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[Page 457]

3. Figures


[Page 459]

The Rabbi and Great Scholar Yosef Rudnik,
May his memory be for a blessing

(Dos Vort, Orthodox Weekly, Vilne, May 25, 1933 - 1 Sivan 5293)

Translation by Yael Chaver

Last Friday, after a long and serious illness, the Divenishok rabbi, our Rabbi, Great Scholar, and Teacher, died at the age of 58.[1]

The deceased was one of the most prominent rabbis in the Vilne area and active in community affairs. He took an energetic, active role in all the rabbinic and other Orthodox conferences in Vilne during the recent postwar years. He was also a delegate to many different central Orthodox institutions in our region.

As Rabbi, he was very beloved by the entire population, regardless of conviction and political tendency. To his congregation, he was truly like a dear father, interested in each individual, and concerned with the needs and requirements of each person, without exception. He was greatly loved in all the surrounding communities, which also benefited from his activities and kindness.

His funeral was attended by, in addition to the whole town [Divenishok], large numbers of people from surrounding towns: all the important people from Bilitza (Bielica), where he previously served as rabbi, came led by their current rabbi, Rabbi Shabtai Fayn (long may he live). A large group of prominent residents also came from Benakani, where the deceased had founded a mikveh [Tr. note: Ritual bathhouse]. Other participants included rabbis from the vicinity, such as Rabbi Rabinovich from Lida, Rabbi Rozovsky from Eshishuk, Rabbi Perlman from Ivia, Rabbi Shmuelzon from Oshmene, both rabbis from Voronova, Rabbi Sakharov from Traby, Rabbi Khadash from Olshan, the supervisor of the Radin yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Kaplan, the Maggid [Tr. note: Preacher] of Oshmene Rabbi Yehuda Leyb Farfel, and others.

Rabbi Yosef Shub, long may he live, participated in the funeral as a representative of the Council of Yeshivas, in which the deceased was a devoted activist.

The deceased was eulogized by all the above-mentioned rabbis, as well as by his son, Rabbi Avrom Rudnik. In moving terms, they described the enormity of the loss, the Rabbi's moral stature, qualities, and good deeds.

By decision of the entire town, his stepson Rabbi Aaron Tayts, long may he live, was appointed as his substitute.

With the death of the Divenishok rabbi, our region lost one of its best and noblest rabbinical personalities. His absence will be sorely missed by all those who came into contact with him.

Chaval al de'avdin.[2] May his soul be bound up in eternal life.


Translator's Footnotes
  1. These titles, presented in acronym form in the original text, are commonly used when referring to a rabbi. Return
  2. A traditional Aramaic phrase that concludes the eulogy of a great person or leader. Return

Baron Aaron-Leyb

Translation by Yael Chaver

Born in 1886 in Kalelishok (a village near Divenishok). His first poems were published by A. Reyzen in Dos Yidishe Vort, 1904, and later in Veker - a Folk-newspaper. In 1906 he emigrated to America, where, in addition to lyrical poetry published in Forverts and Tsukunft, he also wrote humorous poems under the pseudonym Der Litvisher Baron [Tr. note: The Lithuanian Baron]. A selection of his poems titled Libe un Benkshaft (Love and Longing), published by H. Sheifer, 32 pages) appeared in New York in 1910. He later abandoned literature altogether.

Sources: Sh. Niger, Fraynd, 1910; Y. S., “Magical Experiments,” Literatur collection, I; Dos Naye Lebn, 1910, V; Der Shtral 1910, 13; Basin, Antologye, 11.

[Page 460]

Reb Moshe Ben-Zion Hasman,
May his memory be for a blessing

(The first chalutz from Divenishok, who walked for three years to reach Eretz-Yisro'el.)[1]

Translation by Yael Chaver

I knew Reb Moshe Koval since my earliest childhood. Those were the first days of Tel-Aviv. In its center stood the white structure of the Gymnasia, like the biblical Tabernacle in the desert.[2] There were only a few small houses around the building, with a sea of sand stretching behind them. A small black dot was visible on the sand, far from the houses. This was Reb Moshe's smithy, from which loud clangs of the hammer on the anvil were heard.

This was the only forge in the small town of Tel-Aviv, and Reb Moshe was therefore overwhelmed with work. Balustrades and supports for terraces, balconies, and stairs, as well as fences and gates, were all made of iron, and Reb Moshe was their maker.

He worked quickly and energetically. Those who saw him outside the smithy recounted that he was always in a hurry and had no time even to eat his meals in peace. He would eat an entire loaf of bread, from end to end, at each meal. On hot days, when he stood at the fire and hammered the glowing iron, he would drink up a dozen bottles of gazoz.[3]

In the middle of his work he would stop to talk to us children. He loved children very much. He too, had children, but they were not with him in Eretz Yisro'el. He had come by himself and lived a lonely life. He did not even establish a home. He told us that in the old country he had left behind two small daughters and was going to bring them over when the time was right. Meanwhile, the First World War broke out, which put an end to all his dreams and hopes.

When the Turks entered the war, all Russian citizens had to leave the country, if they had not taken Turkish citizenship. Reb Moshe, like tens of thousands of other Jews, did not leave the country. He, along with a small number of Jews, became a Turkish citizen and stayed in the country, exposed to all the horrors of war, such as hunger, disease, homelessness, expulsions, and enslavement to a decaying regime.


Reb Moshe had immigrated to Eretz-Yisro'el to greet the Messiah. He firmly believed that the Messiah would come soon, and would first arrive in Eretz Yisro'el. The topic of conversation with anyone he met was the imminent arrival of the Messiah. He carried around legends that spoke of the Messiah. He claimed that the Turkish exile (“Exile of Ishmael”[4]) would be the last, and would be followed by Redemption.

I remember a conversation that he had with us children while working. He recounted:

“Today I visited Mr. Blaustein, who is building two two-story houses on Lilienblum St. He needs an iron fence around the stairs. I told him how much it would cost. ‘But make it well,’ he tells me. He clenched his fist and waved it in the air: ‘It has to be strong, for eternity!’

‘And what did you say?’ I asked.

‘It will outlive the coming of Messiah,’ I answered.”

Reb Moshe was short, with a thick black beard. He was solidly built, with strong muscles. He would let us kids feel his muscles, and we were astonished by them. We watched him bend thick iron bars with his hands and eagerly listened to his stories about his fights and wrestling matches with other men. In our minds he was a real hero and we had true admiration and respect for him.

When the Turks joined the war on the side of the Germans, Reb Moshe was drafted into the Turkish army to serve the Sultan. He did not want that. “He won't live so long, the Turk, as to have me serve in his army,” he would say. He actually hid and evaded the draft in every possible way.

He considered the alliance of Germany and Turkey to be like the partnership of Edom and Ishmael.[5] According to the midrash on the Redemption, this was a clear sign that redemption through the Messiah was near.[6] Wherever Jews would gather and anxiously discuss the evolving situation, he would be very joyful and would even dance and sing the merry song: kaleh se'ir ve-chotno.[7]

But things kept getting worse. After the NILI[8] affair and the death of Sarah Aaronsohn, the Turkish authorities in Eretz-Yisro'el started chasing after spies - and Reb Moshe was caught. They placed him together with dozens of army deserters and marched them to Damascus where they were imprisoned under the charge of spying for the enemy.

I don't know exactly how long they spent in prison, but about a year after he had been caught, I was standing in an olive orchard in Zichron Ya'akov, when I heard someone calling my name. It was Reb Moshe-broken, tired, in sad condition.

I didn't ask him whether he had escaped from prison - and what did it matter? I saw before me a sick man with a swollen face. He told me that more than half the people who had been marched to Damascus had died. He had stayed alive by a miracle. He had also walked the whole way back from Damascus.

This happened a few days before the British marched into Eretz-Yisro'el. I tried to cheer him up. “Feel my muscle,” he said, and stretched out his arm. When I had done as he asked, he said, “You see, now it's a rag,” and heaved a sigh. He wasn't mourning his lost health, only his ruined strength.


Who has greater faith, the strong man or the weak man? I believe it is the weaker, because as he has no more strength, faith is his only support. That is what happened to Reb Moshe. After he returned from the Damascus prison, he never regained his former strength. True, he took up his post in the smithy again and bought new tools, but the might of Reb Moshe Ben-Zion Hasman -- known as Moshe the Blacksmith - never returned. Those days were gone.

Years later, I met him in the alleys of Jerusalem, dressed in a long kapote and with long peyes.[9] He no longer worked, but his religious conviction had greatly strengthened. “We must repent and bring the Messiah,” he told me.

He did not like the British, but never lost faith in the Messiah. He was sure that Messiah would come any day, and waited for him…

His last deed was buying land on high ground in Bene-Berak, not far from the main road to Petach Tikva.[10] He built a small house there. Later, he gave the house and land to an institution that supported him in his last days.

With the death of Reb Moshe, one of those dear pioneering Jews who set out ahead of the community passed into eternity; these were Jews who had a Messiah and had an eternity. Their faith, devotion, and readiness for sacrifice gave rise to the great accomplishment that bears the proud name of the State of Israel.

May the memory of Reb Moshe be honored!


Translator's Footnotes
  1. The biblical chalutz is the term for a Zionist pioneer. Eretz-Yisro'el (the Land of Israel) is used here in the traditional Jewish sense of the land given by God to the Israelites. Return
  2. Refers to the “Herzliya Hebrew High School” (founded 1905), the first modern secondary school of the Zionist community in then-Palestine. Return
  3. A fruit-flavored fizzy soft drink. Return
  4. In the Zohar, the fifth and final exile. Return
  5. In the Bible, peoples who were the two archetypal enemies of Israel, hearkening back to the stories of the Patriarchs. Return
  6. Midrash Ge'ulah, in the 7th-century apocalyptic Book of Zerubavel Return
  7. This is a phrase from a religious song (piyyut) that is part of the selichot (penitential prayers). The phrase expresses a wish that God should annihilate Sei'r -a biblical term for Edom - and his father-in-law Ishmael, traditional enemies of Israel The phrase is corrupted here, possibly due to various errors and/or dialectal variations. Return
  8. NILI is an acronym for a secret group of Palestinian Jews who spied for the British during the First World War, and were caught by the Turkish authorities in September 1917. One of its principal members, Sarah Aaronsohn, committed suicide while undergoing torture. Return
  9. Kapote (a long coat) and peyes (sidelocks) are hallmarks of a religiously observant Jewish man. Return
  10. Bene-Berak is an ultra-orthodox town; Petach Tikva is one of the first proto-Zionist settlements in the country. Both are suburbs of Tel Aviv today. Return

[Page 463]

Krizovski, Aaron Yakov–– of blessed memory

Translation by Yael Chaver

Born in Divenishok, May 20, 1891. Taught himself Yiddish. Started writing poems at age 12. Started publishing his poems and stories in Vilne and Varshe. Emigrated to America in 1913, where he published work in various newspapers and journals. Published a book comprised of a collection of poems, entitled “My Sincere Songs,” and other collections of poetry. (According to Avrom Reyzen's Lexicon of Yiddish Literature)[1]

Below, we present two poems by the deceased poet, poems that express his close relationship with Divenishok.


Translator's Footnote
  1. The “Lexicon” was compiled by Zalmen Reyzen, not Avrom. Return

Two poems by Aaron Yakov Krizovski

Translation by Yael Chaver

At the Divenishok Bridge

Reflected in the pond: the sky, the forest, and the world around,
The washerwoman stands, upside–down, with laundry–beater and red knees.
The water burns – and burns – but water cannot douse the flame!
Nor does it look to see whether the sun cares not or disapproves.

Soft, like a cat, the sky snuggles up under the bridge,
And sails onward with gold and amber ships, blending into green,
And rushes to find absurdity, asking the mind,
“What does this beater beat in the forest? What does the forest beat back?”

And swallows preen, take wing, on and off the water,
And snack on quickly snacking water spiders, fly–haters,
That snack on beauty marks kissed by the wind on the waters –
The sun sets in red, the sky blanches paler.

Etrog[1] aroma ascends, heating the blood –
From the land of the sun, nearby, the tamarind blooms –––

Back Home

From the world's river willows – songs of hanging harps,
With Mendele's mare – a cartful of poems – with Fishke the Lame,
From grandpa's mill, along the “Devenishski” river willows
Splendid shtetl, river, from under a rock–hung mountain spring.

To the wounded mountains of Judea, twenty centuries of weeping,
Mother's bosom embracing you, motherland:
“If I forget thee–may my tongue cleave to my palate,
Scattered over an alien world – St. Vitus dance ” –
Imprisoned, separated.

With Holy Land soil – rolling through the ground,
From Christ's pretend–“forgiveness” cheek – through blood libels,
From “killing God” to “pound–of–flesh
heart” – through crypts – mysterious…

Through the prophet's call, to the dance of Miriam's hopeful tambourine,
On stingy mountains – through branded crosses and the cross's scorn,
From “fleshpot,” “melting pot”, through flame –

(From Sonnets, published in New York, 1953)


Translator's Footnote
  1. The etrog (Yiddish pronunciation esreg) is the fragrant citron, one of the “four species” used in the Succot festival ritual. Return

[Page 464]

The Poet Aaron Krizovski

by Menukha Peykova (Krizovski)

Translation by Yael Chaver

My uncle, the poet Aaron Krizovski, was the third child in the family of my grandfather Kalman Shepsl[1] the melamed [Tr. note: teacher]. My father Hirshl was the fifth child.

As a young child, Aaron distinguished himself as a good student, and exhibited a talent for poetry. However, the home was very poor and his father did not pay attention to his poetic ability. In addition, the small-town atmosphere of Divenishok did not help him develop his talent. When he would recite his poems to girls, they mocked him: “Look at this guy, he speaks only of the sun and the moon, and only in rhymes.” The young folk didn't understand him, his father was oblivious to his talents and inclinations, and instead sent him to learn tailoring in Vilne.

Aaron eventually became acquainted with a girl from Soletchnik and fell in love with her. When he left for America, he promised that he would bring her over. He was true to his word, and brought her to America. But when she got to New York, she left him and married someone else.

In America, my uncle Aaron was a tailor, and in his free time wrote poems. He published several books. In his first book, My Sincere Songs, he dedicates many poems to his birthplace, Divenishok. He portrays the young people of the shtetl in “Felix's Barn,” the poem's title referring to the location of the town's makeshift playhouse. The volume is dedicated to his former girlfriend from Soletchnik.

In America, he lived alone for many years. In 1937 he formed a relationship with a younger woman. She robbed him of everything and left. This shattered him. He became ill, underwent several operations, and died in New York.

Contact with him was scant. For long periods of time, he did not write to my father, but when “the muse came alive” a 20-page letter would arrive.

All his life he was a leftist, but during his final years his nationalist feelings strengthened and he prepared to go to Israel.

My uncle was born luckless. He worked hard for every crumb of bread. In literature, as well, he was unlucky. His work made no strong impression and did not achieve its rightful position in Yiddish poetry.

He published all his books at his own expense and distributed them himself in America and other countries.


Editor's Footnotes
  1. The difference in names here may reflect the official naming policy that was adopted by government decree in the 19th century, with Krizovski being the officially adopted name and Shepsl belonging to the pre-decree period. Return

[Page 465]

Our Poet A. Y. Krizovski

by Binyamin Dubinski

Translation by Yael Chaver

Four of A. Y. Krizovski's poetry collections were published during his lifetime: My Sincere Songs (1919), Blood Tears [Tr. note: or Blood Wine [1]] (1933), Daily Bread (1946), and Sonnets (1953).

In addition, as the poet writes in his “Foreword” to Sonnets, two more volumes of sonnets were ready for publication, as well as five volumes of ballads, essays, and poems. His unpublished works probably included even more material awaiting publication.

Before all else, I wish to root out the mistake in Reyzen's Lexicon stating that Krizovski was born in Voronova. He was born in Divenishok, brought up and educated there. That is where his parents and ancestors had lived for generations.

All his writing is rich in biographical details about his family, Jews and non-Jews, the river, “Felix's Barn,” the forest, the great fire, the shtetl. These supply us with a clear picture of the strong bonds linking the poet with his home town. Voronova is never mentioned in his books.

Already as a child he would carry around notes on which his poems were written and recite them to his friends. The young folks laughed at the “rhymester,” but he paid no attention to those who mocked him and continued his own way.

In his teens he left his poverty-stricken home in the shtetl and went to seek good fortune[2] in Vilne, where he started to learn tailoring. He went to America before the First World War and lived there for the rest of his life. In America, too, he made a living by tailoring, writing poetry in his free time.

He published his first collection of poems in 1919. It includes several biographical motifs, such as the memory of his grandfather blessing the Hanukah candles, and a description of his mother lighting the Sabbath candles with a tear trembling on her pale face.

In 1908 a conflagration broke out in Divenishok which consumed the entire shtetl and devastated the residents, both materially and spiritually. The poet depicts the great fire in powerful strokes: the entire shtetl is in ruins, confused people wander around among the chimney stumps mourning their misfortune. Reb Leyb Balbirishker went insane with grief and his wife hanged herself. The synagogue was consumed along with its ten Torah scrolls, as was “Felix's Barn.”

His second collection, Blood Tears [Tr. note: See footnote 3], of 1933, contains no biographical motifs. America was then overwhelmed by a great crisis. Social slogans appeared among the Jewish working masses. The Civil War in Spain and the general conditions had a powerful effect on our left-leaning poet, and so the book is characterized by social concerns.

The Second World War and the great tragedy that the Hitlerian murderers brought upon our people caused turmoil in the poet's style of thinking. It aroused within him longings for his lost family and the murdered shtetl.

His third book, Daily Bread (published in 1946), includes many poems dedicated to his family and the shtetl, as well as descriptions of the beautiful natural surroundings of Divenishok.

In his poem “My Lineage Merits the Crown” he describes his poverty-stricken childhood. His father, Kalmen Shepsl the melamed [Tr. note: teacher], had to provide for thirteen children. At age 4, the poet himself had to watch over children in order to earn a piece of bread. He also had to go out to the fields and forests to collect bones and sell them to Leyb the grocer, who would pay “a fortune” for them: a small herring and a bit of brine. The brine was no less important than the small herring, which by itself could not suffice for thirteen hungry mouths. In the brine, though, many could dip their potatoes and gulp them down with pleasure…

Loneliness and the poverty at home influenced the political leanings of the children. All were affiliated with the political left wing and played an active role in revolutionary organizations that fought the Czar. His oldest brother was exiled to a prison camp. His sister was arrested for participating in a prohibited First of May demonstration. According to the rules of Czarist Russia at the time she was sentenced to receive thirty lashings in the prison courtyard.

His father was a melamed of very young children, but not extremely observant. He would read Hatzfira, and get through the Shemoneh-Esreh prayer early.[3] In the study-house he would arm himself with letters and verses in order to prove to the rabbi that “the Messiah is just about to come.” Kalmen Shepsl was a scholar, as his son wrote, who was “steeped in learning.”

Motifs of the Holocaust and mass murder appear in the first chapter of the book Daily Bread, where they comprise 25 pages. The first poem is titled “Comfort Ye My People.”[4] The poet's imagination is set in Europe, where God's fiery curses coil around, snake-like, and the chain treads of tanks roll over towns and shtetls. Varshe is burning - and the ghetto walls collapse.

The poet pours forth his wrath over the world, which has abandoned us and flung us into the claws of the Nazi beast. The world looks on and is silent, our blood gushes like water, while the world's conscience naps…

Although the poet lives in New York, his soul and being are with his brothers in his home town, and he walks in spirit with them on their last road towards death: “I go with you, with your wives and children / uphill to the shtetl, with shovels to dig the graves…”

The terrible tragedy awakened the nationalist spark in him, and he wrote the poem “Forward With Torah Scrolls”: “Forward with our famous light-heavy weapons / fear not, with tallis in hand / and a tear in our eye.”

Just as the poet begins to address the Holocaust and mass murder motifs in ”Comfort Ye My Nation,” he ends his treatment of these motifs with two poetic elegies: “My People” and “I Come To You, My People” - a blending of heartfelt nationalistic motifs. “With a small-great people, with your Sinai-Torah light, you will light up the world, and I turn towards you with my whole being, in full prophet-light.”…

The poet's views changed drastically after the mass murder of Europe's Jews. He prepared to go to Israel. In the following letter to his nieces Menukha and Khaye Rifke in Russia,[5] dated in Brooklyn, Saturday, April 19, 1958, he writes, among other things, “As I have already informed you, my assets are in a fund created by my literary admirers, for them to publish my literary legacy. But if I settle in Israel, send all the assets to me there.”

A. Y. Krizovski was a multifaceted poet. He left, as I have mentioned, a significant legacy, which has not appeared in print. His poems and articles are also scattered in various periodic publications.


Translator's Footnotes
  1. The Yiddish orthography in the original text is unvoweled; the second word of the title could therefore be either ‘wine’ or ‘tears’. Return
  2. The Yiddish word “glik” can mean both “luck” and “happiness.” Return
  3. Hatzfira was the first Hebrew newspaper in Poland, founded 1862, which became sympathetic towards Zionism in the 1890s. Shemoneh-Esreh is a key portion of the daily morning prayers. Return
  4. The title is a quote from Isaiah: 40, 1. Return
  5. By this time, Russia had become the USSR. Return

[Page 468]


by Shloyme Kazjimirovski

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

My father was from Bobroisk
Always lived in commotion.
My mother from a shtetl Grodne
He took to the city.
There was a shtetl “Shok”[2]
I had family there
Three aunts, Kosher and Frum [Tr. note: religiously observant]
A dove of an uncle, like a flower.

A Rivke in Kalelishok
Also Libe in Subotnishok,
A Leye in Lipnishok
And Hirshel in Divenishok.

As a child I didn't have it easy
Just trouble from my wet-nurse, a fear!
A wish for happiness and laughter
I can remember to this day.
A difficult childhood I had
Wanting to meet up with a ‘nash-brat‚ [Tr. note: Buddy]
Meeting up with family, going to friends
I would find sun and shine.

Into the small shtetl Kalelishok
A drop into Lipnishok
A hop into Subotnishok,
And didn't sidestep Divenishok.

(From the book “Shadow and Light”, Songs and Poems
Published by “Nay Lebn”, Tel Aviv, 1973)


Translator's Footnotes
  1. Shtot is city, shtetl is town, shtetele is small town (shtetelekh - plural) Return
  2. There is no known shtetl by the name of “Shok”. There are, however, numerous towns and villages that have ‘-shok’ as the suffix in the town name. This seems to be a play on that: He had family in the ‘one’ town of Shok, when in fact he lists 4 different town names, implying that all of Lite was one big shtetl. “Shok”, in Yiddish also means 60 – which also implies ‘many’, while at the same time being a single unit – like ‘Dozen’, or ‘Score’ There were therefore shoks of ‘Shoks’ in the region at that time. Return

One Cannot Forget Them

by Sore-Teybke and Nahum Levine

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

It has been 35 years already since I left the shtetl, family, and friends. It's difficult to remember it all. Our Divenishok is remembered like in a dream.

One cannot forget fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and the friends of my youth. It's difficult to objectively place a value on the personally close ones, with whom we were connected by threads of love and devotion.

I would like to write-up some episodes of my husband Nahum's family.

His father Pesakh Levine, his mother Reyne, and the sisters Sore-Rivke and Libe-Merke, and the boy Meirke – were murdered all too early by Hitler's henchmen.

My mother-in-law, Reyne, was a very quiet, introverted and religious woman. She never raised her voice. My father-in-law was an intelligent person with liberal leanings. They lived together like two doves, and regardless of their harsh conditions, and barely making a living – they were involved in the doings of the shtetl. If someone needed a favor, or was in need of advice – they came to Pesakh. If a poor person needed to sign a promissory note, Pesakh would sign for him, and quietly pay off the loan.

They had an open house, where not only the adults, but also the youth of the shtetl could find advice and assistance and lively discussions. Their daughter Tsipoyre with her husband Shloyme, two daughters and a son and grandchild live in Israel.

My husband (their son Nahum) and I, with our daughter and two grandchildren, live in California. Also their son, Moshe and his wife Pearl with a son and two daughters live in America.

We hold very dear the reminiscences of all those martyrs who perished in our shtetl, particularly all our dear and close ones who with their respectable and honest way of life have left memories in us – and these will be passed on from their children to the future generations.

May their memory be honored!

[Page 469]

My Shtetl, Home, and Family

by Moshe and Perke Levine-Kartshmer

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

At the end of 1939, on a cold early morning, I left my home shtetl, as well as my dear father and mother and my three sisters. My oldest sister Leye was already living in America and my brother Avraham – in France.

With a deep feeling of longing and love, I write these lines about my father Noyekh Kartshmer and my mother, may she rest in peace. They lived near the marketplace, not far from the church, together with their daughters and only son.

My father was a modest person: Calm and intelligent, and a keen student of the Shulkhan Orekh [Tr. note: Jewish code of laws]. My mother – a very intelligent woman who worked very hard, would read a book or a newspaper in her free time.

Unfortunately my parents are among those who perished. Together with them, the following were murdered by Hitler's thugs: My sister Dvoyre with her husband Yoysef Gitlits and their two children – a little girl, Khayele, and a boy Shmulikl, my sister Bashke, my sister Broyna with her husband and their little daughter.

My sister Leye (her husband has since passed away) lives in America with her two married daughters and four grandchildren; My brother Avraham, with his charming wife Tamara, live in France. They have a daughter and a son-in-law. Their granddaughter is studying medicine. My brother Avraham is a unique person – it's the dream of each father and mother to have such a son. Avraham contributed much to the social and cultural life in Divenishok. Whenever he was on vacation in the shtetl, he would organize performances and present lectures.

I, Perele, am the youngest – the Mezinke [Tr. note: youngest daughter]. I'm married to Pesakh and Reyne Levine's son, and we live in America, in Fresno, California. We have two daughters, a son-in-law and a son.

It is difficult to express in words everything that my heart feels – the childhood years, the home, our small shtetl Divenishok with its beauty. The small shtetl was surrounded by green fields, meadows, and a lovely pine forest. People used to come to us to spend their summer (Datshe [Tr. note: summer country house]), because one could rest very well there, and refresh oneself in the river, during the hot days.

I carry in my heart a great love and longing for my home shtetl Divenishok.

I also want to mention the following people: My Grandmother Khaye-- she was a very pious woman, always ready to give charity; she passed away when I was still a small girl…my aunt Rodl and her husband Gershn and their daughter Zlatke…my aunt Dvorke with her husband Osher and their two little children…my uncle Rueben and his wife. He was a person of great intelligence and sharp mind. When he would lecture on some topic, he would mention dates from memory, like a “walking encyclopedia”.

May these few words about my friends and loved ones be an eternal memorial to them all.

[Page 470]

In Memory of My Father,
My Mother, and My Family

by Sore-Toyve Gershovitsh-Levi

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

My father Chaim Gershovitsh was born in Lipnishok, a shtetl that was about 30 kilometers from Divenishok. Of the six children – 3 boys and 3 girls – five remained. They, along with their entire families, perished during the Hitler period. I do not know under what circumstances.

In his very early youth, my father studied at the Yeshive [Tr. note: A theological seminary] in Mir, together with one of his uncles. My father did not like to stay in one place. He strove for freedom and had an inclination towards business. When he married my mother he settled in Divenishok and occupied himself with business. He would travel to fairs and to markets, and come home only for Shabes [Tr. note: Saturday, the day of rest]. He was a year-round-Jew,[1] a good husband, and a loving father.

My mother, Rokhl-Leye Glezer (or Shklar), was the daughter of Alter the glazier. She had five brothers: Ayzik and Tevye in America, Moshe and Leybe in Argentina, and Eltsik the tinsmith – in Divenishok. In her youth, my mother was a tailor.

My parents had seven children. I was the oldest. Three died very young. A sister of mine, Khaye, died when she was 10 or 11 years old. My two brothers, the older one Alterke, and Zalmenke the younger one, were not even of Bar-Mitsve age[2] when the war broke out.

My mother, Rokhl-Leye, was a very intelligent woman, a good soul, an Eyshes Khayil [Tr. note: A woman who could handle anything]. She never complained, was always willing to help others, never boasted, and never gossiped about others. “Look, my children, downwards – and you will always be happy in life. If you look upwards, you will always be unhappy”. This was my mother's motto that indeed guided me in life. When my mother took ill, our small world shattered. We remained like a ship without a rudder.

My older brother Altke was a good-natured fellow, took nothing to heart, and accepted life as it went. He was always with his younger brother, like a twin, never a minute apart.

Zalmenke, my younger brother (by two years), was very sensitive, and took everything to heart. Already during his earliest years he knew about responsibility in life, and took everything very seriously. The sadness of life and the difficult living conditions were mirrored in his mournful eyes.

I remember my childhood with love, my earliest youth, the devotion and togetherness of our family.

Nahum and I were wedded in 1938. Two weeks later, he left for America and settled in Fresno, California. When the Russian army marched into Divenishok, I managed – via all sorts of back ways – to make my way to Vilne, which was already under Russian-Lithuanian control. After nine months of wandering, I miraculously managed to make it to America – via Moscow, Vladivostok, and Japan. I reached the shores of San Francisco in November 1940. We have a daughter Rosalyn Levi-Blum, and two grandchildren that continue to follow the Jewish tradition.


Translator's Footnotes
  1. Devout and consistently religiously observant on a daily basis, as opposed to some Jews that were not observant all year. Return
  2. The age of 13, when a boy takes on the religious responsibilities of a grown-up male Jew. Return

[Page 471]

In Memory of My Father

by Sore Shklar

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

I, Sore Shklar of Buenos Aires, daughter of Moshe ben Alter and Sore, would like to recall in goodness the memory of my blessed father who dedicated every waking minute of his entire life to society – to the needy. He was a good hearted person, a dear Jew who was concerned only for others and could be a role model for other Jews in Divenishok, and later – in Argentina.

He supported his family honorably, and his honesty and sensitivity to Justice were renowned among all his friends and family who knew him from near.

Our mother Paulina, the daughters Sore and Royze-Leye, the sons-in-law Julio and Mario, as well as the grandchildren Graciela, Dina, Jerarda and Viviana, will always remember the gentle figure of this man, father, father-in-law and grandfather Moshe Shklar.

May his memory be honored.

[Page 472]

Horav[1] Khaim Yehudah Horvits Z”L

by N. Gordon

Translation by Leybl Botwinik

Leader of the Mashgikhim[2] union

Sometimes, great things happen as a result of some event that people describe by the title ‘chance’.

This chance occurrence may in itself be a small, negligible event that no one pays any attention to. However, this triviality can sometimes grow into a very, very significant development, that manages to attract everyone's attention.

For yidn mayminim [Tr. note: Observant Jews] – for whom there is no such thing as ‘coincidence’ – it is particularly worthwhile to seek out the unnoticed and hidden reason that is in essence the first round of all subsequent events.

In the case of the Agudes [Tr. note: Union of] Hamashgikhim that is currently a vital factor vis-?-vis the issue of Kashres[3], and in the lives of hundreds of Jewish kosher inspectors – there are enough logical motives why kashres needs hashgokhe [Tr. note: supervision] and mashgikhim need to be organized.

If you were to calmly confer with the living ‘nerve’ of the Agudes Hamashgikhim, and its director Horav reb' Khaim Yehudah Horvits, you would also be faced with – in addition to all the other open and logical motives – a minuscule trifle that happened to him by chance just over twenty years earlier. This was a passing happenstance that turned out to be of extreme significance in the history of kashres in America and in the life of Horav Horvits whose twenty year jubilee as founder and leader of the mashgikhim union was marked by the publication “Amerikaner” [Tr. note: The American].

The young Horav Horvits, while a groom to be married, went out to find a hall for the wedding celebration. He didn't, however, get to visit many wedding-halls, since the very first one he entered convinced him of what he could expect there.

A Jew with a white beard and rabbinic wrinkles on his forehead stepped out of the kitchen, with an apron around his waist. The owner of the hall wanted to show him that his place was kosher, and for proof – here was the mashgiakh.

“You see him? The rabbi?…” the owner asked him, with the triumphant smile of a circus performer when the monkey dances to the rhythm of his baton.

“Go rabbi. Go back to your kitchen and don't forget what you need to do: peel enough potatoes for the entire kettle … Don't forget, rabbi…”

And with that, the owner sent the mashgiakh back to the kitchen, and began preparing himself to sign the contract for the party.

The old mashgiakh with the white beard returned to the potatoes in the kitchen like a loyal slave. He managed, however, to throw a glance at the young groom, a look that expressed so much the pain of an old and broken talmid-khokhem [Tr. note: Learned scholar] – and this particular gaze accompanied Horav Horvits the entire two decades that he led the mashgikhim union.

His fighting spirit imbibed as a youngster in Shutchin by Navaredok under the auspices of reb' Leybtshe Telzer, the Navaredok stubbornness of not being surprised by the greatest impossibility – all this came awake that evening, looking upon the mashgiakh with the apron. He had decided to bang on the table and let out a cry: “Gevald yidn [Tr. note: “Be aware Jews!”], the mashgiakh is also a human being!”

A tiny trifle touched the heartstring in a highly sensitive Jewish heart that broke out in a revolt against the shaming of a talmid-khokhem and he decided that such as this could not continue.

Kashres is in particular the mitsve [Tr. note: Commandment or deed] of “beyn odem lemokoym” [Tr. note: Between Man and God]. It is a commandment that has to do with the kibiyoykhl [Tr. note: The omnipotent one (God)] himself. But with what right – asked Horav Horvits – may Jews deal with mitsves at the expense of a mashgiakh that must scrub floors and then goes home with more shame than money?…

Reb Yisroyl Salanter did not want to use even one drop of unnecessary water for vashn[4] before eating, out of pity for the poor servant girl that had to fetch the water…

Where is the heart of Jews that observe kashres – Horav Horvits demanded of himself – when they allow Jewish talmidey khokhomim to undergo such shame, and suffer from hunger as well??…

Horav Horvits plunged into his work. The work consisted not only of convincing the owners that they would benefit from having a free, independent, and loyal Union member as the mashgiakh. The work consisted also in persuading the mashgikhim to dare to become free persons who perform malokhes hakoydesh [Tr. note: Holy work] with dignity and honor.

Even though in character he was of kind heart, a person with no malice to others, Horav Horvits was nevertheless a very stubborn person when it came to kashres. Here, tokhnunim [Tr. note: Pleas or petitions] did not help. Everything must be according to the rules of religious law.

Horav Horvits cooks up a prodigious plan, a “Committee for the Spreading of Kashres”, with the assistance of rabbis and owners who would step up to the task with a true desire to free kashres from its imprisonment and instead place it at the center of Jewish public life.

When one takes a look back at what this quicksilver Jew has managed to do until today, it would be more than correct to believe that all the dreams that he still carries around with him will also very soon be realized.

The most prominent person for him is the mashgiakh.


Our bal-yoyvl [Tr. note: Person being celebrated] was born in a small shtetl, named Divenishok, Vilne region. His father was a bricklayer. However, besides this business, he also arranged for his son – who was studying at the yeshive [Tr. note: Jewish theological seminary] to tutor a little and send home the few rubles.

From Shutchin by Navaredok he traveled to Slabodke to continue his studies, where he took with him the “Altn's[5] muser-nign [Tr. note: melody of edification]. Quite often, while seated in his office, he would draw out the “Altn's” mournful melody. This, at a moment when bricks were falling on the mashgikhims heads… the bricks coming from a source that should have instead provided encouragement to the mashgikhim, assisting them to organize kashres on a more independent basis…[6]

He is a person with an unlimited dynamism.

This is the way he was in his youth overseas when he organized a “sama-abrane”, a Jewish self-defense against Denikin's and Petliura's brigands[7]. The dignity of a Jew was always deemed holy by him, and he was ready to go out and join in battle for it.

The deceased Zionist leader, Khaim Greenberg o”h[8] recounted on more than one occasion, how Chaim Yehudah Horvits came to the prison where he was being held, and rescued him from who knows how many years in Siberia, or even worse…

During those Beyn-Hashmoses [Tr. note: Twilight] years when Jewish settlements would go over from the control of one authority to another, the young Chaim Yehudah Horvits was a malakh hamoyshiyo [Tr. note: Delivering angel] for many a family, who he, together with other youths, rescued from bandit attacks.

Prior to his coming to America, in the year 1922, he managed to study a few years in Lida, under Horav Raynes, z”l[9], such that his yeshive background consisted of an amalgam from Navaredok, Slabodke, and Lida.

He learned a great deal from each one of his rabeyim[10], and not just in toyre [Tr note: Bible and Talmud], but in all aspects of supervising the world and people. To do a favor for a fellow Jew is a good trait and this was inscribed in his heart, because the ‘beyn odem lekhaveyro’ [Tr. note: (deeds) between man and friend] and his care for the mashgiekh were geknipt un gebundn [Tr. note: went hand-in-hand].

He brought sharis-hapleyte [Tr. note: Holocaust survivors] into his union, many who were rabonim, that had important rabbinic positions before the khurbn [Tr. note: Yiddish for “The Holocaust” (in Hebrew it means “destruction”)]. He gave these talmidey khokhomim a source of honorable livelihood, while at the same time these talmidey khokhomim helped to raise the prestige of kashres and the dignity of the mashgiekh.

Horav Chaim Yehudah Horvits looks back at the past 20 years of his life as if they were part of a greater framework: that which is named the agudes-hamashgikhim. Indeed, the future of the agudes-hamashgikhim has become a part of his own personality

He lives 24 hours in a mes-les [Tr. note: One full day cycle] with the problems, successes and failures of the agudes-hamashgikhim.

And he is full of faith that the following 20 years will bring even more awareness that kashres requires inspection and inspection requires a mashgiakh that is looked upon as an oysek malokhes hakoydesh [Tr. note: Partaker of consecrated labor], and is subjected to the authority of the shulkhan orekh [Tr. note: Authoritative coded book of Jewish daily rituals and laws] not the caprices of an owner.

And all this – adds Horav Horvits – in the conditions that we live under today, cannot take place except through the existence of a very strongly organized union of mashgikhim, a union whose objective is organized kashres by, through, and for the general populace.

Nisn Gordon
(“Der Amerikaner”, NY, 1-Aug-1960)


Translator's Footnotes
  1. Rabbi Return
  2. Inspector of food products to ensure that they are kosher - i.e. conform to the Jewish dietary laws - and are prepared according to those laws (pl. mashgikhim). Return
  3. Kashres – The domain of kosher food Return
  4. Washing of the hands in a special pre-meal ritual before partaking of bread Return
  5. “Alter” (Literally, “old (one)”) – Rabbi Nosson Zvi (Nota Hirsh) Finkel known as the Alter of Slabodke Return
  6. The writer seems to be hinting that someone who should be helping the mashgikhim is in fact working against them. The “falling bricks” and the “Altn's” sad melody further enforce this thought – that Horav Horvits was depressed at the thought of ‘authority’ figures acting counter-productively. Return
  7. Ed. note: Symon Petliura was a Ukrainian national leader who was unable to prevent anti-Jewish pogroms at the hands of his own forces. Anton Denikin was a Czarist general and leader of the anti-Bolshevik White Army whose troops were also responsible for large scale pogroms. Return
  8. Olev hasholem (o”h) – Literally: ”may he ascend (to heaven) in peace”. Said about someone who has passed away. See also z”l and zts”l Return
  9. Z”l and zts”l – z”l (zikhroyno livrokho), “of blessed memory” is the equivalent of o”h (above). Zts”l (zikhroyno tsadik livrokho), “of blessed and saintly memory” is used for rabbis, scholars and other great learned persons. Return
  10. The plural for rabbi (also: rabonim) Return


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