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On The Occasion of Publication

        For many years we pondered whether we should issue a memorial volume to the martyrs of our town Stavisk [sic].  There were many who argued against the idea, saying that it was a waste of effort to add one more book to the many memorial volumes already published, since all that had needed saying had already been said and there seemed to be nothing we could add to the subject.  On the other hand, the proponents of the volume claimed that, in spite of the similarity of character and way of life which could be found in the Jewish communities in the small towns of Eastern Europe–the differences between such communities were as great as those between human beings, and that every community was unique in its own special manner. It was the uniqueness which they found worthy of commemoration perpetuating this memory for  all ages.

         The goal we set before us was difficult to achieve, the labour [sic] involved was plentiful, and time, as always, short.  Most of our townspeople, both in Israel and abroad, had left Stavisk [sic] tens of years previously, and even though all of them treasured, and still carry with them, the memories of their families and friends, of the town and community as they saw it, the passage of time had done its best to erode and weaken many of the impressions, and many items of import had been completely erased from memory with time. Thus we knew that time was not operating in our favour [sic], knowing, as we did, that we were the remnants of the last generation which had lived {sic} at least a part of its early life – childhood, youth, young adulthood – in our town.  Haste was of the utmost importance, if we were to succeed in rescuing from oblivion all that was still to be remembered by the few who could still do so and contribute their share to our project. So our call was “Let whoever is capable of expressing his feelings and memories do so, everyone in his own manner should pour out the contents of the depth of his innermost heart, so as to perpetuate the memory of our dear ones, lost forever in the terrible Holocaust which had befallen European Jewry in our times”.

         Like all the beginnings, ours had its difficulties as well. We introduced the idea and explained it at our annual memorial meetings in Israel, and in letters circulated amongst our townspeople in Israel and throughout the world.  We asked everyone to write about the subject or persons closest to his heart.  Years passed and the response was negligible, but we did to give up hope.  Great thrust was given to the whole project and its final realization by our reverend [sic] and honored teacher and dearest friend, the late Moshe Goelman,  who took the task upon himself, and put all the heart and energy at his command to fulfilling the goal.  Moshe Goelman was one of the oldest among us, but his memory had not faded, and he was also the first to put into writing a number of the memories which had remained with him of the way of life in our community.  In these sketches he described very faithfully some of the outstanding personalities and figures of the town of his time.

         We approached  the whole idea rather hesitantly.  We certainly had no pretensions about publishing the memorial volume of its kind.

         We realized that there were practically no limitations to the possibilities hidden within this terrible and painful subject matter.  However, realizing our limitations we tried to do whatever we could, utilizing our limited abilities and our even more limited material resources in order to erect a memorial to Jews of Stavisk [sic], their unique, communal way of life, their hopes and their aspirations, their failures and disappointments, their joys and their sorrows.  We wished to describe, however modestly, the Jews of our town, their various social strata, how they clung to their faith in God, performing all His  commandments willingly and with awe, who drew from their deep faith the hope and expectations of the eventual coming of the Messiah, and the strength to resist all the troubles of their existence.  We desired  to raise from the depth of our memories the hopes and dreams of the young people, who rebelled against the conventions of town life,  who saw in the evils of Jewish life in the Diaspora the inescapable results of life dispersed among the nations, and who fervently desired to go back to the land of their forefathers and to take part in the building of a normal nation and the establishment of a new society based upon solid and normal foundations in the soil of the Homeland.

         Thus they hoped and prayed, and thus they went up in flames – they and their hopes!!

         *

         The little that we have done in giving this book its shape, in organizing its contents, we owe to many, some of whom are no longer among the living,

         First and foremost, to our teacher and guide, the late Moshe Goelman, one of the originators of the idea of publishing the memorial volume, and the first to give reality to the idea in writing.  He contributed much of his time and energy to collecting the material from people near and far, spent days and nights  writing, urging, activating his many friends and former pupils abroad, getting them to do their part in getting the book together.  He also translated several of the contributions from one language to another, and typed them all up in order to reduce  expenses.  To his last days he worked to help further progress of the book, but his dream of seeing it published was not to be fulfilled in his lifetime.

         The late Herzl (Herzke) Cheshluk was  a ”brand plucked from the flames”, one of the nine survivors of the Holocaust from Stavisk.  He arrived in Israel broken in flesh and spirit after the war.  When he had finally begun to return slowly to normal existence, he found his way to our townspeople here.  He was the one who originated the idea of holding our annual memorial meetings, devoted to the memory of our martyred townspeople, on the 17th of Tammuz,  and it is to his efforts that the holding of these meeting for the many years must be credited.  At a meeting of our Committee which was hold [sic] before the Shavouot festival in 1972 to discuss the memorial volume and its problems, Herzl announced his own personal donation to the book fund, and took upon himself the task of raising more funds from some of our townspeople living in the north of Israel.  But Fate, having spared him from the death camps in Europe, turned upon him after he had finally managed to recover from all he had gone through during the Holocaust and afterwards, and broke his heart finally on the evening of the first day of Shavouot, as he was sitting with some friends in Haifa.

         We also wish to remember the late Chana Weiner, who was a devoted mother to everyone of our townspeople who was ever in need of help, who aided everyone so quietly and devotedly in her own special manner.  Until the last months of her life, she was devoted heart and soul to everything connected with memorial projects for our townspeople, and especially to this memorial volume.

         We mourn all of these dear friends, the good, honest, devoted people, who did not attain their dream of seeing the day our volume would be published,

         Of those with us, our heartfelt thanks go our to our “landsman”, the lawyer Chaim Villamovsky  [sic], who gave much of his time to gathering material for this book, especially much documentary evidence related to the destruction of the town of Stavisk [sic] and its Jews.

         *

         We wish to commend heartily our townspeople in the United States who aided us, each in his own way, in publishing this volume:

         Jack Elfenbaum, of New York, who transferred to us, through Moshe Goelman, the funds remaining in the Landsmannshaft treasury in New York; Charles Zweiback, who took the memorial volume to his heart, and who contributed a considerable sum of his own, as well as passing on some of his contagious enthusiasm to one of his friends, Nathan Caron , whose fine contribution was divided between the memorial volume and the Mutual Loan Fund managed by Rabbi HI. L. Bernstein.  Charles Zweiback  also placed advertisements in some of the Yiddish newspapers in the U.S. – a “Call to Arms” to our townspeople in the U.S. to join the effort of publishing the volume;

         Mr. Herman Levine (Levinovich) of Miami, Mrs. Channa Bramson of Chicago, and her brother Louis Bramson of New York, Mr. Zaritzki of New York, and Chaim Solel of Mexico City – all were active and activated others, contributed themselves and raised contributions from many others in aid of this volume.

         We are thankful to all our townspeople, friends and acquaintances, in Israel and abroad, who answered our appeals for help and contributed in gathering the material, writing it up, and helped in every other way to get the book published.  We are very grateful to them all – may they be blessed for their fruitful efforts.

         *

         We are adding this book of mourning to the long list of books already written, and those which will probably be written in the future – so that we and all who come after us may remember what the Nazi beast, in close collaboration with the antisemetic [sic] Poles, did to our community and town in the dark days when the Holocaust engulfed the House of Israel in the European Diaspora.  Let us remember that in every era and in every generation our enemies have risen – and do still arise – trying to exterminate us. Let us remember that all Jews are mutually responsible  for each other – “kol Yisrael a’reivin zeh bazeh” – and that the survival of our people depends upon the unity and strength of all its parts.  Let us remember and let us never rest until the nation of Israel is rebuilt in our Homeland forever and ever.  Amen.

     Editorial  Committee:

     Hemda Levinovich-Kantor
     El’azar Goelman
     Zalman Hirshfield
     Rabbi Shimon Katz

        

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