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Portraits

[Page 143]

Mané and Surroundings

by M. R.

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


M. Z. Mané was the star who put our town on the map, and some of his glory reflected back on the town. His many talents as a poet and a painter, which did not come to full fruition, must have been absorbed from the natural environment in which he grew up. His calm and even temper must have been shaped by the tranquil, green surrounding of Radoshkowitz and its pleasant, friendly residents.

Mordecai Zvi grew up in poverty. His family lived in a small apartment near the market, on a side street which led to the fields. The father taught in heder, where his son was one of his pupils. His teaching income was not enough to sustain the family. The mother, Tamara, an energetic woman, sold ceramic containers at the market, and the father engraved tombstones. He would bring the stone slabs home, and his son, surrounded with the gloom of the dead, would yearn for the colors of the sun and the open fields.

The time M. Z. spent in nature must have been very limited because he does not mention it in his poems. Some say that a fire destroyed their apartment house, and the family had to leave and ask for financial aid from some rich relatives. When M. Z. reached the age of thirteen, in order to keep expenses down and acquire some spiritual gains, his parents sent him to a yeshiva in Minsk. He spent a few miserable years there, which he mentioned later in his writing. When he returned home, disappointed, his parents began looking for a way for him to make a living. He had a most beautiful handwriting, and so he went to the scribe, Zvi, and his son, Avraham Shachor, to learn their trade. This opened new paths for this most talented young man. Zvi and Avraham Shachor were learned and progressive men, and they recognized the outstanding talents of M. Z. Mané. They became a guiding light and spiritual support for him during his short life. They encouraged him to get a broad, general education and develop his special talents. They were happy with his accomplishments and were his true friends.

When Avraham realized that Mané had a talent for painting, he advised him to go to Vilna to study. Mané spent four years there, where he was aided by some generous people who supported him. He studied Hebrew and poetry and finished with distinction at a school for painting. He returned to Radoshkowitz at age twenty-one, an accomplished young man on his way up. He spent a short time there, but stood out from the young people of his generation as a very special, creative young man.

Zvi and Avraham Shachor were delighted with Mané's first successes. He painted both their portraits, which were hung in their room. At this time, another home opened to Mané, the house of wealthy wood merchant, Haim Yoel Shinhaus. He and his two sons Bendet and Leon spent most of their time away on business, returning to Radoshkowitz for the holidays. The younger son, Leon, was well educated and fluent in Hebrew and German literature and used to publish articles in the two languages. He befriended Mané. He admired his talents and his gentle ways and became his closest friend. After Mané's death, it was Leon who had his works published by Tushia.

Another admirer of Mané's was the Hebrew teacher, Ya'acov Orchiks: tall, bespectacled and a with a hoarse voice. Like a professional teacher, he added the vowels to Manés poems. Other aspiring poets who admired Mané were Itzchak Yoel Rubin and Haim David Rosenstein, who later became famous for their publications and educational activities. These were Mané's friends. They accompanied him on his walks out of town, discussing art and literature with him. Mané spoke a great deal about the writers and artists who had impressed him in Vilna. When he left for St. Petersburg to continue his studies at the Academy of Art, each of his friends went his own way but still followed the impressive accomplishments of their mutual friend, Mané.

Three years later Mané returned to Radoshkowitz for the summer, to rest. During his three years away he had seen the big world, the big city. He had seen many art treasures and made great strides in general studies and in professional knowledge. He had established some sources of income, met some important Jewish (Hebrew) poets – Y. L. Gordon, the Baron Ginsburg, Kaufman and more. The highest authorities now recognized him as an artist and poet with a promising future. On this visit to Radoshkowitz he was received as a celebrity, not only by his friends, but by the whole town. He was special, a phenomenon, a climbing star, whose light shone on us all. That summer he enjoyed the love and admiration of the whole town.

The same summer Mané went to Warsaw and stayed with one of his Vilna friends, the singer and cantor, Shmuel Tsiz. He also came to know the writers and journalists, Nachum Sokolov and Shaul Pinchas Rabinovitz. The former published a yearly called, “Ha'assif,” and the latter, the yearly, “Knesset Yisrael.” Mané illustrated them with his drawings and published some articles.

A year later, Mané returned to Radoshkowitz to rest again. He was at the height of fame as an artist and poet, with a promising future, but was already touched by the disease which would kill him. The winter before, he had caught a cold in the frigid, damp winter of St. Petersburg and came down with tuberculosis. His body was weak from hard work and poor nutrition, and the disease never left him. He was unable to continue with his studies and so remained in Radoshkowitz. His last two years were spent in idleness and boredom, physical and mental torment and diminishing strength.

And so, Radoshkowitz saw its favorite son slowly dying. The circle of friends around him grew. He wanted to establish a small library for the books of the Haskalah. He also tried to publish with his friends, Shinhaus and Rubin, a monthly called, “Hanitzanim,” (“The Buds”), for the readers in town. The first issue was published after his death. Mané passed away during the holiday of Succoth. His tombstone in the old cemetery tells future generations of the light that was extinguished before its time.


[Page 149]

Memories from M. Z. Mané's Life

(Written on the 25th Anniversary of his Death)

by M. Rabinson

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


I came to Radoshkowitz a year after Mané's death, while the impressions of his life and illness were still fresh. With the wonder of a child, I absorbed the memories of the town, which seemed deserted after its luster had dimmed.

In winter afternoons, between Mincha and Ma'ariv services, when my friends and I were look for something to do, we would say to each other, “Let's go look at Moshe Mané's face.” He was the poet's father, who was sitting in the Beit Hamidrash studying silently by the light of a candle. He seemed to us the symbol of sadness and mourning, angry at the injustice of losing his outstanding son at such an early age.

“How he must cry at night!” we thought as we looked at him. “How he must sigh and moan in his sleep. He must wish he were dead.”

It was told that before his parents came to Radoshkowitz they were collecting hand-outs (money) from wealthy relatives. Tamara, the mother, was a tough woman, who used to scare her neighbors; the father was a gentle sort. He was handy and had a beautiful Hebrew handwriting. For a few years he was a melamed (in a heder) and then a carver of tombstones. His son must have inherited his talent for painting from him.

There was little in common between the mother and her gentle son; there was a spiritual and emotional closeness between father and son. But the poet loved both his parents deeply. He saw in them no fault and forgave the fact that because of their stinginess they fed him poorly as a child. In order not to upset his parents he behaved exactly like them. Even while studying in St. Petersburg, he denied himself any religious freedom. His only indiscretion was not covering his head once in a while.

As meek and mild mannered as he was, he was a leader in spreading the Haskalah in Radoshkowitz. He was the center who attracted many followers. A few young people wanted to establish a Haskalah library in town and used a ruse to do so. They asked the society, “Mefizay Haskalah” (The Spreaders of Haskalah) in St. Petersburg, to send them books, and one of the young people, the shochet's son, used his father's stamp on the letter, to give it sense of approval. One day a large bundle of books arrived from St. Petersburg and stirred up a big commotion. Rabbi Brodna was opposed to the establishment of such a library, even though his son was not. The rabbi's wishes prevailed, and the books disappeared. They were hidden in cracks and holes so that they could be read somewhere between home and outside. Then Mané returned to town and raised the devil. They rounded up the books, and the library was finally established. All that was needed now were funds to maintain it. Mané painted a portrait of Moshe Montifiore to be auctioned off, with the proceeds to finance the library. But the auction failed to bring in enough. Mané was greatly disappointed and wrote a satirical article about the people of “Durakovich” (durak in Russian means fool), whose understanding of Haskalah is limited.

While in Radoshkowitz Mané spent most of his time in Zvi Sachor's (the scribe's) home. Zvi and his father Avraham Shachor were Maskilim from the old generation. They read three of the Haskalah newspapers, “Hameilitz,” “Hatzfeera” and “Hashahar.” They were the first Zionists, and I remember how, after services at the Beit Hamidrash, Avraham would talk about Eretz Israel and tell us about the articles he had read in Hameilitz. As he was folding his talit he seemed like a man ready to set out for the promised land. Avraham was the local correspondent to Hameilitz, writing about major events in town. The progressiveness of the father and son hurt them professionally. People took the business of writing inserts for mezuzot and tefillin to other scribes. So they concentrated on making “houses,” – translucent houses, which were a gift item for wealthy Bar Mitzvah boys. But since there wasn't enough income in this, they also owned a taproom. Consequently, they had their translucent houses, Haskalah books and barrels of drinks in the same house.

Mané first came to the Shachors as an apprentice after he returned from the yeshiva in Minsk. But Tvi and Avraham recognized his artistic talent and, being open minded as they were, wanted to see him develop that talent. And so Mané went to Vilna and then to St. Petersburg to study art. Mané appreciated all they had done for him and was devoted to them until his death. He painted both their portraits, and they adorned the walls of their home. While away, Mané wrote them letters full of love, and while in town he spent most of his time in their home.

Other close friends of Mané were L. Shinhaus, S. Tsich and Y. Y. Rubin. Though from the upper class, they did not shy away from Mané, whose mother sold pots at the market, and whose brother transported sand in his carriage. Mané found his friends had literary and artistic talents. Soon Shinhaus and Rubin, publishing articles, and Tsich, performing music, were seen as satellites to the big light – Mané.

Mané enjoyed hearing his songs sung by his friends and acquaintances, even though he was very modest. It was the sheer pleasure of the creator hearing his creation, even though, we must admit, he thought himself an outstanding poet. He held a grudge against Y. L. Gordon, who dismissed his talent and would not make room for him among the honored poets in St. Petersburg. It seems that every artist dislikes others in his field. The same Gordon was very hospitable to prose writers but found flaws in all the poets.

After leaving the Academy in St. Petersburg, Mané returned to Radoshkowitz, sick, tired and sad. He knew that the disease meant he would die young but did not talk about it with those close to him, so as not to upset them. Mané saw himself living in a world full of death amid the tombstones which filled his father's home. Once, while talking to friends and sitting on one of the stones, he said, “It's better to sit on this stone than to lie under it.” The poet-painter, who loved life so, for the beauty in it, knew he would be leaving it soon.

The last two years of his life were a slow death, but even then there were moments of light and happiness. On days when he felt better he would write poetry and decorate

the pages with his beautiful drawings. Sometimes he would write poems in gold ink. His beautiful handwriting had some of the gloom of the tombstone letters.


[Page 155]

Remembering M. Z. Mané

(Open Letter to Tel-Aviv Municipality, published in the Daily Davar, 1936)

by Yoel Isaacson z”l

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


I remember when I visited the cemetery in my home town, Radoshkowitz, forty years ago, and saw the tombstone of the poet, M. Z. Mané in ruins. I wrote about it to the authors, L. Shinhaus and S. Tsich, two of Mané's friends, and they sent me money to rebuild the stone and erect a protecting roof over it. I did so, and it is standing to this day.

Now, when I immigrated to Israel I heard the poet's songs sung by many. And on Shabbat, the 15th of Cheshvan, this year, I heard at Ohel Shem (a theater) at an Oneg Shabbat, Asher Barash lecture about M. Z. Mané, on the 50th anniversary of his death. And the thought occurred to me that if the poet's songs have left such an impression on our own country, why not erect an everlasting memorial for this poet by naming a street in Tel-Aviv after him? Two of his songs, alone, are worthy of such a memorial. “Am Olam” (“Eternal People”) and “Mass'at Nafshi” (“My Soul's Yearning”).

And to schools in Israel and abroad and to “Ohel Shem,” as well, why not dedicate this year, the fiftieth anniversary of his death, to his songs.*

*Note: A short time after this letter was published, a street was named after Mané



[Page 156]

Rabbi Meir Rabinson

by Ben-Zion Notlevich, Rabbi of Brooklyn, NY

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


My heart is beating, and my hand trembles as I try to concentrate and write for this book of remembrance of a town which was destroyed by evil men. I knew Radoshkowitz and its kind and enlightened people, and it pains me when I think of their bitter end. But I was glad to respond to the request to write about my father-in-law, the venerable Rabbi Meir Rabinson, who served as the town's spiritual leader for fifty years. He was kind and reasonable, friendly and very popular, and thus, left his imprint on the town and its people.

He was the son of Rabbi Yehoshua Zvi from Venzigola in Kovna county, who immigrated to Jerusalem and taught Torah there for a few years. In his youth, Rabbi Meir was known as the brilliant one from Venzigola. He was most talented and had a wonderful memory, and when he was accepted at the Yeshiva in Kroky, in Kovna County, at a very early age, he was known as one of the great Rabbis of Zamut. The great rabbis of the time, like our Rabbi Yitzhak Elhanan from Kovna, Rabbi Yoseph Zcharyahu Stern from Shavil and Rabbi Alexander Moshe from Rassain, admired him as one of the best of his generation. Even then he was known for his extensive knowledge of Talmud and as an innovator in Bible studies, which were printed in biblical monthlies like, “Yagdil Torah,” which was published in Odessa. In those days he was known as “Rabbi Meirke from Kroky.” Later he became the rabbi of Radoshkowitz, and he was known as one of the “greats” of his generation. He only added to his knowledge, which was very impressive. He knew all of the Bavli Talmud and all its interpretations by heart. His knowledge of the late writing was so extensive that he was among the few rabbis who would decide in questions regarding Jewish life in his town and the areas around it. Many rabbis from communities far away invited him to come and decide in matters regarding their communities. Even Rabbi Yerucham from Minsk would call on him to decide in difficult matters.

In addition to his great knowledge of the Torah, Rabbi Meir was a practical man with a good understanding of people. His knowledge of the Torah was like a fountainhead, and lucky were those who studied with him. He was a prolific writer. He filled many volumes with his wisdom and many innovations in Torah, Halacha and legends. All his writings are kept in the National Book Depository in Jerusalem. Some of his innovations were published, but most of his writing is still waiting to be published. Only then, will people be able to appreciate his greatness.

Rabbi Meir spent most of his life in Radoshkowitz, where he taught and created most of his innovations in Torah study. His name will forever be linked to Radoshkowitz.

However, late in his life he moved to Jerusalem, where he became friends with the Chief Rabbi, Hacohen Cook. He died there at the age of eighty-four. His picture and handwriting are enshrined in the Department of Portraits and Autographs of the Greats of Israel of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


[Page 158]

My Mother The Rebetzin

by Shlomo Eliyahu Rabinson

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


My mother, the Rebetzin, Lea, daughter of Reb Zvi, lived in Radoshkowitz for forty years. She came there with my father, Rabbi Meir and their five children. The rest of their children were born there.

My mother was always busy working. She got up early and went to bed late. Throughout the day, she managed our family's yeast business, our main source of income. Our apartment was an open store, and the door was always open for the many customers who bought yeast in packages by weight.

She also ran the household. She took careful care of my father's clothes, and when he came home from the synagogue, the table was always set. She also raised her sons to study the Torah, pray and keep the commandments. When my two sisters, Miriam and Bryna, married two respected men, learned in the Torah, their families continued to live with us, and my mother took care of all their needs with great love. Miriam and her husband, Rabbi Manos Esser Polonsky, who was the rabbi in Liboy, were later killed by the Nazis, and Rabbi Ben Zion Notlevich, Bryna's husband, is today the Rabbi of the congregation “Hevra Torah, of the Descendents of Radoshkowitz,” in Brooklyn, NY.

At the end of the day my mother would withdraw to her room to spend some time alone, praying silently for the good of us all, while the tears ran down her cheeks. This was an hour of spirituality. When she left her room her face had a divine glow to it.

In her dealings with people, my mother was sincere, honest and spoke the truth. She gave to charity and did charitable deeds. She was very hospitable and fed the poor and helped many needy people.

On Shabbat and holidays my mother rested from the hard work of the weekdays; she spent time praying and chatting with her neighbors. She was a true, modest old-fashioned woman, occupied with spiritual matters, her heart open to needy people. She died at the age of 73 and was buried in Jerusalem of Latvia.


[Page 159]

Rabbi Yoseph Sundel Rabinson

by Tzvi Rabinson

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


My father was a beautiful, gentle man. He was Yoseph Sundel Rabinson, Rabbi Meir Rabinson's oldest son. He was born in Kroky, in Latvia. Even as a child he was studious and knew the Bible by heart. He studied in the Yeshiva in Volozin. His knowledge of the Bible was outstanding, and his memory was great. He was a decent and honest man. He served as a rabbi in a couple of communities but spent his last years in Radoshkowitz.

He died in Vilna a year before the outbreak of World War II. Before his death he spent much time praying and crying. When my brother, who was later killed during the Holocaust, asked him why he was crying, he answered that he foresaw a great calamity for the Jewish people.

He is survived by a daughter, Nechama, who was a rebitzin in Disna and is now in America, and a son in Israel.

May his memory be blessed!


[Page 160]

Rabbi Shneor Zalman Hillel Shulman

To My Father

by Henya Fuchs

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Great is my pain for my family who were lost in the Holocaust: my dear and good mother, my good sisters, and my dear brother, and leading them, my righteous and generous father, his constant smiling, pleasant face, a testimony to his goodness. He was a devoted father and pleasant to all. He studied Torah day and night and fulfilled the commandments. He was ready to help a fellow human being at any time. He welcomed the poor and needy at our house. When a beggar came to our door he would give him a big, “shalom aleichem” greeting, and when a worker performed a service for him he would add to his wage, in case his work was worth more.

The only people he held a grudge against were the Poles, because they mistreated him. When he went outside on the day they entered our town, he was attacked by a group of Polish soldiers who surrounded him, laughed at him, pushed him to the ground and started to cut his beard off. When I saw this through the window I thought they were killing my father, and I fainted. Since then he would say, “Those Jew haters won't be in power for long, they'll stumble and fall.” All his life he taught Torah to the town's children and did it with devotion and love – until he was killed by the Nazi murderers.

Blessed be his memory!


[Page 161]

One of the Keepers of the Flame

(On the Grave of My Teacher, Yoel-Dov Isaacson)

by Dr. Yisrael Rubin (Ravkai)

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


The beginning of this era is the Haskalah, even though it had a foot in assimilation and ended with a national awakening. Zionism and socialism are both results of the Haskalah. It was most apparent when this movement swept from Western Europe to the east. It was the small towns there, rather than the cities, which were the breeding ground for the better part –Zionism and socialism – whereas the cities were associated more with assimilation.

Many of the historians make the mistake of attributing the national awakening to the leaders, who lived in cities, but I think that it was the masses who encouraged these leaders, and the masses lived in small towns.

For sixty to seventy years we had a group of Maskilim in Radoshkowitz who began purely on the teaching of Mendelssohn, but from there they were led by the poet M. Z. Mané, one of our first national poets, who, in his intuitive way, expressed his longings for Zion.

Mané died fifty years ago, but the people of Radoshkowitz still keep his spirit alive.

During forty years of continuous activity Yoel-Dov Isaacson, who just passed away in Jerusalem, kept alive Mané's legacy, a mixture of Haskalah and nationalism. He is responsible for educating hundreds of our town's young to Zionism. His teachings were so imprinted on them that even though some were temporarily lured by other ideas, all finally came back to his first teachings.

He was a kind and influential man. Even his store, where he spent some of his time earning a living, was a center for his students and his teaching.

From Mané to Yoel-Dov Isaacson was a steady period of keeping the flame alive. Isaacson kept Mané's flame, and now Isaacson's students will keep his. He deserves it!


[Page 163]

Ben Zion Shepsenbul

by Bezalel A.

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


He was my father, Yoel Zvi Isaacson's friend. They also shared the same ideals and point of view. Both were students of the Haskalah and Zionism and chose to implement it through Hebrew education. They wanted Jewish children to learn Hebrew and learn to love all that was dear to them – the Bible and the Land of Israel.

I remember something which happened when I was eight years old. I studied in heder, but this took place on Shabbat. My father; my teacher; my friend, Ze'ev Alperowitz and I went for a walk in a field out of town. The conversation between the adults got around to the land of Israel, and I found my father and my teacher speaking Hebrew. At the time I could read and write in Hebrew and I even understand some of what they were saying, but I was really envious of their knowledge and I wished I could speak as fluently as they. I was proud of my father and was so grateful to my teacher, who made it a point to include us, the little ones, in the conversation. He would ask us questions on grammar, and we could answer all of them. My father was pleased with my knowledge, my teacher was proud of his students, and I was happiest for being able to share in the knowledge of the adults.

On Shabbat, I remember my father reading to us, his students, from the “History of the Jews.” He was never tired of reading and we, of listening. He would get excited, his voice soft and strong at times, sad and happy at times. When he came to the part about the destruction of the Temple, he could barely conceal his tears, and we would sit, captivated by his reading, our cheeks wet with tears, drinking in every word. Since then I have loved history.

I remember my teacher during services on Yom Kippur. I stood next to my father, and my teacher sat at the end of our bench. My father taught me not to leave during the prayer “Asarah Harugay Malchut.” According to him, it was the most important prayer in the Machzor. I obeyed my father and recited the prayer with intent and feeling. At the same time I saw my teacher, whose tears were falling on his prayer book. It seemed as though on Yom Kippur he let himself cry – and his tears made me cry too. When the prayer was finished he would look around him as though he were embarrassed.

On the other hand, on Simchat Torah my teacher was the center of joy for our “Zionist Minyan.;” He was the cantor; he was the “Ba'al Kriá;” he lived the service; he blessed the wine, and his Kiddush made people laugh. He knew how to be happy and make others happy.

Then came the last few years before I immigrated to Israel, when I was a member of “Hechalutz.” Those were the “golden years” in Israel. The Fourth Aliya was prospering. Many new immigrants came and bought land. Bnei Brak and Magdiel were established. There was much activity in Poland and good news from Israel. People were buying land and building houses. There are no policemen, no taxes, no real estate taxes. One is his own master and lives in freedom. At this news many communities establish societies aimed at purchasing land in Israel. In Radoshkowitz such a society was also established, and its founder was my teacher. At the founding meeting it was decided that each member would have to contribute at least one dollar a week. With time, it was hoped the money would grow and enable its members to purchase land in Israel.

But after a while some bad news arrived from Israel. As a result, the society fell apart, even though it had accumulated a few dozen dollars. Despair was everywhere, and it finally caught up with my teacher. His plans to buy a piece of land in Israel and all his dreams fell apart. The cruel reality brought an end to his heart's desire.

At the same time his financial situation worsened. After many years he had to leave his business and devote himself to teaching full time. Finally he got a job teaching in the Tarbut school. But he had a hard time adjusting to the new methods of the school. He finally left, saying, “Let the young teach, I am too old.”

He died in 1927, after many years of service to our town. Many of his students live in Israel now and carry his memory in their hearts.


[Page 165]

Ya'acov Cahanovich

by B. A”N

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Every one in town knew his room in his mother's home in the “Synagogue Court.” The room served as a meeting place for various youth organizations, but Ya'acov remained active in public and Zionist causes.

He was a meticulous dresser, well mannered and pleasant. He was an asset to the Zionist Organizations he represented. He represented them locally and nationally. Whenever a representative would come to visit, Ya'acov Cahanovich was his constant companion. He did his best to make our town look good to our guests – to have good attendance at meetings, to have all committee members show up at meetings and have a warm welcome and a nice farewell party for out-of-town guests. Most important Ya'acov made sure the visit by an outsider would be fruitful by making the proper introductions and by getting our local people excited about the purpose of his visit.

The few years after the Balfour Declaration were the golden period for Ya'acov's activities in Radoshkowitz. Together with his friend Yoseph Lipman (now in Israel), they chaired the local Zionist Federation. The times were full of Zionist activity, and it was felt in Radoshkowitz also. We had a Zionist club, and much of the activity took place there. With the help of the older Zionists, funds were raised, Hebrew classes were started, and the Tarbut school was founded. Over the years the school became well established and was a great asset in the cultural and Zionist life of the town. Ya'acov was among the first in all these activities, and thanks to them, a new generation grew up educated to take its place in the life in Israel.

Ya'acov Cahanovich did not live to fulfill the dream he was building. He was killed with all the other martyrs of the Holocaust. May these lines be a gravestone to his memory.


[Page 167]

Haim Shapira

by Ze'ev

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


In childhood my brother, Haim, absorbed his love of all things spiritual and cultural and carried it with him the rest of his life. The Hebrew language became part of his being. He loved the Bible dearly, a passion he acquired from his teacher Benjamin Baron (the brother of the author, Dvora Baron), who lived in Radoshkowitz during World War I. This great scholar introduced Haim to the Bible and since then, the book never left his hand. It was his favorite subject in the Hebrew high school in Vilna. His first gift from Israel (he did not possess the strength to stay) was an album of flowers mentioned in the Bible.

Haim loved literature. His pleasant voice would be heard at family gatherings reading Hebrew poems by Bialik, Tchernichovsky, Yitzhak Katzenelson, etc. He loved tradition and, even though he was not religious, read Torah on Shabbat and holidays to the enjoyment of his listeners.

He became friends with new people from all walks of life, which served him well when he was acting in the theatre in plays by Gordon, Hirshbein and others. He was active in youth movements and public affairs in town. He was among the founders of the youth movement, “Herut VeThiya” (Freedom and Rebirth), “Hechalutz,” (The Pioneer), and the Tarbut school.

He found his true calling in teaching. He loved it and was very devoted to it. During the fifteen years he spent as teacher and principal of Tarbut he did much to raise the level of Jewish education, turning out students knowledgeable and devoted to it.

My brother, Haim, was a devoted and concerned son to our parents and to me, especially while I was studying in Vilna. He was killed by the Nazis in Hochaza (Rovna County) together with our parents, who had come to him from Radoshkowitz after he had lost his wife, Alisa, and his only son, Meirke, who perished in the Bialestok Ghetto.

My dear beloved brother, you fell with our people's martyrs. May your name be blessed forever.


[Page 168]

Dr. Nachum (Nathan) Weisbord

by B. A”N

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


He stood out among the young activists, and was a live spirit in public life. He had a burning desire for a university education, but since he was one of many children, he had to create his own path through his studies. It was a long and arduous path, first as a graduate of the Belarussian high school in Radoshkowitz, which he, Nathan, was instrumental in establishing, then through great hardship till he graduated medical school in Prague. He remained devoted to his home town and strove to become a respected physician there.

He had a special fondness for the Hebrew language and culture and served as a teacher in the Tarbut school in Radoshkowitz. He was very active in all social and public functions and was much admired for it.

He was killed while serving as a physician at the hospital in Radoshkowitz during the Nazi occupation. In his naivete he believed that as a physician his life would be spared. He was among the last to die.


[Page 169]

In Memory of Those Who Fell During the
Illegal Immigration and the War of Independence

Mordecai Bumstein (His Story)

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Mordecai was born in 1921 to a working class family in Radoshkowitz. His father, Shalom, worked at the biggest flour mill, and his mother was a seamstress. His birth was a happy event, since he was the first son after three daughters.

At the early age of two, he showed artistic talent. For hours he would sit at the sewing machine turning the wheel, or he would put in or remove all kinds of screws, until he lost a finger on his right hand. Still, he remained curious, full of joy and mischief, though very obedient as far as his parents were concerned.

His parents were intent on providing him with the best education and had high hopes for his future. He was bright and quick to learn. He studied for seven years in the religious school, “Horev,” and was the pride of his parents and teachers. His favorite subjects were mathematics and mechanical drawing. His teachers suggested that he continue his education in Vilna, but his parents couldn't afford it. They had had two more children and had to provide education for all.

Mordecai had to abandon his desire for further education. At the age of sixteen or seventeen he left for Vilna. After many difficulties he got a job as an apprentice in a metal workshop. When the Germans marched into Poland in 1939, Mordecai returned to Radoshkowitz. A short time after the liberation of Belarus by the Red army he joined the fire brigade and became its commander.

But at the start of war between the USSR and Germany, he foresaw the tragedy which befell the Jews. So he and a few other young Jews went to Russia, where he ultimately reached Russian Asia and joined a “Kolkhoz,” where he learned about agriculture. There, also, he worked hard and was well-liked by everyone. In nine months he joined the work brigade and worked in one of the big factories in Sverdlovsk. He did well financially, and his prospects for the future seemed good. But his dream to immigrate to Israel and build his home there did not leave him. In 1944, after the Nazi's retreat from Belarus, he received news from home about his family.

Those who survived did so, thanks to the fact that they had left the ghetto and joined the partisans in the forests. Two of his sisters were killed by the Nazis, and his father had died after fighting with the partisans for two years. The news only strengthened his resolution to leave Poland and go to Israel. In early June, 1946, Mordecai and the first survivors of his family, two sisters and a brother, left the USSR headed for Poland. There, he joined a few thousand other survivors, who planned to go to Israel.

In Lodz he joined “Hashomer Hatzair,” with the intention of joining Kibbutz Lochamay Haghettaot. Again, he worked hard, was well-liked, was always ready to help a needy friend and always had the right answer to a problem.

The big day finally arrived. He left with the ship, Exodus, in 1947. The British naval destroyers did not scare him. “Don't worry, comrades, we will get there,” he told his friend. One dreadful night, exhausted from seasickness, he insisted on participating in a naval battle. He did reach Israel – only to be buried there, in Haifa on July 18, 1947, among heroes like himself.

May his memory be blessed!

(From a book published in his memory by Hashomer Hatzair Gal On)



[Page 172]

Arié Bumstein

by M.

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


On the small plowed hill near our farm, under a white tombstone, rests Arié, our dear friend. He came to us young and energetic, after twenty years of suffering and struggle. He was a child when World War II broke out and spent the war years in the forests with Jewish and non-Jewish partisans. He learned about life the hard way and was thus immunized against whatever might come. No wonder that later, when he left for Israel on the Exodus, he was prepared to face any “surprises” that awaited him and his friends, like his brother, Mordecai, being killed on that ship by British pirates.

He continued his struggle two years later when he finally reached Israeli shores. Those were the days of the War of Independence. He was sent to Kibbutz Ma'anit, on the front line. Arié welcomed everything with love. He did his duty on the front line. He spent the nights guarding and the days under fire. But he began to put down roots in the kibbutz, and he learned to raise chickens.

After a while a group was sent to Kibbutz Gal On, and Arié found his place here too. He took upon himself the heavy task of building a chicken coop for the kibbutz. He was a quiet fellow; he talked little but worked hard. He spent his days toiling and the evening, studying. He was modest on one hand, but ambitious on the other.

Then a deadly disease, which he ignored for years, put an end to his young life. He was taken away from us in the spring of his of his life, just as he began building himself a family nest.

May his soul be linked to our project, which is his.

(“Al Hamishmar” 1951)



[Page 173]

Yekutiel (Kuty) Funt

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


He was born on Jan. 20, 1930, in Petach Tikva. His parents were, Zalman and Hinka Funt. His paternal grandfather, Reb Yekutiel Funt, lived in Radoshkowitz and was known for his intelligence and knowledge of the Bible. He was honest and pedantic, had strong opinions and did not acquiesce easily. He disliked bowing down to anyone, even to authority. He used to tell how much he was bothered by the police commissioner, a neighbor, who would come into his store and in a haughty manner use the familiar form, “thou,” and Yekutiel, to be polite, would answer in the respectful form, “your excellency.” After the revolution, when the Czar was removed, so was the police commissioner. One day he came into Yekutiel's store and said, “How art thou, Funt?” To that Yekutiel answered, “Fine, thanks, and how art thou?” That's how he got even.

The father, Zalman, one of the first pioneers from Radoshkowitz, passed on some of his own father's characteristics to his son, a bright and excellent student. His parents brought him up in a pioneering spirit. He belonged to the youth movement, “Hano'ar Ha'oved,” where he was very active. He attended an elementary school in Petach Tikvah, where he stood out as a bright and talented student. Then he attended Herzlia High School in Tel-Aviv. He majored in math and physics and graduated with a prize in mathematics. After graduation, he joined a youth group from Hano'ar Ha'oved at a settlement near the Kineret. These were the days of struggle with the British, so he helped defend his settlement. Then he trained as a squad leader, and when the War of Independence broke out, his unit took part in liberating and defending Tiberias, Ramat Yochanan, Mishmor Ha'emek, Zefat and more. When the Jordan Valley was threatened by Syria, he and his small unit fought bravely against much larger enemy forces. He fell in this battle on May 19, 1948.

He was buried in a large common grave in a grove in Degania Alef. He was eighteen and a half years old. May his memory live forever.


[Page 175]

Various Characters from Radoshkowitz

by Dr. Yisrael Rubin (Ravkai)

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


There was a rich gallery of interesting characters in Radoshkowitz – wonderful material for a psychologist or artist. Let me mention only a few, those I remember best. My apologies to those I have not mentioned at all, and to those I have mentioned only briefly.


A. Torah Students


Among those whose knowledge was deep and sharp, or just loved the study of the Torah, let me mention:

Rabbi Meir, son of Rabbi Yehoshua-Zvi Rabinson, a fine looking man and a man of substance. He combined seriousness with delicacy and warmth. He peppered his sharp sermons with popular humor. His sayings became popular proverbs among the members of his congregation.

Rabbi Aharon, his assistant, was the rabbi of the common people, who, when they came to him with questions, felt no social distance. He was plain and kind hearted, his face and beard always in a cloud of pipe smoke. He had an interesting collection of pipes. But his words were nothing like the smoke; they were clear and simple. His sermons were not innovative, but since he was teaching simple Jews in small groups, he did not teach them “Halacha;” he taught them legend, and would add some of his own exciting words. As a child I liked to sneak into these lessons and listen to his stories.

Rabbi Ya'acov-Pinchas Gordon. He was a “balabatishe” Jew. He did not use his Torah knowledge to make a living. His mother-in-law opened a store for him, and he turned out to be a fine businessman. He was very pedantic about his own behavior and that of others. He would not readily accept their opinions. His ideas influenced many people – my father, for example. He opposed Zionism and Haskalah, basing his opinions on his close knowledge of the literature. During my student years, I became captivated by the ideas of socialism. Upon my frequent visits to Radoshkowitz he was the only person to argue with me and point out the pitfalls of socialism, based on his reading of some of the forbidden pamphlets. He was a fine chess player and enjoyed solving difficult math problems presented by his brother-in-law, Yehoshua, who was self-taught in abstract sciences. His son Baruch, became one of my best friends and, in spite his father, a friend of Zionism and socialism.

Rabbi Yitzhak (Itché) Zilburg, son-in-law and pride of Rabbi Eliezer, was a virtuoso in talmudic and general wisdom, who could grasp very complex ideas from hints. He was restless and couldn't sit still, so I would find him pacing at the new synagogue, discussing secular matters of utmost importance. He was well read in Zionism and socialism. One glance at a text was enough for him to get the whole idea. I once saw him glance at an article by Nachum Sokolov in the weekly, “Hazfira,” and immediately begin discussing small details from the article. Years later I allowed myself a psychological test when I presented him the book, “Zionism,” by Dr. Sappir (in Russian) and “The Communist Manifesto,” by Marx and Engels, and again, after only thumbing through them, he was able to express his “pros” and “cons.” By the way, he was a Zionist.

Rabbi Mons-Isser Polonsky, Rabbi Meir's son-in-law. When he came to Radoshkowitz we met a new type of rabbi, one educated in Haskalah. What the previously mentioned Torah scholars knew about Haskalah was intuitive. Rabbi Mons-Isser's knowledge was based on formal education. The Maskilim in town whispered, “The rabbi has a son-in-law who resembles his son, Dr. Mordecai Rabinson,” a local hero like Mané, who combined Torah and Haskalah. Rabbi Mons-Isser was mild mannered, his European refinement contrasting sharply with the roughness of Radoshkowitz. He was moderate and logical in his arguments. Some Jews were asking, “Is he really one of us?” And the young Maskilim were happy to say, “He is one of us.”

Rabbi Nachum Lieberman. He was a shochet, melamed, Torah reader and prayer leader in the Lubavitch Shtibel. Like Rabbi Michel at the big synagogue, he was the central religious person, and the one people liked best. Both were popular and full of joy. He was the life of every party. With his beautiful voice and sense of humor he made everyone rejoice. He was not extremely religious, so he got along with the young Maskilim. He read Gemara and the secular, “Hazfira,” and even at his heder, he included some secular teaching.

Rabbi Moshe, the Melamed. (His wife was a midwife who amply supplemented his income). He was quiet and naïve, a rather lazy, but good hearted person, who could not hurt a fly. He was overwhelmed by the least little problem. His students knew his weakness and took advantage of him. They tortured him with their rowdiness. He was saved only by his wife, who was the exact opposite – talkative, strong-willed and domineering. In town, people joked that when his students got out of hand he threatened them by saying, “I'll tell this to my wife.” Rabbi Moshe was no scholar, but he had an intuitive ability to explain the difficult portions of Gemara with a few well chosen words, and he was equally helpful to adults studying Gemara. His wife used to brag, “In the morning my husband teaches little “goyim,” and in the evening, big “goyim.”

Rabbi Moshe (Eliots) Padarsky, a merchant, well mannered, respectful of Torah and Haskalah. His comfortable home was a meeting place for both circles. He was assisted by his hostess wife, Haya, a sister of the author, Dvora Baron. All the celebrations at the end of each portion of the Gemara took place in their home, with R' Michel dancing, with plays and games.

Rabbi Yechezkiel (Chatcha) Rubin, my father, who was a devoted member of the Talmud studies group. He added more studying in the early morning and late at night. Like most of his friends, he used to study from books he borrowed from the synagogue and bemoaned the fact that he could not afford his own books. He was happiest when, one day, I presented him with his own Mishna (which I bought with my first salary as a teacher). My father died while studying that book when he was living with me in Minsk.

Rabbi Zissel, one of the wisest old men of Radoshkowitz. Because of his advanced age he could not join the circle of men studying Gemara at the synagogue, but he followed their progress while studying at home. Once, he even came to Rabbi Moshe Eliots' home to join the celebration on completion of a portion of Gemara. Everybody would come to him when they needed good advice on private or public matters. When not studying Gemara or absorbed in readings in Haskalah, he played chess and did so in a most original way – he played against himself, to everybody's amazement.


[Page 180]

B. Maskilim, Zionists, Socialists


Yoel-Dov Isaacson – Berl Chaska's. In my childhood, when Haskalah and Zionism were synonymous, he was the trailblazer. He was moderate and good natured. As a child he was known to rebel against the orthodoxy of his family (his father, Reb Ya'acov, was very religious and strict and later was critical of both Haskalah and Zionism). He made a living from his store but found satisfaction in various social activities devoted to his favorite subjects. His store became a center of activity for young Maskilim and Zionists. In his attic, in neatly piled stacks, next to the Passover dishes, were old issues of the periodical, “Hamailitz.” My friend Avraham Yitzhak Grodzensky and I would sweat up there for hours at a time reading them. We'd carefully leave the piles undisturbed, so our secret wouldn't be discovered. Berl gladly lent books to anyone interested but insisted that they be treated with respect. His favorite time was speaking Hebrew to his friends (Ben Zion Shepsenbul and others). Later, when he was getting ready to immigrate to Israel – first he sent his son there – he learned how to raise bees, since he wanted to become a farmer. His knowledge of Hebrew grammar was excellent.

Ben Zion Shepsenbul. He was not a native of Radoshkowitz but became one of the leaders of Haskalah and Zionism. He taught Hebrew to many young people, including me. He too, made his living from his store, but his heart was in Zionism. Like Zangvill, he once told me he enjoyed teaching so much that he ought to have paid for the privilege instead of being paid.

Zalman Sara-Dreishaus. If the two above-mentioned men were Cohens, he was a Levite. He provided young Zionists with books and tested them later to see how much they got from their reading. The first Hebrew library was in Zalman's house, all in one big drawer of his dresser. He had a full collection of “Tushia,” those thin, red pamphlets. Many a Sabbath, we would come to him for fresh reading material. I must admit that a few times when he gave me the key so I could borrow a book, I walked away with two or three – one in my hand and the others under my coat. Years later he told me that he knew of my “theft.”

My brother, Shmuel (Rubin). He was restless and full of inner conflicts and consequently changed professions several times. An enlightened man, he wanted to earn a living working and several times jumped from one occupation to another. When he was married with children he learned watch repair, then he became a tanner. Later he learned to be a shochet and went to America to become a chef. He was devoted to only one passion all his life – to Haskalah and Zionism. He was always reading – studying Zvi Gratz's, “The History of the Jews.” When he taught he would excite his students with the Bible, to which he gave interpretations which were a mixture of Haskalah and tradition. He was a fine speaker and original thinker and even published a small book.

Ya'acov Cahanovich (Yankl Grishé-Lea's) was my beloved childhood boy friend, the representative of every progressive movement in our town. All correspondence from every Zionist organization came to his address. Every Zionist guest was welcomed by him. He was the founder of a large Hebrew library. He helped to establish the first Hebrew school and for many years was the spirit of every progressive activity.

Ilia Dude's (Lappidot). One of the first members of the Jewish socialist movement in town. At first he was known as a moderate and modest young man, who helped in his father's leather shop and spent his few free hours reading books. To this day I wonder how revolutionary ideas reached him from afar and excited him so, that he founded the first Socialist group in town. He spent every evening mingling among the groups of young people walking in the woods, looking for converts to socialism. He succeeded in attracting young people, maybe because he was so modest. I can tell you from my own experience. I heard his speeches. He was extremely clear and convincing and could be quite exciting in his soft way of speaking. All of a sudden new expressions were being used among the young people adopting socialism and Zionism.

Eli Dude's immigrated to America and disappeared. In my memory he remains one of the thirty-six righteous men, in a modern edition.

Leibé Yehuda's (Shapira). His father, Yehuda Faygel's was a pedantic melamed, strange, petty and rebellious, always complaining about somebody or something. He was very critical of those on whom he depended for his livelihood. Leibé, his son, grew up like an orphan at his grandmother's and suffered deprivation and contempt. He was rebellious like his father but applied himself to his favorite cause. He was an excellent socialist propagandist. His speech was full of fire and was merciless, but he captivated many young people. He also immigrated to America and was never heard from again.

Henia Mendel's (Tanhilevich) was known around town by the derogatory nickname “Czaritza,” meaning, “She would like to have Czar Nikolai dethroned so she could take his place.” She came from a nice quiet family, but her own speech was pure revolutionary fire. She was a great organizer and was very influential with young people. Eli Dude's and Leibé Yehuda's were men of theory; she was all action, a real revolutionary.

Hirshel Dude's, Eliyahu's young brother, who died young. In his short life he proved to be very brave and daring. He was not a scholar like his brother, but a man of action to the point of risking his life.


[Page 185]

C. Common People


Vavka (Ze'ev – Wolf). He was a tailor-mender, whose house in the synagogue court looked as if it were about to fall apart, sticking out from one angle and unseen from another. The same with its owner. Sometimes he stood out among a group of Jews in the synagogue or the market, talking more than others, and then he would disappear for days.

He was the typical uneducated person, though sometimes he would insist on interpreting one of the most obscure passages of the Bible, and people would laugh.

And yet, sometimes he would come up with the most accurate adjectives for certain people, those whom he disliked most. He could tell about imaginary events in the most descriptive language, to the delight of children, who would listen eagerly to his stories.

Reb Shmuel Vatelier, a pedantic malamed, was named after the village he came from. He lived at the edge of town and thence his second “name,” Reb Shmuel der Ekediker. He was very quiet most of the time. Even with his students at the heder he used very few words, and just one day a year, on Simchat Torah, he would talk and sing and conduct a children's choir. That day he was full of joy, as though he were compensating himself for his gloom the rest of the year. I can still see him singing in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Haim Nishka's (Mané). He was the popular town “doctor,” the right hand man of the Polish Dr. Zalensky, who was considered the specialist in the area. And thanks to him even Haim had a large practice among Jews and gentiles. He owned the first gramophone in town; his son owned the first mandolin. He was also the owner of the first beauty shop. His daughter became a midwife in Vilna and brought to Radoshkowitz refinements we never knew before: Russian conversation and literary discussions.

Haim Nishka's had but a few medications at his disposal and two or three formulas for prescriptions. He would vary them from time to time, regardless of the illness. And strange as it seems, according to his patients, it helped. The old Polish doctor would not see a patient once he had been seen by his “assistant,” Haim.

Yodel Lea-Bryna's (Segalovich). His store was one of the largest in town, and his customers were the richest. He carried attractive and modern merchandise – cosmetics for women, bikes for rental to young people and harmonicas for music lovers. Yodel was the first to enjoy pleasures of the modern world, according to our naïve standards. He was the one who conducted our community choir in the forest, and it was he who introduced dancing (waltz, fox trot, etc.)

Fishel Haim Heshla's. He was a tinsmith but was very creative and artistic and did interesting things in metal. Some of his work decorated the columns near the cantor's stand in the synagogue. They were things he made for his own pleasure. His son and daughter, devoted members of the Socialist Party, were also talented and creative. His daughter embroidered the flag for the May 1st parades, his son decorated the halls where the party balls were held, and he, Fishel, unlike other parents whose children had joined the party, was their friend. He not only knew about their revolutionary activities and did not protest or interfere but supported them.

Reb Avraham, “the Hat Maker.” He was a very good looking Jew, straight and nimble, good natured and ready to assist all in need. Despite his extreme piety he did not clash with the young progressive element. He expressed his dislike, but was careful not to hurt them. He liked to conduct prayers and stubbornly insisted on doing so on Shabbat and holidays. He had a nice voice and sang beautifully. As a young boy, I enjoyed two things which were my privilege as his neighbor – the tasty apples and plums which grew in his garden and his beautiful singing when, every Friday, he practiced for the Torah reading. Reb Avraham was not a scholar but still studied Torah and a page in Gemara every week.

Yacovson, the “Shamus.” To this day I wonder why this modest Jew was called by his last name, which was very rare. (Some of the scholarly Jews were called by both their first and last names, like Reb Chatch Shapira, Reb Yoseph Rosenhaus). He was quiet and followed other people's orders all his life. He followed Rabbi Damta everywhere and carried out his every wish at the slightest hint. He performed his many duties at the big synagogue very carefully and silently.

He never lost his temper, even over children's mischief. His wife sold cloth in a small makeshift shop next to my father's. On market day they would carry the merchandise from home and back again at the end of the day. Yacovson was of little help to his wife. He was too quiet, in general and didn't know the “goyish” language, so he couldn't be of much help. But I remember how he used to draw customers to his wife's store using one word, “tshuish,” (which meant “listen” in our local Belarussian), and when he brought a customer into the store he would tell his wife, “I brought you another tshuish.”

Yoshé (Yoseph) the Butcher. The chief “gabai” of the new synagogue was a sort of self-crowned king, but no one disputed his right to the “crown.” He was quick to anger, energetic and ready to sacrifice everything for “his” synagogue. The children were scared to death of him, and it wasn't only the children – everyone was careful not clash with him.

Reb Haim, the Shoemaker. He had no children of his own, and maybe that was the reason for his extraordinary love of children. He was always surrounded by children, who loved him and his stories and would follow his every word. In his shop he employed a few workers and treated them well. When the wave of organized strikes by the socialists reached our town, Reb Haim proclaimed that his workers would not strike, and, indeed, they did not, because he raised their pay even before being asked to. His workshop was kind of a “cooperative” – he divided the profit equally among his workers. He was the first to contribute to the settlement of Israel and carried stamps in his pocket which said, “You will reclaim the land of Israel.” He once he told me proudly, “It's good that I always carry a sacred Mezuzah in my pocket.” He was referring to a share in the Anglo-Palestine Bank. He was kind and supportive of the young socialists, too.

Ziré-Meré and her daughter Sara (Epstein). Righteous women in the best sense of the word. They made their living baking all kinds of sweets, and the many children who

came to their door found in them the same sweetness as in their products. One never heard a loud voice or the sound of disagreement. Ziré gave to charity secretly, and so did her daughter.

Reb Haim Moshe Yerachmiel's. He wore two hats: he was the “shamus” in the new synagogue and a pedantic melamed. But his real talent lay in his third occupation – making tombstones. He taught himself to carve highly stylized letters and even made his own tools. Many stones in the cemetery of Radoshkowitz were made by him. He was able to talk to his students in a simple language and explain the most complex ideas in a logical, childish way. He also made toys for them from paper and wood, which could have served as models for professional teachers.

He lived modestly and religiously. He fasted on all fasting days and even on other days ate sparingly. From his meager income, he gave to charity.

Rabbi Feitl. “Rabbi” was not a title of respect – rather the opposite. There was a rumor that in his youth he had been the leader (rabbi) of a band of thieves, but no one knew if it was true. When I knew him he was old, quiet, modest and among the moderates. He lived all his life in his small house on Minsk Street which was a very busy street. Yet, he was seldom seen on the street, keeping to himself as though wanting to be unseen, like a shadow. His voice was heard only when reading “T'hilim” at the synagogue towards evening on Shabbat, and, unlike other Jews, he read it softly and warmly, which was much more effective than whiny, loud reading.

Izik, the Blacksmith. His shop was near the bridge, on the way to the public baths. The sounds of his hammer could be heard from afar, the sparks flying in all directions. He was always covered with soot, but when he talked he conveyed light and inner peace. He was full of warmth and kindness. He used to praise Jews and gentiles alike. I once heard him say to his assistant, who was replacing a horseshoe, “Be careful, son, don't hurt the animal.”

Itché-Zalman the “Zulik” (The Cheat). I wonder where he got his nick name? Was it from his cleverness and cunning? But he was not like this in his everyday life as I knew him. On the contrary, he was honest, the first one to come to the aid of the needy and a peacemaker when people were arguing. And he was clever. He could get to the bottom of things on the basis of the slightest hint, but he never used his ability in a negative way. He respected learning. The first yeshiva in town, under Rabbi Haim-Nachmun from Volozin, was in his house and, for a while, with no payment.

Yoel-Zerach (Yacovson). Son of the above-mentioned shamus. He clearly refuted the saying, “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” He was the exact opposite of his father – full of life and joy. In spite of being an adult, he was the first to join in any childish prank at the synagogue or elsewhere. He was a carriage driver, transporting people to and from the train station. On the way, he would entertain passengers with his singing and jokes. People would say that time seemed to fly when riding with him. But in spite of his talent, he had few riders, since most people went with David Ortzica's, the main carrier.

Moisai (Poliacov). For some reason he was called Moisai and not Moshe, maybe because he was half a lawyer. His was an enlightened home; his daughters spoke Russian, and he preferred his poor Russian over Yiddish. In general, he kept to himself and did not have friends. Most people thought he was conceited, but to those who got close to him and got to know him, his strangeness was not due to conceit but to some psychological flaw, since he was good-hearted and always ready to help a friend.

Adelsky, the teacher. As principal of the public school, he kept his distance from most people and socialized with those in authority – the customs director and police commissioner. He came to synagogue only on Shabbat, and when he showed up in his uniform, which made him stand out, people would say, “He's here already.” People were a little afraid of him and poked fun at him at every opportunity. I was one of his students and can remember some examples of his skill as a pedagogue.

Reb Yoel, the leather merchant and his sons, Umka and Dudl. Reb. Yoel's house was a meeting place for all Maskilim. The sons, Umka and Dudl, with their father's support, were among the first very active Socialist-Zionists.

Mina Rhoda (Isaacson). Her sons and sons-in-law were well learned in the Torah. All the Torah scholars met in her home, where she received them with open arms. She set the tone, a mixture of refinement and simplicity.

Reb Lima Levine. His home was kind of an illustration of Y. L. Perez's “Four Generations.” Reb Hirshel lived to be over a hundred. His son, Lima, was about eighty years old when I knew him. His son, Haim, was interested in Haskalah and Zionism, and his son Moshka, was among the first to appear dressed up, carrying a Russian book. These four went to synagogue together every Shabbat and embodied Jewish roots at their best. They were all kind and polite and never quarreled with anyone. From the open windows of their homes emanated a warm intimacy.

Reb Hirshel liked to tell that as a youngster, a few years before he put on tefillin, he would wrap himself up in a talit. What did this wonder mean? He was married before he was Bar Mitzvah.

All four generations dealt in the forestry trade all their lives and, like trees, stood tall and proud.


[Page 193]


Scholars and The Pious

by Ya'akov Robinson

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


The Radoshkowitz community was a uniform group without internal conflicts, and the love of Torah was shared by all. There were no differences between life at the Beit Hamidrash and life outside. The community was unified and peaceful, respectful of scholars and the pious, and of men of action and those interested in the sciences. The leaders were versed in world affairs, aware of city life, polite and moderate; and people looked up to their leaders with respect. My father, the rabbi, used to say, in Radoshkowitz we have no “masses,” because our so-called “masses” would be considered “respectable middle class” in other towns.

According to tradition, Radoshkowitz was quite old; some said as old as Vilna and once spread as far as Ragva, a distance of five “viorst.” The old synagogue was quite beautiful – there were only three such synagogues in all of Russia. It was destroyed in a fire, but I did see it when I was a baby, and I remember that its walls were covered with lists and quotations. The ark was decorated with two lions with their tongues sticking out. This wonderful building held memories of great Torah scholars who came from our town – Rabbi Izil from Slonim, for example, son of a baker, who as a boy would climb to the top balconies early in the morning and scare the praying men.

Rabbi Haim, from Volozin, said about the Great Rabbi, Avraham Ber, I am afraid of the Radoshkowitz “bear.”

Rabbi Simcha from Davinsk counted three rabbis among the generation's thirty-six righteous: Moshele from Baltrimanz, Rabbi Zondel from Aishishok and Rabbi Shlomo Mordecai from Radoshkowitz. And Vatcha, a member of “Habad,” said about him, jokingly, “Thank God, we have an impressive rabbi, but he is a coward, he is afraid of God.”

After Brudna came my father, Rabbi Meir Rabinson, wise in the Torah and world affairs. He excelled in discussions and sermons. He understood human nature and got along with everyone, big and small. He was well-liked by the gentiles, and Father Troyan, who was a friend to the Jews, used to visit his home and was impressed by the many books which lined our walls.

Some of the great rabbis in other towns were related by marriage to residents of Radoshkowitz, like Rabbi Pinchas Razovsky and Rabbi Hirsh Hominer. Others who came from Radoshkowitz were the great authors, Rabbi Avraham Maskit Eitan and Rabbi Leib Vilkomirer, a great Torah scholar.

From the permanent residents of Radoshkowitz, I must mention a long list of people who were community leaders, learned in Torah and Haskalah:

Yehuda Shalom's and Shalom Edel's, were active in community affairs. Among the Hassidim were some who were good looking and had good taste, like Barka Haim Aba's. Among the unassuming ones let me mention Notké, the melamed, my father's right hand man in doing works of charity. He was my first teacher, and his son is the philanthropist, Axelrod. Among the good looking people, let me mention Hazi Shapira, Yoshé Rosenhaus, Koifman Alterman, and Eliots and Moshe Padarsky. Among the scholars: Rabbi Moshe No'ach Rubinstein, Rabbi Ya'acov Pinchas Gordon, Rabbi Ya'acov Moshe Alperovich, Rabbi Yekutiel Funt and Rabbi Ya'acov Ze'ev Epstein, a studious man, who taught Mishna all his life. Another diligent student of Torah was Yitzhak Ya'acov, the melamed, who left a deep impression on me. My learned friend, Haim Shmuel Lappidot, was the student of Rabbi Shimon Shkep from Telz Yeshiva. But the greatest was Rabbi Yitzhak Zilburg, with whom I studied Torah. In his youth he was friends with Rabbi Avraham Ber who later was appointed as rabbi in Kovna.

Among those close to Torah studies but from the “middle class,” I remember a few fine friends. Yoel Honi's, my friend, Avraham Leib's father, was a lovely and honest man. The cantor and shochet, Reb Michel, who lived to be a hundred, was kind and good tempered. His son, Haim David Rosenstein, was an excellent teacher and author and was among the founders of the revised heder in Russia. Reb Pesach Canterovich, my first melamed, was kind and loved by his young students. Shmuel Eliezer's Isaacson was fluent in Midrash and honest. The two shamashim who served our town devotedly for many years, Reb Yerachmiel Ben Hendle, a smart and well-liked man, who was there at the synagogue and completed Thilun every single day, and his son, Reb Yechezkel Rubin, a jolly and kind man, who studied Torah all his life and raised sons who excelled in both Torah and science – Rabbi Shmuel Rubin and Dr. Israel Rivkai (Rubin). Reb Ze'ev Yacovson was a kind and quiet man. He was a shamus at the Beit Din and a frequent visitor at Rabbi Damta's.

Among the newer circle, those who combined Torah, Haskalah and Zionism, I should mention Yoel Dov Isaacson, Ben Zion Shepsenbul and Moshe Lea-Bryna's. The first two were outstanding teachers, well versed in Hebrew and Hebrew grammar. Yoel Dov Isaacson moved to Israel where he died.

Among those who had respect for Torah and Torah students were the butchers, Yoshé and Leibé. They were regular, persistent students of “Ein Ya'acov.” Others worthy of mention from the vicinity of the town are Yoshé from Kaleisburg, Itché from Odrei, who would read at the Big Synagogue on the High Holidays, and the father of the honest and highly respected merchants, Moshe and Shimon Zukovsky. Other important and honest merchants were Sinai from Vermeika and his son, Alter; Yehuda and Avraham from Ragva and the mechanic, who was the Ba'al T'filla on the high Holy Days at the new Beit Hamidrash.

The regular students at Beit Hamidrash were young, local men like Reb Nachum Haim from Volozin. Also, the home of Ziré-Meré, a regular supporter of these students, was an “off campus” place of study.


[Page 196]


The Yeshiva “Hayai Olam”

by Ya'akov Robinson Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


In 1911 two brothers, both students at Beit Hamidrash came up with the idea of establishing a yeshiva in Radoshkowitz. The oldest, Shmuel, went to Volozin and brought back two learned young men to serve as the nucleus for the yeshiva. One was from Vishkov, and the second, from Lomza, was an excellent scholar, who was later appointed rabbi in Padgorna, a suburb of Minsk (His father-in-law was known as the outstanding scholar form Bobroisk, and was among the martyrs killed in Hebron in 1929.) The first eight students were joined by thirty local young men, to form a core of permanent scholars. Rabbi Raphael, the head of the reduced Volozin Yeshiva, saw a rival in the Yesihva of Radoshkowitz. The yeshiva depended on local contributions, a task undertaken by the yeshiva director, aided by the writer of these lines.

The students of the yeshiva studied in the big Beit Midrash, which was as large as the Big Synagogue in Tel-Aviv, and in the evening there was a lamp on every window sill. Each student studied his own page of the Gemara, but the children were taught in a group and one of the students explained one page of Gemara per day. The study consisted of explanation and logic, and the yeshiva turned out a few brilliant students. Among the oldest students was Mordecai Epstein, now living inTel-Aviv. One other student worthy of mention is H. A. Friedland, from Horodock, who became famous in America as a teacher and writer. The yeshiva existed for seven years under the direction of Rebbi Moshe Padaresky, Rabbi Yekutiel Funt and others.


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