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Eulogies

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Nechka Stolnicki of blessed memory

By Chemda

(From a eulogy delivered at a memorial gathering to the Jews of Stawiski)

        Nechka was taken from us about three months ago. He was the husband of our member Chava, may she live long. We all remember the Sokolicha flourmill, about 1.5 kilometers from Stawiski. From way back, and always, this lovely place was enchanting to me. Artists would come from afar to perpetuate it on their easels. We loved to climb the tall mountains, and to slide down the slopes that led into the valleys. Everything around was covered with sweet smelling, tall pine trees, which looked like their tips reached the heavens.

        We would often visit the home of the Stolnicki family. We were amazed by the waterfall that operated the gigantic wheel of the flourmill. We bathed in the clear waters that flowed from the mill to the nearby valley, among thick trees.

        Our friend Nechka was always happy to greet us, and he guarded us from the anger of the black dog, which we were afraid of, even though it was tied to a chain. Nechka explained to us the process of grinding the kernels of grain and wheat, and then he invited us in to his parents' house. On occasion he would bring out the clock, which made a pleasant melody when one wound up the machinery. We never tired of hearing it.

        Nechka would seat us in a two-oared boat. After he taught us to use the oars, we would paddle around in the river ourselves. When we finished our paddling, we, the entire group, would go out to relax in the nearby forest. Nechka would bring us black bread and sour milk from the home, made by his mother and sisters of blessed memory.

        Nechka was goodhearted. There was always a smile on his face, and his words were spiced with light humor. He was a true and dedicated friend. His life partner Chana is of the same character, and their hearts rang together. May she live long.

        On that bitter day, Nechka went out to work. On that day, he promised to come home early. He wanted to bring her a present for her birthday.

        Chava waited in vain for him to return. A fright overcame her – why was he tarrying, why does she not hear the familiar footsteps, as he ascends the steps that lead up to their house.

        Someone knocked at the door, with evil tidings on his lips. Nechka did not return home.

        When we visited the house of mourning after the tragedy, we felt that not only were the lovely wife Chava and the daughter weeping, but the entire house was crying out at the loss that came upon it so suddenly.




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Miriam Friedman of blessed memory

By Chemda

        Two months ago, we accompanied the native of our hometown Miriam Padorski to her eternal rest, that is to say Muncha of the Friedman family. The house of Reb Shabtai (Shepsil) Friedman of blessed memory was a house of Torah, which implanted its seal upon the entire family. Miriam was the eldest daughter. She excelled at her studies from her youth, and like all the youth in the period between the two world wars, she did not find her place in the small town, so she set out to study in Vilna, the Jerusalem of Lithuania.

        Miriam was not of my age group. Nevertheless, her image is imprinted upon my memory from my childhood. I would often see her walking through the street with light steps, thin of stature, a beautiful brunette. In my eyes, it seemed as if she was floating upon the earth, and she exuded an effervescence and joy of youth.

        A short time later, Miriam made aliya to the Land of Israel. There she studied in the nursing school that is affiliated with the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. I still remember the words of praise that were said about her in our house by A. A. Zak of blessed memory, about her lovely letters that were written in clear Hebrew, and her excellence in her studies.

        She worked as a nurse in Jerusalem and other places in Israel for a few years. When she married Eliahu Padorski, may he live long, she settled in Petach Tikva, where they raised a fine family. We would visit them often. We enjoyed the pleasant manner in which Miriam and her husband conducted their household, and we enjoyed their endearing simplicity, and their three wonderful children.

        Miriam continued to work as a nurse in Petach Tikva, and she continued her work tirelessly and with great dedication until she suffered from a heart attack last year. She regained her strength, and it seemed as if she managed to overcome her ailment. And then behold, one day, she went shopping, and suddenly fell down and did not rise again.

        A great many people wept over her sudden demise. At the funeral, she was eulogized by the heads of the community of Petach Tikva and one of the senior nurses. All of them emphasized that Miriam served as a merciful nurse, whose work was holy to her. She fulfilled her tasks with boundless dedication, and she even assisted those in need outside of the hours of her work.

        Eliahu lost his faithful partner. The children lost a dedicated mother. The nurses lost an elder nurse who was to them like the head of a family. We, the natives of Stawiski, lost one of the most pleasant and warm daughters of our town. A wonderful branch of the family of Stawiski émigrés in the Land has been cut down.




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Berl Chonkowicz of blessed memory

By Chemda

        The native of our town, Berl Chonkowicz of blessed memory, passed away in the Land. Whoever remembers him from our town, recalls him as the epitome of health, strength and might.

        As we remember, the farmers of the surrounding villages would come on their holidays to worship in the church that stood in the center of the town, and to hear words of harm and hatred against the Jews from their spiritual pastor. On many occasions, Berl along with his brother of blessed memory who perished in the Holocaust, would stand up to the ruffians who attempted to torment the Jews of the town after having being incited by the priest, and having drunk liquor. It was sufficient that the Chonkowicz brothers to walk upright and proud among the crowd of revelers, for the bloodthirsty drunks to become afraid and desist from their plots. The fear of the Chonkowicz brothers fell upon them, and in their merit, the designs of the Jew haters were foiled.

        Berl, the brave youth, was not able to stand up to the tribulations that overtook him after he saved himself from the Nazis, and arrived in the land of the Soviets. There, his spirit was broken, and his strong body was weakened.

        He arrived in Israel broken and tormented. After some time he composed himself, and established a family, but he did not return to his original strength. Finally, an illness overtook him and destroyed him.




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Chana Wiener of blessed memory

(Words from a memorial gathering on the 18th of Tammuz, 5728, July 14, 1968.)

{Photo of Chana Wiener.}

        It has been two weeks since we accompanied Chana Wiener of blessed memory to her eternal rest, and we are still astounded at the magnitude of the tragedy that overcame the Wiener family so suddenly, as their wife and mother was taken from them. We, the family of natives of our hometown in the Land, have lost this fine soul.

        Most of us knew her, some close and others from a distance, some well and others not so well. Some of us remember her from her childhood in her parents' home, and others know her only from the Land. Some of us saw her on frequent occasions and other of us only at the memorial gatherings. Engraved in all of our hearts are the image of Chana's refined soul and pure heart, her hearty smile and the sparkle on her face, as well as her calm, quiet manner of speech. Her entire essence exuded modesty that inspired honor, esteem and love.

        With Chana, many of us found an ear to listen to the heart's agony and a heart that understood their suffering, for she possessed a sensitive motherly heart to the pain of her fellow man. This heart directed her actions, and demanded of her to act beyond the call of duty, and beyond her physical capabilities. She did not spare any effort or toil to pave her way into the hearts of people and to inspire them to good deeds. Chana did wonderful things for those who required assistance, with the blessed assistance of Rabbi Bernstein, may he be spared for a long life. She did her acts for the most part discreetly and secretly, so that the people involved in the matter should not Heaven forbid be embarrassed or put to shame.

        Thus did beat this rare heart, this merciful heart, during times of hard-heartedness, cruelty, and difficulties, until it suddenly stopped forever.

        Her public activities were many and variegated – and only very few of them were discussed during the eulogies at her funeral. However we know very well what she did for the poor of our town. She sustained all 248 of their organs and 365 of their sinews [1]. Chana stood at the center of our activities, and she was the living spirit and inspiring power to our collective eyes. As most of us, she bore in her heart the agony of the destruction of our Jewish city at the hands of the Polish murderers, who were our mortal enemies at all times, and until this day. Her will was very strong to establish a memorial for our dear souls who perished in the holocaust, and to set up a monument in their holy memory. However, this did not come to be. We spoke a great deal about publishing a memorial book; we discussed this and continue to discuss this at every memorial gathering and at every meeting of our organizational committee. To our dismay, we are still at the beginning of the path.

        I visited at her house on Monday, about a day and a half before the tragedy. We discussed the preparations for this memorial evening. She was going to help in the issuing of invitations, but this was not in her fate. During that conversation, she expressed her dissatisfaction regarding the poor attendance at these memorial meetings. She asked about and thought about the text of the invitation, that it should be such to arouse the interest of the natives of our town and to insure that nobody would want to miss this evening, so that we can all recall together that which should never be forgotten forever.

        If on this evening, there are more of us gathered than usual; it was in the merit of Chana. It was as if she gave everything so that everyone would come – her life and her pure, refined soul.

        Chana knew how to place a Jewish imprint upon her home, and to conduct it in the spirit of Judaism and tradition. In that manner, along with her husband, did she educate her children, may they live long.

        Refined sensitivity, nobleness of soul and purity of character – these are the generous traits that she brought from her the home of her pure, upright parents, and were an inseparable part of her being and essence. These traits stuck to her in a natural fashion. In our eyes, and in the eyes of the many who knew her, Chana was a symbol of faithfulness, trustworthiness, truth, uprightness, charity and kindness. Are there any traits dearer than these are? Who can fill the empty void that she left behind?

        How can we comfort her husband and her dear children, for there is no comfort to such a great loss? It is our hope, as it is the hope of the family, that our bond will not be severed.

        And if after the passage of time we succeed in publishing the memorial book to the martyrs of our city, the chapters that she wrote with the blood of her heart will be included – and thus will be fulfilled one of the last dreams in the life of dear Chana.




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My wife Chana

Your husband, Mordechai Wiener.

(On the fourth anniversary of her death)

        Grief, pain, and agony accompany me from the time that you left us. Your noble and beautiful character stands as if alive before my eyes. You were the woman of valor the entire family, loved by all of us for your charm. You left us forever so suddenly.

        My darling, I will not know rest and peace. Day by day, hour by hour, I remember your image, with your smile as bright as the shining sun; however suddenly the bitter reality returns and the light of the sun is clouded over by dark clouds, as tears accompany your memory.

        Due to your merit, through your wisdom and influence, we merited to make aliya to our Land. You raised a generation of wonderful children and grandchildren, all of whom are blessed on your account. Your good deeds will stand forever as a memorial monument before my eyes, and will be kept in the depths of my heart. The stream of tears does not cease, and I am imprisoned in a world that is all pain and bitterness. With your death, the reason for my life disappeared. When I visit the cemetery, I stand like a living, mute statue beside you.

        You bequeathed your wisdom to your grandchildren, and they are filled with a strong desire to progress.

        My dear wife, you always concerned yourself that nothing bad should happen to me. Your dedication was boundless. You accepted the difficult moments of your life with patience, and you never complained. You always accepted life for what it was. Nothing remains except for your good and dear memory. The grief and pain will not leave us. Your memory will be stored in our hearts forever.




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Moshe Zeev Goelman of blessed memory

By Yitzchak Kotton

(Words from the thirtieth day of his death – the night of the 9
th of Kislev 5731, December 6, 1970)

        We have gathered here this evening, the members of the family of Rabbi Moshe Zeev Goelman, his friends, acquaintances and fellow natives in order to unite ourselves with the memory of the departed. Only a few months ago, we were together with him at a memorial service for the Holocaust victims of our town. We sat together, and reminisced about life in our town. Moshe Zeev always had a new story, a new episode about his birthplace.

{Photo page 370 – Moshe Zeev Goelman}

        As one of his students, I permit myself to determine that he was the person who established a generation of Hebrew speakers in our town. He introduced his students to the garden of Zionism, and to pioneering actualization. I remember that, a few years ago, I met him by chance at the Hebrew University, at the time that my younger son was receiving his B.A. degree. This was our first meeting in the land after many years of not having seen each other, for Reb Moshe Zeev lived in Canada for many years and I was in the Land all of those years, for I made aliya when I was still a youth. When he saw me that first time after what I believe is a hiatus of thirty years, he approached me, hugged me, and said: “I am very happy Itche (that is what they called me in Stawiski), and I am happy to see you among the fathers who raised children who are among those who are receiving their university degree.” I asked him with surprise: “My rabbi and teacher, how did you recognize me after so many years?” He answered me: “The image of youth…”, and continued, “I remember all of my students”.

        Moshe Zeev Goelman merited in arriving in the Land and living there. We, his students, knew that he would come, that he would abandon the familiar exile, and make aliya with his family and settle in the Land. That is indeed what happened.

        We met at all of the memorials that we arranged for the martyrs of our town, and Moshe Zeev spoke about the town at every memorial gathering. Despite the many years that he lived away from Stawiski, he remained attached to it with all the fibers of his soul. Even at the final memorial gathering, when I asked about his health, he said: “Thank G-d, your eyes see that I have come to the gathering, and I hope to come to many more gatherings”. That time, his hope was not fulfilled. With the death of M. Z. Goelman, we have all lost a distinguished teacher, a refined and noble man, who bestowed much of spirit onto his fellow natives who will always remember him with gratitude and reverence.

        I hope that we, the émigrés of Stawiski, will establish a memorial for him in the Land, as is fitting for such a man.




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My Brother Moshe of blessed memory

By Elazar Goelman

        We have gathered together to unite with the name and memory of Rabbi Moshe Zeev – family members and friends from near and far. Our rabbis defined the relationship between teachers to their rabbi as follows: “Students to their rabbi are like children to their father”. Furthermore, the connection to their revered teacher is not bound to the “landsmanschaft”[2]
        His clearness of mind, and his uncanny astuteness to what was transpiring and was about to transpire, was astounding. He foresaw the future with the eyes of his spirit. He planned the course of his life with great clarity, and with his clear mind he saw the approaching end, and accepted his suffering. In his final days he was concerned about those around them, for he did not want to bother and trouble them more than necessary. As long as his soul was with him, his mouth did not cease from asking forgiveness about this. He told us how we should act after his death – that we should not stray from the path that he went on during his life. He requested that we not eulogize him, that we not scatter praises about him, for modesty and quietude – these were the expressions of his caring heart, as it is said: “And Aaron was silent”[3]. Silence is the expression of true anguish and deep mourning.

        Our rabbis defined life and death using different criteria than we do. They explained the verse from Kohelet[4]: “A name is better than fine oil, and the day of death is better than the day of birth” as follows: “When a man is born – everyone is happy, and when he dies, all are sad. But this is not the way it should be. To what is this like? To two boats that are at sea: one is entering the port and the other is returning to the port. The one that is entering – people are happy about it. The observers are surprised, and ask them: Why do you rejoice at the one that enters and not at the one that goes out? They answer: the one that enters – we are happy that it has returned in peace, but the one that goes out – we do not know what will become of it in the future.”

        We are mortals, but the life of man in the eyes of the sprit is entirely different. The value and importance of life is measured by “what”, “how”, and “in what manner” – what was its content, how did the person behave toward his fellowman, and in what manner did he attach himself to the life of the generation, to the Jewish community, and in what manner did the human and the Jew intermingle in him?

        The boat of Moshe Velvel[5] set out on its journey in a sea open to the winds of the time and the upheavals of life at the beginning of the 20
th century. Kingdoms threatened each other; countries were caught up in the spirit of deceit and revolt; nations and peoples attempted to free themselves from the yoke of powerful kings. This was the stormiest period in the annals of history, and specifically in the history of our people. It seemed that this generation encompassed several generations in it, for the days were full of many changes. Our generation saw much change.

There were three stations in the life of Moshe: Stawiski – his birthplace; Goniodz – the place of his youth; and Canada – the place of his activity. When he lost his mother while he was still a young boy, he was taken in to the home of his grandfather Rabbi Elazar of blessed memory, where he was raised and educated. The influence of grandfather was very great upon him. He learnt from him the love of the Jewish people and of Torah, and primarily the love of his fellow man. His stories about his impressions from his grandfather's house were full of holy trembling. My grandfather of blessed memory was one of the most sublime personalities of the area, and many would come to his home to study Torah from his mouth, and to learn the ways of the world from him.

        He also inherited his love of the Hebrew language from grandfather of blessed memory. He was always pained that he did not succeed to salvage the books of the bible, with the many grammatical notes that grandfather of blessed memory inscribed in the margins of the pages. Father of blessed memory sent him to study Torah in Krynki, grandfather's birthplace, where he was the student of the Gaon Rabbi Zalman Sender of Krynki, who was a comrade of Rabbi Chaim of Brisk and Itzele Blazer of Petersburg, who were counted among one of the three greats of the generation. He found favor in the eyes of Rabbi Zalman Sender, and merited to be counted among his close students.

        Along with his friend Itzkowski of blessed memory, my brother Moshe founded a Hebrew school. This school did not last very long. It was closed at the time of the Bolshevik invasion of Poland. Moshe, who was included in the “black list” of the Bolsheviks, was forced to flee to Lithuania. When he returned from exile, he was afraid to go to Stawiski, for the Poles registered those who fled as Bolsheviks. He went to Bialystock, and from there he went to Goniodz.

Goniodz was the second stop of his life. He taught Hebrew in the Hebrew school there. This was the beginning of the era of Modern Hebrew, when the generation of the enlightenment began to clear a place for the renewed Hebrew language. The Hebrew revolution took place by uncovering the treasures of the language that were buried in the Hebrew language, and the pushing aside of the ornate style. This revolution drew its influence from the new Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel, which turned Hebrew into a living language. From the Land, the revolution came to the Jewish Diaspora.

        Moshe was faithful to Hebrew education throughout his life. His work in Hebrew education was like the service of the High Priest on Yom Kippur – completely holy, imbued with the seal of a pioneering mission. In this manner, he was a member of the early generation, of those who saw themselves as the emissaries of renewal, and who dedicated their best efforts and strengths to the task that they took upon themselves, the task that sustained their souls.

        In the Chapters of the Fathers, it is told that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai asked his students: “What is the proper path to which a man should cleave? Rabbi Eliezer answered: A good eye; Rabbi Yehoshua answered: A good friend; Rabbi Yossi answered: A good neighbor; Rabbi Shimon said: He who can foresee the future; Rabbi Elazar said: A good heart.” I will not explain each of its traits, and their importance to the person and the group, however it was clear that all five of these fine qualities were found intermingled in Moshe Velvel, as a person, a father, a teacher, and an educator. In that same place, it is recorded the answer of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai: “I agree with the words of Rabbi Elazar ben Arach more than the others, for his answer included all the others.” I can testify regarding my brother Moshe that in him the answer of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai was fulfilled, for over and above everything else, he had a good heart.

        The love of his fellow Jew was the mother of all of his loves, and he set out on his life's journey graced with this fine trait. He was a member of the first generation in whom nationalism was forged, who took duties and tasks upon themselves, and served as a personal example to the realization and fulfillment of the goals.

        His life's work in Hebrew education came to fruition in Canada, in the cities of Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. Most of his working years were spent in the Jewish community of Edmonton, far away from the central Jewish communities of the larger cities of Canada.

        Moshe Zeev came to Canada at a time when immigration to that land was increasing. The immigrants met with difficult conditions of acclimatization. They ignored their spiritual future due to the struggle for physical existence. Moshe Velvel was numbered among the small group of Hebrew educators who filled the gap, and alerted people to the spiritual dangers that were lurking at the doorways of the Jewish immigrants. He succeeded in setting up a center of Jewish nationalism, a center for both Jewish fathers and children in Edmonton. Even today, after Moshe has made aliya to the Land, the Jews of Edmonton still derive their love of the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel from the Torah that my brother Moshe spread in that community throughout the years.

        Only educators that are filled with nationalistic feeling, whose roots are firmly planted in the depths of the land of the nation, are able to raise, educate, and establish dedicated students, as did my brother Moshe. In my eyes, I saw the feelings of love and reverence that his students expressed to him. Today they are parents and grandparents full of worth, as well as youths who have grown up and are fathers to a new generation.

Moshe Velvel served as a teacher in Goniodz for only three or four years – a relatively short period in the life of a person. Nevertheless, he succeeded during those few years in implanting a love and appreciation for his personality in the hearts of his students. Only a person graced with special talents could merit this.

        During his life, he fulfilled the command: “Walk modestly”. He always chose a discreet corner wherever he went, where he would sit and listen. Even though he was “hidden”, he served as a fountain of influence for hundreds and thousands of students who listened attentively to his words.

        In the family, he was more than a brother. He was like a second father to us. We related to him with honorable awe and propriety. We valued his great knowledge, and recognized his nobility and his fine soul.

        With his death, our soul has been taken from us, but his spirit continues to exist. By strengthening ourselves with his sublime traits and by guarding his way of life – we will perpetuate his name.

        His memory shall be ingrained in us forever.




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My Teacher Moshe Zeev

By Chemda

        Thirty days have passed from the time that the dear Goelman family lost the head of the family, and we lost a teacher and distinguished friend, whose memory we recall tonight in the company of his family and a small group of his relatives and friends. Many of our townsfolk still remember, some unclearly and some with greater clarity, Moshe Velvel, the fine young man with pleasant mannerisms. After spending several years in the halls of Torah study, he returned to our town, and made it his objectives to teach the Hebrew language and literature to children and youth, and to teach them Jewish history.

        Moshe was not simply a teacher. His soul was given over to teaching, and he behaved towards his students with friendship. It is not surprising, therefore, that he was able to make the studying precious to his students, and to become friendly with his students. Testimony to the extent that his students appreciated him as a teacher can be found in the fact that Moshe Leib Bzostowiecki of blessed memory, one of the best teachers of the town, primarily in Talmud, who was known as being exacting and strict with his students, invited Moshe to teach Hebrew, grammar and bible. Moshe accepted the invitation and saw blessing in his labors. He was blessed by his students, and his students were blessed through their teacher. Until the end of his days he would receive letters in clear Hebrew from several of his students who lived in the United States. They remembered their Hebrew from the early days. Those who visited Israel were happy to visit their teacher. Others, including his childhood friend Yaakov Elfenbaum, hoped to visit him one day but did not succeed in doing so. One of his prize students, Zelig Bzostowiecki, who visited Israel recently, actually came to his house to see him – but he was too late.

        During the period prior to the First World War, during the time of the war, and thereafter, he was overcome by the Zionist awakening. During that period, a Techiah hall was established in Stawiski, where social and cultural events were organized. This organization brought together the finest of the youth and young adults. Moshe was one of the activists who frequently lectured on various literary and Zionist topics in the hall.

        During his youth, he stopped over in many places, about which Moshe writes in his memoirs. One of these stops was Goniodz, where he served as a Hebrew teacher, and met his life's partner Kayla. Later, the two of them left Poland and immigrated to Canada. In his new land he also raised up many students, faithful to Zion and to the Hebrew language. Faithful testimony to the heartfelt connections that he established with his students and friends in Canada can be seen by the countless telegrams and letters, saturated with grief and agony, that have arrived and continue to arrive to his family. In 1954, Moshe and his family made aliya to the Land that he had desired for all those years, but for various reasons was not able to succeed in coming to early. Nevertheless, finally, we were able to be together with him again.

        Moshe was one of the prime movers in setting up the annual memorial gathering of Stawiski émigrés in the Land, to remember the town that went up in flames; and one of the first to think of the idea of publishing a book that would perpetuate for all generations the memory of our dear ones who were burnt and butchered by the Nazi enemy with the active help of the Polish Jew haters, residents of the town and the area. The plans for publication of this book kept him busy for years. He devoted much of his time, energies and powers to this task. We were astounded by the power of his memory that did not weaken in his old age. He drew up from the depths of his soul, and brought to the fore memories of various events and interesting personalities. He wrote with passion and great love about the important people as well as the simple folk.

        He dealt with any matter that came to his hands with the same dedication. He was able to recall with detail things that many of us have forgotten. He dedicated much effort to the translation of articles from Hebrew into Yiddish for the benefit of those who were not fluent with the Hebrew language, as well as from Yiddish to Hebrew. He published many items himself in able to save money for the organization. He rejoiced at every new chapter and each additional article that was received from the natives of our city in the Diaspora and in the Land. He was prepared to meet with any person who had something to relate about what once was and is no longer, so that he could take notes from their oral testimony and prepare an article. He did not skimp on his labor, and he worked hard to uncover material that would deepen the subject and spread out roots into the eras that preceded him and us, to bring to life that which the terrible Holocaust consumed with fire. He portrayed characters of the old and young, of those that carried the banner of progress and culture, of people of toil and Torah, of the simple folk and people of the spirit. He perpetuated schools, institutions of Torah, charity and community, of our Stawiski and of the Jewish happenings that took place there throughout the generations.

        We would often find ourselves at the home of Moshe of blessed memory and Kayla may she live long, in that house that was a sign of simplicity and pleasantness, enthusiasm and warmth, friendship and camaraderie. He did not despise small matters, but he also did not get caught up with them. He did not pursue honor and he did not want to push himself into the forefront. With difficulty, we would succeed in convincing him to serve as chairman of the memorial gatherings, and throughout the time, he only served in this capacity once or perhaps twice. The same was with the memorial book – he did not seek a crown for himself or any honor. He worked on behalf of the issue and its progress. He sat among us as an equal among equals, without lording over, as he dealt with us in a simple manner regarding matters of concern. He listened and expressed his opinion. He took advice and gave advice. How good was it to know that we had a man like Moshe, whom we could approach at any time and at any hour, in order to ask advice, to think together, and to work as a team.

        As thunder on a clear day, the news spread among us of his serious illness. Even during the time of his illness he did not desist from his work. He wrote and published, prepared and edited. Even though he knew what was awaiting him, it seemed as if he hoped in the secrecy of his heart – perhaps there will be mercy, perhaps he would merit to see the book being covered with skin and sinews.

        He continued on, but did not merit.

        His household has become orphaned. Kayla lost her husband and faithful partner in life. The children have become orphaned from their father. His brother and sister, to whom Moshe was like a father as well as a brother, have lost their dear brother. We have lost a beloved teacher and a dear friend.

        May it be so that our strength will continue so that we can continue in the same straightforward, communal spirit in the endeavor that we have started together with Moshe, so that we can bring it to its completion, as he dreamed.


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. According to Jewish tradition, these are the numbers of organs and sinews in a human body. Return


  2. A Yiddish term for an organization of people from a common hometown. Return


  3. A quote from the book of Leviticus. After the two sons of Aaron were killed by divine visitation after offering a strange fire at the dedication of the tabernacle, we are told that Aaron held his silence. Return


  4. The Hebrew name for what is often known as the Book of Ecclesiastes. Kohelet means “preacher”, referring to the first verse in the book, which states “The words of the Preacher the son of David” – generally taken to refer to King Solomon. Return


  5. Velvel is the diminutive for Wolf, which is the Yiddish version of the Hebrew Zeev. Thus, Zeev, Wolf and Velvel will often be used interchangeably. Return



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Eliahu Livna (Bzostowiecki) of blessed memory

by Chemda

{Photo page 376: Eliahu Livna Bzostowiecki.}

Eliahu was orphaned from his father when he was still a young boy. After some time, his mother remarried. Shortly thereafter, his mother also died, and the young orphans remained in the home. There was no orphanage in the town, and Eliahu remained in the house of his stepfather. He worked at various jobs while he as still young in order to assist with the sustenance of the family. He did not reject any job opportunity, for the choice of jobs was not great for children of his age.

The difficult living conditions placed a great burden upon him, and he matured before his time. He learned to differentiate between good and bad, and was diligent in maintaining his spiritual character. Eliahu was mature in his outlook and ideas, of which he spoke with youthful enthusiasm, insight and levelheadedness. He was able to serve as an example to anyone who had a difficult childhood. He grew up out of his difficult childhood well-forged, spiritually strong, and possessing a fine and sensitive soul.

        Eliahu joined the Young Chalutz organization, and later Hechalutz, from where he went to hachsharah. Upon his return to town he could not find his place. He knew that he could only build his future in the Land. The difficulties in aliya did not pass over him. Lacking means, he waited like many Hechalutz members for the redeeming certificate. He was anxious to embark upon the path of aliya, and he did not know from where his help would come.

Eliahu frequented our home. I knew of the difficulties of his life and was concerned that everything must be done so that he would not be left alone to his fate. One evening, I met with some of the leaders of the town and I discussed his situation with them – and I was answered. One day, I traveled with Eliahu to Warsaw the capital city. I came to the Hechalutz headquarters and requested an urgent meeting with one of the members. I described Eliahu's circumstances to him, and requested that his aliya be expedited. At first my words fell upon sealed ears, but I did not move from my place nor abandon my request until the desired certificate was given. When he arrived in the land, he joined up with a founding group (garin) of a kibbutz, which did their hachsharah in Raanana [1] . However, Eliahu did not find peace of mind since his young sister was not with him. Since he could not find the means for her aliya to the kibbutz, he left the garin and accepted a job at one of the orchards of Raanana. He very quickly endeared himself to the owner of the orchard, Mr. Leviathan; and with his assistance, and with his taking responsibility before the Mandatory government for the sustenance of his young sister, he succeeded in bringing her to the Land. She was accepted to the Chana Chizik women's pioneering group.

        Eliahu married a woman by the name of Shulamit, may she live long, and they had a daughter. He lived an exemplary family life. Many good people would pass through his home and become good friends. However, he did not escape a bitter fate, for he became afflicted with a severe illness. He survived a difficult operation, and we hoped that his health would improve. He became ill again one year later, and there was no hope for recovery.

        My last conversation with him was on the telephone on the night of a memorial ceremony for the martyrs of our town. I asked about his health and he broke out in bitter weeping. He wanted very badly to attend the memorial ceremony, for he felt that this would be his last chance to meet with the natives of our town. I dissuaded him from this, for I knew that his strength would not hold out, for his condition was serious.

        The pleasant and refined Eli, faithful to his family and upright with his friends and acquaintances – went to his eternal rest before his time.


{378}

Herzl Cheslok of blessed memory

by Rivka Zilbersztejn

(Words at the conclusion of the thirty days following his death [2] )

{Photo page 378 – Herzl Cheslok}

        Mourners have gathered together, your friends who are natives of Stawiski, to join together with your memory, oh our dear Herzl, who was taken from us suddenly.

        Herzke, only you survived from your large family who died in the great holocaust to tell of the tragedies and unimaginable hellish suffering that occurred to all the Jews of our town, of who only very few (less than ten) survived. You were in Auschwitz when it was liberated, and you were like a sack of bones. You stood on your feet with difficulty. You regained your strength after being taken care of for a long period, but you never returned to your original strength.

        You began a new life. Your fortune brightened, and you merited the good and dedicated idea to make aliya to the Land. You hoped to live a life of happiness, but your lot was bitter – for your beloved wife was cut off in her prime, and you were again left alone and forlorn.

        You began to seek out friends from among the natives of your town in order to relieve your loneliness. You were close to all of them, you visited them often. You rejoiced in their joy and you were suffered in their sadness.

        I remember well my first meeting with you in the Land, in the home of Chana Wiener of blessed memory. You both had great merit in arranging the first memorial of the martyrs of Stawiski. Already at that time, you had in your heart the dream of publishing a book on Stawiski to perpetuate the Jewish life and martyrs of our hometown.

        The picture of our final meeting, dedicated to the publishing of the Stawiski Yizkor Book, still stands before my eye. You extended your hand with your photo from Auschwitz to be included in the book. And behold, only a few days passed, and you were no longer alive.

        Hertzke is no longer with us. Hertzke who attended the Yeshiva of Lomza, Hertzke the melancholy youth who peered out of the window of his home on Shul Gasse, Hertzke the only one of the natives of our town who was saved from the fires of Auschwitz.

        In the eyes of my spirit I see your entire family: your mother Elke may peace be upon her, who was always concerned about your wellbeing; your young sister, my childhood friend in whose company I spent much time – her home was my home. They all perished, nobody remains of them, and now you have gone also. Our brethren, Stawiski natives, remain enveloped in agony, weeping over your untimely death.


Translator's Footnotes :

  1. Garin (literally a seed or kernel), refers to a group of people who band together to make aliya together, or found a settlement or a kibbutz. Here hachsharah refers to preparations that such a group undertakes before actually going out to found their settlement (usually it refers to aliya preparations when a person is still in the Diaspora). Return
  2. Shloshim (literally thirty) refers to the thirty-day mourning period following the death of a person. Children observe mourning for an entire year for parents, but for other relatives, the mourning period lasts thirty days. Return

Coordinator's Note: This is the original chapter included in English entitled "On The Occasion of Publication", as it appears in the Stawiski Yizkor Book. Since this chapter was published in English, the spellings have been kept as in the original, even though it is noted that there are some spelling discrepancies. The current name of the shtetl is Stawiski and it will be spelled that way in all translations, even though this chapter had it spelled the Yiddish way – Stavisk. This is the only place in the Yizkor Book translation that it will be spelled the Yiddish way, as that is how the editorial committee wrote it.

Jan Meisels Allen

{page I-V}

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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