By Arye Eydlman and Yitskhok Gulis (Geli)
Translated by Dr. KhaneFaygl (Anita) Turtlebaub
Translation commissioned by Debra Rade, in memory of her beloved grandfather, Rev. Lazar Rade, zl,
who emigrated from Antaliepte with his wife and son in 1922 to Chicago, and in memory of the families who remained.
Antalept [as it was known in Yiddish currently referred to as Antaliepte] was a typical small village in Lite and was part of NovoAlexandrovsk Province. It was 10 Russian viorst from Dusiat and six viorst from the DvinskVilna highway. The train station closest to it was Utian. There were few villages nearby, and the majority of the peasants sold their wares in the market towns of NovoAlexandrovkEzhereni and Rokishok. The [economic] situation of the Jewish shopkeepers and artisans in Antalept was quite difficult, because business and commerce bypassed Antalept.
The only important source of livelihood was the local monastery, where approximately 100 nuns lived. It was a Greek Orthodox monastery, whose mission was to proselytize and spread Greek Orthodox beliefs among the Catholic Lithuanians and Poles. The shopkeepers, artisans, masons, and builders all benefited from the monastery, since the monastery building was frequently being repaired.
The Jewish population was poor, and Antalept did not have a weekly market day or annual fair like other towns.
The town had 80 Jewish familiesabout 400 souls. There were 10 shopkeepers, including Nakhum Levin, who had a wellknown fabric store. His children were Moyshe Levin, Leyzer Levin, and Rabbi Berl Levin. Yome the shopkeeper was also wellknown, with a big store that sold flour.
There were a few craftsmen, including three or four shoemakers, two or three bricklayers, one tanner, and Lipe the tailor. There was no manufacturing to speak of other than one brush factory. But there were a lot of peddlers.
The circumstances of the Jews under German occupation during the First World War were very bad. As soon as the Germans entered [the town], the nuns of the monastery fled, and the German staff was quartered there. Practically all the Jews stayed and did not escape deeper into Russia. Only two Jewish families left their homes and wandered off into the Russian provinces.
The Jews were religious, as was the case in all the Jewish towns of Lite, and Antalept was known for its rabbis. The rabbis lived in poverty, and their [meager] incomes were derived from the sale of yeast, shmuramatzo, etrogs, and other articles necessary for religious observance. This was their only source of income.
The reason for Antalept's great reputation in the rabbinic world was the fact that in the second half of the 19th century, Rabbi Yudl of Antalept, of blessed memory, was the Chief Rabbi. In addition to his greatness in Torah [learning], he was also a sage and very good with people. He was renown
throughout the surrounding areas, and he was invited from far away to arbitrate and resolve complicated matters before a Torah court. When the local rabbi of NovoAlexandrovsk passed away and a substitute could not be found quickly, Rabbi Yudl did not want to take the position permanently because of his age. But Antalept lent Rabbi Yudl for two years to lead the Jewish community of NovoAlexsandrovsk.
Rabbi Yudl was a great Torah scholar, and came from a long line of great Vilna and Shidvint rabbis. After his death, his soninlaw, Rabbi Dovid Nakhum Kovnat, was selected to take his place, but seeing that there was opposition to his appointment in town, he resigned on his own and settled in Balavsk, Latvia. He was the rabbi there for several years and was beloved by the whole Jewish population.
Another rabbi in Antalept was Rabbi Zalman Tuvia Tarkovits, who was killed in the Ninth Fort in Kovno, along with his son, Rabbi Khaim Shimshon, who was the author of the book, Dvar HaKhaim [Words of Life]. He was a grandson of [the author of] Shem HaGdolim HaKhodesh HaShlishi [Names of Great Torah Scholars in the Third Month]. Reb Chaim Zalman also had a phenomenal memory, just like his grandfather, Reb Moyshe Markovits, and was well known in the yeshiva world as a great Torah scholar.
In The Destruction of Lite by Rabbi Efraim Oshrey, there are many noteworthy details about Reb Moyshe Markovits, who was just a simple Jew, a shoemaker by trade, who did not even know how to write. Nevertheless, he published his wonderful historical book about the lives and work of the Lithuanian rabbis over the course of hundreds of years.
In the abovementioned book, the following appears about Reb Moyhe Markovits, of blessed memory:
His memory was phenomenal. He never forgot anything. He always carried a book with him, and from his bootleg he would take out a pencil and ask someone to write down what he said. He was a person of medium height with a tangled beard. His whole face was covered. Only his eyes and nose could be seen on his face. He lived in poverty and hunger, because he was busy with his religious books and neglected his shoemaking. His wife would say that, the book is my angel of death. Ever since he started writing, hunger has moved into my house. He published the two volumes of Names of Great Scholar in the Third Month before his death. He died in Gorud at the age of 81.
After the First World War, Jewish life was somewhat altered. [Ed: the text reads Second World War, but from the context, the author clearly was referring to the First World War.] The upbringing of children was modernized. Some parents sent their children to other cities to learn. Even before the Czarist regime,
Jewish children were learning in the National School, which was several viorsts from Antalept.
There were several cheders in Antalept. Dovid Hirsh Geli, the father of Yitskhok Gulis (Geli), taught Gemora to his students. He also taught them to write Russian, as well as Hebrew and Tanakh. ItseBentsye was a good teacher. He was also the one who read from the Torah.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the young people began to leave Antalept for economic reasons and because the town had no prospects. Many of the young people immigrated to Palestine.
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