Translated by Shmuel Winograd
With a trembling hand we bring to print this memorial book to the community of
Rakov; a memorial book to the lives which were cut down, to one of the ancient
communities which was settled for hundreds of years in the land of Byelorussia
until the wicked hand uprooted it and turned it to a heap of ashes. The pages
of this book include but a small part of the rich history of the community,
starting with its first mention in the protocols of "The Committee of the
Four Lands" [the self governing body of the Jewish communities in Poland,
Russia, the Ukraine, and Lithuania] in the beginning of the seventeenth
century, and ending with that bitterest of days the second of February
1942, the day it was destroyed.
A main source for the book were the pamphlets which were published over the
years by the "Rakovian Brench" and the organization of the Women of
Rakov in America. These pamphlets were devoted to Rakov, and we found in them a
wealth of material on the history of the town: Stories and anecdotes of the
life in Rakov, and sketches which illustrate the longing for the past, for the
home town, of the people who left it and went to search their fortunes in the
"big world", but who never ceased yearning for their place of birth.
People such as Berl Botvinik, Segal, Rabbi Garlin, Mr. Rozenthal, Morris
Berman, and many more.
We also found very interesting material in the book "Ba'Nechar" [in a
foreign land] by Mr. Zalph, who found himself in Rakov during the First World
War. As an outsider he penetrated inside the life of the town behind the Front,
with its atmosphere of constant trepidation accompanied by hunger and the fear
of the soldiers and Cossacks who moved in and out of town, with its refugees
who found shelter there, with its merchants, with its rabbi (Rabbi
Kalmanovits), and with its youth.
Interesting material was also found in the various articles in the Hebrew
newspapers, starting with the eighties of the last [nineteenth] century until
the years just before the First World War; articles which were written by the
educated [in Hebrew and secular subjects] people of the town who tell in a
flowery Hebrew, which was typical of that period, of those things which engaged
the people of the town: the economic situation which was bad, the
Talmud-Torah [religious school], the library, Hebrew studies, the Zionist
movement, the number of subscribers to the Hebrew newspapers, the amount of
money pledged on Kol Nidrei eve, the dedication of the new Firehouse, and the
repairs of the cemetery fence. Anything and everything, including the
announcement of the arrival of the new Rabbi to replace R. Avraham Mosheh, of
blessed memory, who had passed away.
The rounding up of the material was completed by the various friends, who live
with us here in Israel or who live in the United States. They sent us articles
and notes on the town and its history, the history of the community and its
rabbinate till its last rabbi Rabbi Helpern, who died in a Nazi labor
camp; on the character of people who lived in the town; on the Zionist
movement; on Ha'Halutz [the Pioneer a Zionist organization]; on the
Jewish National Fund, Ha'Shomer Ha'Tzayir [a socialist youth movement] and
Beytar [a right-wing youth movement] in Rakov in the mid-thirties. Each of
these stories and experiences added its own flavor and shed its own light on
the various facets of the life of the town.
And last, but by no mean least Rakov in the period of death and
destruction, as told by the surviving witnesses the partisans.
This book ends with description of a visit to Rakov after its liberation from
the Nazis, called "On the Ruins of Rakov". The writing touches one's
innermost, and causes a spontaneous cry for all that was dear, for all that was
destroyed and is no more.
We want to express our appreciation to Mr. David Kena'ani, the husband of
Rachel Berman, of our town, who went over most of the material and gave it its
final editing the last stylistic polish before going to press, for
volunteering his time and energy.
We also want to express our gratitude to Mr. William Rosenthal, who was born
in our town and now resides in the United States, whose financial contribution
enabled us to prepare and print this book.
- The Hebrew word 'Ayarah', 'Shtetle' in Yiddish, should be translated as 'small town'.
However, for the sake of the flow of the sentence, the adjective 'small' is often omitted.
- As this is written we received the sad news of the sudden passing away of Mr.
William Rosenthal. May his memory be blessed.
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