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Shchuchin portion of Shchuchin Yizkor Book

Translated by Chaim Charutz

Donated by Gary Katz

[Page 25 {111}]

Chapter One

The Shtutshin Community

Editor: L. Lusch
The Committee :
Yaakov Smodski, Yaakov Mazowetzki,
Yaakov Tzukernik, Yitzchak Rozhanski

Organization of Shtutshiners in Israel.
 

Pages 26-33 are all in Yiddish.

[Page 27 {112}]

‘The distant past’

In this section, we offer three articles, which reflect the period from before the First World War to the year 1920. The authors of the articles were among the oldest and most respected of our fellow townspeople: The Late Mr. Ben-Zion LEVIT of Tel Aviv, a scientist and cultural activist, founder and first president of the Association of Shtutchiners in Israel (died 1956); The Late Shmuel-Yakov SHNEIDER (Tel Aviv), a Zionist and community leader in Shtutchin, the second president of the association (died 1965); and The Late Ben-Zion YAFFE (New York), cantor and essayist, from our prominent landsleit in America, (died 1954).

We offer also in this section excerpts from an article about the Shtutchiner Yeshiva, “Onof Knesses Yisrael,” by journalist and writer Meir BEZOVIK.  (This journalist studied in the Shtutchiner yeshiva and later emigrated to South America.) The article was published in “Echoes of Grodno”, journal of the landsmanshaft-union of Grodno and vicinity in Argentina. Another is a short notice (in Hebrew) about a visit in Shtutchin in 1913, by Yehuda RUBINSTEIN, one of the veterans of the Hebrew “Habima” theater.

The Hebrew archive material in this section belongs to these persons: Rabbi Yehuda-Leib KHASMAN, journalist Moshe Ben-Eliezer (GLEMBOTSKY), and teacher-poet Simcha SHNEIDER.

This section ends with a biographic notice about editor-translator Rafael KHASMAN (who lives in Israel,) the son of Rabbi Y.L. KHASMAN.

--The Editor--
Ben-Zion Levit


[Page 28 {113}]

The First 20 Years of Our Century

Political storm and community struggle

While my childhood years in Shtutchin flowed peacefully and carefree, there was, in the daily life of the town, evidence of the political storms and social strife characteristic of Jewish communities in Tsarist Russia on the threshold of our 20th century.

The mobilization for the Russo-Japanese war (1904) engulfed the peasants of the town and region and came as a shock to relations with the non-Jewish population. Only two Jews were mobilized into the army (Yosef-Eliahu ZHUMUDSKY, the teacher, and Feivel-Hershl KAPLAN, the [prizirer]. By contrast, hundreds of mobilized gentiles filled the town on the road to “Voyensky Natchalnik” in Lida and from there to the Far East and Port Arthur. During their stopover in the town, the draftees let loose on the “Zhidskis” [Jews] and even tried to put on a little pogrom. Only the aggressive attitude of the draft undid their efforts; and the Jews, therefore, paid with big loaves and flasks of whiskey, which were divided among the mobilized goyim.

The war, however, did not shake up the foundations of the Tsarist regime as its political opponents had hoped. In the wake of this war, there were two opposing factions in Shtutchin (“Russians” and “Japanese”) which each wanted to see their side triumph. This “battle” was fought generally in the study houses, where the main weapons were arguments and curses. No blood was spilled, although there were some “hot heads” who occasionally might have brandished a book-holder or thrown some small object …

The political struggle took an entirely different form after the 1905 revolution struck. Just as in other cities and towns, in Shtutchin, there flared the battle between the Bundists on one side and the Zionists on the other. Although in our town there were absolutely no exploiters of labor or prominent members of the bourgeoisie, still the orators of the Bund made fiery speeches calling on young Jews to stage strikes and acts of expropriation. The revolutionary slogans, which were thrown around at secret meetings, resonated around the Sabbath tables in every home as well as in the communal bath and study house. There was almost no house or group that did not erupt into bitter arguments over matters of revolution and evolution, socialism and communism, Zionism and territorialism. The Zionists were restrained in the public political discussions and busied themselves more with constructive activities to enable the Jewish National Fund to redeem the territory of Eretz-Yisroel.

I remember the “Bundist” wedding of Elke, Chaim Yankel Binie’s, that the party comrades transformed into a political demonstration. While the groom (from Grodno Lane) and the bride (from Glazer Lane) were being led to the khupe (in the shul-yard), the full length of the procession echoed with cries of “daloi samo dzierzshavie – hurah!” [“down with ??unclear, Russian??… itself”] After the rabbi had performed all the necessary rituals according to law and custom, a procession was formed which marched down the middle of the street, calling out revolutionary slogans against the Tsar and his regime. The single Russian guardsman who was on duty that day pretended to see nothing and hear nothing …

[Page 30 {116}]

Nevertheless, while the Bundists were not choosy about what ways and means they used to attack the Zionists, still the latter never took revenge on them. To the contrary, there even was an agreement that the Zionists made with the draft office for the freeing of arrested Bundists, who had been seized during a secret gathering in the woods. The funds paid to arrange their release were put up by the Zionist “bourgeois” circles, including the rich wood-merchants from whom the Bundists, using threats, would from time to time extract a certain amount of money for their party’s causes. Additionally, the emigration of active Bundists and socialist-revolutionaries to America, because of the success of the Tsarist “guards” was almost always financed by collections taken up among these same circles, because the emigrants themselves had no monetary capabilities. Also later, when a “refugee” man had put down roots in the “golden America” and could send a steamship ticket for his remaining family, the wealthier families of the town helped get them ready; and the whole town would accompany them to the train.

I remember a Sunday, when the town was out seeing two departing families off at the train. In town that day, a couple of hundred Russian “katzaps” had collected those who were working on building the Rozhanka station and the Lida-Volkovisk rail line. They had come into town to get their weekly pay from the counting-rooms of the Jewish contractors who oversaw the building work. Afterwards, the “katzaps”, as usual, had gotten themselves drunk, when they came upon the Jews crowding into Rozhanka Street around the departing emigrants. The Jews refused to let them “spit in the kasha”; and a fight developed. Both sides sustained seriously wounds; and the gendarmes took both Jews and Russians to jail.

The quarrel over Two Rabbis

In addition to the above-mentioned divisive instincts in general matters, the town at that time was divided also by an extremely sharp quarrel of a local character. The long-time rabbi of the town, the revered rabbi Menachem-Mendel OSTRINSKY (known in the rabbinic world as Reb Mendele, the author of “Tzemach Menachem” ) had died. In his will, he had asked the community to do two things: Convene a religious court to perform the “four executions” on his dead body before the burial so that absolutely no obstacles should prevent his fleeing soul from being taken up to the throne of glory; and – to place in the rabbinical chair his son, Reb Yehudah, who was born and raised in Shtutchin. Rabbi Mendele’s first request was fulfilled completely, with full public consent, but in carrying out his second request, the community split into two sides; and a sharp quarrel broke out.

The son, Reb Yehuda OSTRINSKI, had been ordained as a rabbi; however, he shone neither as scholar nor sage. The town had known him from his childhood, and called him “Yudl, the rabbi’s boy.” It was known that as a boy and a young man he had associated with riffraff and had served as a soldier in the Russian army (where he doubtless had stumbled in the laws pertaining to the Sabbath and food-purity.) For all these reasons, the town’s leading citizens decided to amend his father’s will and chose as rabbi his brother-in-law, Rabbi Mendele’s son-in-law, Rabbi Gershon, who also lived in Shtutchin and was known to be a diligent scholar and scrupulous in his observance of religious laws. The workingmen, on the other hand, decided that this was an injustice to Yudel and chose him to be their rabbi. So, there were two rabbis circling around in one small town; one for the landed classes and the other for the tradesmen. The two sides divided up the two study-houses: In the “old” or brick study-house, the first side; and in the “new” or wooden study-house, the second side. But the townspeople also divided into two feuding masses that began to wage open war on each other, even getting into fistfights. The whole town was in motion …

[Page 31 {117}]

I remember that Simchas-Torah, when a bitter battle between the two sides erupted because one side on the evening before the holiday invaded the public synagogue, which stood empty the whole year,[1] and conducted the Torah-procession. When the other side’s leader found out about it, he “attacked” the shul and the brawl that broke out that spread to the entire town. It got to the point where even wives from both sides, with rolling pins in their hands, were running heatedly in the streets, breaking windows and splitting heads. Many years afterward, the town would laugh about the householder Reb Aryeh-Leib MARASHINSKI, a strong Jew, who was chased by tradesmen’s wives the length of the market, all the while crying out, “Have mercy! I’m not even a Shtutchiner – I really come from Ostrin!”…

This outbreak of hostility and troubles made it clear to both sides that they could no longer live like this; a way must be found to extricate themselves from the muck and mire. Finally, the leaders of both factions met around a “round table”; and it was decided that they should seek a third rabbi from outside, to replace the two local rabbis.

But implementing this decision proved far from simple. They had to find a rabbi acceptable to both sides – he should be both morally impeccable and charismatic, should be both a scholar and a preacher, and should also be a wealthy man, who could pay off with money and strength [?Hebrew unclear] the other two rabbis. The search dragged on for nearly two years for a rabbi with all the good qualities. (About a certain candidate, who had many good qualities but who was very short, the wagon-driver Boruch, Freyde Malke’s ,opined: “What kind of a rabbi is this? My buggy-whip is taller than he." At last (in the year 1906), the town accepted with honor and pleasure, the candidacy of the revered Rabbi Yehuda-Leib KHASMAN, who remained in the position of chief rabbi almost twenty years, established in town the yeshiva “Onof Knesses Yisroel” [“Branch of the Assembly of Israel”], and who became famous in the rabbinical world under the name “Reb Leybtshik Stuchiner.”

[Page 32 {118}]

“My Shtutchin Universities”

Even then, when our fathers (and mothers) were absorbed with the tumultuous events of general politics and local community quarrels, the children (especially the boys) were put to work learning Torah.

My primary-school teacher was Reb Leyzer, Ortshik’s, who in his younger years had directed productions on the Shtutchiner stage “The Binding of Isaac” and “The Selling of Joseph”. His pupils (five and six year-olds) would take part in afternoon services in the study-house; they would practice their lessons be reciting the “Kedusha” and answering in a loud voice “omeyn – y’hei shmei rabo.” Each Sunday morning, it was his practice to select a “sacrifice” from among the students, stretching him out on a bench and, saying from above, “What is this called?” giving him three light touches with his lash, repeating each time, “Remember, you must say ‘omeyn, y’hei shmei rabo’ in a loud voice!” During the two terms, I studied with Reb Leyzer Ortshik’s, I was very often the “sacrifice”; however, I did learn from him how to recite the blessings, the entire grace-after-meals, and how to locate the principal daily prayers in the Siddur.

Later, I studied with the teacher Reb Chaim-Dovid KLEINOVICH for seven terms – the Bible with Rashi’s commentary and the Prophets -- and also very often felt the whip. I studied the Mishnah a short while with rabbi Velvel, beginning with “Betsa Shelo Noldah” and ending with “Baba Metsiah”. During the same time, in the evenings, I studied Hebrew and grammar with the teacher Reb Berl, who was a follower of the Enlightenment movement and a passionate Hebraist (he called himself “duvov shaftei yashnim” [?Hebrew meaning unknown; ac]

In the year 1908, I came to the Gemora teacher Reb Eliezer GLEMBOTSKI (“Leyzer the Porush,”[2] father of the well-known journalist and writer Moshe Ben-Eliezer). With him I studied two terms, with fourteen other children from proper families; Shmuel SHNEIDER, Shabsai LOSH, Shmuel MAZOVETSKI, Berl KAPLAN, et. al. At that time, there existed in the town a “kheder metukan” [modern Jewish day-school] directed by Yosef-Eliyahu ZHMUDSKI and Simcha SHNEIDER, but I was not able to study there because our Gemora group was busy from morning until very late. In the “kheder metukan” boys and girls studied together (intensive Hebrew, Bible, arithmetic, Russian); they sat at proper school desks, just like in the Russian “shkole” and conducted themselves almost like in a high-school…

My later Shtutchin “universities” were: Private Hebrew lectures with my relative Yosef-Eliahu ZHMUDSKI; occasional pages from the Mishna, Hagada and Eyn-Yacov, which were taught by various of my late father’s friends in town; overheard debates and analytical discussions of the yeshiva students at “Onof Knesses Yisroel”, who studied till late at night in the synagogue and the study-houses, in groups and by themselves. Besides that, I devoted myself in those seasons to studying various books (in Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and German) in the fields of science and politics, literature and art, and so prepared for my future road in life, after I had left Shtutchin (p. 33 [119]) (in 1920) with the clear decision to emigrate to the land of Israel.

“Young Zion” 

Before leaving Shtutchin, I spent a couple of years actively working for the benefit of Socialist-Zionism.

In the war years of 1914-1918, many Jewish families left the town into the far-away Russian territories. Those who remained during the period of the war lived through all the turmoil and sorrow that was brought by the Russian army, the German occupation forces, the Polish Legions, and the Bolshevik Red Army. After the storms of war had been stilled and the “byezhentses” [refugees] began to return to their abandoned homes, daily life in the town began to be reorganized. One of the first expressions of social activity was the reorganization of the group “Young Zion,” on the initiative of Shmuel MAZOVETSKI, who had directed the group before the war. The former “refugees” (Shmuel SHNEIDER, Shabsai LOSH, Mendel EPSHTEIN, Shlomo-Ber MARASHINSKI, the writer of these words, et. al.), had readily joined up; while deep in Russia they had caught the fever of Socialist-Zionism, having seen there how people were “realizing” communism (in the years 1917/18).

Before my departure from Shtutchin (in July 1920), my comrades from “Young Zion” gave me the following farewell letter, which I have lovingly kept with me all of my years, as a dear memory of my former home Shtutchin.

[Page 34 {120}]

Pages 34 line 4 to page 35 line 9 is in Hebrew: Following is the translation:

To our dear friend Ben-Zion,

In a time of constant riots and revolutions, when we need faithful and diligent friends to defend us and our souls, we find it difficult to be separated from you, our friend Ben-Zion. We know that we are losing in you a diligent worker, but our homeland is also waiting for its children who will come back and rebuild its ruins. Our homeland is just pleasant to us, and we will to give up on the short-term life and save all our strength for the life of our world - for the new construction, which will bring, in the future, salvation to our fearful nation.

We know the present need, sending our best friends. We are sorry that our desire to leave our exile together as a group, and to work there together as we have worked here, cannot be fulfilled. We are not to blame, and we cannot immediately end our bondage and our exile. We hope that at the first opportunity, we will come to support and continue your work of construction. In the meantime, however, you are charged with working doubly hard, to gather all your strength and to fill the places of your friends who are still missing, but hopefully will come on the avenues of the pioneers.

We will separate without external celebrations, but with a serious internal awareness to fulfill our external Zionist and Socialist obligations, both here in the exile and there in our homeland.

Members of the Committee: Y.Mostovski, L. Gvint, A. Jacobson, S. Mazovetski, M. Rubinstein, (?), Dov Kaplan.

Members of the society: Y. Friedman, A. Friedman, R. Mostovskit, H. Levin, Tzvi Levin, Leah Schneider, Leib Schneider, Leib Levin.

The rest of page 35 is in Yiddish.

My youthful comrades of Young Zion are no more, but the seeds they sowed in young souls later came to harvest as the achievements of National-Socialism in the Land of Israel. The scores of  Shtutchiners who now are in Israel are the fruit of those seeds – that the memorial to the tragically cutoff past.

Pages 36-40 are all in Yiddish.

Page 40, line 5 to line 24 is in Hebrew: Following is the translation:

5th of Av 5693, 1,843 years of our exile, here in Sthutshin, Vilna Province.

To the regional committee in Grodno

Dear friends,

We wish to make propaganda for our Holy Community on Tisha B-av, since on this day we remember Zion and Jerusalem. We must also remember that not only through crying and mourning will we rebuild our land and our joy, but rather through practical deeds for our land. We are therefore sending the sum of one Rouble and 50 Kopeks on notes of our Holy Community in the following manner: one brochure worth one Kopek, one brochure worth two Kopeks, and on the other coins, notes of three Kopeks.

If you have " Un Plakaten" notices about the Holy Community for posting at the study house, please send them to us immediately, so that we may receive them before Tisha B'av.

The money for Shekels, together with the three Roubles which we collected on the 20th of Tammuz for planting an Olive Tree in the name of our town, will be sent to you in a few days via wagon-drivers. We also request that you send us national boxes via wagon-drivers, and we will send you the money.

In general, we can tell you that we are doing everything that we can here. Previously, we ourselves did not believe that we could do much for Zionism. Only now have I been able to draw the attention of a few young people, whom I know, to Zionist Labour.

With Honorable feelings and in blessing of Zion and renewal,

Shmuel Mazovetski.

P.S. Please send us immediately the cards and booklets on Shekels which Tsvi Barazatz told you about.

The rest of page 41 [127] is in Yiddish.

Pages 42-48  [128-134] are all in Yiddish.

Page 49, line 1 to line 13 is in Yiddish. The rest is in Hebrew: Following is the translation:

A Short Visit in Shtutshin in 1913

My father, the late Reb Baruch Rubinstein, was born in Shtutshin. After his father left the place with his family, there still remained many families related to us. Since all the members of our families were registered in the Shtutshin population register, I was forced to report there (in 1913) to the draft committee for the Russian Army. For this purpose, I stayed in Shtutshin for about six months with my relatives. I also got to know other residents.

My state of mind at the time was gloomy, because all my pre-draft "tricks" had not worked. Since I was hale and hearty, it was obvious that I would be found fit for military service. My relatives and new friends from the town tried to relieve my worries, encouraged me and gave me as much of their kind-heartedness as they could. From those days, I still remember the children of the following families: Epstein, Yasinovski, Marshinski, Shevach, Levitt, Losch, Levin, Radonski, Marshak, Schneider, Portzki and others.

I also remember the town itself, a charming spot among the Jewish settlements in the "Pale of Settlement" of Tsarist Russia. I mourn this town and its Jewish inhabitants - those whom I knew personally and those whom I only heard of - whom bitter fate so cruelly treated, them and their children, during the terrible Holocaust which came over the house of Israel during the Second World War. May their souls rest in the bosom of the Lord.

Yehuda Rubinstein
("Habima")

The rest of page 49 is in Yiddish.

[Page 50 {136}]

People and Personalities

The late Rabbi Leib Chasman

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman was known in the world of Yeshivas and in the Musar circles as "Reb Leibchik Stutshinger", because he had been the Rabbi of Shtutshin for a long time. He was well known among in the Yeshiva world and in "Musarnik" circles, established by the Gaon, Rabbi Israel Salanter and his spiritual successor, Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziev from Kelm. Rabbi Leib was one of the first and most outstanding students at the "Talmud Torah" in Kelm. He drew inspiration from Rabbi Zissel at a time when the study of Mussar was not yet common in Yeshiva circles. Later, he was the most original representative of the Kelmian Mussar system and succeeded his teacher in his later years when he was appointed spiritual director of the magnificent Telz Yeshiva. He was later at his own independent Yeshiva, which he established in Shtutshin, the town of his Rabbinate. In his last years, he was the spiritual director of the Slabodka Yeshiva in Hebron and in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman was also a perfect man of action who preached the principle of "practice what you preach" in his popular articles and conversations. As a spiritual leader in Telz and in Shtutshin, he was forceful in his opinion. He managed his leadership at a high level. He passed regulations regarding the study of Musar, the correction of principles, and the suppression of impulses. This was done on the basis of the above-mentioned Reb Simcha Zissel's methods. His teacher and Rabbi, the Gaon, Rabbi Yitschak Blazer, who was known as “Reb Idel Petersburger”, especially influenced him. A very little of the thoughts and inspiration of Rabbi Leib-chik, (the spiritual leader and the man of ethics), can be found in his book "Or Yahel" (two volumes - 1938 and 1951), which was published in Jerusalem after his death.

Rabbi Leib Chasman also had a reputation as a leader in the Torah and as a many-sided activist in the fields of general religious political circles. As a young man, he was one of the best students at the renowned Lithuanian Yeshivas. He was one of the outstanding students of the "Netsiv" of Volozhin as well as that of the Rabbi Chaim Halevi Soloveichik of Brisk. He also studied as a "tent-dweller" (sedentary position) in his town of birth, Ibaye in Vilna province. Here, he was under the tutelage of the Gaonim Rabbi Chaim Ozeir Grodzanski of Vilna and Rabbi Aaron Baksht, the head of the Beit Din of Shadowa, Sowalk Lomzha, and Shawli.

[Page 51 {137}]

After a short time as Rabbi of the small town Ludowinova in Suwalki province, Rabbi Leib Chasman held the post of head of the Beit Din and head of the Rabbinical College in the Shtutshin community for a period of about 20 years. The Shtutshin community was then one of the more important communities of the Vilna Province in the Lida region. Previously, in this community, the posts of Rabbis were held by Leaders in Torah such as Rabbi Noach-Chaim Eizenstat, followed by Rabbi Menachem-Mendel Ostrinski, author of "Tzemach Menachem" (questions and interpretations of the Mishnah). Shtutshin was also the birthplace of the famous Gaon, Rabbi Chaim-Leib Stavisker.

Rabbi Leib Chasman established the independent Yeshiva in Shtutshin in 1908. This was a new Yeshiva, called "Anaf Knesset Yisrael" ("Branch of Israel Congregation"). Many students flowed there, from far and near, including many veteran Yeshiva students. About three hundred excellent students studied at Shtutshin Yeshiva before World War One, and it was well thought of throughout Lithuania and Russia. The young head of the Rabbinical College, the young Gaon Rabbi Alter Shmuelowitz, was also well known. He was the son-in-law of Rabbi Yozil Horwitz, the founder of the Novaradok Yeshiva, and was a rising star in the world of Yeshivas. However, Shtutshin Yeshiva did not last for more than a few years only, because, during World War One, most of the students dispersed to their hometowns. (Some of them transferred to a Torah Kibbutz in Grodno. They formed the foundation of the "Shaarei Torah" Yeshiva of the Gaon, Rabbi Shimon Shkop of Telz, who later taught in Briansk, and moved from there to Grodno.) Rabbi Leib Chasman himself went into exile with his family to Central Russia. When he returned to Shtutshin in 1921, he did not reestablish the Shtutshin Yeshiva.

From then on, Rabbi Leib Chasman dedicated himself to general communal-Torah activities: He was right-hand-man to the "Chafeitz Chaim" and of Rabbi Chaim Ozeir Grodzanski in their rehabilitation of their old Yeshivas. He was especially involved in organizing the "Yeshiva Committee" in Vilna, and the establishment of the ultra-orthodox weekly "Das Wort". In 1926, the management of the Slabodka Yeshiva in Hebron invited Rabbi Leib Chasman to be the spiritual leader at this large and luxurious Yeshiva in the Holy Land. The Shtutshin Rabbinate was given, on his recommendation, to the Gaon Rabbi Yechiel-Michal Rabinowitz from Baranowitz, the author of "Afikei Yam".

Rabbi Leib Chasman worked for nearly ten years in Hebron and Jerusalem. Despite his declining health in those years, he was like a fountainhead in his deep spiritual influence on his thousands of students and listeners. During the Hebron riots in 1929, he displayed great spiritual courage and was amongst the first to treat the wounded personally. When the Yeshiva was transferred to Jerusalem, he became a central figure in the Jerusalem Ultra-Orthodox community. He served for a few years as the president of the Diskin Orphanage in place of Rabbi Zonnenfeld. Until his last days, (he died on 11th Heshvan in 1931), he did not stop teaching Torah and Ethics. Thousands attended his funeral; and he was laid to rest in the Mount-of-Olives Cemetery, near the graves of the Gaon Rabbi Moshe-Mordechai Epstein and the "Grandfather", the GRNTSP - leaders of the Slobodka Yeshiva and two of their founders.

Rabbi Leib Chasman left behind important essays in Ethics, Interpretations, Jewish Law. His conversations on Ethics were published, as aforementioned, by a public committee of his outstanding students, under the name of "Or Yaheil" (two volumes). His essay on Jewish Law, "Machane Yehuda" was published in 1965 by his only son, Reb Raphael Chasman. (See separate list about him at the end of this chapter.)

M. Tzinovitz.

(Based on an article published in the "Hayesod" Weekly on 26 October 1945, on the tenth anniversary of Y.L. Chasman's death.)

[Page 52 {138}]

The Rabbinical Writing of the Gaon, Rabbi Yehuda-Leib Chasman

Written and signed in Shtutshin in the Year 1906.

With good luck and at a successful time

When we gather together, the leaders and VIP’s of this community representing all the people of our town, to study the secular words (?) and to inspect community matters, we have agreed wholeheartedly and willingly to receive and to appoint the great rabbi Yehuda Leib, son of Raphael, Chasman as Rabbi and teacher, for three years from the date below, to lead us in expressions of the Torah; in God-fearingness; to supervise in lay matters regarding laws which should the religion of our holy Torah according to the means laid out hereunder.

The aforementioned rabbi took upon himself to instruct us on rules of prohibition and license without any delays or postponement to any of the inhabitants of our city or those settled in the surrounding towns and villages. The aforementioned rabbi also undertook to judge on financial rules and to explain and mediate regarding various disputes between people and their neighbors, and to make peace between those who argue. The aforementioned rabbi also took upon himself to preach on the Sabbaths, before the festivals, on the Day of Atonement, after Kol Nidray, and before the Maariv prayer; to arouse the House of the Children of Israel to their Father in Heaven and to unite the hearts of Israel into one association.

And we, the undersigned, have undertaken to pay the aforementioned rabbi a weekly salary, without delay. We have established the source of this salary to be the sale of yeast for the Sabbath and Holidays, with the authority in the hands of the Rabbi to lease out the sale of the yeast to whoever wishes to do so or to sell the yeast by himself. We have also taken on ourselves that none of our town's inhabitants will take yeast, either for his own use or for sale to the non-Jews, for cooking or baking, except from the rabbi or his representative. All incomes belonging to Rabbis, as are customary among the Jews the world over, will belong to the rabbi. No man will to deprive him of his income. We will stand by his side to support him, and let G-d give him blessing and peace.

This we have signed on Monday, Parashat Hamidbar, 26th Iyar, 5666 (1906), here in Shtutshin.

[Editor’s note: The signatures are presented in their original order, as deciphered, as written. P. 139]

 Naum Yaakov Tsvi Grodzentzik, Tsvi Hirsh Gernitski, Arye Leib Shapiro, Shmuel Yashinawski, Tsvi son of David Stanetski, Noah Krongold, Yitschak son of Avraham Rozonski, Heshel Latski, Sender Chaim son of Moshe, Meir Chait son of Yosef, Yoel Levit, Zalman Ilutavitz, Yitschak Lipman, Eli Eishishki, Meshulam Elimelech, Dov son of Moshe Ponanski, Yehuda Tsvi Son of Avraham Yehoshua, Avraham Razanski, Yoels son of Avraham, Avraham Yitschak Formanski, Yaakov son of Dov Mazowetski, Elimelech Kupshtein, Yitschak Dov son of Marish, Mordechai Rodke, Baruch son of Yehuda Razanski, Ts. son of Pinchas, Dov Shostak, Avraham son of Yaakov Binim, Tsvi Matilski, Moshe Ze'ev Kalikes, Yitschak Yaakov Ras, Moshe Formanski, Avraham Yaakov, Shmuel Eishishki, Reuven Moshe, David Boyarsky, Shmuel Yosef Zakroiski, Itamar Latski, Moshe Asher Litski, Sheiel Shklar, Yaakov Tsirulnik, Shmuel Yecheskel, Yitschak Kosovski, Moshe Aaron Kosovski, Yitschak Berianski, Ario son of Tsvi Halevi, Chaim son of Tsvi Shostak, Yosef Dov Ragachevski, Menesh Litski, Yosef Chait, Izaak son of Yosef, Avraham son of Yechezkel Grodzentsik,Yaakov Gantsar, Peisach son of Yehuda Mayakovski, Chaim David Kreinwatz, Tsvi son of Yaakov, Tsvi son of Yaakov, Chaim David Katz, Moshe son of Yekutiel Bakalski,Yischak ben David, Yosef son of Reuben, Yistchak son of Dov Shostak, Kalman son of Meir, (totally unclear), Avraham Shimon son of Yosef, Zusel Formanski,

Note:  p. 53  [140] - written photocopy of this document - translator

[Page 53 {140}]

-continuation of p. 52 [138]- translator

Yehuda son of Yitzchak, Todros son of Yehuda Halevi, Tsvi Yisrael son of Yosef, Hirsch Novick, Ze'ev…,Neta Tsukernik, Avraham son of Bareuch Bendit Bialistatski, Moshe Ze'ev son of Dov Kolikes, Eliezer Ario Glombotsky, Chaim David Katz, Ari Leib Marshinsky, Avraham Shimon Marshak, Chaim Modrik, Chaim David Marashinsky, Avraham Shimon, Gadali Vitovsky, Chaim Dov Voronovsky, Ari Leib Razanski, Avraham Yitzchak Bass, Hirsch son of Chaim, Nachum Noach Levit, Moshe Kravetz, Chaim Rubin son of Alio Asher, Aharon Kaplan, Leizer son of Eliyahu, Chaim Proflotsik, Pinchas son of Yosef, Chaim Yitschak son of Yosef Shtatsky, (total of 93 signatures).

[Editor: In addition to the above rabbinate-script, are another two original documents related to the same issue. One is a letter from the heads of the community to Rabbi Y. L. Chasman, which was sent to him in 1907. The other is a declaration of community representatives, which was meant to strengthen what was written in the rabbinate-script, signed in 1908. In both of these documents are found some additional signatures of heads of families who do not appear on the rabbinical-script at all, next to signatures, which appear on all three documents, or on two of them. Following are the additional signatures, in Hebrew alphabetical order, as written.]:

 Naum Dov Glazerman, Moshe Glembotsky, Yaakov Tsvi Dreizen, Avraham Yantsuk, Yechiel Yosef Yoshelevits, Kalman Listovsky, Moshe Chaim Marashinsky, Arie Leib Milikovsky, Moshe Yehoshua Medlinsky, Baruch son of Yaakov Stotsky, Shlomo Yitschak Epstein, Arie Leib Pototsky, Shimon Tsvi Pototsky, Yisrael Avraham Polachek, Yoel Polack, Yitschak Yosef son of Meir Poretsky [Paretski?], Tzvi Hirsch Feder [Ferder?], Eliezer Yitschak Protshanski, David Friedkovsky, Chaim Kaminsky, Mordechai Kamenetsky, Shevach Kravetz, Zalman Rothman, Yehuda Rubinstein, Moshe Schneider. (In total, 28 additional signatures).

 

[Page 54 {140}]

The Journalist and Author Moshe Be-Eliezer (Glembotski)

Ben Eliezer Moshe (Glembotsky) was born in 1882 in Shtutshin (Vilna Province). His start in literature and journalism was in Yiddish, after which he transferred to Hebrew. In the year 1912, he was the editor of Hashachar in Warsaw. In 1917-1918, he edited "Shtilim" in Moscow. After the revolution, he moved to Western Europe, worked in Germany and in France, and from there went to the USA. Some of his articles appeared in Hazman, Hador, Hatsfira and others.

In 1925, he made Aliya and became a member of the editorial board of the Haaretz newspaper. He published anthologies of his stories: Stories and Legends (1924); A Passing World (1928). He translated many stories from the best of European literature, (the writings of Andersen, Dickens, Doda, Maupasant and others). He died in 1944.

(from the Encyclopedia of Literature)

[Page 55 {141}]

Following are selected extracts from criticism articles by authors and literary critics appearing in the Israeli Press on the tenth anniversary of his death (1954).

 

The Soul of a Journalist-Author

M. Ben-Eliezer was one of the last Journalist-Authors, who established Hebrew Journalism, erected its gates, created its style, who changed the Hebrew Language from a book-language to a newspaper-language. They told the readers of the Diaspora about every plant in the Land of Israel and the readers of Israel about every suffering and achievement of the Diaspora Jews. They raised a generation of children and youth. They brought hearts together. They bridged the gap between the Bible, legend, and the literature of the Middle Ages on the one hand and the wide world of our days on the other hand.

I remember that at one editorial meeting sat A. Litai, A Shlonsky, N. Alterman, and M. Ben-Eliezer. They were a sort of club as well as a workshop. They wrote, not with a typewriter, but with a pen (not even a ballpoint pen). They managed to give the reader a variety of materials. Ben-Eliezer worked next to D. Frishman and with Y. D. Berkovitz. He went around with C. N. Bialik who appreciated him very much (when they organized an anniversary for him, Bialik spoke very warmly about him).

M. Ben-Eliezer wrote some stories, great ones among them, all of them dedicated to the appreciation of the shtetl. He had a great love of Israel. He was not religious but he loved the whole life in which he grew up, where he passed his youth.

Baruch Karo ("This Morning")

 

"A Passing World"

M. Ben-Eliezer occupied a special corner in the Hebrew prose, which came after Mendele Mocheir Sepharim: descriptions of the Jewish Shtetl and its inhabitants, with the seal of clarity and faithfulness stamped on them. He peeped into the poor quarters and told about little people whose life-stories were sparse. The character’s innocence and simplicity poured from the words, anointed his writing with an able and charming thread.

In his book, A Passing World, there is no continuation or continuity between the "worlds". The new does not absorb from the old. It neither improves nor develops it. On the contrary, it kicks it, abhors both the good and the superior that was proudly hoisted on Israel not long ago, in the recent past… The pictures and drawings in A Passing World, display Lithuanian Jewry before us, in which Torah study not only strengthened our intellectual powers but also established springs of emotion in our hearts and turned its daily routine into a web of mitzvoth, prayer and Torah, charity and benevolence. So was the life of the shtetl Jews raised and connected to heaven, to the hereafter, God be blessed… Before our eyes, in this little book, pass Rabbis and righteous men, pious women, charitable rich men, simple people, all of them glowing before us in a sort of spiritual-moral beauty, a human, natural, realistic beauty, but so amiable and cordial…

  It has been truly said that the few sketches appearing in A Passing World have it in their power to eradicate, from the hearts of those of our generation, the distorted concepts of the Diaspora Jews of the previous generations. It will even arouse appreciation for their ancestors and the desire to take their deeds in our own hands.

Nathan Goren ("Davar")

 

[Page 56 {142}]

Teacher and Poet Simcha Schneider

Simcha Schneider was born in the town of Shtutshin, Vilna Province, in 1879. He began teaching in 1903. He studied Torah in his hometown Shtutshin and later in Slonim, Suwalki and Lugansk. In his youth, he studied in a "cheder" and in a yeshiva. Later, he completed his studies in a Teachers' Seminary in Kovno and graduated there as a teacher.

In 1924, he settled in Vilna and taught Jewish Studies in the Yiddishist High Schools. He also taught Hebrew Literature at the Tarbut Hebrew Seminar. The difficult working conditions as a teacher of Jewish Studies and the indifference of his friends and students towards these subjects caused him to be depressed.

On the other hand, his long pedagogic work and his spiritual closeness to the world of children and youth stimulated his literary talents; and, for twenty years, he dedicated himself to this field. He actively participated in all the children's newspapers, which appeared in those days. He published stories and poems in the following newspapers: Shtilim, Shibolim, Haprachim, Hachaver, Hacochav, Ben-Hacochav, Iton-Katan, Hatzphira Leyeladim, and others The poured-out spirit of his poems is the joy of youth and the happiness of young people. His style is alive, flexible, and exemplary in all its meanings.

He also published a few stories in Hatzfira. These showed that he had a wide perspective on life.  He had a special style that gave him a special place in our literature. He also published poems in Yiddish, in literary magazines in this language, such as Liebe (of Moshe Teitsch, 1907), Frihling, Die Welt, and others.

Y.D. Gordon (Haolam, 1929)

 

The Editor and Translator, Raphael Chasman

He was born in 1892 in Kelm, Kovno Province, Lithuania. His father was the late Rabbi Yehuda Leib, son of Raphael (Liebman) Chasman. Raphael one of the leaders of Musar and one of the brightest students of the late Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziev of Kelm, spiritual manager of the Telz Yeshiva, head of the Shtutshin Beit Din in Lithuania, and founder and chief Rabbi of the Yeshiva in Shtutshin called "Anaf Knesset Yisrael". Raphael Chasman studied in his childhood in the reformed Cheder established by his late father, and later at the aforementioned Shtutshin Yeshiva, where his outstanding teacher was the late Rabbi Alter Shmuelevich (son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Yozel of Novorudok). He also studied for a short time at the Radin Yeshiva with the "Chafeitz Chayim", Head of the Yeshiva, the late Rabbi Naftali Trop. In the year 1915, at the beginning of WWI, he was exiled from Shtutshin, together with his family, to Central Russia. He spent the war years in Voronzh, where he studied at the Natural Sciences University. He also spent a few years in Yekaterinoslav, Ukraine, where he worked in education, studied in a temporary Yeshiva for refugees, and worked as the secretary of the late Rabbi Chaim-Ozeir Grodzansky of Vilna, where he lived as a refugee.

[Page 57 {143}]

In the spring of 1921, Raphael Chasman returned with the stream of returning refugees to Kovno, the temporary capital of the then independent Lithuania. He worked there in the Jewish Press (Neyes, Yiddishe Shtimme, Heid Lita and others) in reportage, political comment, editing as a publicist and as a “feuilletonist.” He lectured at the Public University on the theory of Journalism. He was the correspondent of Yiddish newspapers in New York, as well as of Ha'aretz in Tel Aviv. (In 1928, he visited Palestine and published a series of articles on impressions of his visit in the Yiddishe Shtimme.)

In Ellul 5695 (July/August 1925) he made Aliya and worked at the Ha'aretz as a night editor, as well as publishing articles and reports. He later joined the Editorial Board of Hatsofeh (when it started up in 1929) as night editor. From 1951 on, he worked as the Board Secretary (internal-editor) and as an editorial writer. He published thousands of articles and reports on Jewish and general subjects in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian; He edited weeklies and other periodicals. He translated into Hebrew, Hans Habe's book, A Thousand will Fall at your Side (from German and English), as well as Yohann Katner by the late Dr. Fischel Schneurson (from Yiddish) and Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union by S. M. Schwartz (from Russian).

He was a member of the editorial board of The Book of Lithuania, in which appear his reports: The Homeland which is Lost (an introduction to the Shtetls), and Jewish Journalism and Literature in Lithuania. His survey, Independent Lithuania - Its Rise and Fall also appeared in The Lithuanian Jewish Album (Harav Kook Institute Publishers).

M. C.

Page 58 {144}]

Various photographs of the town in the 1914-1918 period

 


[1] The shul, a large and tall wooden building, contained an artistically carved Ark of the Torah but there was no stove for heating. So, the shul stood empty and unused almost the whole year during that time. Later the Yeshiva was there and, at the end, the “Tiferes Bochurim” [“young men’s crown”] society.

[2] “Porush”: a man who lived separately from his wife [ac]

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