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[Page 84]

Institutions

 

[Page 86]

“Vaad Hanshim”
(Women's Committee)

by M. R–Z

Translated by Aaron Housman

In 1925 there was established in Stolin a social aid society of women called the “Froyin Kommite” (women's committee), headed by the Rebbitzin, Devorah'le, wife of the Rebbe Rabbi Moshe Perlov, who also helped establish it. The economic downturn in the town caused many families, especially those affected by the war, to be in need of assistance. This was felt in the town and the local women activists mobilized to care for needy families and individuals. Among the first to get involved were: Zvia Karlin, Malka Sapoznik, Maytke Blahouski and others, who, along with the Rebbitzin Dvorah'la, went around collecting donations for the needy families of Stolin. The Jews of Stolin, who were famous for their warm attitude toward a fellow Jew, contributed in large sums and even pledged to donate more in the future, and on those terms the committee took action. They would arrange fundraisers in different ways, flower days (?), plays etc. and eventually raised substantial amounts of money from the townsfolk and also from the Magistrate's budget because everyone recognized the advantage and benefit of it.

It should be noted that this committee didn't only help families who were poor or down on their luck. They also helped the sick and would extend a benevolent hand in ways of medicine and medical help, especially for poor new mothers. In many cases the committee members were sent to the homes of mothers giving birth or the sickbed of others.

This committee expanded its functions over the years, attracted many volunteers and was run very well, thanks to the devoted women and the secretary Srol Kashtan, who worked there for many years with meager pay.

Tonight is the Yohrtzeit of Rabbi Asher Perlov of Stolin, father of Rabbi Yisroel Perlov. Reb Asher's father was Reb Aaron (the 2nd) of Karlin, author of the Bais Aaron. Reb Aaron died in 1872, at the age of 70. Reb Asher was 45 when he assumed the mantle of leadership of the Hassidic court of Stolin–Karlin. He was beloved by the chassidim even in his father's lifetime, he would often act as in intermediary between his father and the chassidim. His love for a fellow Jew knew no bounds, occasionally his father, who was stricter in his leadership, caused people to shy away from seeking his blessing. That's when Reb Asher would step in and vouch for them. All his life he spoke about giving away one's own life for another yid.

I'll bring one such incident. In Stolin there lived a man by the name of Aaron Feivel Kolodny. Aaron Feivel was the father–in–law of Yankel Yossel Geyer from Stolin who's children later lived in David Horodok and one, Shlomo Geyer, survived the War and lived in NY. Aaron Feivel was one of Reb Asher's close confidants, all while being a fiery follower of his father, Reb Aaron. He also was the one who sold beer and spirit in Stolin. Chassidim used to come to his house Friday nights after the Rebbe's “tish” to sing and discuss Torah discourses or chassidc stories.

One day Aaron Feivel got sick. So sick that he couldn't get out of bed, his fever kept rising. His wife ran to Reb Asher and begged him to get his father to bless Aaron Feivel with a speedy recovery. Reb Asher told her to return on Friday night, when Reb Aaron would make Kiddush. Reb Asher would always pick up the Kiddush cup and place it in his father's palm and he felt that it would be good time to ask then. Friday night as this was about to happen, Mrs. Kolodny couldn't contain herself and started screaming, “Rebbe! My husband is dying! Please, pray for his recovery!” Reb Aaron turned to her with a stern look but a soft heart and said “leave at once, you impudent woman, for tomorrow he will come to shul, you will see!”

After the “tish” the Rebbe instructed the chassidim to go to Aaron Feivel's house, although they were afraid of the contagious disease, and continue their weekly routine. Sure enough, the next morning Aaron Feivel was in shul.

Reb Asher was the Rebbe from Sivan of 1872 until Av of 1873, all of 14 months. In the summer of 1873 there was a terrible plague in Galicia, specifically in the town of Drohobycz. People were dying daily and it was so contagious that the burial society refused to deal with the bodies. They instructed people that as soon as they are infected they should go to the cemetery and dig their own graves! Some say that the chazzan of the town got the plague and dug a grave in the cemetery overlooking the town. While standing in his grave, waiting to die, he sang a part of the Yom Kippur prayers which talks about the High Priest who would go in to the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. Reb Asher heard about the terrible situation and decided to travel there, to the utter dismay of his family and chassidim.

Upon arrival in Drohobycz he went the house of the Rav and they spoke alone for a while. After this he started traveling away from the town and told the people with him to sing the song that the chazzan sang. The words of the prayer describe Aaron, the High Priest, who does a divine service and serves as a vehicle of atonement for all of Israel. As they left the town they noticed that Reb Asher had contracted the plague. All the while the chassidim were singing the chazzan's song, which ends in the words “and through you we merit atonement of our sins”. A doctor was called and they rushed back to Drohobycz but he died on the way. His death was the last death caused by the plague. The townspeople saw it as though Reb Asher gave his life to save the town.

Local newspapers at the time wrote that “over 300 deaths were caused by this plague, 50–60 men, women and children died DAILY! Until the Stoliner Rebbe came to our town and was the last victim. A great honor was bestowed upon him after his death, all the stores closed and hundreds went to the funeral. He atoned for our town and was interred in our cemetery.”

Every year chassidim from far and wide, as well as local folks would come to his grave on this day.

Sadly, a few years ago after searching for this grave, activists found that a local family annexed that part of the cemetery as part of a house.

To this day Stoliner chassidim gather on the Yohrtzeit to tell stories and vignettes of the greatness of this holy tzaddik. And we sing the very melody that Reb Asher told his chassidim to sing as before he died. [I do not have a music version of this song, as we only sing it once a year, but I have a recording of some of us singing it tonight…]

 

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