and do what was necessary. This kind of committee would be formed by a generous person. I remember one such a person, Reb Michal, the shochet. He was special, young in spirit (I knew him as an old man), righteous and full of fun, the first to wipe a tear from someone's face, and always at the heart of any merriment. The whole Jewish population of Radoshkowitz was one big family, in the best sense of the word.


[Page 70]

D) Unity in a Time of Change

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


The Russian Revolution brought about major changes in that big country. Some of them were felt even in Radoshkowitz. It brought on a struggle between the generations, though it did not cause a real rift. Let me demonstrate this with my own experience. I was raised in a very observant home. Reading of “the text” (biblical) was of foremost importance. But with the new era came changes in the texts we read. My father's was the Talmud, whereas my brother's was Gratz's book, “The History of the Jews.” Later, when my turn came, my text was the writings of Bogdanov (who popularized Marx), “Chapters in Economic Politics.” But like my father and my brother, I read with total abandon. I found myself reading out loud in the same chanting style as my ancestors before me. So even though the text was very different, the style was very much the same.


[Page 73]

E) M. Z. Mané

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


We all took great pride in our local poet, Mordecai Zvi Mané. He, himself used a pseudonym, “Hamatzir” – Habachur Mordecai Zvi Yeled Radoshkowitz (The Lad, Mordecai Zvi from Radoshkowitz).

Every community needs a strong tree to hang their local patriotism on. Our tree was Mané. Between Mané and the Jews of Radoshkowitz existed a real love affair. His grave in the old cemetery was always decorated with flowers brought by the youth of the town. The older population took care of his tombstone. And even a small hill outside town, on which he supposedly wrote one of this famous poems, was a site for pilgrimages.

I remember that when I came to Minsk for the first time, and people asked me where I came from, I answered, “From Radoshkowitz” and people would comment, “Ah, Mané's town.”

In Radoshkowitz the name Mané meant different thing to different people, but it always stood for praise and glory. Even the people who helped Mané achieve his reputation as a painter and a poet, basked in his claim to fame. Thus, I learned from my father, very early in my life, about Reb Avraham Sofer and his son, who were among the first to notice Mané's talent. I learned about the cantor, Shmuel Chiz, from Warsaw, who was one of Mané's first friends, about Reb Arye Leib Shinhaus, who was a talented author in many fields, but whose most important achievement was Mané's biography.

For generations Mané's name was very popular in Radoshkowitz, until the town was destroyed by the Nazi animals. The first Hebrew school was named after him. When I last visited Radoshkowitz in 1935, coming from Eretz Israel, I and my friends went to visit Mané's grave. I never thought that only a few years later the town and its inhabitants would exist no more. Two years later I received a letter from Prague, from a friend from Radoshkowitz, suggesting that we co-author a book about Mané.

Later yet, when I first got word about the destruction of Radoshkowitz and its Jewish community, the story was that the Jews of Radoshkowitz had been rounded up by the Nazis and shot next to Mané's tomb. This turned out to be incorrect, but my initial shock made me tell the story in Ha'aretz, where I pointed out its symbolism – the mass grave side by side with Mané's, inseparable in life and death.


[Page 77]

Between Two World Wars

(Sketches of the Public and Spiritual Character of the Town)

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Radoshkowitz was a small, modest town, surrounded by green fields and forests, and two rivers, the Goyka and Viazinka, where we swam in the summer and ice-skated in the winter. The same modesty and moderation applied to its economy, as well as to its spiritual life. Even though there were differences of opinion, they were not extreme, and a compromising approach prevailed.

Most people were progressive in their ways and in politics. When it came to Zionism, the majority supported what is now the Labor Party (Mapai). Despite twenty years of Polish rule they did not adopt Polish ways and did not change their names, their language or the education of their children.

When World War I broke out in July, 1914, its events did not bypass Radoshkowitz. In the second year of the war, word reached the town that the German army was approaching, and many people decided to flee. The next two historic dates, the 1917 Revolution and the Balfour Declaration of 1918, found Radoshkowitz alive and well. Both events caused excitement among our people. But the good times did not last.

In 1920 war broke out between Russia and Poland, and Radoshkowitz was caught in the crossfire and changed hands a few times. When the final borders were drawn, it resulted in an economic death sentence for Radoshkowitz. The villages, which supplied its agricultural needs and its customers, were now in Russia, whereas Radoshkowitz was in Poland. Business in Radoshkowitz came to an almost complete halt. Young people began to leave as there was no future in town, and taxes were very heavy. Poverty spread, and yet, people still hoped that things would change for the better.

The will to survive and prosper found its expression in the spiritual and social life of the town. It drew spiritual strength from the Zionist movement, from the rebirth of Eretz Israel and its language. The “Hechalutz” movement opened one of its first offices in town. Young people from Radoshkowitz were members of the Third Aliya and subsequent ones, as well as representatives of “Hechalutz” in other Polish towns.

Over time, young people created other Zionist clubs. The most important among these was called, “Freedom and Rebirth.” It became a center for the whole region and had a few hundred members, sixteen to eighteen years old. “Hashomer Hazair” had one of the best organized centers. It educated its members in a pioneering spirit.

The Zionist Federation was the overseeing organization. Its leaders were most enlightened. They established organized, important activities to educate and promote their ideas and ideals. Its greatest achievement was the establishment of the Jewish school, “Tarbut” (“Culture”), which educated the young and gave hope to their parents for a better future in the Jewish homeland. This school received no support from the Polish authorities. It was supported solely by parents' donations and the dedication of its teachers. All realized how important this school was for the future of its students. This was an elementary school, so for high school the Jewish students had to attend either the Russian, Belarussian, or Polish schools. Very few Jewish students attended the public elementary school in town.

The Jewish education served its students well. It prepared them for future positions as Jewish educators elsewhere and for other leadership roles. Those students who immigrated to Israel found that their school had taught them Hebrew and taught them to feel at home in the new land.

Among Radoshkowitz's young people, a few showed a talent for the theater. Those organized a group of actors who produced shows based on works by Gordon, Pinsky, Livik, Dimov, etc. Another accomplishment of these young people was the establishment of a Jewish library named for M. Z. Mané.

When Radoshkowitz was cut off from Minsk (as a result of the new borders) it developed a kinship with Vilna. Many young people found their way to Vilna where they attended many of its educational institutions. They stuck together in this city, and many created a family away from home, at the home of Dvora Gordon, a very special woman.

Jewish Radoshkowitz is no longer; it was destroyed by evil men. But in our memories it will live forever.


[Page 85]

Activists in Business and Cultural Life

by Hassia Bessin

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


The years resulted in deteriorating economic conditions in Radoshkowitz, especially after the new border was established. Half of the Jewish population (there was a total of 300 Jewish families and 300 gentile families) depended for their livelihood on financial aid from relatives in America.

Storekeepers bought their supplies in Vilna (paid for with IOU's), and sold them with very little profit. The general depression in Poland did not help, either. Moreover, everyone had to pay heavy taxes to the government. Conditions continued to deteriorate to the point where some people depended on handouts of food and money. Things got so bad that finally many people left Radoshkowitz. They went to America, Australia, France, England and of course, Eretz Israel. The Jewish Federation tried with little success to retrain the Jewish population and find different occupations like agriculture and beekeeping, but with very small success. The only exception was a handful of big business people who supplied Radoshkowitz and a few nearby towns with necessities like sugar, flour, and gasoline.

Market days were the major source of income. Accordingly, there were two market days a week, the minor one on Thursday and the major one on Sunday. Both gentile farmers and Jewish business people depended on them, so if a gentile holiday fell on Thursday, the market day would be moved to the preceding Wednesday. Better conditions existed in the fields of public affairs and spiritual-national (Zionist) activities. The volunteer fire department was well equipped, and put out many a fire. Their hall served as a meeting place, ballroom and theater. The bank, established by Yoel Lipman, Avi Yoel-Dov Isaacson, Ben-Zion Shepsenbul and Yekutiel Funt, was responsible for much vital economic activity. Also, there were some decent educational institutions. There was the heder, which taught in the old fashioned style, and the public library which circulated many good books in Hebrew, Russian and Yiddish, but the jewel of the new national Hebrew education was the Tarbut school, which educated the future generation. This most important school was the result of efforts of the Jewish community's spiritual leaders, Avi Yoel-Dov Isaacson, Ben-Zion Shepsenbul, Yoel Lipman (Zrubavel) and Ya'acov Cahanovich. The president of this institution was Avi Yoel-Dov Isaacson, who devoted much of his time to this school. He loved the Hebrew language, and spoke it whenever he could. His children were well versed in Hebrew. He and a few of his friends established an office for the Jewish Federation, in town, and were instrumental in encouraging young people to go to Eretz Israel.

A few of those who graduated the Belarussian high school continued their education in Soviet Russia, Vilna, Prague, Geneva, Grenoble, and Toulouse. Shmuel Rubin's oldest son became a professor of botany in Ukraine; Avraham Lappidot, became a professor of forestry in Balarus, and Yoseph Shepsenbul became professor of anatomy in the United States. A few young people graduated the Jewish teachers' seminary in Tarbut in Vilna and ended up teaching in elementary schools in various communities in Poland.

A few young people excelled in the arts. A few young women played the piano well. The drama club performed in the firehouse hall, with proceeds going to help various causes. Some of the participants were actors, likeYoseph Lipman (Y. Zrubavel, today a member of “Ohel” theatre in Tel Aviv), Shmuel Nechemia Isaacson, Miriam Isaacson, Shimon Zukovski, Haim Shapira, Dvora Pederski, Yehudit Greiss, Yerachmiel Resnik and more. Others - comedians - performed in family circles or in Shabbat gatherings in Mina Roda's home. But the most active were the various Zionist groups which sprang up after World War I, “Hechaluz,” “HaShomer Hazair” and other youth organizations.


[Page 90]

Social Life

by Litman Sharzkevich

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Two activities stand out in my mind from the fourteen years I spent in Radoshkowitz.

A) the warm hospitality extended to Jewish soldiers who served in the Polish army during the Russia-Polish war.
B) The many activities of the Jewish National Fund.

In 1921 I served in the Polish army, which fought the Red Army. In our travels we stayed for a while in Radoshkowitz, in private homes. My friend Feivel Borovich (who is now also living in Israel) and I stayed with a gentile family, Golobovich, on Vilna Street. Our job in the army was supplying food and clothing, so we supplied our host with many food items otherwise unavailable. His daughter cooked the most delicious dinners for us and for many happy neighbors. But for spiritual satisfaction we became friendly with some of the town's Jewish girls. In our army unit we were fifty or sixty Jewish men, and we called ourselves, “Moshe Rabeinu's Army.”

As the Jewish holidays approached and my longing for my family grew, it was much appreciated to be invited to Duba Isaacson's home. She was helped in this most generous invitation by her brother-in-law, Avraham Yitzhak Isaacson and his wife, Bracha; Reb Yoel Dov Isaacson and his wife, Shifra; and the dentist, Rivka Polakov. We were entertained throughout the holidays, we and some of our Polish officers. We were all grateful for this most generous reception. I was so impressed by it, I will never forget it as long as I live.

The other impressive event was the devoted fund raising for the JNF, by young and old alike. I especially remember the events preceding the first bazaar in Radoshkowitz. A few days before it was to be held, after weeks of gathering donations from various store keepers, and preparing many handcrafts, ourselves, we realized that we still needed a permit from the local authorities to hold the event. The meeting held to find a quick solution to the problem was attended by the JNF representative, Yehudith Gross and members of the community, Shimon Zukovski, Ze'ev Shapira, Yerachmiel Resnik, Ya'acov Segalovich, Nathan Weisbrod, and Borochanski. The weather that night was bad; it was a very cold, fall night and a very heavy rain was coming down. The only solution to our problem was to travel to the town of Molodezna to apply for the permit in person. On account of the bad weather no one volunteered to go to Molodezna. So this task fell to Yehudith Gross. She left that same night and returned the next day permit in hand.

The bazaar was held in the firehouse hall which was decorated. There was much excitement and finally the event opened with a very large attendance. Some of the crowd were not very friendly and wanted to disrupt the proceedings. So they released a bunch of white doves, but the crowds took this to be part of the celebration and welcomed it with applause. The event was a big success; it raised much more money than anticipated and was the talk of the town for a long time.

The members of the local chapter of the JNF were always looking for ways to raise money. They handed out the blue boxes so that every home had one. They held “flower days,” sold stamps and flowers to school children, and raised money even at private parties like weddings, Bar-Mitzvahs and Brith-Mila's. Also on special days and holidays, they would pass the blue box around the synagogues. These tasks were usually carried out by Ben-Zion Shepsenbul, Yoel Isaacson, Yoel Lipman, Isser Tanhilevich, Ya'acov Cahanovich, Haim Goldin, and Shimon Zuckovsky. I remember being involved in such an event with Shmuel Bassin on a stormy night on Hanukah. The wind and the snow were so strong and furious we could hardly walk. But in spite of the bad weather, we made it to the last two homes. The total take was insignificant; it was just that we were caught up in the spirit of dedication to the cause of the JNF.

Another special story among the activities of the JNF was a minyan that gathered on Simchat Torah. It was attended by young and old, and it met at Alter Shulman's home. On that day the members of this minyan gave up their comfortable seats at the synagogue so they could be closer to the street, and they lured passersby to join their midst in prayer. Then they “sold” all the mitzvot and honors to the highest bidder: “Hatan Torah,” “Hatan Breishit,” “Hagbaha” and “Glila.” This way they raised money for the JNF. Later these funds were greatly increased by the generosity of two visiting merchants. One was Zvi Burstein of Zambrov, who has since moved to Israel, and his partner, Sheinovitz, from Warsaw. After the prayer, all members of the minyan were invited for refreshments and singing. At that time they discussed their plan for more activities to raise money for their beloved cause.

I dedicate this story to the memory of those whose activities helped add another stone to the building of the state of Israel. Unfortunately, they perished, and never lived to see their dream realized.


[Page 96]

The Hebrew Elementary School, “Tarbut”

1922-1925

by Yisachar Kamnezky

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


At first the school had a rough time. The Orthodox in Radoshkowitz saw in it a competitor to the traditional heder and did everything they could to prevent parents from sending their children to the Hebrew school, where they would be exposed to all kinds of bad influences. On the other hand were the free public schools. So people had to be committed to the Zionist idea of sending their kids to Tarbut, and many were.

In its own self interest the school had to make sure it kept its students happy. So they had to find the right gimmick to satisfy every child. It was the prime responsibility of every teacher to make sure that he provided his students with the best possible education.

The sole source of funding for the school was from tuition. People in Radoshkowitz were financially limited, and this translated into a school in constant economic struggle.

Perseverance, devotion and love were the three forces that sustained the school. The teachers taught with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm, and transmitted their spirit to their students. Together they fought for the existence of the school. The methods of teaching were sometimes nontraditional and innovative. For example, in the course on Bible studies they held a trial. The defendant was Shimshon, who was accused of being overconfident in his ability to fight the Philistines and did not involve his fellow Jews in the struggle. All the participants in this trial were students under the guidance of a teacher.

When the school was internally stable it was decided to hold an exhibition of students' work. The students received the idea with great excitement. On exhibit were works in all subjects: Jewish history, quotations from the Bible, curse words from the Bible, two plays based on the Book of Ruth, geography of Radoshkowitz, Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary, works in science and geography, drawings, etc.

Among the visitors were Jews well-educated in the Bible, and some of them very skeptical as far as the school's achievements. They examined the works very carefully and soon realized that the school was doing an excellent job and could not be ignored.

The students came to love their school like a second home. The story goes that one teacher stayed after hours on a winter Friday afternoon to catch up on his work. After a while he found himself surrounded by his students. When he asked why they were still in school, they answered that they wanted another lesson. The teacher agreed, and the lesson lasted until it was time to go home and light the Shabbat candles.

The school left its imprint on the town. Hebrew was spoken by many, even the less educated, and Hebrew songs were very popular.

The school drew students from surrounding villages. It had five to six classes, 120 students between the ages of six and thirteen. There was no difference between rich and poor; no student was dismissed for lack of money. It was the teachers who suffered the consequences.

The teachers, also, were the ones who looked for additional sources of funding. The best, and basically the only source of income, were the parties held by the school population. The students performed plays, songs, declamations, etc. Even when such a party was not a financial success, it helped spread the knowledge of Hebrew songs.

The four rooms which constituted the school, also served as a meeting place for the “Hechalutz,” and “Hechalutz Hatzair” youth organizations. The place was always at the heart of some Hebrew-Zionist activity.


[Page 99]

“Tarbut” School – Before the Hatchet Fell

by Shmuel Bassin, Jerusalem

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


I knew Radoshkowitz at the end of 1928, when it was in its decline. As a result of World War I the new border between Russia & Poland passed just east of Radoshkowitz, cutting off its means of earning a living. It was cut off from Minsk, which was the center of its cultural and spiritual life. Poverty descended on the town. The major source of income were the stores, and there were far too many to afford their owners a real income. The luckiest were those families who received monthly support from relatives in America.

As to the young, they suffered from cultural-spiritual suffocation. Once in a while one would hear of someone who crossed the border and went to Minsk. Others left for the universities in Vilna and Prague. But most stayed in town like fish caught in a net. Many of these dreamed of immigrating to Israel, and in preparation, joined “Hechalutz,” “Hashomer Hatzair,” and “Beitar.” When one of these people was lucky enough to obtain a certificate of immigration, everyone rejoiced with him.

But some of the older generation also found a way to maintain an interest in the world of Torah and learning in spite of the constant struggle to make a living. Some of them were Ya'acov Moshe Alpirov, Rabbi Haim Shmuel Lappidot and his two sons-in-law, Yizhak Zalman Taller and Zvi Isaacson.

There were some more secular Jews whose concern for the spiritual survival of the community is worth mentioning. Their main concern was for the young generation. So, soon after World War I they established the Hebrew school, Tarbut. When I came to know it in 1928 it was connected to a chain of such schools which had been established in Poland. Its only source of income was the tuition paid by the students, which, at best, covered half its expenses. The rest was covered by parties organized by the teachers and run by the students, and some by the teachers forgoing their pay.

I must mention that Radoshkowitz had another school, the Orthodox heder, which was supported by former residents of Radoshkowitz who had emigrated to America. As a result, this school was free. Still, those parents with a Zionist conscience chose to send their children to Tarbut, and pay the relatively high tuition.

On top of this poor state of affairs, the Polish authorities added new decrees which were a constant harassment. It looked on this school with dissatisfaction and was constantly checking on the teachers' qualifications and the condition of the school building. They tried to close the school a few times, but only the stubborn devotion of the Jewish leaders stood in their way. To prove this, let me present parts of a letter sent by the school committee to the Union of Immigrants to Israel, written on Sept. 8, 1935:

“School operated illegally yesterday because the principal was not approved by the curator…we submitted Ms. B's diplomas to the authorities in Vilna, but we failed to include one document and they decided that the school had to be closed… Shmuel Bassin and Nathan Veisbrod rushed to Molodetchna to see Dr. K. and only thanks to this intervention we got a week's extension.” Thanks to the constant devotion of a few, the school continued to exist. In many such cases they were helped by Dr. Ya'acov Vigodsky from Vilna, who helped a few Hebrew schools in that area. In 1934, when Litman Sharzkevitz immigrated to Israel he founded the Union of Immigrants from Radoshkowitz in Israel, to support the Tarbut school. At that time the school building needed repairs, or else the Polish authorities would close it. Local people could not raise the necessary money. At that point we learned of the establishment of the Union and rejoiced that finally our financial worries were over. With the five pounds received, the job of repairing the school began.

The years 1935-6 were a difficult period for the school, confronted with financial and legal problems. Only in 1937-8 did it finally see better times, as the following letter from July 7, 1938 will attest:

…This time we can give you some good news. Our school graduated its second class. This is a shot in the arm to the otherwise poor state of affairs in our town. The graduates thanked their teachers and all those here and in Israel who made this day possible. We stood in silence in memory of Yoel Dov Isaacson, the father of our school. We are sorry that you could not be with us and see the fruits of your efforts. The school is now solvent and much improved educationally and culturally… Let us thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your help – thanks to which we are now out of the woods. Let me mention here those whose devotion to the school will never be forgotten: Yoel Lipman, Yoel Dov Isaacson, Ya'acov Cahanovich, Dr. Nathan Veisbrod, Haim Shapira, Shimon Zuckovsky, Haim Veisbrod, Haim Goldin, Dov Yitzhak Kopilovitch, S. Veisenblum, A. Zilburg. May their memory live forever.

The town's education leaders were right. The school became the center of all cultural activities for the Zionist youth. It saved many from ignorance and idleness. Many of its graduates went to Israel and are leading full and productive lives.

Your efforts, secular Jews, were not in vain.

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Radoshkovichi, Belarus     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Osnat Ramaty

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 27 October 2012 by OR