by Yechiel Michel Pines
|Hurry, brothers hurry
Let us lift up our steps
Rush, brothers, rush
To our native Land
Rest is not for us,
My friends mock me
Fools, do not mock,
by A. Leviatan
There was a different spirit around. The Chibat Zion movement appeared on our historical stage. The echo of this movement reached Ruzhany. Several members of the Pines family were among the first who were aroused by this echo. The lions in this area were the two brothers of Leib Wasz: Yechiel Michel Pines and Fishel Pines.
Fishel Pines was one of the 35 delegates to the Chibat Zion convention in Katowice in 5645 (1844). Thus did tiny Ruzhany succeed in entering into a list along with big cities such as Warsaw, Bialystock, Odessa, Riga, and the likes, which sent delegates to this convention.
When Fishel Pines returned home, he would preach about Zion and Jerusalem every Sabbath in the synagogue. On weekdays, he would work to arrange collections for Chibat Zion, and he would donate no small amount himself. We later find Fishel Pines among the delegates to the second convention of the Zionists of Russia that took place in Minsk on 2-8 Elul 5662 (1902).
He continued with his Zionist activity until ties were cut off with the world at the outbreak of the First World War. Fishel Pines died during this war, in 5678 (1918). Ruzhany had then been under German occupation for 3 ½ years. Hatzefira number 23 (a weekly published in Warsaw) notes the following about his death:
In Ruzhany, Reb Fishel Pines passed away. He was the brother of the scholar Rabbi Yechiel Michel Pines of Jerusalem. Reb Fishel Pines was one of the first members of Chovevei Zion, and among the faithful to the idea of national revival. During his brilliant speeches, he would attract many followers to the Zionist idea. He was a scholar from the old Beis Midrash, with deep knowledge of Talmud and Midrashim. He also read a great deal of general literature. He was wealthy and lived comfortably for all his life, but the war took everything from him and also distanced him from his children who were living in Russia. This excellent man lived alone and forlorn in his native city during his last year. May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.
David Noach Pines
The son of Reb Fishel followed the path of his father, and was an enthusiastic Zionist. He would gather the people of the town in the synagogue and preach to them about the settlement of the Land. His mouth would emit flames.
Yechiel Michel Pines
Fishel's brother decided to actualize Chibat Zion (the love of Zion) in deeds. He made aliya in the year 5638 (1878) and was one of the first builders of the new settlement. The next chapter is about him.
Yechiel Michel Pines was born on the 23rd of Tishrei 5604 (1843) in our town Ruzhany, in the Grodno District. In his time, he became famous in the Zionist world as a central figure in the Diaspora and later in the Land. He received a Jewish and general education, and excelled in his talents already during his youth. He was among the influential people already in cheder and Yeshiva. His rabbi, Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel Yaffa, prophesied a future for him. Indeed
this was not for naught, for he later became famous as a man of Torah and a maskil blended together, and an enthusiastic lover of Zion, graced with a fine Hebrew style and abilities in publicity. In his articles in Hakarmel and Halevanon he fought against the demands of the maskilim for revisions to religion, and against the assimilationists and the Reform. His sharp articles, imbued with love of Israel and reverence for the eternal values of Jewish religion and tradition, were collected in a two volume book called Yelidei Ruchi that was published in the year 5632 (1872).
|Yechiel Michel Pines|
His Aliya to the Land
His good name preceded him, and when the Mizkeret Moshe fund was established in London in 1874 at the 90th birthday of Moses Montefiore in order to assist the foundations of the Hebrew settlement in the Land of Israel through agricultural work, labor and manufacturing, Y. M. Pines was selected as the spokesman of the group in the Land of Israel. He made aliya and entered his role on the 18th of Elul 5638 (1878). He built the Mizkeret Moshe, Ohel Moshe, Yemin Moshe, and Zichron Moshe neighborhoods in Jerusalem. He was one of the founders of the Motza Moshava, where he established a tile factory to employ Jerusalem residents who desired to earn their living from the toil of their hands. The zealots of Jerusalem persecuted him and excommunicated him, but he stood his ground. He founded the Techiat Yisrael group in Jerusalem along with Eliezer ben Yehuda and Dr. Zeev Hertzberg, which promoted the revival of the Hebrew Language for the nation. He was one of the founders of the national library. He worked as an official of Chovevei Zion during the time of Tyomkin, and he served as a teacher in the Chevrat Haezra Teachers' Seminary. He was the author of the poem Hurry, Brothers, Hurry.
Y. M. Pines helped with the purchase of a section of the land of Petach Tikva. The danger of the annulment of the sale was prevented thanks to the money that he obtained by selling his wife's jewelry. This led to a renewal of this settlement after it was destroyed, and helped the settlers lay the first foundations of Hebrew agriculture. He was the head of the Chalutzei Yesud Hamaale committee, and worked for the benefit of its settlers. He was the one who founded, nurtured and improved the Bilu settlement of Gedera. This was the crowning achievement of his actions for the settlement of the Land of Israel.
Helping the Bilu People
The Bilu people were at the threshold of despair. The tribulations of the hard work in Mikve Yisrael under the yoke of Hirsch continued to grow. The hope that their representatives in Kushta [Constantinople] would be able to obtain the desired lot of land to establish their moshav in a proper fashion came to naught. The new light
that broke through the darkness with the appearance of Karl Neter, who planned to ameliorate the situation of the pioneers of the nation, was extinguished with his sudden death. Hirsch advised the desperate people only one thing, Obtain funds for the journey and travel to America. A few of them left the land and the rumor spread, The Bilu organization is lost, and will not rise again.
Who knows how far those things would have come had not the star of Pines lit up their way at the appropriate time. He girded his loins and went out prepared to fight for the Bilu people and to establish them on their land. The storm that Pines fomented in the summer of 5644 (1884) bore fruit. Appropriate donations were received. Pines hastened to purchase a large tract of land in the Arab village of Qatra. Pines quickly gathered up the displaced Bilu people. On the second day of Chanukah 5645, a caravan of nine Bilu people set out. After two and a half years of promises and disappointment, hope and despair, they finally succeeded in lighting the candle of redemption of the Macabbees on their own land with soaring emotions. They called their land Gedera. The happiness of the Bilu people and of Y. M. Pines knew no bounds.
Woe About Those Who Are Lost
With the death of Yaakov Rabinovitch in the year 5673 (1903), the following words were written in Hapoel Hatzair 5673 (24) in articles:
... Like Lilienbaum, he too (Y. M. Pines) was also an activist surpassing anyone else. When I once asked him, 'A person such as yourself, with such great knowledge in Torah and science, with such linguistic creativity, with talent, with style and with such writing where every word is a stone -- a person such as you -- why are you involved with the institutes of Jerusalem? How many good books could you have given us?' He then jumped into his place, 'Who told you that one must write books and not forge institutions? Is not the founding of Gedera more important than the best book? We have 20,000 books that were written by people greater and better than us, and if a few more were added by Michel Pines, what difference would it make? But a moshava, an institution -- how many do we have? Are we short on books? If moshavas are founded -- this I understand.'
Yehoshua Barzilai writes the following in Hapoel Hatzair 5673 (25):
Seventy years ago in a remote town in Lithuania, in a time and place where they did not dream at all about founding a healthy settlement in the Land of the forefathers, could it have been that such a man of strong spirit and a forger of ideas such as Pines had been born, who erected towers of light and beacons in the form of moshavot and cultural institutions in the Land of Israel. How much more so would it be that in the cities, suburbs, moshavot, and farms, in the places where the atmosphere and the sun of the Land of Israel strengthen the landscape and forge the soul -- would be born, or perhaps has already been born, such Pines' who would not only be Pines' but also pillars of light who will light up and forge the paths for the people making aliya to Zion.
Ruzhany merited to have a village in Israel and streets in the Land of Israel named after one of its natives.
By Meir Sokolowski
Sixty years of war against the mission in the Land.
Sixty years ago, a group was organized in Jerusalem by Yechiel Michel Pines and Y. D. Frumkin whose purpose was to fight against the mission. The activities of the mission began 100 years ago. A sort of 'Jewish-Christian Community' was organized in Jerusalem already in 1856, consisting of 130 apostates out of 7,500 Jews of Jerusalem.
The missionaries continue to operate in Israel even after the establishment of the state. They rely on clause 2 of the United Nations resolution of November 1947, 'The activities of the religious institutions or charities of any religion are not to be interfered with.'
People of the Reform
Regarding the people of the Reform, Y. M. Pines says that the reformers used to hide the shame of their assimilationist work with a sublime Israelite mission. Pines explained to them that the fulfillment of this mission obligates us with the national experience and the piousness of our Torah... It admits that G-d chose this nation to bear the flag of rectifying the world and the kingdom of G-d, but was never sent as a messenger to the gentiles to impose the refined studies upon them with a smooth tongue or the coercion of the sword. It acts upon the nations only indirectly and not directly... As such, this nation is compared to the sun:
The precious sun goes, and shines from its place without realizing that its rays will spread blessing and life. Thus, the providence of the Israelite nation is like the orb of the sun in the heights of the firmament, spreading its light upon all that pass by. Many nations will walk in its light, in their way of life and with its moral teachings, without the source boasting of its activities, and the latter recognizing the source of their good.
Our influence is not intentional, but rather indirect, for the awakening of the internal force to function itself can only happen by example. Therefore the Hebrew nation must exist as a unique group, with the Torah being its ledger, the commandments being its charter, and the basis of its life is proper behavior and just laws. It is forbidden to harm this group, for only in its full essence can it impart its stamp upon the world.
The Demands of the Maskilim Demonstrate a Lack of Understanding
The Maskilim who demand religious reforms demonstrate their lack of understanding, for the commandments flow from the needs of man's heart for love, recognition of good, doing good, connecting to the sublime, raising up the soul in holiness and purity, and cleaving to G-d.
Against the Assimilationists
Pines states that the Jews are not a religious sect but rather a nation, and therefore It is impossible for a Jewish person faithful to his Torah and religion to change from nation to nation, for the religion of Israel is like a national charter intertwined with life... If Israel was exiled from its Land and only has the four ells of its Torah, any group rising up against it will not succeed in tearing apart our connection, for the four ells upon which Israel stands is the small area that holds up the large area. It will have a refuge from any wind or storm, until the wrath passes and the sun shines upon him from between the clouds.
She was born in Ruzhany in the year 1868 to her father Y. M. Pines and her mother Chaya Tzipora of the family of Reb Shmaria Luria. She received a Jewish education in the cheder for girls and general and national education from the home of her parents.
About two years after the aliya of Y. M. Pines, his wife and daughters, including Itta, made aliya along with those who made aliya from the Bialystock Group who came to settle in Petach Tikva and to renew its settlement. Reb Yechiel and his wife assisted them with this, as we know.
In the year 5645 (1885) Itta married David Yellin. She was his helpmate who enabled her husband to dedicate himself to his educational, communal, literary and academic activities.
When her mother founded the Ezrat Nashim society and took responsibility for the Beit Hamachase institution for the mentally ill in the year 5672 (1902), Itta helped her in her work. From the year 5672 and onward, Itta was the primary person who tended to this institution, raising it up to a high medical standard through the course of 25 years. She ensured its continued existence during the most difficult years, when her fellow directors almost gave up on maintaining it due to lack of funds and buckled under the yoke of debts. She would travel to cities and settlements, increasing the number of members and supporters. She even went to the United States and founded a womens' organization in support of Ezrat Nashim of Jerusalem. When the Turkish government attempted to confiscate the building of the Beit Hamachse institution of the mentally ill during the First World War -- among the other communal buildings that they confiscated -- for the purposes of a military hospital, Itta threw the keys of the institution before the director of the department of health, telling him to remove the sick people onto the street himself. With this strong stand, she saved the institution from eviction and destruction.
She also worked to ease the suffering of the residents of Jerusalem. She cared for the ill during the typhus epidemic. She especially worked to provide food and medicine for the starving Yemenite families and the ill people in the Mishkanot neighborhood.
Similarly, Itta participated in the founding and leadership of the institution and workshop for Jewish girls in Jerusalem. She was active in the Gemilat Chesed organization, in the Brit Bat-Tzion girls' chapter, and in Beit Haolim founded by Bnai Brith and Bnot Brith.
As a token of appreciation for her work, the large Bnai Brith chapter of Israel honored her with the title of Honorary President. The British government, on the recommendation of the Palestine (Land of Israel) government, granted her the title of M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire). She returned the title to the government as a sign of protest at the outbreak of the disturbances of 1936-1939, as did her husband Reb David.
During that period of turmoil, her son Avinoam, who was a government official responsible for the schools in the Land, was murdered. That year, she wrote a memorial book called Letzetzaei (For My Descendants). She finished the second section in the year 5701 (1941). She began to write the third section, but was unable to complete it.
Her grandson Aviezer Yellin was the head of the Teachers Union in the Land for many years.
He was born in Ruzhany in 1869. He made aliya during his cheder years with his parents, who settled in Jerusalem. There, the youth Zeev Wolf continued with his studies in the cheders
and Yeshivas. In his adulthood he earned his livelihood from the pharmaceutical trade. He instituted in Jerusalem the scientific medical methodology of relying on accredited physicians and medicine from pharmacies rather than the old methodology of using unaccredited physicians and grandmothers' potions.
In 5664 (1894) he founded a business in Jaffa called Shachor and Partners with his relative Yitzchak Izersky, which had the rights to distribute chemical fertilizers -- the first business of this type for the assistance of agriculture in the land. He was also the first to export raw materials for the production of fertilizer and aromatic oils.
He continued to conduct his business in Jerusalem. Despite his great occupation in business and communal needs, he set times for the study of Torah in his home or in the Beis Midrash of the Yemin Moshe neighborhood, where he lived for close to 50 years. Even during the times of tribulation when most of the honorable householders left that neighborhood, he remained in that neighborhood that was surrounded by Arab settlements. He gave the following reason for remaining in the neighborhood: Lest his departure cause a mass departure, and therefore the status of the Jewish pioneers would be diminished. He was honored by all of the residents, without distinction between race and creed, due to his generous character traits.
He utilized his good relationships with Arabs for the purpose of redeeming land in the Land of Israel. With his assistance, many areas around Petach Tikva were redeemed. Land in the Talpiot neighborhood was redeemed through him, upon which Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and other areas were built.
He devoted a great deal of time to communal affairs. He was one of the gabbim of the general charitable fund and the Torat Chaim Yeshiva, one of the responsible gabbaim of Talmud Torah and the Eitz Chaim Yeshiva, which was later moved to buildings that were built through his agency in the Machane Yehuda area.
During the difficult years of the First World War, he, along with Z. Hofin, David Yellin and Albert Anvati and others bore the burden of responsibility for saving the settlement in Jerusalem. He founded The House of Bread and Tea that gave some food to thousands of hungry people. He went there daily to drink tea together with Rabbi Y. M. Tukachinsky so that many of the formerly wealthy people who were now penniless would not be embarrassed to come to eat and drink there.
From among the founders of the first settlements we know of the founders of Ekron, who originated from the Jewish village of Pavlova near Ruzhany. This is how a few farmers of Pavlova succeeded in being among the first builders of the Land!
The terrible dark days of 5641 and 5642 (1881 and 1882) came. A wave of pogroms passed through the length and breadth of Russia. The Jews in their masses turned to all directions and searched for refuge. Many set out for America. Only the Chibat Zion people attempted to direct the stream of immigration toward the land of Israel.
On one of those days, Rabbi Mohilever was in Paris. He was canvassing the homes of the wealthy people with the constant concern of the idea of the settlement of the Land of Israel. When he met Baron Rothschild, Mohilever told him about the Chibat Zion movement and succeeded in swaying him to the idea of the establishment of a settlement in the Land according to the plan of Yechiel Beri'l, the editor of Halevanon, who recommended the settling of Jewish farmers from Russia on land that was prepared for them in the Land of Israel. The baron agreed to support these settlers only if it would be proven that they were people who enjoyed and were suited to agricultural work.
Rabbi Mohilever began to search for Jewish farmers in Russia in order to take advantage
of the willingness of the baron. He found such in the village of Pavlova next to Ruzhany. Yechiel Beri'l traveled to Ruzhany and, with the assistance of Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel Yaffa, selected ten families, numbering 110 individuals, who would be designated for aliya. However, who would provide them with the sum of money needed for their journey? There is nothing lacking in Israel. Rabbi Mordechai Gimpel Yaffa and the well-known Chovevei Zion activist Mr. Yerucham Fishel Pines of Ruzhany obtained the necessary funds for them.
Preparation for Aliya
The days of preparation for aliya were days of double and multiple celebration and joy for them for two reasons: the first was the joy of the imminent aliya and the second as the joy of the many marriages in the settlement. Why did these take place before the aliya. The answer comes in Hamagid 1884 935), where Avraham Kasten writes:
Ruzhany, Rosh Chodesh Elul 5644 (1884). In the previous week, four families, numbering more than 40 souls, set out... The seven remaining families will set out soon. The ten days preceding their journey were days of celebration and joy due to the making of the tanaim (pre-marriage) agreements, which they hastened to make before their journey. Many girls who had difficulty finding mates for various reasons including poverty, have now entered into marital relations with young men who know toil and who walk in the good path. One of them is a prayer leader and a shochet. They took the girls without a dowry, so that they could come with them to the Holy Land to work its soil.
At a propitious time, seven families followed the four, for a total of eleven families, leaving the Diaspora and going to the Land. These are their names: 1) Yaakov Orkin, 2) Baruch Orkin, 3) Baruch Tzvi Bernstein, 4) Avraham Yaakov Gelman, 5) Yechezkel Lewin, 6) Yaakov Laskowsky, 7) Moshe Meler, 8) Moshe Chaim Paras, 9) Dov Rudabsky, 10) Yehoshua Rubinstein, 11) Efraim Skolnik.
The First Period in the Land
Now they had to prove that they could become accustomed to agricultural work in the Land. They worked for about a year in Mikve Yisrael under the supervision of Mr. Hirsch, the director of Mikve Yisrael under the auspices of the Kol Yisrael Chaveirim (Alliance Israelite Universelle) organization Since they were strong and accustomed to hard work from their youths, they withstood the tests and proved that aside from being able to work the land, most of them also knew a trade.
All of them were workers of the land from their youths. Aside from their knowledge of the work of the field, eight of them also have a trade: three of them are house builders, one of them is a wood engraver, two of them are carpenters, and two of them are weavers of wool. (Yechiel Beri'l, Yesud Haamala).
Mr. Hirsch, whose relationship to the workers who originated from Russia was to this point inimical, was satisfied wit these workers, and gave a good report about them to the baron:
I am satisfied with them. These people appear calm to me. They continue to work with us, and from the time they arrived, they have not caused me any bitterness. I have authorized several trustworthy people to seek plots of land for them. (From the letter of Sh. Hirsch, the director of Mikve Yisrael, to the Alliance Israelite Universelle -- Sh. Jabnali. Book of Zionism II.)
These farmers were offered an orchard in Wadi el Hanin, but they refused saying: we requested bread to eat and clothes to wear, not Sabbath fruit (i.e. oranges...). This was the outlook of these honest farmers. After various recommendations, Mr. Hirsch chose for them 2,700
dunams on the land of the Arabic village of Aqir. The well-known philanthropist kept his promise, purchased the tract of land, settled all of the familles who came from Ruzhany on it, and promised to take care of all of their needs.
The Ekronites on their Land
The activists Moyal, through whose assistance the land was purchased, brought them to their inheritance. He led them on their first journey, got them accustomed to the local conditions, and purchased animals and work implements for them, etc.
The settlers called their village Ekron after the Arab village, but the philanthropist called it Mizkeret Batya after his mother, who implanted in him the love of Israelite culture.
The land was good for the cultivation of crops, and the farmers were diligent workers of the land who were happy with their lot, as Y. M. Pines said about them in Hamelitz 1884 (18):
They are happy and of good heart, performing their work with diligence, dedication, and patience, as is fitting and appropriate for true workers of the land who were raised from their youth in the bosom of work.
They worked the true work of farmers in this moshava and plowed with oxen. Everyone admitted that this was an agricultural moshava in all its details. The Bilu member Chaim Chisin writes, Only a man who is a farmer can understand how happy they were at the sight of the bent over stalks of wheat... and full ears in the fields of the farmers of Ekron.
The small moshava did not succeed in having much written about it in the annals of the settlement of the Land of Israel, for its neighbors Gedera to the south and Rechovot to the north overshadowed it and its modest farmers, despite the fact that their dedication to agricultural village life in its simple meaning (as opposed to an easier farm life) -- with plowing, planting, and harvesting -- was exemplary. They displayed stubborn opposition to the officials who wished to impose the style of planting upon them. Matters came to a rabbinical adjudication, and only the verdict that with regard to work, farmers must listen to the officials, caused them to submit.
The moshava continued to grow. In 1930, Menashe Meirowitz found there a school for 50 boys and girls, a Mishna study group, a guest house and a loan fund. The support upon which the farmers lived did not move them from their determination, and they continued to display their diligence in their primitive methodologies of planting which their souls desired.
The settlement of Ekron located on the side grew and became an area of more than 10,000 dunams. Its population grew to 500 people. During the War of Independence, Ekron served as a transport route on the temporary road between Tel Aviv and the capital of Jerusalem.
After the aliya of the 11 families of Pavlova, the rest of the families remained on the settlement and continued with their lives. Even though additional families became aroused and wished to make aliya, they did not succeed in their goal. Thus is written in Hamelitz 1891 (78):
Pavlova. Approximately 50 Jewish families live in this settlement, working their land with diligence and love, producing seed from the fat of the land which the late Czar Nikolai gave us with his great mercy in his desire to turn us into productive citizens, people of work and action, who bring blessing to them and to the world. Even if the beginning of the settlement was difficult, for there were many who found it difficult to take leave of the life of the spirit and were not easily able to turn
their shoulders and bear the burden of physical labor. Some of them left their homes and fields, and went to seek their livelihood with what they might find. However, its later period is very proud, for when disturbances began to take place, our brethren took to the work of the field, the life of a farmer, the life of physical labor and movement. This attracted the hearts of many of us more than the deceptive life of commerce. Whereas earlier they had given up on their fields and given them over to anyone who came to take them without even taking any monetary reward, now the price of each lot is more than 1,000 silver coins or more ere they to want to sell them. All of the farmers of the Pavlova settlement are very diligent in their work. There are people who studied all the ways of civilian farmers in great detail, and make every little matter into a big matter for themselves. When their work in the field finishes, they bring transports from the merchants of nearby Ruzhany that is about two verst away from us, on the railway line, or bring wagons laden with wood to the city to sell. Were it not for the accursed fashion that pervades among the daughters of the farmers, and for the legitimate desires of their hearts, all of our farmers would be happy.
Our moral situation is also not lacking, for many of the farmers send their children to the large Yeshivas in Ruzhany to study Gemara and Jewish law with the commentaries. There are two Mishna study groups, where the farmers go to study some chapters of Mishna each Sabbath. Thanks are due to the intelligent rabbi Yosef Starewolski, who gathers the naughty children every Sabbath afternoon to teach them Bible with a translation. With his clear language and great knowledge, he won over the hearts of the youths, teaching them to study the holy writings, rather than running around wild forever.
However, you should know that our lots have already grown smaller due to the partitioning of the heirs, and many youths who already built houses for themselves and need to concern themselves for their wives and children find that the fields of their fathers are insufficient to provide for them, their children, and grandchildren. These young people now raise their eyes to the mountains of Zion and Jerusalem, with the hope of restoring to life the destroyed fields of Jerusalem through their diligence and work of their hands. People of this type desire greatly to settle there. However, they are unable to actualize their intentions, for they do not have the required money to purchase a lot there. Therefore some of our youths, including the writer of these lines, have requested that the leaders of Chovevei Zion in our land to stand at our right side and support our honorable group there. However, we were too late.
And now I say: I place the matter in Hamelitz before our philanthropists of Chovevei Zion, may they live, so that perhaps one of them will be so generous as to purchase a plot of land for us. We will then return the principle with interest over ten years. It is our fervent hope that within a few years, his donation will flutter high with glory, and we will see his face glow with goodheartedness. You should know that a large moshava in the Holy Land has already been founded by the farmers of Pavlova, which is sprouting among it sister moshavot.
You should know that this is not a meaningless matter for you if you will find people with agricultural experience among the rest of the members, for we know very well that if people who do not understand this work are gathered for this purpose, their hearts will fall and their hands will weaken from the work. Such will not be the case if you find experienced people among them, who will be exemplary in all areas of work. They will also strengthen any weakening hands. Each person will strengthen the other, and the moshava will succeed.
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