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[Page 7]

Preface

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.

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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[1]: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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[2], who was born in our town and now resides in the United States, whose financial contribution enabled us to prepare and print this book.

H. Abramson


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  1. 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. Return
  2. As this is written we received the sad news of the sudden passing away of Mr. William Rosenthal. May his memory be blessed. Return

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