The Jewish town of Woronowa
According to reliable sources, the Jewish town of Woronow, which
was about 60 kilometers from Wilno and 30 kilometers from Lida, came into being
in the middle of the 17th century. From 1650-1690, in the estate called
"Woronowka", half a kilometer from Woronowa, there lived a Polish
lord called Woronowski. He owned the estate, the river, the lawns and fields,
including the land of Woronowa. The stream, which flows through Woronowa, is
called "Balatnai" or "Balatienke." The lord leased his
lawns and fields to Jews. He was an avid card player and gambler, who was
always late in paying his debts. He borrowed money from Jews, with his estates
as collateral. When he had no money to buy the land back, it remained in Jewish
At the beginning of the 18th century, the Jewish community of Woronow numbered 70 souls. Some of the families lived in Woronow since the 17th century: OLKENITSKI, LEVINE, PUPKO, SHELUBSKY, ORKIN, KAPLAN, KAMENITSKI. It was from their descendants that Woronow's Jewish Kehilla flourished and expanded.
The old grandfather, Shabsai the Blacksmith, lived to the age of 120 years. The Polish President Maszcicki granted him a monthly pension in the year 1935. After receiving four payments, grandfather Shabsai died. Shabsai related that his grandfather had told him that in the so-called "Bath Street" on the site of the communal "hospitality house" (Hakhnoses Onkhim) or Sabbath Shelter for poor wanderers, known as the "hegdesh" or poorhouse, there had been a cemetery until the end of the 17th century. Then, another cemetery was established near the synagogue, which remained until the final destruction of the Jewish community of Woronow.
The big synagogue was connected to the study house, which served as a Talmud Torah, and was under the same roof with the morgue. The synagogue was so close to the cemetery that through its windows the devotees could easily read the names on the tombstones. The synagogue was not old, having been built in the latter half of the 19th century. The wooden plaque on the eastern wall with its artistically wrought script attested to this.
The grandfathers remembered in full detail how and when the synagogue was constructed. There had been a previous structure, but it collapsed several times, the walls simply caved in. It required frequent rebuilding or repairs. The warden of the synagogue, Zvi Itzhak LEVINE of blessed memory who served faithfully and energetically for many years, was compelled to call upon the Woronow landsleit (compatriots) living in America for financial aid to build a new synagogue. It was completed just before the last world war.
The synagogue was supplied with about forty Torah scrolls. Day and night the synagogue was filled with scholars, worshippers. It had a treasure trove of sacred books by __ , the Babylonian Talmud, the Jerusalem Talmud, about ten sets of the Mishnah (collection of post-Biblical laws of the 2nd century BC, forming part of the Talmud). Various treatises, books on the Kabbalah, on Hasidism, Kabbalah, philosophical works, commentaries by Gaonim, (genius-scholars), encyclopedias of holy sources, popular editions of the Shulkhan Arukh (laws), dozens of Bibles, books on general topics, commentaries, manuscripts by Gaonim, Rabbis, famous people. It is not possible to estimate this treasure trove.
In 1941, after the Bolshevik occupation of Woronow, a fire broke in the part of town where all the holy places were located. One third of the town was destroyed, together with all these institutions.
Once, we found a manuscript in the Synagogue, describing the Woronow community as follows: "Woronow was a holy community, situated on the Balatnai River, ten hours walk from Wilno, the 'Jerusalem of Lithuania.' The manuscript listed all the synagogue scholars, headed by Rabbi and Gaon Ezekiel known as Rabbi KHATZKELE of holy, blessed memory. It mentioned the holy institutions such as Talmud Torah, Hospitality Hostel, Burial Society, and other. It praised the twenty community leaders who completed the religious books with blessings on the Jewish people.
By the end of the 19th century the Jewish population of Voronow increased to 250 families, or 1200 people. In the third decade of the 20th century the town expanded, and built many new houses in the direction of Lida. At the end of 1940's, there were 350 families and 1,600 people. We were connected to the outside world by a railroad, brought into town in 1882. Our chief source of livelihood was agriculture for 35% of the population. The rest earned their living from crafts: 25% from handicraft; 20% were carters, peddlers, and 20% were merchants, storekeepers, and free professions.
Woronow landsleit in America sent money regularly to support their relatives as well as the community. This enabled us to buy large tracts of land to expand the town. In addition, every Jew in Woronow privately owned from two to three hectares of land (one-hectare measures superficially 2.471 acres). We built houses, planted orchards, cultivated the land, bred cattle, beehives, and occupied ourselves with other agricultural undertakings. Thus, the Jewish population sank its roots deeper and deeper. We saved money for dowries for our daughters, planned for the future and were concerned about our old age.
The "happy, optimistic" existence of our Jews of Woronow did not last long. Cruel and merciless Nazism put an end to our rich life and exterminated a holy community of God-fearing Jews and young people who were out of hope for the future. Instead of a functioning town with a past steeped in tradition, there is today a vast area of graves, in which lie buried thousands of Jewish martyrs, victims of bestial Nazi and Lithuanian savages. The murdered Jews sleep their eternal sleep on the edge of the town of Woronow.
Recently the graves in the cemetery were desecrated. Some of the tombstones were shattered and taken away. Gone are the only eyewitnesses of the Jewish community of Woronow. About 300 meters from the Woronow in the direction of Lida, is a mass grave of 1835 martyrs, inhabitants of the towns around Woronow, who were brutally slain in May 11, 1942 by German and Lithuanian fascists.
This rabbi never went outside, in order not to interfere with the study of the Torah by doing foolish things. Day and night he studied the Torah and served God. It is told that in his time he exorcised the evil spirit from the soul of a sinful young woman. When he blessed a barren woman, she became pregnant. He performed many miracles. He was the leader of the Woronow community for more than 30 years. His substitute in the rabbinical seat was Rabbi Gaon Jacob MEYER, of blessed memory. This rabbi also performed many miracles.
The ritual bathhouse (Mikvah) of Woronow was located a great distance from the town. Legend has it that Satan ensconced himself in the Mikvah and would not budge, terrorizing the men and the righteous women who came there to bathe. The rabbi performed a miracle and Satan fled.
Then there was the heretic, whom the Rabbi Jacob MEYER brought back to Judaism. In his day, the voice of the Torah resounded near and far.
There were 40 young men studying in the synagogue. Many of them became renowned scholars among Jews. The town's householders gave financial support to the ascetic sects. The above-mentioned Rabbi served God with total devotion, to the point of self-sacrifice. He elevated law and religion to a very high standard; strengthened the pure relationship between man and his God; purified the materialistic, sensuous relationship between man and man; placed the main principles of Judaism on a firm foundation: marital fidelity, charity, good deeds, etc. For this reason, our grandfathers, our ancestors, were God-fearing men. They served their Creator with religious ecstasy, banishing all corrupt thoughts. Consequently, the last half of the 19th century saw the development and growth of various holy societies such as Society for Dissemination of Popular Law, collection of laws, study of Psalms, etc. These exercised great influence in the Woronow community and made it famous.
Jacob MEYER was Rabbi of Woronow for about 40 years. He died prior to the last decade of the 19th century. After him, Rabbi Naftoli David MUSINZON of blessed memory occupied the rabbinical seat, from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. He is remembered by many of the older Woronow Jews of the New World, and the handful of surviving elders of the Old World. Several of the Rabbi's children live in America and other parts of the world. Rabbi Naftoli David grieved over Jewish destiny more than all the other famous men of his generation. Who of us, the survivors, does not remember his stirring, exalted orations? He wept over the fate of the Jews, comparing us with poor, helpless sheep.
Who of us, the survivors, does not remember his passionate moralizing on Rosh Hashanah; the Sabbath of Repentance; Yom Kippur after Kol Nidre; before Neilah (last prayer on Yom Kippur); the Sabbath before Passover; or a eulogy when the whole congregation was moved to tears. I will always remember his eulogy over Abraham Chaim ZALTZANSKY. It made an unforgettable impression in the town, and people mourned for a long time. Rabbi Naftoli David was diligent in observing and disseminating the laws of Kashruth, and very strict concerning ritual slaughter. Only the renowned God-fearing cantor and slaughterer of Woronow, Zvi HIRSCH of blessed memory, was trustworthy in the Rabbi's eyes. He had great humility and did not like to receive honors. Because of his modesty and chastity, no women were allowed in the rabbinical court.
After his death, our community invited the Gaon, Zalmen SOROTCHKIN, known as "Leyser TELZER's son-in-law to be the Rabbi. This Rabbi had been from his earliest youth a specialist in law and in handing down decisions. He was a phenomenon: a keen mind, a gifted orator and linguist. In order to fortify the elements of Torah in our town, he founded a small Yeshivah, where he himself trained about 50 young men in the spirit of Judaism and the ways of the law, including his writer in his early years. Rabbi Zalmen occupied himself day and night in teaching us Torah, inculcating in us the fear of God, settling disputes. He also took it upon himself [to] inculcate in us the fear of God. He guided our community for three years, after which the Zhetler community invited him to be their rabbi. After occupying the rabbinical chair of Zhetl for several years, he was asked to come to Luzk, which had a large Jewish community. In his later years, Rabbi Zalmen and his family emigrated to Jerusalem, where he lives today.
He was replaced in our town by Rabbi Hagaon Jacob Meyer SEGALOWICZ, who like Rabbi Zalmen, was a devoted teacher of the Torah. It was in Woronowa that he completed his great work "Collection of Sermons," replete with wisdom, Torah, keen and subtle argumentation, Kabalah, moralizing, sermons, comments on the Torah by numerous Gaonim, sages, ancient and modern scholars. This profound work created a stir in the rabbinical world. In his time the spirit of the Torah and laws of Judaism were strengthened still more in our town.
A vast network of various Societies was established in addition to those already in existence: Society to Visit the Sick; Help the Sick; Help the Poor; Donate Charity Secretly, and other charitable institutions. Our synagogue was filled with scholars, men of renown, students of the Torah, sages and other authorities.
After Woronow Rabbi Jacob Meyer SEGALOWICZ was invited to be the Rabbi of the large Jewish community of Danzig, today a Polish port, at that time a free city. Since then we have not a trace of him. For a short time, in the second and third years of the war, 1915-1916, our Rabbi was the Lubczer rabbi's assistant, Mr. HIRSCH, of blessed memory. When he died, he was buried in our cemetery.
Our next Rabbi was the Gaon MOSKOWSKI, known as "Itsl, the Petersburg Rabbi's son-in-law." He found it very difficult to set up the administration of our town. The First World War also left deep scars in Woronowa. Famine, ruined economy, cessation of cultural activity overwhelmed our existence. Experience, willingness to sacrifice, good sense and intelligence were required to establish general life in the town on a firm foundation. With the aid of the Woronow landsleit in America, Rabbi MOSKOWSKI founded a Savings and Loan Association, where small tradesmen, artisans and farmers were able to get long-term loans, at low interest rates. This helped workers, merchants and the Woronow middle class to earn a living.
At that time a Hebrew School was opened in Woronowa with 150 pupils. The teachers included Hinde PUPKO from Wilno, EIGULSKI from Lomze, DUBINSKI from Lida, Rabbi GOLDBERG of Wilno, Rabbi Naftoli RAFALOWICZ of Ivye, and this author. The above-mentioned teachers and mentors were equipped with great knowledge and high cultural standards, as well as pedagogical ability, and were excellent teachers, inculcating in their students broad knowledge in all branches of learning. The young people who emerged from this school were the pride of Woronowa. Credit must be given to Rabbi MOSKOWSKI and our community head Nehemiah SHAPIRO of blessed memory for the tireless efforts, ability and self-sacrifice and reviving the economic and cultural standards of our life. After Woronowa our energetic Rabbi was invited to the large Jewish community of Krinki. Rabbi MOSKOWSKI spent his last years in Palestine. He died in 1946.
Our next Rabbi was the Gaon LUSKY, of blessed memory, who continued the work of his predecessors in teaching and disseminating the Torah. With the aid of our Woronow landsleit in America plus the Jewish society "Ka" he acquired large tracts of land (about 300 hectares) just outside the town. This gave our hard-working population a chance to raise cattle, sheep and fowl. At that time, the Jews of Woronow planted five thousand fruit trees. Ten years later they produced a crop, which provided a majority of the Jews with half of their income. The Jews constructed, planted, raised cattle, and paid installments to "Ka" on the money they had borrowed. The generous loans that "Ka" extended were paid back over a period of twenty years. After Woronowa, Rabbi LUSKY occupied the rabbinical seat in old Sventsian. He died in America in 1942. After his departure, our community was split in two.
The "Kletzker" faction engaged as its Rabbi the brilliant Gaon Jacob GISILEVSKY of blessed memory, a son-in-law of the Kletzk Rabbi. The "Miadler" faction invited the former Miadler Rabbi Gaon TSIPKOWICZ of blessed memory. The disputes and controversies that ensued almost led to desecration of the Torah and profanation of God's name. Parallel institutions were founded: a second Savings and Loan Assn., a second charitable assn., a second hospital, volunteer assn., [and] Burial Society. Each faction was ambitious and extreme and would not compromise. Both Rabbis and their adherents suffered. Morale was low, There were interior conflicts on each side. Wags said the war was so intense, that the opposing factions refused to marry their children into the family of the other.
During the last years of World War II peace was restored. All the Societies, the cultural institutions, philanthropic groups, savings and loan associations and others joined forces. Once again, they made a formal agreement. Our town was healthy again. Peace reigned in Woronowa until Hitlerism destroyed our glorious community. Our noble and holy Woronowa now is a mass grave 70 meters long and five meters wide.
You come to the holy spot
Where lie our martyrs, our dead.
More than 1,800 victims.
Mother and child entwined together,
Father and son arm in arm.
Brothers, sisters, all together.
Their skulls shattered,
Their hearts ripped out.
Rabbis, assistants, slaughterers, cantors, clergy,
Mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers.
The sun did not grow dark.
The earth did not tremble.
When the trees were splattered with the sacred brains of our infants.
The earth cannot absorb the blood
Of the innocent victims.
Thus were eradicated holy communities.
Thus perished a generation.
God's word has been silenced.
The voice of the Torah is heard no more.
A gravestone marks the holy place,
Profane words echo in the holy place.
Many respected householders and scholars belonged to the Talmud Society: Zwi Nachman LEVINE, Yechiel SHEPETNISKI, Reuben ILATOWICZ, Isaac MITCHADSKI, Abraham BARON, Feive PUPKO, Abraham BICHWEID, Nehemiah SHAPIRO, Zalmen KALMANOWICZ, Abraham Meyer LEVINE, Joshua LEVKOWICZ, Nahum KUZNETZ, Chaim Eliahu BRONZOOKI, Eliazer Zav WIENER, Isaac OLKENITSKI, Akiba DEVENISKI, Hirsh BERKOVIKI, Samuel Isaac KAMENETSKI. Every day they studied together, and completed the Talmud every three years. In honor of this "commencement" there was always a big celebration, a feast with cake and whiskey. The members congratulated one another, wishing each other the privilege of being present at the next commencement.
The Mishnah Society: To this belonged artisans and other Jews of virtuous character and high standards of morality: Zalmen the tailor, Wolf the carpenter, Benjamin the cobbler, Rachmiel the blacksmith, Shloyme the carpenter, Rachmiel the glazier, Wolf the coppersmith. This Society completed its study of the Mishnah every six months.
Then, there was the Society that studied Popular Law and the collection of Laws. These were recruited mainly from men who kept stalls in the marketplace, brokers of all kinds and many horse-owners. The members assembled every day between the afternoon and evening prayers. They were guided in the Law by a scholar (usually the new son-in-law of a respected householder, who offered room and board without financial worries.) The Society to study the Psalms consisted mainly of porters, day workers, cripples, and paupers of all kinds, in addition to some craftsmen. The psalms were chanted in a group together in the early morning in the synagogue, before the minyanim (group of ten). Every day they sang several chapters of Psalms. Many of the Jews recited orally (by heart): Abraham Jacob OLKENITSKI; Isaac KAMANETSKI; Jacob Moshe TROTSKY; Abraham KAPLAN, the doctor; Meyer Hillel LEVINE; Yekusiel GERSHENOWICA; Shmerl PLOTNICK; Joseph GRODZENTSIK; Aba KUZNETZ; Nahum Zvi GRODZENTSIK; Isaac LEVINE the miller; Chaim Zorach STEKALCZIK; Isaac son of Daniel OLKENITSKI; Joshua PLATNICK.
Our religious young men founded a Society called "Glorious Young Men" whose aim it was to study a section of the Pentateuch every day, including Rashi, or several statutes from the Book of Laws. In addition to the above-mentioned religious Societies, our Woronow community was rich in social and philanthropic societies, such as the Burial Society, Volunteer Society, Hospital, Poorhouse, Prison, Dowry for a Poor Bride, etc.
The most outstanding of these community workers was the devoted Joshua PLOTNIK, father of Rabbi Moshe PLOTNIK, whose energy and self-sacrifice built up the hostel for poor wayfarers. He continued with this community achievement until he was slain by the Nazi murderers. Zav SHELUBSKY was also a tireless community activist. They both attended to the dead and buried them.
The Society to Support Pious Jews gave financial aid to families of men who were in prison: and ransomed Jews who were victims of false accusations and other punishments. The Society to Provide Bread For the Poor built a poorhouse, which people called Hekdesh or Poorhouse, in which paupers could spend the night free of charge and remain for a time. After the poorhouse was destroyed, wandering paupers stayed in the synagogue annex. There was never any lack of beggars among Jews, and they were always given shelter.
The Society for Kashruth, whose chief purpose was to see that Kashruth was observed, including especially the bringing in of matzo on Passover.
The Society for Observance of the Sabbath was very influential, even on left wing and progressive elements of our town, for they also adhered to these dictates and observed the holy Sabbath; at least there was no public evidence of desecration. On the whole, the inhabitants of our town respected the Sabbath and the laws of Kashruth. The Mitzvah of "purity of the family" was observed in all its details in Woronowa. This must be stressed and mentioned in our favor.
We also had a group of young men - refined and genteel who were the pride of their in-law's home, who provided them with board and keep so that after 120, they would be their heirs. These young men threw themselves into community work, and it is because of their energy and devotion that most of our religious, economic and cultural institutions were built up and functioned so efficiently.
A community bathhouse [mizvah] was kept heated every Friday, so that Jews could cleanse themselves in honor of the Sabbath. The ritual bathhouse had fresh running water. Two or three times weekly, the Children of Israel bathed there and could not resist the temptation of disobeying the laws of family purity (men and women).
The cemetery occupied an area of 60-70 square meters, and was 250 years old. Here our grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers sleep their eternal sleep, awaiting the Messiah. In the front row lie rabbis, scholars, clergy with their wives; rich men and philanthropists. In the second row lie second-class rich men. In the third and fourth are the "plain people," of various stations and walks of life. Naturally, the further back, the cheaper the grave.
As in every community, Woronowa had its quota of retarded, feeble-minded and subnormal types. Each of these was unique in his way, with his own special traits, and lived in his own world. Many of our inhabitants had nicknames, which were handed down from father to son. There was Jacob the Big Shot, Itse The Turk, Eliahu The Wind, others called The Ass, The Fog, The Mistake, The Bargain, The Greek, The Rooster, The Whistler, the Crazy One, and many others. There are many others that I cannot name for ethical reasons.
As a matter of fact, almost every other Jew in our town had a special "name" or "title." These men were so accustomed to their "title" that legend has it that when one of them was asked by a government official what his name was he cried out: Mikita. May their souls in heaven forgive us. The nickname "Shorty" for example, which went with Avreml, came about by sheer accident from an innocent remark made by a quipster. When the diminutive Shlyme Hirsh favored his wife with a second child in the second year of their marriage, a wag, upon hearing the new father being greeted with Mazel Tov in the small prayer and study house, cried out: "Shorty is making more shorties." Two or three people heard it and the nickname stuck for generations.
The prayer and study house, the synagogue, morgue and cemetery were all connected geographically. Who can forget the times when a bunch of us young boys ran out in the middle of prayers and sneaked into the morgue. We got hold of the board stretcher on which corpses were carried, put one of our pranksters on it, covered him with the black cloth used for corpses, and with one boy in each corner carried him out, chanting the monotonous funeral dirge:
"G-O T-O T-H-E F-U-N-E-R-A-L"
"C-H-A-R-I-T-Y W-I-L-L S-A-V-E F-R-O-M D-E-A-T-H
You can imagine the thrashing we got from our fathers! We are sure that more than of our landsleit who is now in America was one of the culprits and got a good licking.
Our old-fashioned buildings were replaced by modern structures, in the latest style of architecture, and new equipment: The Hebrew Folk School; Ritual Bathhouse; House of Study; Bathhouse and other institutional buildings. This improvement was due to the efforts of our devoted and energetic community workers [volunteers].
The holy 613 Mitzvahs were adhered to. In addition, Woronow Jews observed ancient religious traditions that had been handed down from father to son. Monotheism was the dogmatic credo of our great-grandfathers, grandfathers and fathers.
The religious cult of Woronow Jews had always been the Holy Torah, the House of Study, Prayer Shawl and Phylacteries, Holy Sabbath and all manifestations of serving God.
Without this religious base and these customs our lives were meaningless. The Woronow grandfather was indifferent to worldly pleasures. He devoted all his energy and time to heartfelt prayers and the ways of God, searching for exaltation of the soul and unity with God, in order to be privileged to a share of the world to come.
Even without Hassidic ecstasy and fire the Woronow Jew was obsessed - body and soul - in the Ways of the Lord, as it were "preparing himself in the antechamber to enter the main room."All religious ceremonies were observed 100 percent. Serving God was the foundation of the Jew's dreary, indigent life. There prevailed mystical belief in dreams, remedies, signs, stiny, astrology and magic. The grandfathers recounted that in the olden days there was no pump in the town to put out fires, but it was extinguished by means of a special remedy. When a woman was in labor she was led seven times around three Jews who were praying, in prayer shawls and phylacteries, reciting Chapter 102 of the Psalms and Prayer for the Sick, and the woman squatting on the birthing-stool was helped. When a person had a toothache he was "talked out of it," the "evil eye" was driven away. To keep the evil eye away, mothers would attach an onion with salt to the child's underwear, or tie a red cotton string around its wrist. The most radical method to fend off the evil eye was to hang an amulet in the form of a mezuzah around the child's neck. In addition to all these remedies to help the sick, it was very fashionable to visit a Hassidic Rabbi for his "blessing."
The daily religious rituals and customs, rooted in tradition, which were practiced by the Jews of Woronow, were considered sacred. Their hearts were filled with bliss and sweetness hearing the great Zaddik Jacob MEYER (at the end of the 19th century) say the prayer "Tal" on the 8th day of Sukkoth; amoralizing sermon by Rabbi Naftoli DAVID after Kol Nidre and before Neilah; the extension of the morning prayer on the High Holy Days by Zvi Hirsh BERKOWSKI; the Neilah prayer by the gabbai- (synagogue trustee; manager of affairs of a Hasidic rabbi) Zvi Isaac LEVINE. Or listen to the sacred words of a Godfearing Torah scholar for the purpose of restoring "sinful" Woronow Jews to piety. They harbored the same respect, fanatic reverence and awe, and boundless love for the various customs and rituals manifesting God worship: reciting the Psalms collectively under the leadership of Isaac the son of Daniel, who stressed the phrase: "All my bones will say: 'God, who is like unto thee!'"; say a blessing; a Kedushah; praying together; be called to read a lesson from the Torah in the synagogue; go up to the lectern and pray in the name of the congregation; study each day, between or during the afternoon and evening services, the Law, the Mishnah, Book of Common Law; bless the Esrog (citron) during Sukkoth; toss out Chometz before Passover and observe Kashruth in honor of Passover; wash the hands and say the special prayer that accompanies it before eating; say the blessings after eating; attend to the sick; donate and collect charity for widows, orphans and Torah scholars; extend hospitality to a recluse; purity of the family; condolence calls; go to Tashlech on Rosh Hashonah (shake out one's pockets over water as a symbol of washing away sins); on the eve of Yom Kippur say the prayer, "He will have mercy. He will forgive us our sins and His anger will subside;" Also on the eve of Yom Kippur it was a custom to be reconciled with an enemy; to begin the Sabbath ceremony on time, when the sexton call out: "I -i-in-t-o-o-o- Shul ev-er-y-one!" This was repeated many times. Later, on this ritual of calling to prayer was reformed, and the sexton called out simply: "Women, close the stores and light the candles." More than once the sexton reversed his announcement: "Women, close the candles and light the stores!"
Other Mitzvahs: wearing four tassels on undergarments; not mixing meat and dairy dishes; not wearing clothing made of cloth that mixed linen and wool; a mezuzah in every Jewish home. It was told that when the townspeople forgot to put a mezuzah in the poorhouse, demons and ghosts took possession. It was a mitzvah to say a blessing upon seeing an important lord, a king, thunder or lightning. Not to speak of the fundamentals of Jewish religion such as circumcision , Sabbath observance, belief in the Coming of the Messiah and in the world to come. Our mothers and grandmothers had special mitzvahs to observe, ordained by God: Breaking off a piece of challah; blessing candles; purity of the family (menstrual proscriptions); Kashruth; Sabbath observance, wearing a wig, serving their husbands, and heeding the instructions of pious Jews and saintly Jews (Zaddukim). These were all specific Jewish observances.
In former days, thirty years ago, right after the first World War, when there was no electricity in Woronow, poor families usually kindled thin slivers of dried wood to make fire. Richer families used kerosene, and "benzoil" which was cheaper, and more explosive than kerosene, but burned as well as benzine. In December, 1914, Chaye Leah KRASHUNSKI and her little daughter were engulfed by flames because of careless use of benzoil. The heroic Chaim OLKENITSKI (son of Abraham the Tailor) quickly tore off his clothes and wrapped them around the two burning people, unforunates, who were badly scorched and almost unconscious. The mother's life was saved, but her little daughter died in anguish from the burns.
Love of God and obedience to His ways was the guiding principle of
every man and woman in Woronow, of our fathers and mothers. For instance, there
was the incident of the Woronow Jew who, in a fit of anger at his wife,
spitefully sold one of his "Kedushahs" to another Jew for ten gulden.
(The "Kedushah" was the sanctification he had given his wife). The
"seller" began to suffer from depression and pangs of conscience, and
sought a pretense to buy back the "Kedushah" by offering the
"customer" a very large sum of money. The customer refused the offer.
The matter was referred to a famous Zaddik in a nearby town, who ruled that the
whole transaction was null and void, and if the "customer" did not
withdraw in the presence of two witnesses, he would be declared a sinful Jew
and a traitor. The "Kedushah" was promptly returned to its rightful
owner. The "salesman" was sentenced to fast ten times and to donate
generously to charity.
Another incident: In 1885, the crude young Woronow itinerant beggar, Leibl BOYARSKI, in his eagerness to hear the sermon by the renowned Zaddik from the nearby town of Radun, -the Rabbi calledthe "Chofetz Chaim" who had founded a famous Yeshivah, - inadvertently jostled the Zaddik because he wanted to get closer to the pulpit. He obviously was not aware that this was the lecturer. Jews immediately ran to the Rabbi to hand down a decision, and asked his forgiveness. The great man replied: "My dear child, if you were so eager to hear God's word, you deserve to be thanked. You are a great Jew, and be blessed."
Isaac the son of Daniel, in a lawsuit against another Jew, in 1909, tried to nullify the sentence handed down by the Rabbis Zalmen SOROTCHKIN (today living in Jerusalem) and Jacob Meyer SEGALOWICZ. He set out on a trip, and his own horse and wagon caused his death, in an accident.
In 1912 the shoemaker Simchah BENUNSKI was sharply rebuked by Rabbi SEGALOWICZ during a dispute. The following week he died in a tragic accident.
In 1915 the butcher Alter GETT was very disturbed because he had humiliated a Rabbi. He died of mouth cancer in a hospital in Wilno, at the young age of 46.
Woronow Jews observed all the mitzvahs so that in the world to come they need not seek redress for their souls. Witness the remark made by a melamed in 1913 to the lord who had leased him a meadow:"You, the gentile nations, are concerned only with the pleasures of this world. We are called "Zhid" (Jew) because we want to enjoy the world to come." The lord laughed and agreed.
Rabbi AARON of Belitse, the Rabbi of the Talmud Torah, told his students that the Creator would lead us Jews over paper bridges in the world to come, and the gentile nations over iron bridges. The iron bridges will collapse, and the paper ones will hold. Jews will safely reach their destination - Paradise.
Right after World War I, on a Friday night after the Sabbath meal, a group of us Woronow youngsters met the warden of the shelter for poor wanderers Joshua PLOTNIK the turner running through the marketplace with the skirts of his coat flying. He was on the way to the House of Study, after having said the Friday evening prayers and the Maariv prayers in the home of a mourner in his town of Fertl.
When we asked: "Where are you running?" "It's the Sabbath!" he replied angrily: "Don't you know, you young scamps, that there are still two poor wanderers in the House of Study who have nowhere to eat the Sabbath meal?" He brought the two Jews to the wanderer's shelter, where his faithful assistants, Rachel WIENER and Zelda DAICHOVSKI, the daughter of Aaron Jacob (the latter has a brother Joel and sister Risha in America) always fed the poor.
Religious folk beliefs mixed with superstition, Itse YANKL, an "important' man in the town, raffled off a big pike. Jews bought raffles eagerly, because it was a mitzvah. Naturally, the rich man won, as he usually did, and had to pay a "commission" for the full price of the fish. Young mischief-makers were only too eager to accompany Itse YANKL when he ran to tell the "lucky man" about his prize and asked for his "commission." Evidently, winning a raffle was an expensive business. The winner cross-examined Itse YANKL in the hope that he was mistaken and someone else had won. A dozen witnesses confirmed that he really did win, and besides, it was a mitzvah to help out an impoverished fellow townsman.
It was a "mitzvah" to buy pirogn (meat pies) and honey taiglach for Yom Kippur from Reise the Czarina" or from Esther the "great lady."
It was a custom on Simchat Torah to run after the drunken cheder rabbi ABBO, as he shouted aloud in the market place: "I will remember the martyrs" and answer him mockingly in chorus: "Meh-eh-eh!" Old MOTYO took it upon himself to collect charity and gifts every week for the town's widows, chanting his characteristic "Bitye MONYE" which meant "Help the widow!" The Jews understood him.
The old-time beadles who called the Jews to synagogue at the end of the nineteenth century were Old CHAIM, Itse LEVINE (the tailor) CHAIM from Lubetch. Later this system was reformed, and the caller announced simply, without the former song-song: "Women, close the stores and light the candles!"
Abraham KAPLAN the doctor, who healed with nostrums more than with modern medicines, treated his patients in the bathhouse, near the mikvah, in an open pit, in the middle of the dark, smoky, filthy laundry. There he lanced boils, treated swelling, did cupping with half and whole cups, used leeches in cases of paralysis. Everything was done in this humanitarian institution. The barbers cut hair and adorned the townspeople. Women washed in the "pleasurable" bath.
In 1909, the town of Woronowa was struck by the "white sheep," which terrorized the unsophisticated inhabitants of the town, because for a long time they could not figure out what this "plague" was. They recited the Psalms, were sure that a soul from the other world had wandered into the town to seek redress. They were on the verge of proclaiming a fast, when Esther PAIKOVSKI (the "great lady") came to the Free Loan Society asking for a loan to build a small shed for her white goat, which runs around all night without a place to rest and returns home in the morning having been milked. The town breathed a sigh of relief.
Eighty years ago, before the railroad passed through Woronowa, the merchant Noah Leib ORKIN traveled to Wilna with a gentile driver. He was carrying a large sum of money. On the outskirts of town they passed a large crucifix. When the gentile did not take off his hat and did not cross himself, N.L. ORKIN ordered him to return to Woronowa immediately, because he had forgotten to take his money. When ORKIN was asked why he returned, he replied: "When a gentile is not religious, there is reason to suspect that he is a fiend."
The 84-year old cheder rabbi Yossi NACHMAN (a widower from Wishnewe) taught us young brats in the dwelling of the 70 year-old widow Keyle. (They were both deaf). Once we came upon them when the rabbi was embracing Keyle and kissing her. The rabbi, in order not to be suspected of immorality, married Keyle the following month. We nicknamed her "Rebbitzin."
Anshl ZABLOTSKI, who lived in Tuzgenian (a village eight kilometers from Woronow), was misled by an old calendar, and on Yom Kippur he and his whole family drove into town to the bathhouse just at Neilah, thinking it was Yom Kippur Eve. In order to atone, he donated a year's crop to the poor.
There are specifically Jewish customs based on religion. Every Woronow inhabitant was convinced that if he did not heed God's word he would not be entitled to the ceremony of having: shards put on his eyes after he was dead; bag of earth from Palestine on his face; twigs in both hands, so that when the Messiah comes all pious Jews could roll on them to Palestine.
The vivacious midwife Naomi DUKTCHULSKI, after delivering a baby, always instructed the new mother to say: "Answer us, our Father, answer us." The new mother usually distorted the prayer. Instead of the Hebrew "Eneinu Oveinu, Eneinu Boreinu, etc. she would say in Yiddish: "Kleine, feine, kreine, a sheine, a reine."
In 1905, during the Russian Revolution, the peasants broke loose one market day, and started breaking windows of Jewish homes and stores. Moshe GERSHENOWICZ, son of Alter Leibe the bricklayer; Abraham FATCHER, son of SENDER; the older PLOTNICK, whose entire family is in Argentina; Hirsh DLUZIN, (who committed suicide four years later because of an unhappy love affair) all manifested great heroism and self-sacrifice for the community. They drove away the peasants, tossing them over fences and gardens; and they ran home in great confusion. At that time I was studying in cheder with Rabbi SHAVL of Diveneshok. Our cheder was housed in the dwelling of Chaim Zorach STEBITSIK near the House of Study. During the terrible shooting in the marketplace, the hubbub and stampede of the populace, the rabbi put on his Sabbath kapotte and his new velvet hat, ran into the Women's Synagogue and crawled under a bench. We, his six and seven year-old students, flew after him and also hid under the benches. The rabbi wept and cried: "Sh'ma Israel!" ("Hear O Israel"). We repeated it, sobbing. Slowly I aised my head and through the small windows of the Women's Synagogue I looked down at the holy place and saw the rabbi's wife Chaya Chaim Zorach run over to the Holy Ark and scream: "God, have pity! Esau is beating Jacob! Gottenyu, help your holy nation of Israel!" She wrung her hands and wept. The Zaddik Zvi HIRSH, the slaughterer of Woronow, (ritual butcher) stood by the Eastern Wall, praying under his breath.
The "wise man" of the town, Abraham from Lubarta, would pay a visit to every bride before the wedding, asking what she would prepare for the wedding feast. If it was rice cereal he would not attend, nor would he, as was his custom, greet her and her bridegroom carrying two full pails of water after the wedding ceremony. Nor would he dance his traditional "Mikita Dance" to entertain the guests. The wretched Abraham had once been scalded at a wedding with rice cereal and since then he avoided this dish. He announced that if poppy- seed buns were served at the wedding, he would be there. In most cases, the in-laws indulged him.
In those days speakers from various political factions came to Woronowa, to enlist recruits for their parties and ideologies. Speakers came from the Bund; Communist Party; Territorialists, etc. One of the orators appealed to the "instinct" of the Woronow Jewish folk masses. Afterward a young woman came home and said she hadn't understood a word the orator had said, except that it "stinks" among the folk masses.
Itse KAMENETSKI developed a new style of praying in order to tell off his opponent. As is known Itse the Kvassnik (kvass seller) bore an eternal grudge against Arieh GURWITCH. Arie GURWITCH was a native of Warsaw, Poland. Included in the Maariv (evening prayer) at the Passover ceremony is a religious poem with the initials P.M. and P.L. [Pesach in Mitsraim and Pesach Casid or: Passover in Egypt and Passover in the Future.] This passage was a stroke of luck for Itse Kvassnik, to vent his anger against Arieh. During the recitation of this poem during the evening prayers, Itse shouted at every P.M. and P.L.: "Poliak Mamzer!" (Polish Bastard) "Poliak Laidak!" (Polish Scoundrel) Itse confronted everyone in the synagogue and yelled so loudly that the entire Eastern Wall could hear him taking revenge on his enemy GURWITCH.
Outlandish as our customs were, they were practiced to the end. For instance, the hands of a corpse (before burial) were used to stroke people with weak hearts, sick lungs, and mangy bodies, pimply faces, broken bones. It was believed that those who participated in the communal ceremony of blessing the new moon would remain free from harm for the entire month following. The grandmothers' "dance" in front of the bride and groom after the wedding ceremony was a guaranty of long life for the young couple. Giving charity would assure the donor of prosperity. Pious Jews who prayed a great deal would have children who were great scholars.
The wags and humorists found enough material among the townspeople for their jokes and jibes. Hirsh Velvl SHEPETINSKI was nicknamed "Hishe Bebbe" because he couldn't pronounce the "R", and the "L." He called his wife Feigl "Feitke." Once he accidentally set fire to his beard when holding a candle and shouted to his wife: "Feitke, my bead is buning!" The old lady and her daughters and a group of women ran through the streets screaming: "Fire! Fire!" It was the middle of the night, and almost caused a riot.
When the railroad was completed and started to serve Woronow in 1884, our superstitious fathers refused to avail themselves of the convenience of saving time, money, and health. They were afraid of a catastrophe. Instead of traveling in the comfortable train, they bumped along the rutted roads, uphill and down, in carts, for a full 24 hours to the nearby city of Wilno, arriving there exhausted. They preferred to really endanger their lives, rather than give in to temptation and go by train.
Bathing in the bathhouse was really life-threatening. More than one Woronow man and woman choked to death from the smoke, fumes, stench. One of them was the elementary school teacher Yehuda KARTSMER. The rooms in the Cheder were in a deplorable condition until the close of the nineteenth century. Our grandfathers used to tell us that in 1880 two boys suffocated to death in the cheder of themelamed Abba.
Progressive youth as well as the children of plain folk were steeped in the characteristic Jewish folklore and folk songs which were sung at the beginning of the twentieth century in our town. Many of these folk songs were composed by Woronow young people. The themes were varied: romantic, religious, ordinary folk songs about Jewish heroism, Jewish tragedies; humorous, pretentious, historical, wedding songs, etc. When a fellow from Woronow was drafted, he would sing to his girl, a short time before his departure, as follows:
"In the summer heat
I must go to the Caucasus to sweat (maneuvers).
I would rather sit beside
A young girl on the sofa."
Oy vay fate my fate
Why have you sent me to the Caspian Sea?
Or he sang to his girl as follows:
Chave, oy oy oy Chave
Oy Oy Chave how I love you!
Chave, oy oy oy Chave,
Oy, oy, oy Chave Pave,
Do you know how much I love you?
The girl replied, singing the well-known folk song:
Oy, oy, oy, oy, Yosske is going away,
Let us say goodbye, the train is going away.
During the Russo-Japanese Was there was a sharp decline in weddings. The impatient young couple used to sing:
God willing, when the war will end,When a girl was accused of boasting that she came from an aristocratic family, but it was not so:
All roads will be open to us.
Let us not lose hope,
Our good luck will overflow.
Fifty years ago a young man in love sang to his beloved:
When you're in love you kiss in the woods,
You both turn black as cinders.
The poor little lamb looks for its protector,
The poor car wants to possess her.
Tra la la, tra la la, etc.
When a love affair ended, they sang:
What good is the new kozatske,
When I can't dance.
What good is the pretty girl,
When she doesn't want me.
Woe is me,
To my young life,
Such a good Mariashke,
And you threw me over.
Why are you angry, pussycat?
Why do you keep your nose in the air?
Do you want to know your pedigree?
Let me tell you.
Your father is a coachman,
Your mother steals fish in the market,
Your brother is an imbecile,
And your sister goes with a Cossack (is immoral)
A young man in Woronow was angry at his neighbor, Shoshke, daughter of Arieh and Zlatte STUKOLTCHIK, who was not particularly pretty. He hated her so much that he composed a song as follows:
When Shoshke Zlatte's wants to look pretty,
She needs seven things:
Perfume, white teeth,
Padding on her hips,
So that when her betrothed visits her
She should look like a different person.
But the moment he leaves,
She should have a backache.
Tra la la la la....
A Woronow mother, Tamara, the wife of Leibe the mechanic, made up a song in honor of her pretty daughter Feigele:
Says Tamara, make room,
Let my Feigele dance.
Poor folks, out of the way,
Let my Feigele dance.
The envious onlookers, jealous of the pretty Feigele, appended a song of their own in a critical vein:
Mama Tamara is delighted
To see her Feigele twirling about.
Avrem'ke from Vakants (a village near Woronow) is buying her dances,
And Feigele thinks she's a big shot.
Says Tamara; make way, etc.
In 1907, Vichnye, a Jewish girl from a village near Woronow, fell in love with a gentile musician - GRINDZIUN - from Muliuntse (a village near Woronow) and converted to Christianity. Every Sunday she went to the Woronow church that stood in the middle of the town. She harvested grain on Sabbath and on Yom Kippur. The talented Miriam STEKITSKI (Merke MINNES later ROTHMAN) composed a poetic malediction addressed to the heretic, which Woronow Jews sang with anger and grief:
Go, you impure, traitorous thing,
To church, to spite your mother.
Soon you will lose courage,
You won't stay long with the goyim.
Goodbye you baggage,
You are not a real heroine,
You'll drop dead
Cutting the grain.
Harvest your fields,
You useless creature,
You will turn into a nothing,
A bitter fate awaits you.
Goodbye you baggage, etc.
Your musician (her husband) will throw you out...
You vile "Zhiduve" (Jewess),
The harps and fiddles will turn sour
You dishonest, shameless whore.
Goodbye you baggage,
You are not a real heroine,
You'll drop dead
Cutting the grain.
In 1907, bandits attacked a Jewish family on the outskirts of the town of Lida and killed a father and his son. At that time the Woronow teacher Samuel OLKENITSKI (son of Sholem Lipa) was working in a school in Lida. He wrote a poem, which was later sung in all Jewish homes in towns and villages:
Dear friends, have you heard
What happened in Lida on Saturday night?
Who thought such a tragedy would happen
When everyone was asleep?
In their home the lights were still burning,
The clock struck half past eleven.
They were sitting quietly at home,
And did not know that death stood behind their backs.
Suddenly they heard a rap on the shutter,
They trembled from fear, etc. etc.
When a small child in Woronowa got convulsions in the middle of the night, or painful stomach cramps, the grandmother would carry it "around" with salt, sprinkling salt in all the corners in order to ward off the "evil eye." She would sing this monotonous, heartfelt song to the child in the cradle:
If it wasn't so late,
I would get out of bed,
And would exorcise the evil eye
My darling child,
From your pretty body,
And send it instead to the malicious women.
Sleep, my child, sleep....
From your pretty little body....etc.
During the end of the 19th century various hit songs were very popular, as for example the song about the selling of Joseph to the Egyptians:
You scorpions and serpents,
What do you want from me?
I am the grandson of Isaac
And the son of Jacob.
Tra la la la....
There was a song about the wife of Zlicheh of Potiphar, prince and Minister of Egypt:
Zlicheh is quite beautiful,
She is young.
Who can keep count
Of her love affairs?
A pretty face,
She is false,
You cannot stop her intrigues.
At a wedding, a special, old-fashioned morality song was addressed to the bridegroom:
Listen, Meyerl my child,
Do you know to whom you should pray?
To the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
Sweet Father in Heaven....
In You our fathers trusted,
Trusted and prayed.
There were special Sabbath songs of praise to the Almighty, gratitude and hope:
You have chosen us, loved and wanted us,
Kept us and fed us.
Over a drink, during elections for synagogue warden or the leader of the Jewish community, the heartrending Aveinu Malkeinu ( Our Father Our King ). Jews with long beards would form a big circle, arms on shoulders in the middle of the market and do a Simchath Torah dance. I remember some of the wardens of the synagogue: Rachmiel KATZENELNBOGEN; Abraham Meyer LEVINE; Arieh GURWITCH; Hirsh Isaac LEVINE, and Benjamin WILENTCHIK. In the last fifty years the wardens were Abba KUZNIETZ; Arieh STEKOLSTSICH and Aaron GRODZENTCHIK. The day when a Jewish "mayor" was elected was declared a holiday and everyone celebrated.
During the last years there were two "mayors" or town elders in Woronowa. The first was Henoch ZILBERMAN who served from 1890=1901. The second was Isaac OLKENITSKI, who served until 1919.
This Mayor (Starosta) was the intermediary, the bridge between the
Gentile and Jewish populations. After the Polish government occupied our
region, the Poles brought a false accusation (bilbl) against our beloved Isaac
OLKENITSKI, and he was brutally slain by Polish gendarmes, on April 19th,
1919...With him perished the young boy Moshe ZHABINSKI.
The administrative committee of the Hebrew School: Chaim OLKENITSKI; Joseph SHMERKOVITCH; Nehemiah SHAPIRO; Solomon PUZEIRISKI; Jacob KAMANETSKI; Isaac EISHISHKI; Shabsai SHEPETINSKI and Isaac COGAN (son- in- law of Joshua GRODZENTCHIK).
The Hebrew School was established in 1921. In addition to general subjects, the curriculum offered intense study of the Bible, Gemorrah and Rashi, Commentaries and Supplements.
The younger people of Woronowa were active in cultural institutions (library, dramatic club) and the economy (the bank, Free Loan Society).
The Woronow Peoples' Bank was a branch of the Central Jewish Bank of "E Kapa." It administrators were Berl LEVINE, President; Wolf ROTHMAN; Zeidl BOYARSKI; Isaac KUZNIETS; Moshe OLKENITSKI; Henach GRODZENTCHIK; Meyer GOLL; Jacob KAMIANSKI and others.
The non-interest Free Loan Society was established with the aid of Woronow Landsleit (countrymen) in America.
The charitable institutions substantially alleviated the suffering of the needy, hardworking Woronow inhabitants, who were ruined during the Great War of 1914-1918. Thanks to the above-mentioned institutions, they were able to buy land, increase their cattle herds, plant orchards, build homes, etc.
The young people set about educating themselves with great ambition. In the later years huge, modern structures were built to house a House of Study, Hebrew School, Bathhouse, Rabbi's Home, Government Building. The town also increased its economic headquarters. The Jewish population of Woronowa increased, became more prosperous, more cultural, and in its last years set an example for all other towns, even the big cities of Lithuania in our region.
During the first decade of the twentieth century, after the abortive Revolution of 1905, modern ideologies began to penetrate our town; the newly-formed BUND on the one hand, and the POALE ZION on the other, dominated Jewish circles of Lithuania.
Progressive youth was reading "The Mare" (Die Klatche) and other books by Mendele Mocher Sforim (Mendele the Bookseller), the "grandfather" of Yiddish literature; and by Sholem Aleichem. These books described the abject poverty and squalor of miserable Jewish life in small towns; the whole pleiad of small- town ne'er?do- wells. The young people began to feel that they were suffocating.
The amateur dramatic group in Woronowa produced Gordon's "Chasye the Orphan Girl;" "Luria Brothers;" "Jewish King Lear;"and other plays of the Romantic school. Just at that time, the Bund and the Poale Zion, with their soaring idealism and broad vision created an upheaval in the thinking of the small- town young person, a fundamental change in the substance and foundation of his thinking. here ensued a conflict between fathers and sons. The fathers and other pious elders sent the young men toSynagogue to pray, receive a blessing, exhorted them to observe all the Mitzvahs and to have sons to say Kaddish. The Bund tempted the young with its Socialist ideas of justice, equality, freedom, brotherhood, equal rights for all citizens of all countries throughout the world. The Poale Zion attracted them with its "Zion-Territorialism" on Socialist foundations; promised an end to exploitation of the worker, and an end to domination of Jew over Jew and man over man. The Russian Police Commissioner kept a sharp eye on Jewish youth, suspecting them of disloyalty, imminent treason and Revolution against "holy" Czarism. The Gentile authorities made constant searches of Jewish homes, persecuted the innocent young people.
The Jews of Woronow decided that they had had enough of this suffering and that it was time to go overseas, where life was more secure, living standards were higher, and they would become part of the huge American melting pot. The bright future would give them a goal and make life worthwhile. They would be able to send financial aid to their fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. They could participate in the activities of their landsleit in general and help their own families in particular. Our young men and girls and some older people went overseas and were swallowed up in the American abyss, sucked into the vast machine with the overpowering speed and energy that is America. Our young people were aware of the hard work that was demanded, but they saw the practical compensations, and threw themselves into the American tempo, for it would give them a secure future. The Jew who emigrated to America, although he acclimatized himself, remained bound with a thousand threads to the old home. Even the children born in America felt a close bond with "Europe" up until the time of the Holocaust. They knew that they had a grandfather, a grandmother, and a family, on the other side of the Atlantic. After the destruction of European Jewry the ties automatically grew weaker. Even the European-born immigrant felt a loosening of the bonds. For the time being there remains in Europe only 5% of the pre-war Jewish population.
Many Woronow Jews, after spending a dozen years in America, and securing the minimum economic security needed to live in their native town, returned to the old home, bringing their hard-earnedfew dollars with the intention of investing their modest capital in land, houses, etc. Some of them used their savings as dowries for their unmarried daughters. The "American" Jews who returned to Woronow are:
TSIGULNITSKI, who bought a parcel of land to the right of the hill by the river. OLKENITSKI, who bought large plots of land and houses on the opposite hill. OLKENITSKI, the son of Samuel, who called himself Samuel SHEINKES, also rebuilt a house, planted an orchard and bought a field near the Germanishke Street. All three of the above, as well as many others, did not have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their hard work in America. Several years after their return to Woronow, they died of chronicintestinal catarrh, after long suffering. Evidently, this ailment was a result of overwork and stress.
Others who returned to Woronowa from America were: Motl PUPKO, Samson PUPKO, Moshe MICHALOWSKI, Gershon WIDLANSKI, Abram Isaac KRUSHINSKI, Jacob KAPLAN, Wolf KUDLIANSKI. Many of the returnees suffered from intestinal disease, as well as asthma and other ailments. They all bought land and houses for the future. But the blood-thirsty Hitler beast destroyed everything. I want to include a list, as far as I can remember, of old and young Woronow Jews who emigrated to America during the last 50- 60 years.
Prior to 1905, until the Russo-Japanese War, many older and younger Woronow Jews departed for Columbus's land: The children of Leibe the Mechanic, or grandchildren of Pesach the sexton, with their youngest son Moshe. The children of Akiba DEVENISHKI, his son Mordecai. The children of Mendel from Turgenian. Te children of Abraham OLKENITSKI, Mina LIPMAN and her brother Jacob ZLATE, the daughter of the Talmud Torah rabbi. Nechama, the daughter of Moshe Ber STEKOLSIK. Chaim Aaron of Chaim ORKE, from Eishishek Street. Isaac, his wife Chaye Zelda and their children. The children of Rachmiel the glazier, Jochanan and his sister. The older children of Arieh GURWITCH, Abraham HERTZ and the others. Children of Isaac and Chasye BERMAN: Chyene and Samuel. BINIUNSKI, Chairman of Woronow Emergency Relief in America, and son of Leib.
Others emigrated at the end of the nineteenth century. According to statistics, the largest wave from Woronowa to the Golden Land took place between 1906-1914, until the start of World War I. These included: Judah KALMANOVITCH, son of Joshua Benies. Paya and Abraham, children of Chone LEVINE. The children of Leibe the bricklayer. Perye (?) and her husband Isaac; and their children; Judith KABINSKY, her daughter Mariasha, Michle, Sarah and son Naftali; Bashe Mushe and her husband Nachman and children. Moshe the bricklayer and his children. The children of Ariyeh-Leib PUPKO. Joseph, the son of Shloyme the carpenter. The children of Isaac LEVINE (Itse the miller). The children of David SILTS: Leah and her brother. Chaim Leib PADVARSKI (the tailor) and his children. Abraham PATCHER, vice-chairman of the Woronow Relig (sic) in America, (son of Sender) and his sister. Mushe, the daughter of Wolf MISHANSZHNIK, her lusband Leyzer and their children. Moshe Isaac WARSKI and his sons Hershl, Chaim and Noah Chaim BICHWAID the carpenter, his sons Abba, Isaac, Anshl, Simchah; his daughters Chaya and Mrs. WIENER. Eliezer Zav WIENER and his son Isaac. Joshua DUKTCHULSKI, finance secretary of Woronow Relief in U.S., his sisters Chaye'le and Golda. (children of Jonah the barber-surgeon. Ezekiel OLEKNITSKI (Charles OLKIN) and his children and others.
During the years mentioned above, 400 Woronow inhabitants left for America, where they struck roots and acclimatized themselves, living in the large cities of the big, new world. Here, their families also branched out, and struck deep roots. After World War I, 1914-1918, emigration from our town dwindled. The following journeyed to both American hemispheres: The younger children of Ariyeh GURWITCH: Joseph, Hirsh and Samuel and their sister Rebecca SALKIND, who today lives in Uruguay. Meyer, Sholom and Miriam, children of Isaac OLKENITSKI. The children of Samson PUPKO: Zilpah and Moshe, who lives in Mexico. Chiene, daughter of Mendl, her daughters Feigl and Mrs. Miriam ITKIN, and son Isaac.
In most cases the children in America brought over their parents from "Europe." They all became citizens of the new, democratic country, enjoying equal rights, security, freedom with all other citizens. The Woronow landsleit in America maintained close ties with their old home, which evidenced itself in their untiring efforts on behalf of their fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, until the very end. We cannot forget the noble Sholom OLKENITSKI, who was torn from us in 1938 at the age of 33, who devoted himself with heart and soul to communal service.
At present the following are the officers of the Woronow Emergency Relief in America: Chairman- BINIUNSKI; Vice Chairman- Abraham PATCHER; Financial Secretary-Joshua DUTCHULSKI; Secretary - Isaciah ITSKOVITCH; and the other active members: Leon LEVINE; Lena TOPLIN; Lena PRESSMAN; Mrs. Miriam OLKIN; and all the other members who expend their efforts, time, money and energy for the brethren in the old home; not only in the recent past before the recent Holocaust and destruction of Jews by Hitler, but [who] are continuing tirelessly to aid the survivors of Woronow after the tragic cataclysm. Our American brothers and sisters have made it their goal to come to the aid of the declassified, persecuted, homeless wanderers of our native town. They help them to start life again, to take root somewhere if even on a smaller scale, to establish themselves and renew their hopes for the future.
We must express OUR HEARTFELT THANKS AND GRATITUDE to every one of the above-mentioned communal leaders, and co-workers of the Woronow Emergency Relief in America, in the name of their tormented brothers and sisters from near and far, throughout the Jewish Diaspora all over the world. May the God of our saintly fathers strengthen your hands and your determination to attain their sacred goal and blessed work. Amen.
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